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How to avoid being sent on a wild goose chase!

29 Jun 12:00 by Paul Coles
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You may be thinking, what does this mean? And why are you chasing geese in the first place, Paul!?


Being ‘sent on a wild goose chase’ is an old saying that dates back to the 1500s, which Cambridge Dictionary describes as:

‘’A search that is completely unsuccessful and a waste of time because the person or thing being searched for does not exist or is somewhere else.’’

It’s a saying that often resonates with me as a recruitment leader. Although it may seem that, as recruiters, we’re asked to perform the impossible and uncover what seems a fictitious profile, we are in fact successfully searching and mapping the key markets we are developing.

We believe that if every search is approached with a ‘’Growth Mindset’’ you will build contacts, candidates, recommendations and increase your workflow. Most importantly your success rate will increase too. Guaranteed!


My first experience of recruitment was when I was 22 years old – I am now 37. And boy, has it changed over the 15 years I’ve worked within the Recruitment, Talent and HR industry!

Imagine your manager dividing an industrial telephone directory by tearing the pages out and telling you to make 80 sales calls a day, 40 in the morning, 40 in the afternoon! Well, that was exactly how I started. What made it tougher, the pages I got were letters Q, X, Z. Not sure if you have looked through telephone directories as much as I have, but I can tell you there are not many company names beginning with these letters! 

Because of the limitations I had being the ‘’new guy’’ in the office and the lack of quality resource to hand, I had to work extra hard and smart! This was very challenging – I was only 22 years old, new to London and had bills to pay. Yet, I was super determined to succeed and remain financially independent.

Around the same time as this, the internet was developing fast and valuable resources were gradually made available. Then one day, I found it. Yes! There it was like a shining star, ‘’Applegate Directories.’’ It’s an online company directory completed with company names, industry types, telephone numbers, sometimes even email addresses and the directors’ details. It was like striking gold and for some reason no one had found it. BUT, shhh, don’t say anything yet, let me make those 80 calls a day, every day and make sure I have client cards in my call-back box! Off I went phone call after phone call. ‘’I need to speak to your MD, what is their name please?’’ and the receptionists were handing out names like candies.

This newfound tool enabled me to proactively map all MDs within my geography and introduce my candidate pool which I was canvassing to clients. (canvassing = calling a client and discussing a specific skill set a candidate has and if they would hire this type of profile). The experience taught me how to be resourceful during difficult times, and not to be afraid to try new things.


Fast forward 15 years, and so much has changed, yet at the same time, so much has not. This is now the third economic crisis I have experienced in my career; two have been whilst in recruitment. I am still applying the same rules I learnt back then:

  • Stick to the basics, think, and work smart.

    • Use all available resources – adverts, LinkedIn, database.

    • Obtain market insights from every interaction whether it is through the phone, email, meeting or online, as you continue to support your clients, candidates, and colleagues.

    • Keep in regular contact and ask for recommendations & referrals to expand your network.

    • Do not be a pest.

    • Never assume.

    • Stay in a positive “GROWTH MINDSET’’


Looking back at how I responded to the recessions whilst working in recruitment, I went back to basics and adopted a new creative approach every time while making sure everything I did was underpinned by the core basics listed above.

The unprecedented time we are in now has also created new opportunities to explore new techniques, as well as online processes and interactions. It’s new, it’s different and it seems to be the ‘’New Normal’’.

While we continue to evolve with these new techniques and processes, as long as you stick with these rules, you can be sure you’ll never be sent on a wild goose chase!