Most of what I know about recruitment, and much of what I know about life, I’ve learnt from the movies of Steven Seagal.
I’m not even joking.
For those who don’t know who Seagal is, let me explain. Imagine it’s 1987 and a 6ft4in slightly tubby martial arts instructor with a prematurely receding hairline decides to become a movie star. Imagine this person has no discernible acting talent and runs like he competes at the other Olympics. Also imagine that this as-yet-unknown star wants to not only produce the movie, but also have total creative control, even extending to writing and performing the soundtrack. Imagine after an initial few successes, this star finds his waistline expanding, hair being implanted, and his terrible movies being filmed in increasingly bizarre locations for a predominantly eastern European audience. Imagine this actor befriending Vladimir Putin and becoming a Serbian citizen. For the purpose of this blog, that’s about all you need to know.
What can we learn from such a larger-than-life egomaniac you may ask? Well, like getting your Nan high, there are glimpses of genius hidden within the madness. Let me explain what I’ve learnt…
In “real life”, Seagal claims to be the following: A 7th Dan Black Belt in Aikido. A weapons expert. A musician. An actor. A police officer. A living reincarnation of Buddha. A fluent Japanese speaker. A peace ambassador. A friend of Kim Jong-un. A healer. A UFC trainer. In his movies, he is a chef (sometimes) an ex-special forces operative (always), a scientist, a pilot, an explosives expert, and many other outlandish personas. Usually he is a combination of all of the above.
Never letting the truth get in the way of a good story, one thing’s for certain. Steven Seagal certainly backs himself. In a world where most winners are faking it until they make it, I suggest you do the same.
Know your audience
There are sharp-suited metro-sexual recruiters reading this right now who will think that I’ve finally lost the plot. Well guess what, maybe this isn’t for you? For every dapper Dan recruiter unsubscribing, there’ll be a trades and labour recruiter scrambling down to his local dojo. Seagal knows that his audience is predominantly spotty young men who have a good few years left with the ol’ V-plates. His movies don’t try to be clever. They are for the lowest common denominator, and I’m proud to be one. Likewise in life, don’t show off your sardonic humour by quoting French satirists to someone who can’t read. Or make bawdy sexist jokes to the HR Director of a law firm. At least, not any more. As a recruiter, know your market and interact with them accordingly. And if that doesn’t work, snap their wrist.
A cautionary tale here. Back in the late 80s, you could be a balding tubby sociopath action hero. Sadly for Seagal, time moved on. A beer belly was replaced by a 6 pack. The male pony-tail lost its allure. Soundtracks were recorded by people who could sing. Likewise, those recruiters waiting by the fax machine for the job requisition from their PSA client are very much the “Seagals” of the industry. Nowadays it’s all Snapchat and gluten-free. Get with it or get lost.
Live and let live
So what if Seagal has made a career out of beating people up who are smaller than him? Seagal is a Buddhist and has been named as a reincarnation of Chungdrag Dorje, a 17th-century “treasure revealer”. This has NOTHING TO DO with the sizeable cash donations he’s made to the monastery OK?! In the cut-throat world of recruitment we could learn a lot from this. Screwing over your competitors, clients, and candidates can only result in bad karma, and you’ll probably be reincarnated as “Henchman #3” in Seagal’s next blockbuster.
Above the Law. Hard to Kill. Out for Justice. Marked for Death. Do you notice a pattern? Seagal uses 3 word titles for most of his movies. These 3 words tell us as much as we need to know about the movie. There will be a cop on the edge, a vendetta, bad acting, and broken wrists. As hiring Managers get busier, and millenials enter the work force, I suggest a similar style when presenting interview notes to your client:
“Never been fired”
“Passed drugs test”
“Will work cheap”
You may notice that I’ve extended this methodology to the above blog title.
Skills are transferable
In “Under Siege” Seagal highlights how easy it is to shift from a Black-Ops Special Forces operative to a Navy Chef. Indeed, the similarities between slitting the throat of a Nicaraguan Political defector and chopping 200 onions is striking. Bear this in mind the next time a client tells you that your candidate doesn’t have 4 years of .net coding experience with a fin-tech business. If this doesn’t work, again, snap their wrist.
A final thought. As a successful recruiter, it’s easy to get swept up in your own legend. Truth be told, it’s our candidates and clients that make us what we are, so it’s important to acknowledge the people who have helped us along the way. This humility is best articulated by Steven Seagal himself:
“I am hoping that I can be known as a great writer and actor some day, rather than a sex symbol.”
Don’t we all Steven. Don’t we all.