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The Resilient Recruiter

Oct 30, 2020

In this episode, I grill Doug Johnson on the secrets to his extraordinary success in recruitment.  Listen in as I persuade him to reveal the strategies, skills and techniques he’s developed over the years that have enabled him to generate millions of dollars in placement fees.

Old-school sales and recruiting techniques are coming back in vogue during the Covid-19 environment.  Out of necessity, recruiters are going “back to basics” with their business development and candidate generation. 

Unfortunately, these classic skills have become something of a lost art. Especially if you started your recruitment career after 2003 (when LinkedIn was founded).  Most recruiters would profit from the wisdom and insights of a veteran who developed their skills pre-LinkedIn era. 

Doug is the president of Valor Partners, an executive search firm he founded in 2002. Doug specializes in recruiting leaders in sales, marketing and strategy within enterprise software. He has a particular focus on working with and placing female leaders in tech. Over the last 20 years Doug has placed 600 high performers with companies such as SAP, Microsoft,, Honeywell, GE, and numerous startups. Prior to founding Valor Partners, Doug spent six years at MRI where he was a five-time top ten account executive of the year, and two-time national account executive of the year.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [2:40] Doug’s “accidental” career in recruiting and why he wanted to quit every day for the first 3 months! 
  • [7:10] Doug shares his technique for getting referrals - a skill he developed in the pre-LinkedIn era which is just as relevant today.
  • [11:18] Doug’s recruiting call script which is effective in opening conversations with potential candidates
  • [19:10] How Doug went from a rookie to billing $1M two years in a row - the critical success factors.
  • [25:24] An insightful perspective on why the “generalist is dying.”
  • [32:20] The monumental challenge faced when he decided to go out on his own. 
  • [39:29] Doug’s take on our current market and how best to get through this.
  • [46:15] How do you convince a client on why paying an engagement fee makes sense?
  • [51:56] Doug’s story about summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro, and how this experience is transferable to the recruiting business.

Doing it Old School - How to be Good at Getting Referrals 

Recalling the early years of his career that started in 1997, Doug shared the story of how they looked for referrals before LinkedIn or even before the internet was widely used in the recruitment industry. 

“Let’s also remember that way back when you and I got started, the internet was not necessarily a thing. Cell phones were not a thing. LinkedIn wasn’t even an idea. So when I started, I would have to go home at night and I would have to do my research where I had an internet connection… If I wasn’t doing my research at night, [the office] had this big thick book called Corptech and there were about three volumes of it to find companies. I had to look through and find these phone numbers and then call.”

He added, “It wasn’t like I could flip through LinkedIn and find the next sales guy in Chicago or the marketing guy in Detroit. I couldn’t do that. So you had to get really really good at asking for referrals and networking and getting information from the people so you could maximize these phone calls.” 

Listen further as Doug revealed his secret on how to be good at getting referrals in this episode.

Douglas Johnson Bio and Contact Info

Doug founded Valor Partners in 2002. He has been working with enterprise software executives to identify and recruit the people who lead, build and manage top sales and marketing teams for over 20 years. His expertise is in SaaS software.  His practice focuses on helping his clients with the unique challenges of building the revenue side of their businesses- sales, marketing and customer success.  He has one other unique aspect to his practice; working with and placing female leaders in tech.

"Discretion, exceptional judgment and over 20 years of industry expertise (with a heavy dose of humor and humility) allow me a network, relationships and market knowledge rivaled by very few people."

Away from the office, Doug is a single dad with two kids, Grace and Murphy, and two dogs (Ash and Moose). He is a competitive tennis player (played in college), he runs Spartan races and is a year and a half into learning to salsa dance (so frustrating). He feels very fortunate that his career in search has allowed him the opportunity to travel the world with his kids- highlights have included reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro and watching the Northern Lights in Iceland.

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