A Lesson in a Loaf of Bread

“I need a loaf of bread,” the bakery customer says.

“Very good!” The baker claps her hands together, releasing a fine puff of flour. “What kind of bread would you like?”

“Oh, a normal loaf of bread. Cost should be about three bucks?”

“No problem. Come back tomorrow morning.” The baker gets to work as the customer leaves the shop. She whips together a pretty standard dough ball, kneads it, lets it rise overnight, then bakes it to golden perfection early the next morning.

The warm smell of baked bread fills the bakery.

The customer returns, and the little bell over the bakery shop door jingles. “Good morning!” he calls, smiling.

The baker hands him a wrapped package of freshly-baked bread. “That will be three dollars, please?”

The customer frowns. “Oh. Goodness. Is this white bread?”

The baker nods, confused. “Yes, you said a normal loaf of bread. White bread is the most common.”

The customer grimaces in disgust. “No, see, I’m not a fan of overly processed foods. Hurts my stomach something fierce! May I have a whole-grain loaf of bread instead?”

The baker pauses a moment, seeing her hard work gone to waste. “Oh, of course!” She manages to smile brightly. “Come back in the morning?”

“Of course,” says the customer, apologetically. “I’m sorry for not being clear up front.”

“No problem,” insists the baker. This customer comes in daily. It wouldn’t do to make him mad.

The next morning, the customer walks in, jingling the little bell. “Good morning!”

The baker, with a hopeful expression on her face, hands him a wrapped loaf of freshly baked whole-grain bread. “That will be $4.50,” she says.

The customer frowns. “Wait. I wanted a loaf of bread that costs only $3.00.”

“Sir,” says the baker, her expression mournful. “Whole grain is more expensive. We can’t sell it for the same cost as the processed flour loaves. You realize that, right?”

“No,” says the customer stubbornly. “My budget only allows me to pay $3.00. Would you take a cut in your profit?”

The baker looks at her loaf, and at the now-stale loaf on the back counter, yesterday’s white bread disaster. What choice does she have? “I guess so.”

The customer buys the whole grain bread and the baker dumps the day-old white bread in the trash.


Recruiting top-shelf candidates for vacant positions in your organization is a lot like baking the right loaf of bread the first time.


Too often, hiring managers have, at best, only vague thoughts of what they are missing in their organizations. “Give me a .NET developer,” they may say, or even “I need a software development manager with five years’ experience, immediately!”


Recruiters who are timid about digging deeply into their hiring manager’s needs are often the hardest working, least productive recruiters in their organization. Instead of following the age-old process of “ready, aim, FIRE!” they instead “ready, fire, AIM!”


It frequently takes several iterations to finally nail down what, exactly, the hiring manager wants to see in a new hire. The best recruiters are the ones that take the time, up front, to discover what the hiring manager truly wants to see.
Consider the following, alternative exchange:

“I need a loaf of bread,” the bakery customer says.

“Very good!” The baker claps her hands together, releasing a fine puff of flour. “What kind of bread would you like?”

“Oh, a normal loaf of bread. Cost should be about three bucks?”

“Do you have the flexibility to pay more if the quality is exceptional?”

The customer winces, “Oh, I wish I did. No, I’m afraid that three bucks is my upper limit.”

“Okay,” says the baker. “That limits our options, but I’m sure that we can get you what you are seeking. What kind of bread, specifically, would you like to have me prepare for you?”


“Yes, you said that before,” says the baker. “What does normal mean to you?”

“Well, I don’t like overly processed foods, so I try to avoid white flour. Whole grain, I guess. Do you have that?”

“We do, but a typical loaf of whole grain bread costs more than three dollars. Would you be okay with a smaller loaf?”

“Sure, I guess, but can’t you get me a full sized loaf for that price?”

“Alas,” says the baker, her face forlorn. “I would love to, but all the other bakeries are charging at least four dollars, and my materials are basically the same as theirs.”

“Okay, then. Please make me a small loaf of whole grain bread for three dollars.”

“Marvelous! Is there anything else I can get for you?”

“No, but I’m glad you asked me specific questions. I hadn’t considered all the options.”

“Wonderful! We’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Sure thing,” and the customer walks out, a spring in his step, looking forward to his exact needs being met the next morning.


When working with your recruiter, make sure that they know, up front, exactly what you need.

Do you need a .NET developer? A quality assurance analyst? Perhaps a Scrum Master?

Examine your existing team. What types of personalities are represented? Do they prefer non-standard working hours? Are they a tight-knit team at work, supporting one another and relying upon each other for checks and balances?

When drawing up the job description for your vacancy, take into account the stability of your existing team.


Would a strong-willed, opinionated software developer help or hurt your team? Either way, share this information with your recruiter. Instead of saying “Hey, Lou, I’m looking for a senior .NET developer, can you find me one?”, say “Lou, I need to meet a senior .NET developer with enough experience to hit the ground running, but with a personality that won’t interfere with my current team. They have a strong-willed lead architect, and the other developers get along great with her. I want somebody who can come in and work well under her leadership without their ego getting in the way. Also, we have flex hours and most of the developers don’t come in until about 11 AM. They stay and work until 8 PM, most days.”

Were *I* to get that order, I would welcome, but not represent, a senior .NET developer with young kids that required a more traditional work schedule. When one person is not aligned with the rest of the team, it is simple human nature for that individual to be shunned, and the team is the weaker for it.


Don’t weaken your teams with the wrong new hire.

A happy work environment needs more than just a few matched keywords on a resume. It needs insight and the “right fit” to keep things humming along smoothly.


Lou Berger is a Senior Recruiter at Talent Recruiters, Inc. (www.TalentRecruiters.net) and can be contacted directly at Lou@TalentRecruiters.net, or by telephone: 303.539.9350. He specializes in helping organizations find the right fit for their new hire needs.

Lou Berger

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *