Regarded as one of Britain’s best-loved actors, Michael Caine’s career has taken many twists and turns, much like recruitment – from struggle and rejection to praise and awards. In his book, Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life he examines his life and outlines the lessons he’s learnt from success and failure. So as a note to recruiters, we’ve listed 11 of the ‘lessons’ to be mindful of to help achieve success.

Find what you love

“I didn’t dream of being rich and famous. That wasn’t my goal. But I did, at a young age, find something I loved to do: acting. In a life full of good fortune this was the biggest piece of good luck I ever had.”

This may come across a little jarring as often you’ll hear people say “I just fell into recruitment!” The note to recruiters here is to understand what you love about recruitment and use that as your strength to help you be the best you can be. At its core, recruitment is problem-solving. The payoff is surges of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that controls your brain’s reward and pleasure center. But dopamine quickly fades, hence the highs and lows, alongside the nature of the job. For longer-term rewards, focus on what you love about the role itself. By focusing on your most enjoyable and effective actions that contribute to sales, you’ll still continue to receive plenty of dopamine but won’t fixate on the highs and lows. The recruitment role is extremely varied and can be overwhelming when focusing on targets and the overall picture. Work smart and be most efficient at what you love, rather than working harder. The recruitment journey to success is a step by step, day by day process. Pace yourself.

First impressions count

“You’re auditioning when you’re checking in with the receptionist when you’re in the waiting area, when you’re grabbing a cup of coffee. You never know who’s watching your performance.”

An important note for recruiters is that one part of candidate interview prep focuses on physical greetings and maintaining eye contact. But too often these can seem rehearsed and obvious. Many interviewers will ask reception to give their viewpoint on how the person greeted them and behaved. To be authentic you need to be yourself, but you always need to be respectful and courteous. Figure out how you can apply this to how you interact with people on a daily basis and where you can make improvements. First impressions always count so being the best version of yourself will ensure you are professional, relaxed and comfortable, without adding any extra pressures onto yourself. The interview always starts at the first point of contact, whether that be a meeting, email or phone call. 

Be self aware

“Do you have a good sense of what you convey? Do you know your strengths, and play them up?”

In his book, Caine talks about reinventing himself but playing to his strengths; to be authentic. In recruitment, there’s a number of different personality types. If you’re generally quiet and calm, use that as your strength. Similarly, if you like to lead from the front, do so. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than someone trying to be something they’re not. People will see through it straightaway. Understand your strengths and use them to your advantage. A great recruiter is always personable because they have self awareness. Understand how you react to mixed personality types for the most positive outcomes, without being caught off guard in certain situations. 

Always persevere

“Even when I achieved stardom, I could never quite believe that each film would not be my last.”

You’re only as good as your last month is a phrase every recruiter knows and the parallels are similar. For every ‘The Italian Job’, there’s a turkey. Caine stresses that he kept going out of “anger, fear, determination and necessity.” The key note to recruiters here is to understand what drives you. Your fears and passions should motivate you to be more effective and efficient in your role in order to stay on track for success.

Be proactive

“Success comes from doing. The best way to keep doing enough of the right things is to keep doing a lot of things. Don’t wait for your chances; go out and take them. Don’t spend life sitting off to the side, waiting for the perfect script, with the perfect director at the perfect fee.”

This can be interpreted in a lot of ways, from opting to go for a promotion to taking on more responsibility in your role. However, the theme is to take chances and embrace new ideas to develop your career. The important note for recruiters is to consistently be proactive in your role. What can you continually be doing to keep the ball rolling? Ultimately this will allow you to pace yourself, whilst always moving towards your goal. Seize opportunities in the moment, these are stepping stones to your long term goals. 

Give 100%

“Your contribution is what you can control so, however big or small it is, you have to make it as good as it can be.”

Part of working as a team within recruitment is sharing your forecast for the month. This will differ with some months being higher than others. No matter ‘however big or small’ it is, explain what the forecast means for your monthly and annual personal and team targets. Committing to your role fully and giving 100% at what you do will not only reflect in succeeding your targets, but will also influence your team. Employee engagement is important within recruitment to drive yourself and your team. Team members will offer advice and support if you can prescribe what the problem is that you’re trying to solve. Committing to working as a team is a key note to recruiters, in order to contribute to the bigger picture and overall company goals. Always give 100% to what you can control, and in turn, this will create a butterfly effect and generate more success.

Learn your craft

“I can’t empathise strongly enough. You have to learn your craft. Whatever it is you want to do, you have to put in the hours to learn everything you’re going to need, starting with the basics.”

Part of “find what you love” is learning, and importantly continually developing your craft to become an expert recruiter. Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, introduces the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. Your role should be your passion, if you love what you do and give 100% then you’ll always be developing your skill set to become a thought leader within your field. It’s important to note for recruiters that your industry will be ever-evolving and in order to be most successful, you must consistently learn, adapt and develop your knowledge so you can grow. 

Be prepared to fail

“I learned lessons by making mistakes – but I only make each one once. Nothing has the power to etch a lesson deeper into my brain than making a mistake and then getting up and trying again and doing it a bit better.”

Any time you fail, you can learn from it. Devoting time to reviews and post mortems will help identify where the failure occurred. Once identified you can work through processes and strategies, individually or as a team, to help future actions. You can’t progress and become an expert without making mistakes, but it’s important to note for recruiters that resilience is key to such a cut-throat industry. Achieving higher success comes from exploring new ideas, taking risks and knowing what teachable moments to take when things don’t go to plan. This will allow you to stretch your capabilities and challenge yourself so that you can adapt your tactics to achieve your goals in the market. 

Be dependable

“Talent will get you only so far. You need to add in boring old reliability if you want to endure. Your life can be disorganised, but your work can never be.”

Aside from simpler behavioural changes you can make to become less disorganised, being ‘dependable’ can mean constantly working towards a longer-term goal. Dependability can be associated with our other feel-good brain chemical; serotonin. In contrast to dopamine, serotonin is associated with alignment to a larger purpose and long-term accomplishments. Not only will you be more trustworthy in a competitive market, but a key note for recruiters is that you are your own brand, and therefore your reputation is on the line. Being dependable is beneficial for your own work ethic, but also working with clients and within a team. You’ll receive more out of the work you put in at lower effort because if you’re dependable, others are likely to return the favour. 

Do your research

“We can probably all benefit sometimes from trying to understand what is going on in other people’s heads.”

Understanding and matching is one half of recruitment. The other half is being a subject expert. Knowing your subject creates the opportunity to work with the right people and understanding how they think and feel will help achieve goals. You are only able to have a better understanding of your subject matter and target market through extensive research. Having a substantial understanding of what you’re dealing with so you can be better equipped in your role is a necessary note for recruiters.

Be prepared

“Confidence comes from experience plus preparation”

The goal of preparation is to go from the chance of something going wrong from high to remote. So, everything you do from writing an advert to meeting a client and reporting needs careful preparation. The note for recruiters here is – fail to prepare, prepare to fail.


Recruitment is a blend of art and science. It’s problem-solving, talent spotting and communication underpinned by data. No matter where you are on your journey, these ‘lessons’ are full of wisdom and insight.