Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Recruiters - the new Mad Men

To work in recruitment you must be a Mad Man

Most CEOs realise the importance of securing the best people in their industry. Having the top talent working for you gives you a huge advantage over your competition. Whilst most companies will  have developed a compelling message that they are ‘the’ place to work,  the reality is that majority don’t do much with it. It is often left sitting in the “Why work for us’ section of their website hoping that someone will stumble across it and contact them. Some are a bit more pro-active and will use things like social media to spread the word. Whilst some efforts can be effective, for most it is more of a hit and hope approach and this is typically true of smaller companies. Whether it is due to budgetary constrains, a lack of in house expertise or just a flippant approach, few effectively  get their message out to their target audience.

What they really need is  an on going campaign that  constantly engages with their target audience and builds a strong brand presence. It might sound like a job for someone in marketing. The reality is that this is where the future of recruitment sits. After all,  there is no one better positioned than a recruiter to do this job. They will know who the top talent is and more importantly have easy access to them. They will be speaking to the target audience all day, every day. They will also be actively engaging with the  competition so can provide valuable and up to date market information. They will know how the brand is really perceived in the market place and be able to advise if changes need to be made.

As the competition for top talent increases, those companies that actively and consistently promote their employee brand will have the advantage. Similarly, recruiters who can provide this service become far more important to a client, and vital in a market that is increasingly sceptical of the value that agency recruiters provide. To achieve this recruiters and clients need to adapt the relationship they have with each other. Recruiters need to position themselves not just as an extension of HR, but also be a part of the  marketing function, experts in engagement, brand development, communication and market analysis. Equally, companies who continue to use a recruiter to just fill vacancies will be missing out to their competitors that are actively engaging with the same talent pool.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Recruiters - can you answer these 3 questions?

When I first talk to a recruiter who is looking for a new job, I will always ask them 3 questions.

The answers separate the good recruiters from the average. They tell me whether a person takes their recruitment career seriously or are just hopping from one job to the next .They indicate whether a person is really committed to securing a new role or just dipping their toe in the water. They also highlight if someone is not telling the whole truth and has maybe something to hide. Not surprisingly, they  are the same 3 questions that a client will always first ask me about a candidate before committing to interviewing them.

If you are serious about securing a new recruitment role you absolutely need to be able to answer these 3 questions:

What did you bill last month, quarter, year ?
An exact figure to the dollar please. About……roughly….in the region of…..not sure….I’ll get back to you…..won’t do. Any recruiter worth their salt will know exactly what they have billed and be able to give a detailed breakdown. If you can’t tell me, then either you don’t take your job seriously enough, or your billings are not that impressive (in which case it is better to be upfront and explain why).  

Why are you looking for a new job?
Answers like “I need a new challenge” or “I have outgrown my role” are too safe, wishy washy and  are almost definitely not the real reason you have decided to look for a new job. There is no correct answer, but if you cannot be specific, I will question whether you really are serious about moving jobs, or worse, hiding the real reason.

What are you looking for?
If you are serious about your career then you will have thought about what you need  from your next role. So answers like  “Just the right role” or something equally vague makes you sound at best like you don’t take your career seriously, and at worst a bit desperate.

So, before you put your CV together, or think of all the great things you can tell a future employer about yourself, make sure you can first nail down these 3 questions. Otherwise you may struggle to get past first base.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The blame game.

Dear Hiring Manager

I was sorry to hear that John has left your business after only 2 months. However I am confused as to why you think this was my fault.

My role was to provide you with a qualified shortlist of candidates based on the criteria you gave me. The thorough recruitment process I undertook meant that my shortlist was accurate and I was able to provide you with detailed feedback on each candidate.  As well as the positives, I also advised you of any areas of concerns that I felt you should explore further during your own interviews.  After each interview, I spoke with the candidates and gave you their honest feedback, good and bad, and continued to update you with any relevant information during the process. After taking references, which again I did thoroughly and fed back to you honestly, you asked me to make John an offer.  At no stage did you express any concerns about the quality of the shortlist or John’s suitability for the role. In fact, I remember you being delighted to have found him.

Here's the thing:

I did not tell you to make an offer to John, nor did I put you under any pressure to make an offer at all. I am sure that if you thought none of the candidates were suitable then you would have told me to start again. The fact is that you decided to make an offer and you decided to make that offer to John.  This was after you interviewed him twice, your boss met him as did your HR.

So why are you blaming me? Your are the Hiring Manager; not me. You make the final decision; not me.

I appreciate that you are not happy with the outcome - trust me neither am I. But recruitment is not an exact science and any hiring decision has risk. My role was partly to do everything possible to mitigate that risk for you, which I did. If you have to blame anyone, blame John for not performing in the role. Blame your boss or HR for not spotting something. Blame yourself for making the wrong decision. Better still, don’t blame anyone. Accept that sometimes it just doesn’t turn out as expected, learn what you can from it and try and get a better result next time.

Yours Sincerely


PS – Feel free to not use my services again. However, you may find that the next recruiter you use is not as thorough or honest as I was – but at least you can then blame them a little bit more justifiably.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Recruitment - maybe it deserves a bad name.

The recruitment industry gets a bad rap and whilst a lot of it is unjustified, the saying that there is no smoke without fire has some truth here.  I am proud of being a recruiter and truly believe the job I do is important and worthwhile to both individuals and companies. So I get very annoyed with those people who let our industry down with their poor service or  dodgy behaviour.

The reality is that the entry barrier into recruitment is almost zero. You don’t need a qualification, any experience, investment or a licence to becomes a recruiter and start trading immediately. It is common practice for agencies to hire someone with no experience and give them a go, often with little training. The opportunity  to generate big fees quickly is a big draw card for people setting up their own agencies, regardless of how long they have been in the industry or whether they are any good. It is no wonder then that you get new recruiters and recruitment companies entering the market every day. Some will be very good and develop long careers and good businesses that add value to the industry. Some will quickly leave the industry but not before making some bad mistakes . Some will manage to float around the industry for years on end, never being very good and leaving a catalogue of dissatisfied candidates and clients along the way.

The ability  to  enter the industry easily and make quick money will always attract and retain an element of unsuitable, even cowboy recruiters that give us all a bad name. As an industry  are we doing enough to identify and prevent this element of our industry existing ?

In Australia, as in most other countries, the industry has a governing body; the RCSA . The RCSA does a lot of good work but is essentially an internally focused body which is there to support and develop the interests of the recruitment industry and it’s members. It does have a code of conduct by which it’s members are expected to adhere to and a Professional Practice Council and Ethics Committee who oversee Dispute & Disciplinary Procedures. Any individual, including candidates and companies who use their member’s services can complain to the RCSA if they feel they have been wronged in some way.

However you do not have to be part of the RCSA to provide recruitment services and if you are not then this code of conduct is irrelevant. Sure, job seekers and companies can access a list of members on the RCSA website and in doing so hope to choose a reputable organisation that is bound to an industry standard. However, how many job seekers or people who are not actively involved in recruitment are even aware of the RCSA or that there is even an industry body? Would an Engineer seeking a new job, or a small business owner looking for help with recruitment know to look for an RCSA approved recruiter? If they have received a bad service would they know that there is somewhere they can complain to?

As a comparison consider Accountancy,  Law or even Real Estate as similar service driven industries. You would never get you tax return done by a bloke who wasn’t a qualified accountant, or buy a house using someone who up until last week had been selling used cars. You normally need to be qualified and / or have a licence to practice in these areas  - it is not optional. You also have to undertake ongoing training and /or exams to remain operating in the industry. Furthermore you will be probably be regularly audited to ensure you are upholding the standards and punished, even expelled if you are not. Even with these regulations bad Accountants, Lawyers and Real Estate Agents slip through the net – but if you are unfortunate to use one then there is an expectation that there is somewhere you can go to  complain.  Why is recruitment not the same ?

Recruitment will never be a perfect industry, partly because there is no legal right to stop people setting themselves up as a recruiter. But for the good of the industries reputation, we need to make a clear distinction between the good, experienced, professional and ethical recruiters  and  those that simply want to make a quick buck and don’t care how they do it. We can do this by firstly being stricter in controlling and regulating the criteria and standards that recognise someone as an industry approved recruiter, and secondly being more vocal about it to the outside world. If we can do that then we will all benefit – the good recruiters anyway !

Thursday, 13 October 2011

From hero to zero...

The boss came in to work today a bit glum. Yesterday, he lost a bit of money on a horse that had won it’s last 3 races but had unexpectedly come last. Based on its previous runs, the horse was expected to win comfortably but had been well beaten. The boss had all sorts of theories as to why the sudden change in form - change of jockey, a longer distance, harder ground and even a conspiracy theory to do with a rogue bookie. The conversation extended to discuss sport’s stars that are brilliant one day and then, seemingly overnight, go off the boil ….why do they suddenly go from hero to zero ?

“It’s like that with recruitment consultants”, I said. To explain my point I used the example of a recruiter I know well.

This guy had started working in recruitment in the UK with a large global firm. In his first few years he was consistently in the top billers and had been promoted a couple of times. When the company was looking for someone to move to one of their underperforming branches he got the job. He turned the business around and achieved a big pat on the back because of it. This guy got a bit cocky though and thought he could do better elsewhere. So he interviewed around town and, with the track record he had, was inundated with offers.

The company he chose were delighted to have secured his services and based on his previous performance had high expectations of this guy. But very quickly they realised that not all was well. Having come from recruiting in a different sector he was struggling to adapt to the new market he was working in. He also didn’t seem to fit the culture or management style which was dramatically different to where he had previously worked. He quickly found himself struggling, unmotivated, miserable and after a painful period they agreed to part company. The hero that they thought they had backed, turned out to be more of a zero for them.

I know this guy well because he is me.

I had not suddenly forgotten how to recruit or lost all of the qualities that had previously made me successful. The reality was that the company, the management and the sector I was working in were not a good fit for me. It is like a star footballer who arrives at a new club full of promise but doesn’t get on with his new manager, is played out of position and subsequently doesn’t score for more than 20 games (not mentioning any names Chelsea fans). Or the horse my boss bet on who went from first to last. Their dip in performance is probably more to do with other factors than just their ability. If they are genuinely good and still up for it, given the right circumstances then they will be good again.

Similarly, a good recruiter does not  simply become a bad recruiter over night. However, a move to the wrong company can turn a hero biller into a zero biller (literally!). Of course the opposite is also true and given the right opportunity someone who is underperforming can become successful again. I am happy to say that subsequent to my career blip I have been successful in every role I have had. I hope the same can be said for the horse as my boss has already put money on it in it’s next race.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

When is the best time to start looking for a new job?

When I speak to candidates who tell me they are not interested in talking as they are not looking for a new job, this is what I tell them……

I commonly meet with individuals who are desperate to leave their current job. They were happy and maybe not that long ago, but for whatever reason they have got to the point where the very thought of turning up to work makes them feel miserable. When I meet with these people I question why it has taken them until now to start looking for a job?

Desperation nearly always means people do not present themselves as well as they normally would. Without meaning to, they will often come across negatively, jaded, even a bit miserable which are all major turn offs to future employers. But even if they can act through it,  when someone gets to this stage, they make poor decisions. Their standards and criteria drop dramatically. An average opportunity can suddenly look great although in reality it is just a way out. This will inevitably mean that in a few months, when they are seeing life a bit rosier, they will realise that they have sold themselves short and will often end up leaving the new role quickly. Suddenly their CV is starting to look a bit messy.

If you are happy in your role then the likelihood is that you won’t consider moving soon and that is fine. You may stay with your present company for another 10 years. However, things out of your control can impact your situation. Take the GFC as a recent example. A lot of people found themselves without a job very quickly, and let’s be honest, how many people predicted that? Perhaps that is unlikely to happen again, but the most seemingly secure companies can go belly up. Beyond stability, I have seen examples when new managers are bought in who have a different style, change the structure alter commission schemes etc. Suddenly a happy and financially rewarding job becomes not so great anymore. It is dangerous to assume things will always remain the same.

Outside of your own company the corporate landscape can change quickly. New companies enter the market, mergers and acquisitions occur, decision makers change and these can all create new career opportunities in your sector.  That dream job can sometimes come along, as do new and inventive bonus schemes and benefit packages that are just too good to turn down. If you are not keeping up to date with what is going on, then you are not managing your career thoroughly. As a career professional, you should have the same pro-active approach to managing your career as you do to winning new clients, building your team, increasing your profits, seeking an internal promotion or similar.

An on-going relationship with a recruiter, who can be your eyes and ears and keep you updated can be invaluable. A good recruiter will see the long term value in a relationship, even if you are not actively looking for a role. Why not meet up every 6 months just to see what is happening? Many of the people I end up placing I have been speaking to for a couple of years, often longer. Sure, a poor recruiter will just put a dollar value over your head and if you are not serious about moving now will have no interest in you. But choose wisely and you have a valuable resource in your corner.

So, don’t wait until you are desperate, miserable or forced to look, regardless of how fantastically happy and secure you are at the moment.  Give your career a regular health check – you may just need to or be surprised with what you find.

Maybe next time you are approaching a potential candidate offer them this advice. They are far more likely to be receptive than if you are “just another head-hunter trying to make a quick fee out of me”

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Have you checked under the bonnet?

What’s the point of references ? After all, people will only give you the names of referees who will say good things about them (unless they are really stupid) and (if they are smart) will have prepped them to say what they think the recruiter will want to hear. With this in mind how much value do references really add to the recruitment process ? 

If your approach to referencing is to just go through the motions because you have to take references, then there is very little point to doing it. However, I have learnt that when done properly references are absolutely invaluable, even essential, to assessing a candidates suitability for a position. In fact, I would even go so far as to say they are the most important part of a recruitment process.

Here is why references are vital......

Basically, if you don’t get some confirmation of what you are being told by a candidate, then you are making the assumption they are telling the truth. I don’t think that the world is full of fibbers but put your hand up if you have never been told a lie by a candidate. Yes, a good recruiter will normally be able to snuff out any major discrepancies by asking the right questions at interview. You don’t have to be Hercule Poirot to tell that someone did not work in the role they are claiming they did, or that their dates of employment don’t add up, or that the role was not actually a contract but they got fired. However, assumptions are the enemy of successful recruitment and even the best interviewers don't always get it right so it really pays to check.

Confirming what you have been told, is only part of their value. References should also be seen as a positive tool, not just to catch out liars, but  to provide insight into things like how that individual should be managed, any areas of development, their future potential etc. Not only will this feedback help you make the right hiring decision, it will also help you get the best out of that person when they are in your business.

So, how do you approach referencing to get the most out of it ?

Firstly, ask for the references that you want. Don’t necessarily just accept the names that a candidate gives you. Furthermore, don't assume that these people are who they say they are. Make sure that the person you have been given as their line manager or a client actually is their line manager or client and not just their colleague or friend (Overly suspicious ? It happens !).  If a candidate cannot give you the details of their previous line managers, or anyone else you ask for,  then there is something wrong. Sure, this person may have moved on, changed mobile number, or the company as a policy do not give references. But with a bit of digging around on social media sites and some gentle persuasion these things can normally be overcome.

In my experience, if a candidate cannot provide the names I am asking for, and they are reasonable, then I am immediately suspicious. Why wouldn't you be?

Secondly, referencing should be much more than a quick 5 minute telephone call going through a set list of questions on the standard company reference check form. Neither should it be passed to the receptionist to do. A reference call should be, as much as possible, a conversation led by the recruiter to get the information they need. In this way you are far more likely to get genuine and useful insight, not just the rehearsed answers to a bunch of leading question.

Thirdly, a reference should also include some wider background checks to uncover any potentially additional information which may help make a final decision about a candidates suitability. This is not to say that you hire a private detective to go through the candidate’s bin. But there is nothing wrong with using the power of the Internet, any common links in your network or something similar to find out a bit more. Again, this is not necessarily to uncover any negatives, it can also serve to bring out some positives that may not have come out of the process so far.

Whose responsibility is it to take references?

In short, it is everyone’s responsibility because each stakeholder (recruiter, hiring manager, HR) has a vested interest in getting it right. As an agency recruiter I will conduct references, both for my own satisfaction and also because my client is paying me to. However, hiring managers should also take it upon themselves to conduct their own background checks and HR should ensure this happens. At the end of the day, they are ultimately the one making the offer, employing the person and paying the wages.

My last piece of advice on this topic ….do not bury your head in the sand if something crops up that is a concern. Don't go looking for problems, but if something needs investigating further then investigate it. Whether you are an agency recruiter looking to close a deal, an internal recruiter looking to close off a process or a hiring manager desperate to fill a vacant role, it might be tempting but you ignore potential issues at your peril. 

So next time you are referencing a candidate ask yourself honestly  “have I checked under the bonnet?"

Monday, 5 September 2011

When negotiations go bad, who really loses out ?

As regular followers of this blog will know, I work as a Rec-to-Rec consultant (i.e. I recruit recruiters for recruitment companies – say that after a few glasses of wine!). I recently received a call from the owner of an agency explaining that he had heard good things about me and could I meet with him to discuss helping him find new consultants. As always, I was upfront about my fees and in return for some commercial advantages and as a gesture of good will I agreed to a 1% discount, which was subsequently confirmed in an email.

So off I toddled the next day to his offices, which were very smart and based at the expensive end of town (..obviously he was not short of money). Considering there is a chronic shortage of experienced consultants in the market, my advice was that he should consider individuals at a more junior level as long as they displayed the right qualities. I offered him that advice because it made sense and he agreed.

The following week I sent him John’s CV. Although John only had 6 months experience he was very bright and I was confident he would develop into an excellent consultant quickly. I knew this because I had interviewed John thoroughly and already taken a reference. My client was happy to interview him and the very positive feedback after that first meeting indicated that he thought the same. Both parties were keen to take things forward so a 2nd interview was set up for the next day and again the result was very positive. So far so good.
Then the trouble starts:

"John is good but he is not very experienced so is going to take a lot of training"
(Yep, you knew that and that is why his salary expectations are very modest).

"I also have a couple of other candidates I am speaking to who I have sourced myself"
(Funny, you didn’t mention that before)

"I am interested to take him but I don’t want to pay much of a fee, in fact I will only pay $2k"
(approx an 80% discount !)

"And I wouldn’t want to pay him more than $..k"
($10k less than he asked for )
I instantly lost all credibility for the client. Firstly, for trying to negotiate a ridiculous and unrealistic discount on fees at the back end of the process (that I am certain he would never agree to do with his clients). Secondly, for trying to under offer a good candidate that he wrongly thought he could take advantage of. Thirdly, for the aggressive and patronising manner in which he did it.
Normally I would have walked away there and then. However, I like John and the last thing I wanted to do was stand in his way of securing a role with a company he liked. So I agreed to meet the client half-way. My caveat was that he would have to make an offer by the end of the day. It got to 5pm (Friday) and nothing - he had not even been good enough to come back to me.
This is not sitting very comfortably with me and neither is it sitting comfortably with John (I told you he is a good bloke). So we agreed that before I left for the weekend I would speak to some other clients who may be interested in him. Unsurprisingly in this candidate short market there was interest and to cut to the chase, by the end of the following week John had an offer at his desired salary. Fees had already been agreed with this client and there was no attempt to negotiate us down. I had still not heard back from the original client so I emailed him (admittedly with some delight) to advise that John was now off the market. I was surprised by his response:
"What if I had wanted to offer him a job"
(Well you should have done then, and not been so bothered about trying to get something for nothing)

"I find this rude and unprofessional"
(Do you really !) 

So the upshot is that a guy who has a need for consultants, and will continue to struggle to find them in a very tight market, loses out. Furthermore, his behaviour during the process means that he now becomes a source of candidates for me to headhunt. All because he wanted to get something for nothing and thought as the client he could call all the shots.

One of the  principles of any successful business is the need to keep costs low. Good business leaders should always be prepared to negotiate a more favourable price. However, in any negotiation there is a critical point at which the price becomes too low and the vendor (recruiter) will walk away. If a client’s reluctance (or stubbornness) to meet the recruiter at a fair price, and negotiate in a professional manner, means they miss out on someone that would have added value to their business, surely that is not good business leadership.  

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

"Have you got any roles in internal recruitment ?"

A two part blog ....

I speak to agency recruiters all day ......some approach me looking for a new role and others are recipients of a headhunting call. Something that I am hearing more and more these days is the following sentence (or a version of):

"Have you got any roles in internal recruitment"

Fair enough. However, the majority of people that give me this response are not able to provide any well considered reasons for wanting to jump the fence to an internal role. In fact, in nearly all cases the individuals do not demonstrate a good understanding of the role of an internal recruiter beyond what the title suggests. When I dig a bit deeper into their reasons, the answer is usually something based around not wanting to do sales or working towards targets anymore. What I suspect is really sitting behind their thoughts is a belief internal recruitment would be a much easier job. In my experience this could not be further from the truth.

OK, there may not be a billing target to stress about but there are certainly very demanding expectations of fill rates. OK, there may not be a requirement to business develop but you still need to build relationships with your hiring managers, which is essentially the same thing . Furthermore, internal hiring managers will be far more demanding on you than an external client because they absolutely depend on you to deliver. As an agency recruiter you will probably not be the only person engaged by the client and therefore their need for you to deliver is less. At the end of the day it is far easier to walk away (or hide!) form an external client than it is a hiring manager sitting in the same office as you.


I speak to managers in recruitment agencies all day.....some approach me looking for new staff and others are recipients of a sales call. Something that I am hearing as commonly these days as ever is the following (or a version of):

"They need to sell"

Absolutely fair enough. However, a good deal of these managers do not seem to be able to provide much more on their wish list than that. In fact, in a lot of cases they do not seem to have thought much beyond what they are looking for in a prospective employee than their ability to sell. What I suspect is really sitting behind their thoughts is a belief that a good sales person will make a successful biller.In my experience, whilst that is sometimes true, there are many more attributes that someone hoping to be a successful recruiter needs.

OK, there may be billing targets to achieve and a key part of this is an ability to develop new business. But if you are just a great sales person you will not be able to place the business you pick up. As an agency recruiter you will probably not be the only person engaged by the client and therefore you need to deliver. 


Here is a thought....

Agency recruiters, be more realistic about what your job is. Developing relationships is an essential part of working in any professional consultancy, not just recruitment. No one has ever died from making a sales call (as far as I know anyway). In my career I have only been hung up on once and I found it genuinely funny, because it was.

At the same time, managers of recruitment agencies be more realistic about what you can expect from your staff. No one wants to come to work in what should be a professional consulting role to spend 80% of their time being flogged to make pointless sales calls to hit some irrelevant target.

Hopefully we can then retain (and attract) great talent that this industry desperately needs.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Advance (recruiters), Australia's fair....

I originally came out to Australia for what was meant to be a year, but 10 years or so later I am still here. I have spent that time going back and forth between England and Australia, working for a variety of different recruitment companies and in different sectors. Over this time, one thing has become very apparent to me with regards to the recruitment industry in both countries – Australia is a much better place to do work. This is a personal view point but the path I have taken has been well trodden by UK recruiters for many years and that trend seems only to be getting obviously I am not alone.

The shortage of recruiters in Australia means that I am continually sourcing talent from the UK and having conversations with recruiters who are based there about moving to Australia. After we have got beyond the improved climate and potential for a much improved lifestyle the conversation turns to why it is different recruiting in Australia. Based on my experience, this is what I tell them:
The "fair go" Australian attitude means that people here will more readily give you a chance to prove yourself. In England, I would often find myself having to beg a receptionist to put me through to a hiring manager and then have to beg again for a meeting which would only happen because I had bored them into submission. A painful and unrewarding experience all round. In Australia, the majority of times I call a new client I get through to the hiring manager directly, they are happy to speak and as long as I am credible and pleasant they will agree to see me. It doesn’t even feel like a sales call. In fact the meeting will more likely be in a coffee shop than a boardroom.

Australian’s are intrinsically more genuine, more honest and more respectful. In terms of recruitment this makes for far less messing about with uncommitted time wasters (the scourge of every recruiters life!). You can leave any bravado at the door and you will find yourself being able to be far more consultative and not just a sales person / job filler.

The shortage of skilled recruiters in Australia means less competition with other recruiters working in the same sector as you. The usual state of play in England is that most market sectors are far too over subscribed with recruiters all going for the same piece of pie. So yours will likely be the tenth sales call that hiring manager has received that day. Whilst the Australian recruitment landscape is competitive there are not as many providers - it easier to get heard when the background noise is not as loud.

The economic climate in Australia is amongst the healthiest anywhere in the world and, with the caveat that I am not an economist, it should continue to be a rich playground for recruiters. Compare this to England (or other parts of Europe and the US for that matter) and you have a further reason why recruiting in Australia is a more pleasant experience.

The Friday night drinks trolley can appear as early as 4pm ...and includes nibbles !
If you are a recruiter who wants to be recognised as an expert and respected as a peer by your clients, play on a level playing field and, let’s be honest, would prefer your job to be easier then there is no better place to ply your trade than the lucky country down under.

Footnote: whilst this blog may not appear so, I am at heart an Englishman. I cried when we won the Ashes and will be supporting England over Australia in the Rugby World Cup !

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Now that we understand each other.....

The comparison between marriage and recruitment has been made over and over. For two things that have no intrinsic link, they offer a multitude of similarities, and not just because 1 in 3 ends in failure. It is probably not surprising then that one of my colleagues moonlights as a marriage celebrant by the weekend. A good chunk of our Monday morning team meeting is usually dedicated to her report of the previous weekends wedding including the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly. She finishes with a judgment on whether they will, or they won't  make it as a married couple. According to her you can always tell:

 "The best ones are when you can see that they both just get each other".

If you consider this in terms of a Recruitment Consultant it is not just a case of understanding the other person in the relationships (clients and candidates), it is also the ability of those people to do the same. Now, I consider myself a good judge of character and I find it quite easy to accurately form some basic understanding of a person quickly. In short I think I ‘get’ people. Above everything else I think this makes me a good recruiter. But what about the other side of the equation, the bit where they have to ‘get’ me to make the relationship work. After all, if this is missing then it doesn’t matter how good a judge of character I am, the relationship is on a slippery slop to becoming one of the 1 in 3 statistics.

So how can I be sure that my clients and candidates are ‘getting’ me?

The short answer is that you can’t. But there is something you can do to help them along; be genuine. Now, before you reach for the vomit bucket and bemoan another recruiter preaching on the importance of values, this is not one of those blogs (nor am I one of those people). The reason for being genuine is simply that it will give you better outcomes. Of course you can portray yourself as anything you like, as long as you can back it up. But even if you have the acting ability of a young de Niro, sods law is that at some point you will not be able to follow up on your bravado. Do it more than once and you quickly lose credibility, and probably a client and candidate too.

It sounds simple but it can be very difficult to be genuine. We are all social chameleons to a certain point, changing our character to suit the environment or person we are with. We are also all probably guilty of painting a more attractive picture of ourselves than is 100% genuine. But being honest about who you are, and being that person consistently will mean your clients and candidates are far more likely to ‘get’ you and therefore be able to work with you .

Similar to my colleagues weddings’ recruitment relationships are made up of the good, the bad, the ugly and some that just shouldn't have started in the first place. But the best ones are when everyone in the relationships just 'gets' each other. 

Sunday, 10 July 2011

My favourite recruitment catchphrases

Recruitment lends itself as well to catchphrases as any other other industry. On my travels through the industry I have worked with some very creative individuals who have a beautiful knack of summing up a situation or person with a few well chosen words. I have also worked with others that have developed what seems like an entirely different language and make little sense unless you have the appropriate translation phrase book.

Regardless, what I have found is that a good catchphrase can go a long way to adding a bit of humour to what is a serious and often stressful job.  

There must be thousands, and one could probably put together an entirely alternative Thesaurus based around recruitment. Here are just a small selection of some of my favourites and the appropriate translation  (with apologies for some choice language).

Whose who in the zoo:
The process of mapping a market sector or company for headhunting purposes.

Teflon vacancy / client:
A vacancy or client that is so awkward you will never make a candidate stick.

Chuck enough mud at the wall, hope some sticks:
The numbers game approach of sending lots of unqualified candidates to a client in the desperate hope that one of them is successful.

Beatles shortlist:
When you have 4 excellent candidates to shortlist for a vacancy (as in 'Fab 4'). In more recent times this has been amended to the 'TakeThat shortlist'.

Stocking filler:
An average candidate that you submit just to make up the numbers on a shortlist.

Shit Sandwich Shortlist (or TripleS):
Similar to above, when you put an average candidate in the middle of the shortlist to hide them as best as possible.

Paris Hilton:
A candidate that initially looks OK but it very quickly becomes clear when you talk to them that there is no substance (can also be known by many other names).

Bird shit placement:
A lucky placement that comes from no where.

Acronym to describe a placement that once looked very positive but has gone very wrong (F****d up beyond all recognition).

Can't polish a t**d:
The impossible process of trying to make a  poor candidate sound good.

The Bridesmaid:
A candidate that often gets to the final stages but never gets an offer.

I would love to hear of others that are in use.....

Monday, 4 July 2011

Superlatives - my absolutely very worst pet hate ever

Exceptional, outstanding, superb, unique.....and other similar superlatives are words that I come across every day when reading job adverts.

Reading these types of adverts is a bit like receiving that email from Nigeria advising you that you someone wants to send you a million dollars in return for your bank details. When I see an advert that describes the job with a long list of superlatives it makes me think that the opportunity is not nearly as good as the recruiter is making out. If something sounds too good to be true it has a tendency to make you instantly suspicious.

When you consider that candidates, especially passive ones, commonly make ‘instant’ decisions on whether an advert is worth following up, it is crucial to sound credible. There is nothing wrong with a positive spin , after all making a job sound as attractive as possible is the very point of the exercise. But it is better to do that by presenting the facts and not just with a bunch of superlatives that don’t actually tell you anything about the job.

Compare these extracts from 2 job adverts:
  1. "Unique opportunity with a superb commission structure, fantastic company and exceptional career development"

  2. "Team leader role with a global market leader, $150k+OTE and structured career path leading to management opportunities in 3 years"
The educated job hunter in the professional market (which is more or less every job hunter these days) will rarely be won over with adverts like the first. The passive candidate, will only be interested in the facts and how they compare to their present role. In my own experience of job hunting, if the facts and figures are not being advertised then I am not going to bother applying. The job will almost certainly not be as attractive as it is made out or it in fact does not exist in the first place (and yes, the non recruitment world does realise that advertising fake jobs to fish for candidates happens).

The same principles apply when a recruiter is putting together a profile for a candidate to present to a client. If your candidate is worthy of sending to a client then highlight the reasons why and focus on the facts: "An excellent communicator with a mature attitude and friendly nature, this candidate is a rare find in this market". This description could just as easily apply to my dear grandmother (God bless her) as it could to anyone.
As a challenge, the next time that you write a job advert or candidate profile try not include any superlatives, or even strongly phrased positive descriptions. In fact, try and just keep to the facts. I guarantee that your applicants will be of a far better quality and clients more receptive.

PS - Before anyone puts my name into Google and emails me back all the horrid examples of when I have used superlatives, I admit guilt but am in rehab to overcome my terrible addiction.

Forgetting the fake job advert, the reason for the over use of superlatives is either because a proper job spec has not been taken or simply laziness.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Scott Recruitment launch interactive recruitment salary survey

Scott Recruitment's innovative 'Recruitment Salary' site is a free salary comparison resource where Australian recruitment and HR industry professionals share salary data to help them ascertain what people in the local recruitment and HR profession are really earning. The site works on an honesty based 'give to get' model whereby all salary data is entered by (and shared by) Australian recruitment and HR professionals. Help maximise the value of this data by contributing your salary today and in return receive a free comparison of your salary against peers with a similar profile as yourself. Try it now ...

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A roast without the trimmings isn't really a roast....

When I first stepped (or more accurately fell) into recruitment 10 years ago, the agency that employed me said they were impressed with my sales background and that is why they hired me. I thought that was odd because recruitment is all about interviewing, matching candidates to clients and helping people find a job...isn't it?

 I went on their induction course and it was full of people similar to me with no recruitment experience that had worked in telesales or had proven their ability to 'flog ice to the Eskimos'. The course was supposed to teach a rookie everything that they needed to know about recruitment, "Recruitment 101" if you will. But after 4 days, all that had been spoken about was selling - how to do it and how much you needed to do to become a great recruiter. I remember feeling a bit disappointed; if this was all there was to recruitment what was really different from wearing a headphone in a call centre selling credit cards.

 Before I go further let me set my stall out on where I sit on this topic. I loathe sales people who do not have any quality to what they do, and that goes the same for recruitment. If I am buying a house I want the estate agents to help me, not just throw enough options at me and hope one of them sticks. In the same way, a 'sales gun' who does not deliver is not a proper recruiter, just a sales person working in recruitment. That being said, building relationships is absolutely crucial to being a good recruiter and every relationship starts with some sort of pitch. Someone who is not prepared to pick up the phone or introduce themselves at a networking event is as ineffective as the 'sales gun'.  The obvious answer, and nothing ground breaking here, is that a good recruiter is a combination of a lot of different things.

Fast forward 10 years. After working for agencies that include the good, the bad and the ugly (and reinventing myself a few times along the way), I am now working in Rec2Rec.  I have a front row view of our industry and often get an alternative insight than the corporate blurb that a company’s website offers, or the positive press releases and social media updates that are put out. One thing that I am finding is that the desire for 'a sales gun' remains very much at the top of an agencies wish list of requirements in a new hire.  Nothing wrong with that, other than this is sometimes the only requirement and the interview process does little more than explore their ability to sell.

 It is obvious that the recruitment industry has gone a long way over time to improve its image. The message to clients and candidates is now far more focused on delivering quality and adding value than it used to be. But whilst this is the public message that we all sing in chorus, is this genuinely at the heart of what drives some agencies?  I am afraid that some agencies are still essentially sales driven cultures disguised with a bit of trimming for image.

Quiz time : If you were presented with 2 candidates, one a 'sales gun' and one a 'service gun', with all other things being equal,  which one would you go for?
 Answers on a postcard....