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”