It was Sunday, so I was not in work mode at all. In fact I was watching my son trial for a Sydney Representative cricket team, and my mind was on him bowling fast and batting straight.
On the side of the field, the mums and dads congregated, and the usual banter was flying fast and furious, when one of the guys turned to me and said,
“I thought of you this week.”
The dad in question is well known to me. We have sat on sporting sidelines watching our sons for years, so I was expecting a joke or maybe even an oblique compliment.
But when I asked why, he looked at me steely-eyed and said “God, I hate recruiters”.
There it was. What every recruiter suspects, but does not really want or expect to hear.
It seems my friend had recently resigned his senior IT job and was seeking out a new role. That brought him into sharp and intimate contact with a wide range of Sydney IT recruiters, and what he had to tell me about the experience made me want to hide in shame.
What he said is not new. We have heard it before. But this was from a friend. And it was recent and raw because it happened to him in the last few days. At a vulnerable time. And so it was so much more real than some esoteric Boardroom conversations about “candidate care”. And clearly, as a recruiter, I was caught up in his perception of our industry.
In short, he had this to say:
- Recruiters don’t listen. They assume they know what you can do and what you want to do. They are arrogant and ride roughshod over your dreams, fears and questions.
- Many recruiters are technically deficient. They recruit in areas they don’t understand and they are not even ashamed when its obvious that they don’t understand .
- “The bastards don’t return your calls.” Verbatim. Enough said.
- They tell you lies. They lie about the jobs they have, and they lie about what stage your application is at with the client.
- They provide no feedback, or scant feedback on the process, on interviews and on client opinions.
He went on to say one more thing, which I was hesitant to repeat here. But regular ‘Savage Truth‘ readers know I will always tell it as it is, so here goes. He said, and I quote,
“As soon as I hear the recruiter has an English accent, I won’t deal with them.”
Now, let’s dig into that.
Firstly I don’t share that generalisation, obviously. There are great English recruiters, and there are duds. Same as any nationality.
But secondly, I do understand his attitude. Because it is true that Australia has seen an influx of UK trained recruiters, many of who have a poor reputation for service. Recruiters who call candidates ‘punters’ and placements ‘deals’. The point is his experiences were bad enough for him to simply refuse to work with them. Probably reducing his chances of getting a job, but he is prepared to take that risk.
But that is all a distraction. The primary point is that candidate service is getting no better in Australia – or elsewhere in my opinion. Why are we so blind as a profession? So shortsighted? We know accessing talent is where the real battle in our business will be fought, yet we continue with this shoddy behaviour.
It’s a training issue for sure. It’s a leadership issue definitely. It’s also a problem with the fundamental model of our industry, the fact that most work is contingent and in competition. That means recruiters fill only a small fraction of the jobs they work on. That drives speed over quality. And all that is compounded by the way we pay people. Telling them to provide service, but rewarding them only for financial outcomes
And guess who loses. Candidates.
The only good thing that came out of that sideline chat? The fact that there is clearly an opportunity for forward-thinking recruiters to differentiate.
To go against the tide.
To stand out as a beacon of service in a sea of mediocrity.
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- Posted by Greg Savage
- On March 2, 2011
- 116 Comments