Discrimination in recruitment. Not only good – essential!

Last week I blogged on the importance of “job order triage”. Great recruiters ruthlessly prioritise the briefs they work on, and put most effort into the highly fillable few.

Well, what about the candidates to invest time in?

Some recruiters take the view that as there is a talent shortage, every candidate needs equal help and focus.

Afraid not. Big mistake.

You need to discriminate when it comes to talent selection. Obviously not on the basis on creed, colour, ethnicity, or any other irrelevant, illegal or immoral prejudice.

No, you need to discriminate on the basis of the answer to one golden question.

Is this candidate placeable?

And a placeable candidate is one about whom you can answer YES to these two questions.

  • If put in front of the right clients, will this candidate likely be offered a job?
  • If offered a job on reasonable market terms, is this candidate likely to accept it?

There it is – the definition of a placeable candidate. Obvious huh?

Well not so obvious if you see the bumbling efforts of most recruiters when it comes to deciding who they spend their precious time on.

Common errors include working on the candidate with the most marketable skills (cool but what good is that if his salary expectations are 25% above market?). Or working on a candidate who deep down has no real intention of leaving where they are, but in fact have had a bad week and are just flirting with leaving. After you have done all the work to find them a job, their current employer will easily woo them back with money, or emotional blackmail, or both.

But a great recruiter knows all this before they ever start trying to find someone a job.

Placeable candidates. The ones you should discriminate towards when it comes to effort, typically have all or most of these characteristics:

  • They have skills and experience currently in demand.
  • Their salary expectations are reasonable and they present as an affordable option to a potential employer.
  • They have legitimate and tested reasons for leaving where they are now. You have dug down and unearthed their true motivators to leave and you believe you can find them these things in a new role.
  • You have pre-empted the possibility of a counter offer from their current employer.
  • They interview well. Likeable, personable, communicative.
  • The candidate buys into your “rules of engagement” where you explain how you and he will work together, and during the process they deliver on that commitment. (For example returning your calls, attending all interviews etc.
  • The candidate agrees to allow you to exclusively handle their job search.

Remember this: Finding someone a job is only half the battle. Getting them to accept it is the other half.

So “discriminate” to your heart’s content. Work hard on candidates who will get a job offer if put in front of a client and will accept it once it comes.

About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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15 Responses to Discrimination in recruitment. Not only good – essential!

  1. Marisa F July 7, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    Love your blogs, all spot on and so well written. Essential reading for all newbies and even the seasoned recruiters need reminding.

  2. Khalid July 7, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Also consider:

    * a candidate who invests in their own self development by buying books and courses and attending seminars relating to the job role.
    * A candidate who has invested time and energy on keeping up with technology by having a LinkedIn profile and/or twitter account.

  3. Ed Cook July 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    “Great recruiters ruthlessly prioritise the briefs they work on, and put most effort into the highly fillable few.”

    So, I’m assuming these great recruiters are also upfront with their clients and don’t promise to deliver the world when taking a “less fillable” brief and then do nothing? The same applies with candidates, if you can’t place me, just tell me the truth rather than banging on about how many jobs you are working on and why your recruitment company is better than all the others out there.

    In my opinion there is so much focus on Business development within the recruitment industry and not enough on service delivery.

    • Greg Savage July 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

      You are 100% correct. That is exactly what great recruiters do. In fact this week in a client visit I told a client precisely that. His brief was too vague, his commitment to hire too fragile. And we told him we would be delighted to work on his brief once he had interviewed all his internal candidates and had tightened the criteria. But we would not start work until then. Then we shook hands and left his office. Personally, I think he was shocked but impressed. I think he will be back too

      You are right about candidates too. A good ethical and smart recruiter will be frank with a candidates they cannot help, tell them why, and give them what assistance they can – but leave that candidate with NO expectations that cannot be delivered

  4. ravi janardhan July 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    Thanks Greg for sharing!

    Each post from you helping us become better in our profession.

  5. tired candidate July 13, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    the should-be operations handbook of the recruitment consultant, consisting of (1/2 page!) 😀

    1-treat your candidates on an isolated basis (“you are not a good fit -goodbye”) and they will isolate you (candidates have networks and yes, they also speak quite a lot about you: how you work etc. most recruiters think their networks are the sole ones, whilst the ones of candidates are usually far more developed in their field… curiously enough almost nobody tries to use a candidate to source another candidate)

    2-demand candidate exlcusivity and do not offer an exclusive-class service, that’s your best receipt to start to be treated as what you are: a website! (people telling me on the phone… where was that in your CV? are over in no time)

    3-be symmetrically polite or you will lose candidates… Do not tell candidates things that they would not tell themselves to your client… Imagine a candidate saying: “Due to the high response rate to my CV this company does not qualify”, “I have found a company that is a much better match, I would encourage you to keep on trying to hire me in the future”… How does it sound to you?… There are much better ways of saying excatly the same in no time

    4-follow up, or be quickly forgotten

    5-place the wrong questions to the right candidate and he/she will send you somewhere else (they will not say so, but you know the name of that place 😉

    6- L-I-S-T-E-N many recruiters love taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalking and learn how to read CVs between lines… do so FAST and ACCURATELY

    7- briefness implies going to the point and cutting off politely, do not do so and you will not be brief, but something else

    8 – polite lies are just lies and most candidates are not stupid, be frank and you will be more appreciated

    9 – do not expect a jerk to find a new CEO, start by cleaning your own wardrove (cheap is not always nice)

    10 – add one additional rule to this list by yourself EVERY SINGLE DAY!

  6. tired candidate July 14, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Epistole… the very unpleasant savage truth is that companies screen candidates, candidates screen companies and you (recruitment consultants) are being screenned by both at all times. This means you should act more as a skilled bi-directional applicant and much less as a civil servant working for a regulated monopoly. If you do not provide service to us (candidates), we just get in touch with another consultant (most times these days even for the same position) 🙂

    • Greg Savage July 14, 2011 at 12:08 am #

      Yes indeed “tired candidate”, we agree. That is exactly what this post attempts to address. If recruiters are honest and transparent with candidates they cannot help, those candidates may be disappointed, but they will appreciate the frankness, and not be waiting for help that does not eventuate. Then the energy put into candidates that CAN be placed, means that more of those people will be found roles by the smart-working recruiter
      Everybody wins
      Typically recruiters place less that 1% of people who apply to them, and less that 10% of those they interview.
      Those are not good numbers for anyone

  7. tired candidate July 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    Dear Greg, I love your website because it is precisely devoted to that… I think 1% is a more than fair percentage, as long as that is the “right 1%”. Myself I am tired of receiving proposals that I have neither sollicited, nor have anything to do with my profile, whilst most of the suitable positions I have either found them by myself or through friends (like my last two roles)… Most consultants seem to be focused in placing 3%, 5%, 15%… 500% of their candidates (wrong!). If they placed even 0.00001% but 100% right, I think the seeds for growth in your industry should be much stronger than nowadays. Of course there is also the crisis, people beefing up CVs with pure fat and companies publishing posts just to survey the market, not respecting exclusivity, etc. -but I believe in improvement through good practices. I am really glad to have seen your website (it is a breeze of fresh air!) 🙂

  8. Ross Craddock August 31, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    It’s a nice article, i’m not sure that i agree with all of it. Sometimes their salary expectation can be above the market rate, however as a sales person (not just a recruiter) you should be able to sell your product to the right company. Are you saying that a £500,000k billing consultant doesn’t deserve 25% above the market average and that you shouldn’t work with them? If you find a top billing consultant, 9/10 they aren’t looking to leave either, so do you quit because their salary expectation is too high and they might get a counter offer at interview stage?

    if you work to your methods for ALL of your candidates, i fear that you will be chasing Job Board candidates and average Jo’s.

    My clients expect better and i hope that i deliver.

    Again, i’m not saying that you shouldn’t know a time waster, however i’m not sure it is just for the reasons above.

  9. Shauna-Marie September 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    I was not placeable because of my personal background. A very small number of recruiter let me know this directly, many did not. Honestly, I took the news badly, Learning you were unplaceable & unemployablebecause of the person you are is frightening for a candidate to face. However, the recruiter doesn’t make money unless they give the client whatever they ask for. Anyway I found applications to employer direct did not ease much better. So off to the scrapheap, the streets, and to never work again. Thanks Australia for a fair go.

  10. Frank Earnest December 17, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    An alternative title for this article could have been “I couldn’t care less about being economically useful or providing genuine value — just accept the fucking offer and give me my goddamn commission!”.

    • Greg Savage December 17, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      Sad little Frankie. Everything all right at home?

  11. Pavel December 10, 2015 at 6:41 am #

    Thanks for sharing, James. I agree that these are more gneeric stats and also stats that I would expect, as most text messages (as of now) come from personal contacts. On the other hand, e-mails flood the inbox, making it less likely overall that your message will be opened.If targeted properly, I would hope that the read rate would be higher for those recruitment e-mails, but I believe there are going to be several other factors that contribute to that number (active vs. passive job seeker, number of e-mails received overall, etc ). If recruiters/recruitment marketers do jump on the SMS train, I hope they would be cautious as to frequency and type of message so as not to turn users off from the channel completely.All-in-all, I think the message is that there are new options out there for reaching candidates. However, as with any channel, you must use it wisely.A


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