Thursday, 27 May 2010

Rage Against The Recruitment Machine: Episode 4

Recruitment consultants: imagine receiving the following letter from one of the candidates on your database:
Hi Dave! Long time. no speak.

I notice from your website that you’re currently handling eight vacancies for which I think I’m suitable. I’d like to apply for them. All of them.

If by any chance you don’t think I’m matched with any of the ones currently advertised, perhaps you could forward my CV to other agencies or recruiting organisations who are looking for someone like me. If any of them offer me a job, I’ll buy you a couple of bottles of wine.

Keep in touch!

How totally impertinent of a candidate to expect such service or treatment from a recruitment consultant!

But when then roles are reversed, it’s a scenario that takes place every day.

Today (like many other days) I have received an e-mail from a recruitment consultant asking me if I am interested in eight roles ranging from permanent to interim, from Learning and Development Manager to Employment Law Advisor, with locations as far apart as London and Newcastle, and where the salary of the most senior position is four times that of the most junior.

The mail also draws my attention to the consultancy’s candidate referral scheme. Apparently, if I recommend a friend or colleague who is subsequently placed in a role, I will receive a generous sum in gift vouchers.

The above consultancy have my details on their database, and therefore know if my preference is for permanent or interim roles; they know my areas of expertise; they are aware of any geographical limitations, and they also have been advised of my salary expectations.

So why does it appear to be one rule for the consultancy and another for the candidate?

If, dear recruitment consultant, I have taken a considerable period of time to provide you with detailed personal information concerning not only myself, but also the type or role I may be seeking, I do not expect you to completely disregard it and splatter me with information on totally irrelevant roles. Nor do I expect to be asked to do your dirty work for you by passing on your begging letter to friends and colleagues.

Recruitment Consultants: I expect to be targeted by the expert precision of a marksman, not be riddled with the buckshot fired by a crazed assassin with a blunderbuss.

By the way: you may have noticed that this is Episode 4 in the Rage Against The Recruitment Machine series. If you’re wondering where Episodes 1 – 3 have gone, highlighting failures in contemporary recruitment practice is a bit like Star Wars: it’s difficult to know quite where to start.


  1. So, dear candidate, I take out my favourite small-bore rifle and one perfectly formed bullet and wait and wait until that rarest of creatures appears in the clearing – the perfect job. I take aim and fire, only to realise that the bullet the downed the magnificent beast was that of my nemesis.

    I return with no spoils and you, dear candidate, are less than impressed. Why did I just go for that one prized job, what about the other vaguely suitable jobs that passed my way, the ones I chose to ignore acting, as I thought, on your express wishes?

    So next time, I am a little less precise in my hunting and maybe it’ll be your lucky day. But the longer this goes on, and the hungrier you get for the kill, I am forced to dust off my blunderbuss and pepper the air with buck shot.

    So dear candidate you see my dilemma. You want the perfect job, I want to get you a job and, if truth be told, have more trophies on my wall than my nemesis.

    Your, in devils advocate mood,


  2. Bravo! I love this post, speaking as a marksman. However, sometimes even marksmen have to shoot blindly in the hopes that a kill will still be had.

    Ok, killing aside - there are times when positions are so obscure or require talent that is so hard to locate that some nets must be thrown out that will reach many instead of only a few. By reaching these "many" we hope that one of them might know the person we seek. In these cases, I believe a more personal approach should be taken than the one you experienced. The email or phone call should say, "I know this isn't your forte or experience, but I thought that perhaps you might know of someone qualified." Then the answer is either yes or no without any disrespect to either party.

  3. Graham,
    Great post that needs more comment. This is an old and lazy tactic that is close to spam. the reality is that pre-recession, many recruiters lost the art of recruiting. It was easy picking and the relationship skills dropped out of recruiting. I never had a problem generating referal candidates but I had a few simple rules that worked for me:

    1: I asked in person. Either on the phone or face to face. A personal approach works well.

    2: I never had more than 30 active candidates. I knew them well in paticular what they were looking for. I found jobs for people by talking to potential clients all day rather than people for jobs. the last thing I wanted to do was fill my database with more and more candidates.

    3: I always returned calls and offered help where i could.

    4: I interviewed my candidates. Face to face and at worst on the phone. it wasn't a chat, it was a structured interview that took 45 + minutes with a big focus on what the candidate wanted.

    5: I never offered derisory ammounts of cash, vouchers or wine. the candidates saw through this anyway. I did however send gifts of wine etc as a thank-you after I got a good referal. It was appreciated this way round.

    That's what i would like to see happen again in recruiting. A return to the relationship rather than the stockpile approach to recruiting, and face mail over e-mail with plenty of real time talking.

  4. Graham,

    Just brilliant and so right!

    As someone who has worked hard in the recruitment industry over the years to bang the 'quality drum', I get so annoyed with all the crap consultants out there ruining our industry.

    INMO the recruitment industry has succumbed to simple greed and that has been the downfall - resulting in no training, no development, lack of knowledge and a complete 'spray and pray, churn and burn' attitude towards both clients AND candidates!

    I was hoping that the recession would have sent all the crap ones out of the industry, but it seems that there are still some out there :(

    Maybe a central naming and shaming register is needed ? Probably illegal but it would be very effective, wouldn't it?


  5. Unfortunately this is still prevalent and I don't think it is going to go away soon either. I am interested to know what you did in response to this Graham. Did you "de-register" or did you email back with a link to your blog, or just accept it as the "norm"? Unfortunately, too many recipients of this type of service accept it as (sub) standard and do nothing about it. I am far from a union man though until candidates do something the industry is unlikely to change. It is easy to bemoan "crap" agencies but if they still have the lights on and are making money then there must be something they do that is right? I work hard with consultants and business owners to help them improve their service offering. My belief is that it is the quality of the candidate experience that really sets the excellent apart from the average. If you haven't read my post about my recent mystery shopping exercise take a look It is not pretty reading.

    I was contacted by a candidate this week through Linkedin who wanted me to forward a complaint letter to the MD of a very sizeable global recruiter. I did and I followed it through and things changed in that business (honestly!). If more candidates put some effort into changing the recruitment industry they would start to achieve it. Most just like to whinge about it over coffee to others who have experienced the same thing.

  6. Really wonderful information here i think and even from the title itslef we can understand the motive of any organisational activities. Thank you and please keep update like this.
    Recruitment Consultancy in Bangalore