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Why are you always so negative about stuff?

By MITCH SULLIVAN Published 21st Jan 2014
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I get asked this question from time to time and I have two standard responses to it.

The first is “I’m not” and the second is “Fuck off”.

Today I’d like to expand upon the first response.

I’m often perceived as being someone who hates the recruitment industry – and agencies in particular.

That perception is, I believe, caused by the fact that I quite often criticise the industry, its practises and what I perceive to be its delusions of relevancy. I particularly dislike the way the industry seems to want to constantly massage its own ego by shouting about their successes, despite collectively only enjoying about a 1 in 5 success rate on all the vacancies their clients ever ask them to fill.

If any other business in any other sector enjoyed those kinds of conversion rates, they’d keep quiet about it. That’s assuming they stayed in business long enough.

But recruitment agencies do stay in business long enough, which begs the obvious question – how?

They stay in business because recruiting new staff is a task that most HR people and hiring managers dislike even more than they dislike using recruitment agencies. It’s dirty work. It’s dirty work because filling jobs requires dealing with a lot of shit.

That’s shit that comes from hiring managers who don’t really know what they want or need and who seem to think that all recruiters do to conjure-up suitable candidates is hit the F5 button on their computer.

Shit from candidates who don’t read job ads properly (although to be fair, most aren’t worth reading properly) and who think they’re the best person for every job they apply for.

And shit from HR people who, when it comes to recruitment, act like all they really want to be doing is lying on a sofa in the foetal position crying their eyes out.

This corporate disdain for the process of attracting and hiring new staff is manifested by their collective blind willingness to encourage several recruitment agencies to all simultaneously rampage through their target candidate audiences saying whatever they think is necessary to get some of these people to agree to attend an interview, so they can fill the job by doing as little work as possible.

This is the equivalent of hiding lots of bags of sweets in your house, asking a gang of sugar-hungry 7 year-olds to look for them and then expecting the house to still be tidy when they’ve finished.

And so the mutual loathing between clients, agencies and candidates gets racked-up another few notches, whilst CEOs continue to tell the market that hiring great talent is their biggest challenge for the coming year.

The truth is that I like the recruitment industry. I don’t like what it is now necessarily; but I do like what it could quite easily become.

What it could become is an industry full of agencies that recognise this pain that many companies feel about recruitment and who can take that pain away – by filling jobs properly. And the best way to fill jobs properly (and consistently) is for one company to choose one agency to fill one job.

If companies who need the services of an external recruitment supplier can’t be bothered to do the due-diligence to select those agencies that can guarantee they will fill their jobs – and if agencies can’t commit to taking-on that responsibility, then everyone involved in this destructive jamboree needs to stop whinging.

Companies need to stop whinging about how unprofessional or unpredictable they think agencies are and agencies need to stop deluding themselves that their clients like them.

I’m sometimes negative about the recruitment industry because I care about it. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t bother.

I care about it because it’s important. After all, we’re talking about people’s careers here. What people do for a living is one of the 4 most important things in their lives and that alone should ensure that everyone takes the whole thing more seriously.

To end on slightly more upbeat note, I do see some light at the end of the tunnel. That light is provided by the emergence of the inhouse recruitment sector – notwithstanding its rather annoying collective smugness.

When recruitment is done well inhouse, the quality rises quite dramatically. The ads tend to more informative (not to mention, honest), the candidates tend to be treated better and the new hire tends to be of a better quality, which means they probably stay longer.

If the agency sector could take a leaf out of the inhouse sector’s book and start applying those lessons to their clients, everyone would be a lot happier.

Even me.

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199 weeks ago, by Roger
I agree with what you say Mitch. The extra work involved by an agency to put together decent honest adverts and acknowledge every applicant and keep them informed of the process (or reject) isn't that much.

Just a little bit more effort and honesty does pay off.
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