Human ResourcesRecruitment

Top Three Recruitment Myths that are…Utter Bollocks

By July 12, 2012 3 Comments

I was going to write a post this week that followed up on last week’s runaway train blog on the All of Government e-tender.  An obvious topic to cover would have been to put to the floor the vigorous debate that has sprung up around price versus quality in recruitment and whether they do really have to be mutually exclusive factors.  But so much has already been said, argued, debated and bantered, especially in the gentlemanly scuffle between Talent Now’s Kevin Chappell and ERG’s John Harland, that I think I’ll just leave the debate where it is.  Visit last week’s post here if you want to wade in.

One theme that did seem to spring up amongst some of the comments was that us agency recruiters over-charge for our services.  Always have done.  Equivalent of $1000 to $2000 per hour.  The gap between cost per placement and fees charged represent a chasm.

All complete bollocks.  Most recruitment firms who have a proper set up, decent offices, useful advertising and marketing budgets, good employee benefits and quality hardware and software recruiting tools operate with a cost of $10k – $15k per desk.  This was all good when I started in recruitment and my personal minimum expectation was to bill $40k per month.  By the time 2008 came around expectations had dropped to $30k.  Starting up my business in 2009 this was more around $25k per month.  But now as fees continue to see repeated downward pressure, HR departments become CV tyre-kickers and hiring managers become bound up in chains of caution and doubt, unable to make a hiring decision, many of my recruitment clients are happy to achieve a return of $20k per month per recruiter.  The days of boozy long lunches and sports car driving recruitment managers are behind us.

Here are my personal top 3 recruitment myths that are, nowadays, also complete bollocks (and in the spirit of the upcoming Olympics I’ve given them podium places):

Bronze“Advertising a job in print media is good for Executive level roles”.  Complete tosh.  It is lazy, boring and old-fashioned, which is precisely the kind of candidates that this will generate.  Clients that allow recruiters to co-brand a print media job ad are basically paying for that firm to have free brand advertising in the newspaper.  In New Zealand in particular, there is such a small pool of Executive level candidates with specific skill sets for some of these jobs, that you might as well not bother praying the right person will somehow chance across the newspaper on that particular weekend.  Use online to attract overseas talent.  And for domestic talent?  There’s probably so few with the right experience that you might as well just pick up the phone to the ones that are out there.

Silver“You need to send me a CV before I can decide on whether to interview them or not”.  Why?  In most professions nowadays people have at least a half-decent LinkedIn profile.  The CV’s days are severely numbered and, in a time when skills shortages necessitate a speed of response and sense of urgency from hiring managers, why on earth would you wait to see a CV before arranging an interview?  You can just click the “pdf” button on a LinkedIn profile to produce a “CV” that is better than most of the ones I get sent anyway.  Oh, and as for the argument that you want to see their written communication and presentation skills?  Well by the time you’re conducting your verbal and numerical reasoning psych tests, which reveal all you need to know about this anyway, they are reading over an offer of employment from your competitor down the road.

Gold“Let me just check if they’re on the database”.  You go ahead but hey, I’m still claiming referral rights whether they are on there or not.  For quite some time technology has enabled the rapid building of databases by sucking in CVs from online job ads with no more than a cursory auto-response to the candidate that they “will be contacted if successful.”  With CV parsing technology improving some databases can also build up proper candidate profiles and create automatic talent pools too.  All this without any human interaction.  So if I as a recruiter take the time to actually screen a CV with my own eyes, call that person and speak to them with my own voice, meet them, interview them, consult with them, advise them, sell to them my client’s culture, career prospects and job opportunity, and prepare a candidate profile after gaining their permission to represent them in, you can stick your “they’re already on the database” where the sun doesn’t shine.

And anyway, LinkedIn has also made most databases complete bollocks too.  What use is a digitised list of 40,000 names when the moment a CV is submitted it is already out of date?  LinkedIn is organic, it’s alive, it is constantly updated and it is accessible by all.  Now that is my kind of database.

Jonathan Rice

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.

3 Comments

  • Avatar John says:

    This is weird. I am starting to agree with you all too often Jonathan. I particularly agree with your comments re over pricing.  It really is a lot of BS. In fact the problem as I see it is that we are underpricing in many instances due to desperation. Are we misunderstood  ?Maybe I am paranoic  but Yes I think we are by a lot by employers and hiring managers but largely this is of our own making.  The subject of  agencies being treated as commodity has always been an issue of debate. Quite frankly we are to blame for this as we continually subject ourselves to reducing our price at the very mention or request by a client. The AOG was a prime example. Whether or not a firm can or cannot reduce fees, whether or not we over charge or undercharge  the fact that a client wishes to deal with multiple suppliers and focus on price then that is commoditising our industry and we allow it to happen by particpating.  What if no one had particpated in the auction. Would the government then not engage with our industry. Bet my life they would have. My guess is that AOgwould have then adopted a differnt model such as a closed tender i.e put in your best offer and they make a choice.  Greg Savage has often said and has recently tweeted “Client wants a discount? dont talk dollars talk value”.  Great advice Greg. If you cant do that,  how much value do you place on yourself. Not everything about traditional models is out of date. Auctions and Bidding Wars such as the AOG, perpetuate a culture of commoditisation and our industry is riddled with it yet we complain about this  treatment.  We have bought this on ourselves. While I am talking commoditisation I again put up my comments from the previous topic on the AOG . The definition of “commoditisation” is interesting. Prices tend to be regulated by the law of supply and demand; that is, a price of a good or service increases with smaller supply and/or greater demand. A corollary to this is the idea that commoditization drives prices down because it increases supply (sometimes vastly) while leaving demand the same. “Has the AOG contirbuted to the commoditisation of our industry .My belief is YES. Is this good for our industry. My belief is NO. Why?, because it encourages poor ethics and crappy service.
    And yes clients do have a choice but so do recruiters and if we roll over every time they ask for a reduction of price without talking about value we will always be a commodity and be treated as such.  The answer is in our hands but I fear the worse as I think few really do know how to value their business and as Jonathan points out in this blog the good times are over and have been for a few years,  so this argument is NOT about people being unable to cost at very low levels it is about the sensibility of it all. To me it is a nonsense.
    Also totally agree with your gold award.  (Oh no not again ). How the heck does one effectively use a database in the thousands. This is also BS, and I agree with Jonathan that CV’s  are out of date almost the instant they arrive on your database. If a candidate is still out of a job after 3 or 4 months is the person really that marketable. I thought we were in a talent short market.

  • “…if I as a recruiter take the time to actually screen a CV with my own eyes, call that person and speak to them with my own voice, meet them, interview them, consult with them, advise them, sell to them my client’s culture, career prospects and job opportunity, and prepare a candidate profile after gaining their permission to represent them…” then you’re worth your weight in gold, and then some.

    But my experience as a candidate is that your CV is put through some keyword analysis program (encouraging me to stuff my resume like a Viagra marketer stuffs his emails) and, if I’m lucky, gets a cursory glance by some recruitment person half my age who concludes, from my depth and breadth of experience that I’m, like, OMG a total fossil.

    Being overseas I’ve sent applications to NZ recruiters while they were still asleep, only to be rejected while they’re still having their first coffee some four hours later. And while the position is stil open. And always by auto-insult… sorry, auto-response that says “other candidates better matched our client’s specification”.

    Excuse me? You can tell that from the most cursory examination of my application, and even before all the candidates have applied? And I’m not talking about jobs outside my field, or well below or above my present level. I’m talking about jobs precisely like the one I do now, and have been doing for over a decade, only in NZ rather than Australia because I want to return home to support my parents. I’m talking, in most cases, exactly the same job as I did in NZ for 10 years before I left.

    At least I assume my description of what goes on is accurate,  because my occasional request for specific feedback as to why I didn’t make the first hurdle is met with either silence or platitudes. Actually, platitude – only one recruiter has ever bothered to respond.

    I have now resolved that any position advertised by a recruiter, no matter how attractive and no matter whether I can tick off every requirement, is a waste of my time. That mirrors the conclusion I reached about 20 years ago, but I was prepared to give the industry another try because, well, I needed help to get home.

    It works both ways, though. My experience with recruitment agencies has meant I’ve never, ever, used one to fill a role for which I was responsible. I’ve just gone back in my head and would guess that’s in the order of 50 people. Not a huge amount, sure, but that’s 50 commissions foregone by the industry because I’d rather put my real work on hold, wade through hundreds of CVs and sit through countless interviews, than trust the process to an industry which treats its “product” with less care than the battery egg industry treats its.

    • Avatar Gladwell says:

       Most experienced recruiters would know that they ignore CV’s at their peril. Which means you have to read every one. What happens from there is largely up to the recruiter and candidate. We run a sophisticated parsing system and Google search, but I can assure you that you do not want to be finding out about good candidates for the first time on a text search.

      No-one should ever be rejected outright either, as while they may suit the immediate role, there is often something further down the track for which they may be suitable.

      In the current market, there is a lot of stuffing around by clients, which ask recruiters to start looking for candidates, and when the ideal one is identified, the hot need goes cold. So it is not all the recruiters fault…

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