We all know that recruitment is a lot trickier and fraught with pitfalls than originally appears on the surface. It’s why you will spend many days over the coming summer hearing stories around various BBQ’s that anyone can do recruitment and why is it we charge so much for our services? The thing is that we work with two moving targets, both of which are constantly changing their minds and their stories.
Recruiting recruiters, as I do, is particularly paved with banana skins. As moving targets themselves (ie. a recruiter who is looking for a new job) these are candidates who know all the tricks of the trade already. They know what I want to hear, what my client wants to hear, and how the process will run. They know that when it comes to references (that is if references are taken – not very often according to Greg Savage’s surprising revelation this week), that the referee is going to need to say all the right things, and so particular referees are duly chosen and appointed by the candidate on that basis.
But this isn’t often very helpful to me, who is trying to assess the veracity of a recruiter’s claims. I am frequently regaled with lines such as:
“I was the top biller at my last firm” (real meaning: I was the highest Perm biller in the month of July 2012 which was followed by two Zero months as I had forced all of my placements through in July and the pipeline dried up)
“I built the desk from scratch and have no fear of business development” (real meaning: I joined at just the right time, the firm had won a place on a large new PSA and I was given a new vertical within that contract, and when Hermione left to join an internal recruitment team I was given all her warm clients who I had to call and introduce myself to)
“I am definitely leaving, if you get me an offer, and won’t listen to any kind of counter offers” (real meaning: I want you to work your ass off to present me the highest level offer you can so that I have some extra large tools to leverage a wage rise out of my existing employer)
So…what to do? Well all of you experienced recruiters out there know well and good about the “off-the-record” chats. It’s a small industry here in New Zealand and really is pretty impossible to fudge or hide truths. Once your network is wide enough it’s easy to augment official probity checks such as employment references, credit checks and psych tests with the slightly shadier practice of getting the opinion of people not officially provided by the candidate.
None of you will openly admit to doing it, but it is often the only way to make sure your time as a recruiter isn’t wasted, and the money of your client possibly squandered on a dud.
The problem is that we in recruitment just love a good gossip. And often the more salacious and negative, the better, sadly. The Recruitment Grapevine is veritably bursting with succulent bouquets of rumour, tittle-tattle and scuttlebutt. The likelihood of a recruitment boss having anything good to say about a well-performing recruiter who left them with ill feeling is very rare indeed. Recruitment is an emotional business and those brave enough to run their own firms wear their hearts on their sleeves. It makes consulting this grapevine trickier than usual.
But this week was a first. Have any of you had this one before? I received an application to one of my jobs directly through my website. There was no CV attached, just a cover letter that read:
xxxxxxxx xxxxxxx was managed out of [well-known software company] for poor performance and an external consultant (former GM of HR @ xxxxx) was hired to manage him out.
That was it. Nothing more, nothing less. The accused in question hadn’t even registered with our agency anyway. But I wonder, if he had, would we be brave enough to dismiss this and work on the candidate anyway? Certainly an extensive amount of background checking would need to arise out of this innovative rumour-spreading technique. Maybe too much to warrant spending the time on the candidate when more easily-placeable, safe bet, candidates might be about.
Come on, be honest with me now. How much faith do you place in officially garnered reference checks and psych tests over the “off-the-record” information you gather from your own personal networks? I think I know the truth, but I welcome your comments all the same.