Well that’s how it seems over here in the UK recruitment industry anyway. After three weeks immersed into the London recruitment scene and many recruiter conversations over coffees, teas, beers (and one dangerously purple beetroot juice), the sheer scale of the UK recruitment market seems to feature in every encounter.

I remember shocking a NZ recruitment Director earlier this year when I shared with him some figures from Statistics NZ suggesting that in our NZ industry we were getting close to having 1,000 different recruitment agencies.

Does that seem a lot to you?  Certainly enough to make the most fervent in-house recruiter forward their desk phone to voicemail with shaking fingers.

But the UK is a whole different ball game altogether.

Here there are over 8,000 different recruitment firms employing 90,000 recruiters who contribute an enormous 26.5 billion GBP towards the UK’s GDP.

With this kind of scale, there are of course also greater extremes of the good, the bad and the ugly of our recruitment industry too.  You can afford to burn bridges with clients with far greater alacrity in the UK:  I heard one story of a Senior Executive Search partner losing his temper with clients on a regular basis.  One small change to the search criteria for an already active search would resort in a whole new engagement, the billing of a whole new retainer fee (usually to the tune of over $200k equivalent just for the retainer) and a stand-up, ding-dong argument in the office with a client who would have to begrudgingly pay but never use the firm again.

Or the Executive recruiter who also happened to be a Lord, who would immediately reject any applicant who failed to send a written cover letter addressing him in the correct manner.

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I had an eye-opening chat with outspoken recruiter and trainer Mitch Sullivan too. He talked about an industry where the sheer volume of recruitment activity constantly going on would typically lead to every recruiter in the UK, on average, getting embroiled in duplicated CV Sends and candidate representation disputes with clients at least five times per month. In fact Mitch had lots more to say, more than can be recounted on this post, but I’d recommend you check out his thoughts and writing too. The best of it is this post here, which is a good starting point.

But there are positives to all of this too.  Most of the kiwi recruiters I met over the past 3 weeks, who have thrown themselves into this maelstrom of recruitment chaos, have developed a certain “edge” that I think will suit them well upon the (almost inevitable) return to their homeland.

For any kiwi recruiters currently considering making the move to the UK to experience some of the white-knuckle recruiting here, bear all of the above in mind. There’s no doubt it’s a good thing to do to hone your skills and sharpen your approach, but be prepared to become a very small cog in a monstrous machine. Maybe be prepared to come back home with one or two grey hairs too, which isn’t always a bad thing.

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Just to finish off with this week, it seems like the topic I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how farcical verbal references are becoming has been quite incredibly highlighted by a prank on the Aussie radio show hosted by Hamish and Andy.

It goes to show what’s possible, I suppose, although it’s also interesting how the caller getting pranked is referred to as a “legend” and “the best bloke ever” rather than a fraud and a liar who could have caused huge financial loss to someone else who was a complete stranger.  Bless him.

It also means the next #RicePowWow is quite topical too as we welcome the guys from XREF to give a talk on reference check fraud along with all of the usual drinks, nibbles and recruitment industry networking too – it’s on the 29th September in Auckland – RSVP here and come along.

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So that’s it for The Whiteboard’s sojourn to England. I’ll be back in the fantastic land of #NZRec again from next week – can’t wait!

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.

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