Recruiters tend to get a lot of stick from those outside the industry.  Well we actually like to give stick within the industry too, come to think of it.  We are a great big bunch of stick givers. Our industry is a lightning rod for opprobrium and discontent, given that our roles predominantly involve us rejecting people a hell of a lot more than offering them jobs. The delivery of a job rejection in a way that doesn’t cause major grief and offence is an acutely precarious art form that most recruiters take years to master (in an industry where many are less than three years in…)

In short, we say “No” to people (especially jobseekers, sometimes clients when we’re brave enough) a lot more than saying “Yes…” which brings to mind a slide from Steve Levy’s presentation at RHUB recently:

SteveLevy slide RHUB

Usually the backlash from existing on this earth as a recruiter is puzzled looks at family get togethers, subtle eye-rolling at parties, or occasional road crossing when old school friends see you approaching. This pales into insignificance when people’s opinions on recruiters enters the ever so brave realm of the online world:

recruiters are

But even this has been trumped by reaction to the supposed nefarious behaviour of Manpower in New Zealand this week. Manpower, for their sins, have been working with the Ministry of Social Development to recruit some contact centre staff and decided it might be a good idea to try and encourage some long-term unemployed back into the workforce by extending them an opportunity to do these jobs. Probably not a bad idea at all, especially given that unemployment in New Zealand has dropped to its lowest levels since 2008.

Exception was taken, however, due to the way the recruitment process was set up. WINZ beneficiaries were offered these temp contracts in a way that some felt was coercing them into accepting the role, without having due time to consider, and the upshot of refusing could have meant their benefits being stopped. This wasn’t explicitly stated but was apparently how some felt.

Matters were made worse by the wording of Manpower’s Privacy Collection Statement which mentions the possible collection of sensitive information if deemed necessary for certain jobs. On reflection I’m sure Manpower probably hope they had phrased these clauses better, but the media decided to go to town on it and try to make a story where none really existed.

I must say I’m surprised at the slow response from Manpower though. I think they’ve been made a scapegoat of, but I haven’t seen much said in response around this from New Zealand. Maybe they were taking a leaf out of Michael Page’s book of PR and burying their head in the sand until it all blows over. It probably will all blow over soon, as most things do these days, but quite incredibly the backlash for Manpower extended way beyond some online trolling.

This time we saw protestations go up a level by staging a picket line outside the Manpower offices in Auckland. Then, quite incredibly (and probably because they realised most recruitment companies in the CBD aren’t really set up for candidate walk-ins these days so nobody even tried to cross their line), they invaded and occupied the recruitment office and staged a lock-in:

Yes we recruiters get a lot of stick but this really has to be a first.

It’s maybe unfair that Manpower are copping all the flak for this, but I’m sure it’s provided a timely reminder for many of the rest of us to review the wording of our Privacy Collection Statements (or maybe to get some written up in the first instance!) and also how we run a recruitment process where candidates feel they are being treated fairly. There really is nowhere to hide these days if you don’t.

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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