It’s now been a whole two weeks since we identified a new case of COVID 19 in Aotearoa! As Ashley Bloomfield suggested, NZ has become the “envy” of the world’s combined combative efforts. The last two weeks have felt relatively normal; people are back in the office; interviews have been booked and adverts have returned back to job boards! Like the mighty salmon returns to its birthplace against all odds in order to spawn. This return also brings new life! Job postings on Seek NZ are up 92.7% over the last two weeks. Seek NZ GM Janet Faulding, was quick to point out this is still “a long way short” but it represents a positive sign for the future. The retail and consumer products sector has seen a big surge after lying dormant for the past couple of months with construction increasing by 81%, industrial 75%, and professional services 66% up on the April average. We’re still a bit away from being back to business but it certainly is encouraging. That whimsical salmon analogy that I delicately shoved between cold hard stats has got further metaphorical mileage. In a ‘circle of life’ kind of way once the salmon has birthed new life, completing its purpose, it dies. With this new life entering the recruitment market there are some things I personally would like to see slip into the great abyss and what will be different in this brave new world?

Recruitment is a sales job; I know that may ruffle a few feathers and further catapult rec cons into the beige world of HR but that’s a fact. Recruitment Consultants are salespeople. We have a product that on its own is not able to achieve its aim. We hunt down an opportunity, prepare the candidate diligently, and SELL the client on the candidate. Convincing a new client to use your brand? Selling. Presenting a list of options based on a candidate’s preference? Selling. Convincing your manager that you will hit your targets? Selling. It’s no coincidence that the ‘type’ of consultant that I was talking to in the first weeks of lockdown had an aversion to BD or they would prefer working with just one client. When examined closely it’s often some variant on “I don’t want to bother someone” this always annoys me as it’s obvious that the consultant doesn’t believe they’re adding value. Maybe they haven’t experienced what the right placement can do for a business or delivering to a client that has already been frustrated by a rec process. When the going gets tough the tough get selling and if you’re not familiar with ABC then it’s RIP, unfortunately.

Looking around at the industry today it’s a much leaner beast than it was at the end of last year. Like a medieval king, the large weight the industry carried was a sign of decadence and opulence. Safe to say we’re summer-ready at the moment with close to zero body fat! Of course, our ‘weight’ fluctuates like a season 3 to 6 Matthew Perry and the love handles of the industry; candidate managers. When a market is hot the aim is to farm as many candidates as possible and for that, you need an extra pair of hands to whittle square pegs for the square holes. It’s a luxury really, firstly afforded to the top consultant so they can focus primarily on business development and then afforded to any consultant that is perceived to be working in a ‘busy’ sector. When we experience an industry-wide slow down like we are at the moment managers look at the consultant who is no longer bringing in the business and wonders why they can’t find their own talent? That dynamic is a microcosm of the agency really, when the work slows up it’s time to assess what parts of the business can be scaled back and who can pick up the extra slack. I do feel for the consultants who have had the benefit of a dedicated consultant sourcing candidates having to go back to shining their own shoes.

To quote the great Sam Cooke; “Change is gonna come” it’s incredible seeing all the signs of solidarity across the globe. People standing together and demanding change, challenging people to check their own privilege, and empathize with people that don’t look like you. Pre-dating Sean’s excellent post on diversity last week I dipped into the archives of The Whiteboard and found one of Jon’s entries from 2017. It addresses the abhorrent attitude of one recruiter who claims to be telling it ‘like it is’ when stating immigration, or rather a type of immigration, has done nothing for ‘our’ way of life. She claims that “most recruitment agencies” hire their own essentially. Conscious or non-conscious, bias/racism exists and to say there isn’t a problem is as tone-deaf as saying you don’t see colour. When I was a part of a large agency I worked with Kiwi, Brit, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Swedish, German consultants, and except the odd spat on what temperature is optimum in an office, everyone got on harmoniously. A sales floor is usually pretty diverse and that’s the way it should be. When I would recruit for the architecture space I did feel a tinge of discrimination with a preference to a type of candidate however it pleases me to say that my client base is receptive to any talent presented regardless of background or ethnicity. Is that true for their client base? Only consultants working in those offices can testify to that. I’m starting to feel like Police departments really work more like franchises: dishing out their own brand of justice. Not unlike an agency where the strength of its integrity is in the hands of its consultants. We hear it’s a few bad apples but they can still rot a department or agency. I hope that with recent events people are more willing to expel those apples for the sake of the cart.

One big change is yet to come into effect. The unemployment rate is currently at 4.2% as of March 2020 quarter, ANZs chief economist Sharon Zollner forecasts predicts it will peak at 10.5% by end of Q3. I made reference to it in previous blogs but it’s worth reminding people; the wage subsidy will soon elapse which will trigger more redundancies in the market. Things unfortunately are set to get worse before they get better, but they will get better. By the end of the year, Treasury’s main forecast for unemployment has us around 9.4% which isn’t fantastic but at least it’s on the decline. It’s the confidence that comes from a buoyant market that is currently lacking. I suppose the biggest change I’m looking forward to is a change back to the status quo, where jobs were plentiful and placements numerous. Fingers crossed the New New Zealand will retain its ambition and less communal aspects left in Old New Zealand.

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