Optimistic recruiters don’t create jobs. Growing companies do.

Ask a jobseeker what they want from their recruiter and the chances are they will say, in one way or another, truth and honesty. Obviously they want us to find them a job, but – surprise, surprise – they know that there aren’t many around. In fact I sometimes think that jobseekers are a lot savvier about the market than many recruiters.

I’ve been following some discussions through LinkedIn and Twitter recently and I see little fact or detail but a lot of optimism and confidence. One thread, involving a mix of recruiters, trainers and online recruitment was summed up with this particularly depressing comment:

‘Jobseekers can return from a well-earned festive break to a veritable alpine snowfall of newly-budgeted vacancies’

Just think about that comment for a moment…hidden within the word ‘jobseekers’ are 2.5 million unemployed people, almost a million of them aged under 25, some still struggling to find their first job. Are we, recruiters, really telling them that a Christmas facing the desperation, desolation and uncertainty of continuing unemployment is a ‘well earned festive break’? And even if we don’t say it, do we really believe it?

Are we really saying that in January they will face ‘a veritable snowfall of vacancies’??

Is this what recruiters honestly believe?

With only 10% of companies planning to hire in the next 3 months (which means that 90% are NOT planning to hire)

With 50% of companies maintaining wage freezes/cuts (meaning they can’t really recruit until they can return their existing staff to full pay and benefits)

With 42% of companies who are not operating  a recruitment freeze already saying that will REDUCE recruitment in 2010.

With GDP in excess of -5%, and a public debt of almost £200bn??

Is this Honest? Is it Responsible?

Recruiters don’t create jobs. Growing companies do. And companies grow when there is demand for their goods or services.

We are a long way from growth. Recent reports from leading businesses in retail and leisure talk about demand not returning in any strength until 2012, hence a stagnant job market.

We can all talk up a good quarter. Spread some confidence to colleagues.

We’ve just closed our biggest quarter for 2 years, and we’re certainly working on a lot more roles on than we did 9 or 12 months ago. But then I also spend a large part of my days speaking to unemployed candidates.

It’s when unfounded, casual optimism is passed on to candidates that I get upset. The job market is a particularly tough, unforgiving battleground at the moment, and NO recruiter should forget what that means to candidates who need to work, to feed families, pay mortgages, restore dignity.

I spoke with one candidate yesterday who said ‘when I speak to you I know you’ll tell it to me straight. I know it’s bad out there, but some recruiters just keep telling me that things will be picking up very soon. They’ve been saying that all year and it hasn’t happened yet! Do they think I’m stupid? What planet are they on??!!’

What we say to candidates during their job search is as much a part of candidate care as how we treat them when they apply…if your business model has to rely upon an unfettered wave of optimism, then make it responsible optimism!

(Note: Figures quoted above are taken from the recent CBI/Harvey Nash employment trends survey 2009 see page 15)

Incentivising Tomorrow’s Recruiters – its Feedback, not Fees

Historically we have always seen 3rd party recruitment as a sales business. We employ recruiters who are rewarded for their ability to open doors and sell to clients and to place as many people as they can…irrespective of how they do it, and of what experience they deliver to their clients and candidates.  

Social media is beginning to change that…whether on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, recruiters now have a relationship with their candidates and clients which is both visible and transparent.

New articles and blogs appear on a daily basis foreseeing the end of traditional recruitment as we know it. Certain themes about the future landscape are showing through, with the clear messages that, post recession, there will be a need to develop deeper, more collaborative relationships with clients, and to pay more attention to building and engaging your candidate community, specifically the ‘Talent Puddle’, the top 10%, if you like, of that community.

Certainly the HR and Recruiting directors that I speak to (and as an HR recruiter I speak to a lot of them, as clients and candidates) are looking for something different from 3rd party recruiters in future.


How do you nurture your ’talent puddle’ if you’re only remunerated on placements?

Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I hate being sold to. If my career, and possibly the future income and stability of myself and my family, were at stake I know that I wouldn’t want to be sold to. Nor would I want think that the person who was advising and helping me was thinking of their bonus cheque and how I could add to it.

I would be much more comfortable, much more trusting, if I knew that their main motivation was in developing a long term relationship with me, and not how much they could make out of me.


Can you develop deep relationships with a bonus model based purely on rewarding sales?

And if I was a hiring manager, looking to build my team and fill some key positions, with a tight recruitment budget, and knowing that my neck was on the block if I screwed up in the hiring, well I wouldn’t want to be sold to either. Certainly I wouldn’t want to be relying on a recruiter who was only looking at how many fees they could get out of me.

I would certainly be much happier, much more trusting, if I knew that their main motivation, again, was in developing a long term relationship with me, and not how much they could make out of me.


How do you incentivise relationship building and service?

Difficult, isn’t it.

After spending many years as a 3rd party recruiter, including nearly 10 placing recruiters, I’m not sure that we’ve ever found a successful way of rewarding RELATIONSHIPS and SERVICE. We still look at volumes and values of placements, and usually still measure activity by volume. Great recruiters are defined by how much they bill, not by how valued their service is.


So how about using feedback as a measure?

Instead of paying your top recruiter by how many placements they make next quarter, try taking feedback from their candidates and clients on how they performed, and on what kind of service they provided? Did it meet or exceed expectation? And did they add real value to the process?

I think you may find surprising results.

Firstly from candidates and clients, who will now have some real input in what will become a true two way relationship, it will bring them closer and give them the opportunity to reflect and comment on your service in a transparent way.

And secondly from your recruiters, who will now be able to invest time and energy in really developing the service to their candidates and clients, taking time to nurture relationships, build their communities, find out what they really want, and create ways to deliver a real value added service. One that they can be proud of.

Who’s up for that challenge??