The recruiter’s bad rap

By Lucy Winberg

 

 

The recruitment industry is often given a bad press. However, just because there’s one rotten apple in the barrel, doesn’t mean that we deserve the same rap as estate agents or lawyers. Like many, I’m a hardworking, honest and proactive recruiter and know that my company fully justifies the fees it earns. Of course you’ll be thinking “she would say that”. But hear me out.

 

Whisper it, but there are unscrupulous recruiters out there. The way they operate and the poor name they create for others makes me mad. Clients tell me about other recruiters they have come across who…

  • Consistently put forward unsuitable candidates’ CVs for roles, not taking the time and care to understand what it is the client is looking for
  • Send out candidates’ CVs without their permission
  • Don’t meet with candidates before arranging interviews
  • Don’t bother to take references before the candidate first starts at a new company
  • And more

 

This happens too much in our industry and it makes me sad. But, there are some brilliant recruitment consultancies out there, and I’d like to think we’re one of them. With that in mind I want to set the record straight to give potential job seekers and clients an idea of the many hours that our firm puts into making a placement and how we earn our fee.

 

Correcting the misunderstandings

Being a recruiter has many facets. The sheer scope of skills and qualities necessary to be a competent one are amongst the many different reasons why people love working in recruitment. However, you often have minimal control over the outcome. As much as we want to to be an outsourced “partner” to clients, we’re often not viewed in that way. Rather, we can be seen as a necessary evil. And this is entirely down to those rotten apples.

This makes our job all the more difficult because we’re trying to work hand in hand with the client to achieve the best outcome i.e. find a suitable candidate and help their business thrive.  Often the problems arise when hiring managers simply want the result without any understanding of the hiring process.

There are two things that hiring managers often misunderstand. The first is that they believe their offer is the most competitive available and everyone in the world would like to work for their company. The second is that candidates are out there waiting for our call and we’ve a stack of CVs already in our database. Sadly, neither of these are true. As many clients in the real estate sector know, there is a shortage of top talent, even on the client-side. This means that sourcing the right candidates requires great effort and skill, not to mention sensitive persuasion and relationship building over a long period of time.

What’s more, many people think recruiters are just out to make a “fast buck”. Well, no placements are easy these days and by the time office space, rates, overheads, salaries and training are paid for, there is not much left.

Hiring should be a two-way process

I’d love to see hiring managers and HR personnel who deal with recruiters being given more information on aspects like the recruitment process, how it works, how the market behaves and how candidates behave. However, few see this as part of their job and I can understand that. After all they’ve a business need that has to be sorted as fast as possible.

The problem is, those clients who work with us as a part of a two-way process always see the hiring going much smoother, and the chosen candidate meeting their needs far better. In this candidate-short market, the input and feedback we receive from hiring managers is just as important as the effort we put into finding suitable candidates.

This is where a breakdown in the relationship can happen. Some recruiters become frustrated and demoralised by the poor communication from the client. This leads to them forwarding poor quality or unsuitable candidates’ CVs in the hope that something (anything) will stick.

If clients were open to guidance, including following the process advised by their recruiter, and took part in two-way feedback throughout the process, it would mean they received better aligned CVs, and found that perfect candidate a lot smoother and quicker.

Getting to know each other

I am often surprised when clients don’t want to meet us before meeting a candidate I’ve introduced. Often there is a similar level of money spent on recruiter’s fees as on a car. It’s a lot to pay a recruiter when you haven’t met them beforehand. How can you know about their business, recruiting style, track record etc? If nothing else, you’ll need to ensure the recruiter knows enough about your business – as they will be the “face” of your company when speaking to candidates.

Another point is that good candidates often have multiple interviews taking place at the same time. How can I, as a credible recruiter they look to for advice, possibly sell them the benefits of a company if I have not met with that client?

Candidates are our clients too

The job of a recruiter is not just about servicing the client. We need to pay equal attention to candidates too. “How can this be if the client pays your fee?” you might ask. Well, without candidates, we wouldn’t make a placement to make the fee. In fact, candidates are currently almost MORE important in this process than clients, due to the candidate-short market we are in and once placed, could also turn into clients who turn to recruiters as they recruit themselves.

Okay, so what exactly do we do?

What’s involved in the process from our point of view? These 16 steps show the work we put in:

  1. Sourcing candidates. This takes up the most time and is hard work. Of course less conscientious recruiters simply rely on job boards or job applications to get CVs however the best quality candidates often come via referrals which means you need to build long-term, robust relationships over time.
  2. Building relationships with candidates. We do this often over a long period of time, because most candidates aren’t actively looking but want to stay in touch and hear about “interesting” roles as and when they come up.
  3. Helping candidates, particularly those who’ve been out of the job market for some time, for example to help re-write their CVs, give mock interviews and explain the process.
  4. Advising on career options. These might include the quickest way to get promoted, move client-side or change sector.
  5. Interviewing candidates before putting them forward to clients or at least before being interviewed. This is an essential part of the job that many recruiters miss out because they don’t care how they or the candidate are perceived by the client.
  6. Taking two references before putting them forward to clients.
  7. Providing consultative advice to clients and candidates, for example to discuss the pros and cons of candidates, their benefits to the client etc and vice versa i.e. discuss suitable/unsuitable clients or roles with candidates and consulting on where the best fit may be to ensure the best match for both parties.
  8. Admin: Setting up interviews, reformatting CVs, sending interview confirmations, diary invites etc. Having an average of 15 candidates out on four interviews per week can take up a lot of time.
  9. Preparing candidates before interviews on the company, the role, and potential questions they may be asked. This makes sure they are feeling fully confident before they go into the interview and ensures they present the very best version of themselves to the client. This can involve a phone calls of 20-30 minutes each time.
  10. Discussing feedback with candidates after each interview, their likes, dislikes, concerns, feelings about the role etc. Again, this call can take 20-30 mins.
  11. Discussing feedback with the client – as above but relating to the candidate.
  12. Booking 2nd, 3rd, 4th interviews – as above just repeated.
  13. Negotiating offers with clients and candidates.
  14. Confirming offers in writing to both parties.
  15. Discussing any concerns with clients/candidates before they accept or decline offers.
  16. Keeping in contact with clients after candidates have been placed. We always make sure they’re happy with the candidate’s performance and it helps us find out about any other requirements they may have.

 

This is actually a simplified view of what we do. Often candidates have counter offers, which create difficulties for clients who have invested time in interviewing candidates and producing an offer. At this point, an experienced recruiter is essential in discussing openly with the candidate how they feel about the counter offer, their current company, the new company, the pros and cons of accepting the counter offer and staying where they are vs moving to a new firm. This part of the job can be stressful for everyone, particularly where candidates are in short supply and can furthermore involve extra hours spent on the phone or meeting parties before or after work to talk things through.

Then there are problems regarding discrimination to deal with, advising clients on working time regulations, new data protection regulations and other areas, which we need to keep ourselves updated about and also educate our clients.

Another situation recruiters must deal with is where a client attempts to “cut out” the recruiter by going direct to the candidate who has been introduced. This may not necessarily be to avoid paying a fee (although sometimes it is) but clients might want to have direct contact in order to make an offer. The problem with this is that the client may be unaware that a candidate is meeting and getting offers from multiple companies. In this case, the client is putting themselves in a vulnerable position where the candidate can play off one company against the other. With a recruiter keeping tight control of this process and clients and candidates coming via one person, it avoids this situation and makes the process much more straight forward for the client.

Some candidates don’t call us after interviews as requested nor call us back when we have interview requests. Either of these scenarios can risk damaging our reputation in the market and disappointing clients. Again, it’s all extra work we must deal with.

Taking the good with the bad – with a smile

As much as there are the fun parts to recruitment, it can be frustrating. Like any fee-driven environment, we’re targeted to generate a certain amount of fees to keep the business afloat. This involves making a certain number of calls, meetings, interviews and offers, candidate registrations, client meetings and so on, often coming in early and/or staying late to speak to candidates outside of work hours. Imagine making 40 calls in an afternoon to try and book a client meeting and getting rejected every single time. It happens.

Recruitment is often way down a client’s list of priorities if they don’t have live vacancies.That means recruiters get treated with short shrift. Sometimes we go whole weeks of making 80-100 phone calls per day without any results. Some recruiters will jeapordise promotions or bonuses if they don’t hit their targets at the end of the month and may even risk losing their job. As a business owner, the pressure is increased as responsibility ultimately stops with you if the business fails. Then there is also the work involvedif you’re not paid on time by your clients and have to constantly chase payment.

Now hopefully you will see how recruiters justify their fee.

It takes a special type of person

Many people go into recruitment because of the low barriers to entry and the high earning potential. Many recruiters are not degree educated and not used to working in a fast-paced, stressful and target-driven environment. They have low levels of client care and a one-size-fits-all approach. It is these recruiters who can give our industry a bad name.

To be a good at the job you need to be bright, intelligent, able to think quickly on your feet, and have excellent “softer” skills. You also need an outstanding work ethic, be prepared to have many challenging conversations and take lots of rejection. You need to maintain a constantly up-beat and cheery attitude even when you are feeling down and impart that good-vibe feeling on the colleagues, clients and candidates around you. I graduated with a 2:1 in BSc Business and Spanish from a Russell Group university and take pride in the fact that I and my colleagues work to the highest ethical standards, based on mutual respect, trust, cooperation and loyalty.

I believe that recruiting is one of the most rewarding sectors to work in. Of course it’s also very challenging and I love it when a client or candidate understands how tough it can be sometimes and gives us respect. As Thomas Edison once said: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

I hope that, having read this, the next time you’re looking to fill a role or looking for a new job, you’ll understand more about the recruiters’ challenges.The vast majority work seriously hard, putting in a lot more than you might think to help you in the process.

 

– What has been your experience with recruiters?

– What do you think makes a good recruiter?

– How do you think the recruitment industry’s perception could be improved?

We would love to hear your thoughts.

 

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