This continues my series on the key players in the job / candidate seeking process. Under fire from job seekers, HR professionals and recruitment and search specialists respond.
Earlier this summer I posted a blog “Some Recruitment myths de-bunked ” listing the frustrations job seekers experience in the recruitment process and tried to debunk some of their expectations. Bottom line: recruiters and executive search consultants do not work for the job seeker. They work for their client. Nevertheless, the overall view was that the interface with recruitment specialists was as demoralising as being out of work. To get some balance, I also posted a discussion on LinkedIn asking about the image of recruiters inviting comment from the professionals in the field . I was overwhelmed by the response and it has taken until now to collate the comments.Many posted comments and an equally large number wanted to talk off the record. Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to contact everyone, but I hope to do so in time.
Lewis Turner, poacher turned gamekeeper, moved from Recruitment into Corporate HR two years ago as Technical Recruitment Manager at DisplayLink , can understand the job seekers frustration “ I really was not prepared for the onslaught of bad practice I was to experience as a customer, much to the amusement of my new colleagues in HR”. Read Lewis Turner’s article where he documents his whole experience. Two years later his view is more balanced “Those that had shocked me with some dubious behaviour are no longer suppliers . “ He is now working with a group of quality hand picked organisations and has basically fired the under performers .
This was exactly the comment made by Anders Borg , Chairman of AESC with regard to the quality of executive search companies. He strongly recommends checking any company’s affiliation to the AESC “The AESC membership is a guarantee of quality and if I were a candidate, I would only consider such firms” He adds “ The AESC also has a number of boutique firms as members, who do excellent work” and advises candidates to consider contacting them .
If you have a strong CV, are easily marketable and the consultant has an assignment or anticipates one, you are likely to be able to cultivate a good relationship with him or her. If you don’t, your CV will simply go onto the data base and strong keyword usage will be required to make sure your resume comes to the top for any future searches within that organisation.
Kathy Stevens Senior Recruiter “ … I try to do my best to follow-up with people in a timely fashion. I think what most candidates (especially anyone outside of HR) do not realize, is just how many applicants recruiters and/or HR professionals have to deal with at any one time. Especially in this economy, we are flooded by large numbers of applicants applying to positions. When organizations are running leaner than ever, we all have a lot on our plate”.
Search companies also tend to be set up on a sector vertical basis. The upside of that structure is that the consultant will have deep knowledge of the sector and an excellent contact book. The downside is that candidates get frustrated because they feel pigeonholed, as scant attention is paid to transferable skills if they want to move in another direction.
Laurent Brouat, Career Consultant, in his blog “Recruiters are not Creative but hardworking ” August 25th, 2009 calls this “ the copy/paste” selection… Same industry, same level, same company. They only recruit me-too or clones because it is the simplest way to please the client”
However once again Tom C, Senior Consultant in a major executive search company in New York suggests: ” A good consultant with a strong relationship with the client will advocate for a candidate he or she believes in and even groom them for presentation. It is up to the job seeker to provide a strong resume”.
There are also generalist organisations, and as Anders Borg suggests it’s sometimes better to consider going via this type if you want a broader scope. Even within these organisations there will be a disparity in the quality of consultants those that are more experienced than others. Shop around until you find one that you can connect with. Lewis Turner’s experience is “Agencies definitely have their place; but is still the individual recruiter that makes the difference”
Recruitment companies representing the middle and lower end of the market, quite often they work on a contingency basis, this means no placement = no fee Consultants might also be working to targets and are paid on commission, so may have little time for time-consuming admin or professional courtesies. They have their own pressures to find the right candidates with limited resources, quite often in competition with other contingency companies. This is the reason why job seekers don’t get the attention they’d hoped for and complain of feeling left out of the communication loop and demoralised. As consultants get paid when they successfully place a candidate, they do tend only to cultivate people they are confident about placing.
Laurent adds “ Recruiters are hardworking: they are caught between the clone pressure of the client (“send me only the same people I know”) and the stress pressure of the candidate (“find me a job or your are not really good”) so they have to put in a lot of hours to be able to match the clients requirements”
Executive ” look-see”
Job seekers complain that executive “searches” are a misnomer and should be re-titled executive “look see” into the data base. ( I could have done that job is the plea! Why wasn’t I called? ) Hayley M , Senior Executive Search Associate in the UK offers a defence “ Clients are constantly driving prices down and asking us to work to tighter deadlines than ever before. That almost automatically means a data base or network search. They are also risk averse especially in this economic climate and need candidates who can hit the ground running . We are just giving them who they want, on time. From the client perspective this is excellent service.”
So is it the client then that is causing the problems then? Dirk B, HR Director Benelux makes the following comment “ …in the last 12 months, my department has been cut by 50%. I outsource sparingly and cost is a real issue. I am now even doing some of the recruitment myself. Line managers want candidates who can be immediately effective, as they too have had their headcount slashed. It doesn’t leave much room for creativity. I always respond to candidates who meet the requirements of any ads I post, but not unsolicited CVs. I just don’t have time. We get thousands for every opening currently and most of them are not on target ”
Charlotte M , HR Manager California gave this input “ we have re- introduced the concept of a web-based application form, simply to try to receive focused applications . We can’t cope with the volume of candidates who are blindly sending their resumes, regardless of whether they meet the requirements of the job. We even joked about returning to handwritten, hard copy resumes to get past the click and apply mentality”
Job seekers also complain about Career Transition Coaches “ preying on our distress” is one comment I read. James B, Career Coach (Philadelphia) counters ” Business gurus say that 3% of annual income should be set aside for personal development. Although most people spend more time in work than almost any activity in their lives, many are not prepared to invest in themselves or their futures, even those who are highly paid!” .
It seems to me that this massive communication gap is leading to some sort of blame game and I’m trying to look for a conclusion. Recriminations bounce back and for. I would like to think that shoddy practises are dictated by responses to economic imperatives and it is the stress that everyone is currently under – but I’m not convinced that the recession is the real culprit. These underlying tensions have been there for years.
There will, of course, never be any substitute for highly qualified search professionals, working in tandem with equally qualified HR specialists who have strategic voices within their organisations. Additionally a strong process requires line managers who understand well the long-term benefits of effective talent management programmes and are demonstrably committed to that ethos. Candidates also need to be prepared to invest in their own futures and be active about their personal development . Today, nothing is permanent and they must take responsibility for their long-term careers. If any of these factors are out of sync, then I suspect that both a communication and expectation gap will continue to be inevitable.
What do you think?