I have approached this topic twice before in 2009 and again in 2013 to manage expectations between job seekers and recruiters. There is a massive chasm in expectations and the source of miscommunication and frustration. I am revisiting the topic in 2020 because the issue is as entrenched as ever. The result is a ping pong between both sides which is not constructive and helps no one in the process.
Today, we are in a global recession or even depression as a result of the COVID19 crisis. Not only are there fewer job opportunities, but many individuals are coming away feeling disillusioned, depressed, inadequate and somehow short-changed after their dealings with recruiters.
In the last months I have talked to many job seekers who complain about poor experiences with recruitment and search companies, and a number have asked for support to explain how to negotiate what at times can actually be a more disheartening process than being out of work. You should also note that the global pandemic is coming after a period of high employment in a candidate driven market, when they too did not behave well and “ghosting” entered into our vocabulary.
At the root of all of these issues seems to be mismatched expectations by potential candidates of the people, the process and the organisations involved in job search. It might be helpful to map out what you can realistically expect from any recruitment or search organisation. What can you do differently to avoid disappointment?
The recruiting process in a business context
- Talent Management / Human Capital / HR, whatever you want to call it, can be very much the poor relation in many organisations ( why is a whole other topic). Sometimes the function is not even represented at executive board level. This can weaken the strategic voice within a company.
- During any downturn, as a service function, HR professionals quite often see their teams cut and many are simply overworked, under supported and beleaguered. They are caught between demanding executive committees and angry, confused employees. We don’t know how that will go yet in 2020 with HR tipped to be the post COVID19 leaders.
- Any pressure HR professionals are under to reduce their hiring costs, are then passed onto search and recruitment organisations. Sometimes companies will give the same assignment to multiple recruitment companies who will compete against each other to place candidates. The unsuccessful organisations will have invested resources in good faith in this process and will not receive a fee.
- At the same time recruiting companies themselves have been hit by the downturn and have laid off large numbers of staff , so many are also operating on reduced budgets and manpower. Tech recruiters and even LinkedIn have been hard hit by the pandemic and are laying people off. Some organisations work on contingency (no placement = no fee) and it is not economically viable to invest time in candidates who are not on target. Additionally they are dealing with huge numbers of unsolicited CVs during this recession with lower staffing levels.
- When there is a drive to reduce costs in whatever sector you are in – this can impact the quality of the final product and service.
Who do recruiters work for? Not you!
This is the first job search myth that needs to be dispelled. The recruiter works for the hiring company not you. Hoisting that one simple fact on board will help enormously in managing your expectations of the outcome of any contact.
There are a number of ways career opportunities come to the market but whether the company is a retained executive search company or a recruitment company working on contingency, in all cases the client is the hiring organisation – not you.
How do I find a high calibre recruiter?
There are large numbers of highly qualified, skilled and committed search professionals throughout the world. But clearly, as in any profession there are cowboys and there will always be degrees of excellence, or lack of it with the people you encounter.
In many countries there are no professional barriers to entry which allows anyone with limited or no relevant academic qualifications or even functional experience to set themselves up in this arena and claim to be a recruitment professional. If your consultant was airline crew or selling real estate 3 months earlier – be cautious. It is perfectly OK to check them out as individuals before finally committing and to shop around until you find someone with the type of experience you are looking for. LinkedIn or the company web site would be a good place to start any verification process.
Career coaches advise candidates to develop strategic relationships with recruiters. Note the word strategic. This doesn’t mean sending off your CV to every recruiter on LinkedIn. See below.
Why won’t recruiters give me career advice?
While many recruitment consultants are also certified coaches (as I am) most are not although the number that are (or claim to be) is increasing. They are not your personal coach and their role is not to motivate you or help you map out your career path. Many will be helpful, but others may have little understanding that even throw away phrases can have a very negative impact on anxious job seekers.
There is no ill will usually involved in this, they simply don’t know any better and have their own stresses to deal with. They also simply don’t have time.
Why do I get no response to my job applications?
The worst experience job seekers claim they have, is no response at all. Uploading your CV and it disappearing into the ether of cyber space and having no idea what, or if anything at all will happen to it is very disheartening. You should understand well that indeed nothing is happening to it. If you CV is not targeted for a particular opening and the way the ATS are set up your CV may get cut. This could be around willingness to relocate, language or visa requirements. Some recruiters say they read every CV – but I am not convinced every single one does. Otherwise every candidate would have a response and we know that is not the case.
Why do recruiters never give feedback?
Many recruiters are working on contingency – sometimes multiple companies working on the same assignment competing against each other. If they don‘t place a candidate they don’t get paid. Consultants are working to targets and focus on candidates they can be sure of placing.
Many will take the time to develop candidate contacts, but others do not have time or resources for professional courtesies and admin, and leave those to be processed via their ATS, so their dealings can be transactional. ATS are only as effective as the humans who design them and set them up and the parameters they put on them.
It is up to you if you decide to work with such organisations – but at least you know now in advance that this is what is going on.
Generally it is better to have a few solid trusted contacts than sending out your resume to every search company on the internet. Focus your time and energy on raising your general visibility and connectivity and making your job search strategic. LinkedIn is a great platform for this.
Basically most people involved in a search don’t have time to give feedback to candidates except for the final shortlist. Some adverts even say if you haven’t had a response within 6 weeks, this means that your candidacy has not been processed. That truthfully is ridiculous because an automated system can take care of that.
If you are ghosted after the short list phase – I agree, it’s pretty shabby and you have every right to be fed up.
What can you do?
Don’t let your desire to spread your job search net as wide as possible cloud your judgement about which recruiter to use. Cherry pick. Job search strategies are just that – strategic !When you contact search or recruitment companies . Focus on transferable skills and spell out how they would be of value in different environments, focus on transferable or soft skills, leadership qualities and change management experience which are often the key factors in this context, especially today.
- Research the company beforehand. Check if it is a member of the AESC or perhaps a similar regional or local professional body. Very often the names of practise heads are published on the web site. Assess the experience levels of the consultants who are usually listed.
- Check if there is an open assignment section and see if anything is appropriate to your skill set.
- Sign up for alerts on LinkedIn, Google and their web site.
- Don’t “spray and pray.” Take a targeted approach and focus on the roles in line with your goals and a reasonable proportion of your skills. You don’t get a point because you can write your name at the top. 10% of the candidates for the last search I did were totally irrelevant to the requirements of the job.
- Follow the instructions. If the ad asks for a cover letter, supply one. Just because you saw someone on LinkedIn suggest they are obsolete, they are still relevant for this particular organisation. Add it as a continuous document with your CV, unless specified otherwise because they can get separated. Check there are no special instructions before hitting send. Some companies are now asking for responses to special questions or even a brief video.
- Upload your CV via their web site or by email using strong vocabulary, mirroring techniques (as appropriate) and keywords to make sure your CV comes within the parameters of the advert. If you can’t identify the key words, you possibly shouldn’t be applying for the job. If your CV is regularly disappearing into the job search ether – you need to do something different and change your key words or personal branding presentation or check your formatting.
- Don’t by-pass HR. I know this is sometimes recommended by career coaches, but usually the CV gets pushed back to the Talent Acquisition department and/or the search firm. Instead, try and build up some networking capital by setting up informational interviews with people within the organisation who may advocate for you. You will still potentially come onto the hiring manager’s radar that way. Except in start ups, most employment contracts and hiring processes are raised and run by HR.
- Understand that consultants are unlikely to contact you unless they have a specific opening. It’s a fine line to tread between being tenacious and a nuisance, requiring empathy and marketing skills when you contact these organisations.
- Absolutely do not pay any fees – If a recruiter asks for a fee just to receive your CV , they are not a recruiter. By definition, no recruiter should ever charge the candidate. If they have a search, the company pays. Just let that go. That process should not be confused with an outplacement or career coaching where a tangible service is provided and YOU become the client. Very often the company that has made you redundant will pay that fee and you should look into that too.
What to do when you find a recruitment or company to trust :
- Develop a relationship with the recruiter: People work with those that they like and trust. There is a caveat. Recruiters will do this if they have an opening in line with your qualifications and experience. In an economic downturn they simply may not have the time to deal with all job seekers who contact them.
- Be correct, courteous and efficient in all your dealings – remember first impressions count
- Add value : Source colleagues, friends or even competitors who might be suitable if you are not. Recruiters appreciate and will remember that courtesy.
- Develop a reputation as an industry or sector source or technical specialist. If you gain a reputation in this area then the chances are that the recruiter will come back to you.
If you need help getting a job and creating a job search strategy – get in touch NOW