Aim for the best candidates

Recruiters: stop sending the first few candidates who say “yes” to your live jobs and start looking for the best candidates instead. That does not mean it should be a drawn out protracted process, but the first few candidates who say “yes” – are you certain they’re the best for your client?

I have been in the recruitment industry for the last 18 years and something I have seen over the past 5 years has been a noticeable shift in power. Clients (corporates, public sector organisations and some SMEs) have become more sophisticated in the way they procure recruitment services. Agency suppliers’ response has been less sophisticated. In fact I would say it has simplified. Simplified as in dumbed down rather than more eloquent.

What do I mean by that? Agencies have reacted to PSL-driven recruitment solutions by forcing themselves to work faster. Getting CVs to a client is clearly an objective, however, I this drive to move quicker has impacted on the quality of candidates.

Good external recruiters can consistently deliver and delivery is about successfully meeting customers’ expectations. Becoming too internally focused (speed of CVs out the door, number of jobs covered, interviews arranged this week) has led to some agencies losing sight of the objective. How many individuals you can “convince” (read as blag if you like) to go for an interview is not part of the success measurement matrix. Nor is success about rounding up the first few candidates who say yes and putting them forward.

Need proof?

In my role as a recruitment industry trainer I have witnessed numerous consultants calling candidates to read out job descriptions.

“Can you do…?”

“Have you ever been involved with…?”

I have also witnessed recruiters calling candidates, checking their availability to work, day rate and holidays and then ending the call with a promise to put them forward. One such recruiter then turned to me excitedly and said: “He’s the best candidate for the job. Definitely sending him straight over.” When challenged, this decision was simply based on the occurrence of buzzwords/acronyms throughout their CV that matched the client’s job description and the fact they said “yes”.

Want more proof?

Take a look at this experience of a UK IT candidate:

Recruiter: We have a position for you, Alan… they need you to start immediately… they’re looking for CCS, XHTML , Javascript, C#.NET, SQL …

Candidate: Okay, well I’m a designer/front-end developer. I can deal with CSS /XHTML and have used some JS libraries. I’ve worked on several C#.NET teams, but I’m not a developer.

Recruiter: Not a problem. Just working on those teams is enough to consider you for this position.

Candidate: Really? Because, it sounds like they’re looking for a developer.

Recruiter: You’ll be perfect. Can you start immediately? This position is for one month…

Candidate: Sure, but I hope they need a designer. It would be embarrassing for all of us if…

Recruiter: Yup, you’re perfect.


One hour later


Hiring Manager: Hi Alan, this is the hiring manager from (client name). So tell me about yourself…

Candidate: I’m a web designer with 10 years’ experience, working on the front-end of every project, blahhh…

Hiring Manager: So you’re not a developer?

Candidate: No. I knew this would happen.

Hiring Manager: Why did you apply for this position, knowing you’re not a developer?

Candidate: I didn’t. I told the recruiter you’re paying that I’m a designer…


If the recruiter had stopped for a moment and listened to the candidate and not been so blinkered it could have been a different result.

How many clients out there are receiving CVs that have been selected based upon buzzword bingo?

How many clients are receiving CVs of candidates who said “yes” rather than were properly qualified?

What price are they paying for this service? And I don’t just mean fee-based prices I mean the cost to their business of not seeing more suitable and better qualified candidates?

The recruitment landscape is changing. There are going to be casualties as the market is unlikely to be able to sustain the industry at its current size and operating model and it will be the well informed recruiters who genuinely understand how to find and assess candidates that will be the winners. With all this in mind, perhaps next time you won’t settle for second best.

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