Recruiter soapbox: John Lees’ reality check for recruitment agencies
Let’s begin positively. Recruitment consultants play an important role. They connect employers with the right people, short-listing effectively and quickly, and offer influence, leverage and reach that individual candidates can’t achieve.
I spent over 20 years training recruiters. Every one claimed to understand employer needs better than their competition. They also boasted of exceptional candidate care, knowing that today’s candidate may be tomorrow’s commissioning client.
Yet hundreds of job changers have told me that many of the recruitment agencies they approach treat them unprofessionally, with inadequate listening, false promises, or poor feedback.
Which picture is true? Let’s check out the claims that recruitment agencies make about their strengths:-
Recruitment agencies open doors others can’t open.
Although less true than it was 6 years ago, this is a valid claim in many sectors. Some employers will only look at agency short-lists, giving recruiters unique access to decision makers, and the ability to move things forward towards a job offer.
Agencies have unique market knowledge.
This is true enough where agencies have sector or regional insights. However in a market where employers find it easy to attract skilled candidates informally, agencies are being by-passed and don’t always see hiring activity.
Agencies are skilled in candidate care.
Every agency prides itself on this facility, but there are huge contrasts in what candidates experience. All too often this is highly frustrating: employable new registrants are told “you’re perfect for us, we can place you” and then never hear anything again, even after follow-up calls.
Recruitment consultants get under the skin of the candidate.
Many wish this were so. Candidates complain that agencies pigeonhole them into the wrong kind of job even after a detailed discussion. In fairness, there are also candidates who offer vague CVs and are uncertain of their direction of travel, but recruiters’ market reputation for picking only safe bets has deepened.
Agencies help candidates with career change.
The jury is out on this one. There are some recruiters who provide insightful career advice, however the majority only take an interest in identikit candidates. This is a worrying trend. Recruiters are increasingly reluctant to encourage employers to consider candidates who can grow into the role. Often they want to place someone who is leaving a very similar job – a poor recipe for retention.
Recruitment specialists provide unique feedback. Candidates hear recruiter opinion, but little true feedback. Don’t tell a candidate what you like or dislike about their CV, tell them what it communicates on a cold read. You can’t give watertight feedback on an employer interview, but a good debrief will reveal areas where a candidate can improve.
External recruiters tell candidates home truths.
Again, often accurate. One executive recruiter I know frequently gives candidates she cannot place good, frank feedback on market positioning. However a great deal of recruiter feedback is merely positive noise that severely disappoints when it doesn’t lead to activity. Over-promising and under-delivery is a common experience. Recruitment consultants could be more honest about what they can actually do in a tight market.
What do you think? Are recruitment agencies out-dated in today’s world of online recruitment? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts.