17 August 2010

Are you leaking candidates?

It was the middle of week four in my new job. I was the third consultant on a three person temp accounting desk team. My Manager Bronwyn, and Michelle, the Senior Consultant, were finishing their weekly working temp calls.

Bronwyn smiles at Michelle and says, ‘Time to call the sleepers!'

I must have looked perplexed as I tried to make sense of what I was hearing - ‘sleepers?' Were these our temps who regularly slept in and required a call from us to wake them up?

Michelle laughed and put me out of my state of confusion.

‘Sleepers are the temps who have finished their assignment and have said they aren't interested in any more work and don't appear to have another job, either temp or perm, to go to', she explained.

‘We put the files of these candidates into our ‘sleepers' folder (note: these were the days before any recruiter had a computer on their desk) and every month we pull out the folder and ring those companies where the temp was last working and ask reception if we can speak to the temp', Michelle continued.

‘Oh', I said ‘Does it work?'

‘You bet', Bronwyn chimed in. ‘We normally catch one sleeper every couple of months'

‘What do they say when you catch a temp working back at one of these companies?' I asked, intrigued.

‘That's the fun part', Michelle said. ‘We feign ignorance about them starting back at the client and apologise for not having called them earlier, and ask them if they have timesheets and when they re-commenced the assignment'

‘What about the client, how do you approach them?

‘The trick is to have one of us call the client while the other person is still talking to the candidate so you can reach the client before the candidate can warn them that they have been caught out'

‘Oh' I said, slightly stunned at the casual approach being taken to such duplicity being undertaken by our candidates and clients. ‘What do you actually say to the client?'

‘A similar approach to the way we talk to the candidate.' Michelle explained. We just apologise for not having been in contact earlier about the temp re-commencing the assignment and ask how long the assignment is expected to go for'.

‘Don't you feel like saying you thieving so-and-so to these people who are basically stealing from us?

‘Of course, but that doesn't help us resolve the situation. We want to give the client a graceful way to extricate themselves so it's win/win all round. I would prefer to get the temp margin flowing again ahead of the satisfaction of giving the client a piece of my mind'

‘Does this considered approach work all the time?' I asked, not believing it could be quite so straightforward.

‘No. But because we are mostly dealing with Financial Controllers and Finance Directors they tend to have a clear understanding of our terms of business and know that they are doing the wrong thing. It's funny hearing all the excuses, stuff such as ‘they just popped in to do their footy tips or to go to lunch or coffee with the team', are standard but sometimes it can be quite unreal what bizarre excuses people will give you.'

‘Isn't it a bit odd working with clients and candidates, nice as pie one week and then the next week ringing them up to see if they are, in effect, cheating on us?'

‘No.' Michelle said. We don't take any of this personally. It's all business. You don't know what people are really like and how much integrity they have so it's best not to take chances. We work hard to find and place great temps and our team doesn't want to lose any money because of misguided or na├»ve views about our clients' and candidates' business ethics.

And the most compelling reason for doing this is that while the client is employing a ‘sleeper' they certainly won't call you and give you another temp assignment to fill!', Michelle concluded, convincingly.

One of the greatest gifts given to me by Bronwyn and Michelle in the time we worked together was the sense of professionalism and pride in our work and that we should demand the same standards in return from our candidates and clients.

Mostly, that standard was reciprocated, but we had a system in place to ensure that the small minority of people, who didn't live up to our high expectations of them, didn't avoid paying us what was rightfully ours.

What systems do you have in place to ensure that you are not leaking candidates and are, instead, receiving everything that's rightfully due to you in accordance with your terms of business (which you are, of course, getting signed up front, aren't you)?

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