24 April 2013

How committed to your candidates are you REALLY?

I was very fortunate in having my formative years as a recruiter within both Hays in the UK (then called Accountancy Personnel) and subsequently Recruitment Solutions.
As with many situations, sometimes it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that I truly appreciated what I had gained.
As much as skills development is critical for any recruiter to succeed, just as importantly is having the right mindset.
Although very different cultures, both Hays' and Recruitment Solutions' consultants had at least one thing in common - committing to candidates.
By commitment I mean that each consultant, once a candidate was interviewed, had to make a decision whether that candidate was going to be ‘worked on’ or not. A ‘workable’ candidate was one that was reference checked (if possible), had a suitably prepared resume for presenting to clients and was assigned to a call cycle. Candidates who were assessed (for whatever reason) as not workable (‘dead’ was the jargon used) were told that they couldn’t be helped and their details were archived.
In this way the consultant was committed to working on the candidate until such a time as the candidate was placed or subsequent events (poor interview performances, disinterest in their job search, etc) meant they were ‘deaded’.
Each consultant had a working candidate file of something between 30 and 60 candidates depending upon the experience of the consultant. One of the vivid memories of my first few months as a recruiter in London was my manager, Kim Poole, sitting down next to me and going through every single candidate in my candidate file and ‘deading’ about half of them.
This was due to my heartfelt desire to help every candidate I interviewed regardless of their prospects of proving commercially viable for me. One of the things that still rings in my head from that time is Kim saying to me ‘Ross, it’s not your responsibility to help people if they don’t have the skills or attributes that make them helpable given the clients and jobs you have access to’.
The other aspect of commitment that I learned was that once I decided to refer a candidate for a job then I was committed to presenting that candidate as positively and powerfully as possible. If a client was going to push back on my referral then I was going to, as respectfully and professionally as possible, stand up to the client and attempt to have the client change their mind.
This attitude was borne of a mindset (drilled into me at Hays and Recruitment Solutions) that I was a professional recruiter and I knew best which candidates were the the most suitable candidates to interview for any vacancy.
The client was paying me a fee to ensure that they (the client) maximised their investment in my services. I saw it as my duty, to both my candidates and my clients, to represent my candidates as assertively and professionally as possible.
This mindset is one that appears at odds with much of the consulting that I see now. Most recruiters appear to interview candidates without making a clear decision, at the end of the process, on whether to ‘work on’ a candidate or not.
As a result, the candidate becomes (in most cases) orphaned on the company’s database and is only contacted when there is a suitable vacancy. The concept of selecting candidates to work on and then proactively building a relationship with them over a period of time (regardless of how many jobs they might be suitable for) seems to be a foreign one for most consultants. In a ‘skills short’ marketplace this appears to be a very curious attitude.
The other thing I witness that signifies a lack of commitment is when consultants refer candidates to clients and then basically agree with the client when the client says the candidate is not suitable (for whatever reason, valid or not). Frankly, I find this sort of thing appalling in a professional recruiter. If you are not prepared to go in to bat for your candidate at the first sign of client resistance, then don’t refer them in the first place. I have no respect for recruitment consultants who do this; it’s insulting to both your clients and candidates.
I had this view validated by another (ex-agency) recruiter who has been around almost as long as me (now working in internal recruitment), who told me he found it astonishing as a client, how few agency recruiters are really prepared to (respectfully and with good reason) fight with him to have their candidates interviewed.
Have agency recruiters had the confidence knocked out of them to such an extent that they acquiesce to everything the client says?
I really hope that’s not the case.
How committed to your candidates are you really?
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