At the RCSA Gala Ball on 26 May, Cox Purtell was announced as the winner of the RCSA (Aus) 2016 Excellence in Candidate Care Award.
This week Cox Purtell Managing Director, James Purtell, took time out of his day to answer a few of my questions about Cox Purtell's approach to candidate care.
Ross: Congratulations on your win, James. Firstly, can you give me a bit of information about the origins of Cox Purtell and the services it currently provides?
James: Thanks Ross. Cox Purtell was founded by Jill Cox and Liz Purtell in 1994. Mum (Liz) started on the reception desk at Centacom, Chatswood (now Adecco) when she was 19. After about 30 years each at Centacom, Jill and Liz set out on their own. Originally, our core business was temp & perm business support. In 2004, Trish Nugent and I took over the business and introduced some new service lines including Sales & Marketing, Accounting & Finance, Legal & Government. Sadly, Trish passed away from Melanoma in December 2014.
When did you decide to elevate the importance of candidate care at Cox Purtell? Was there any specific motivation, incident or cause that prompted this step?
When I first started as an employee in the business, in the late 90s, it was always drummed into me that it is all about the candidate. At that time, that was contrary to conventional wisdom. Most agencies focussed mostly on the client. This attitude is probably the cause of our high client and candidate referral rate.
Late last year, we really ramped up our attention on candidates by introducing a Talent Management Team to reduce the chance of candidates slipping through the net.
How did you go about instilling the elevated candidate care ethos in the CP staff so that it became automatically part of what they did every day?
We have a Quality Assurance accreditation and one of the critical measures is candidate satisfaction. All candidates who register are surveyed. Our QA target is 85%+ candidate satisfaction and we monitor it monthly. It's currently sitting at about 91% "Highly recommend".
What specific things did you decide to start doing or stop doing, with respect to candidate care?
I think a key but simple thing is committing, as an agency, to "do what we say we are going to do". Often it's as simple as that.
What has been the most effective candidate care initiative CP has undertaken? Why do you think it so successful?
Being genuine; one of our aspirations is to be the most courteous recruiter. It sounds a little fluffy but it does set the tone for how we interact with clients or candidates. It's important for us to remember that even though most recruiters are swamped with applications, many of which are totally unsuitable, that work is a serious and important part of most people's lives. Work adds meaning to people's lives therefore it's important that we treat people with respect and care - even if we are unable to assist them.
What sort of metrics do you use to measure the success of the action you have taken? How are these metrics communicated to the CP staff?
Any positive feedback from candidates in our surveys or otherwise is communicated to the whole business and celebrated. As mentioned earlier, we are quality assured and independently audited so any negative feedback is responded to personally and then if necessary, we make some process changes or conduct some internal training.
What sort of feedback from the CP candidates have you received that would indicate that CP is successfully distinguishing itself from its competitors in the candidate market?
As our social relationship with our candidates has grown, we have seen these candidates start to share their Cox Purtell experience with their own networks, mostly via Instagram and Facebook. Content of this kind is the most powerful endorsement we can receive. When candidates share these positive experiences with their trusted networks we believe this indicates they are genuinely engaged with us as an agency. Some recent candidate feedback that gives us encouragement that our approach is differentiating us in the market is as follows:
"Cox Purtell is my fourth agency in Sydney and by far the best. The consultants are constantly looking for work for me and when one door closes another one opens."
"I found both consultants very helpful and honest with their answers. I haven't found any other agencies that really take the time and I have spoken to quite a few of them the last few weeks."
These comments are representative of many other comments we regularly receive.
Given the level of success with candidate care that CP has had to date, how do you keep raising the bar?
We keep putting the candidates first. Just by talking to candidates and being genuinely interested in what they have to say (as well as through surveys), we continually evolve our service offering. Also, of course, you have to hire the right people for your own business. It's critical to have people on board who share the values around treating candidates well and understand the pay-off from doing so.
What have been the most important candidate care learnings you can offer the industry in general from the CP experience?
Aspiring to get the candidate part right is the first critical step. I acknowledge that we don't always get it right but we aspire to get it right and that's very important. As I mentioned earlier, work is important to people and it's easy for Consultants or agencies to lose sight of that fact.
Well, the three of us at the awards had a bit of a headache the next day! Outside of that, it was champagne in the office and a big personal thank you (and small gift) to the candidates who helped with our submission. Actually, the most work on this is still to come. It's quite a heavy responsibility to win this Award. We are, of course, showcasing it everywhere we can and we need to continue to aspire to what it represents.
Thanks very much for taking the time to answer my questions, James. Congratulations again and I look forward to seeing how Cox Purtell stays a leader in this field.