Lazy Recruitment – Why Do We Stand For It?

Neil ButlerUntypical Thoughts

Here’s something that annoys me and I don’t think it’s just me.

And before I go any further, my apologies to the few recruiters who I think do a great job – you know who you are.

As you would know if you were to visit my LinkedIn profile (click here), I have what could be best described as an eclectic background when it comes to employment history and skill set. I clearly don’t fit the traditional model of accountant, personal assistant, project manager, school teacher (I was once), mechanic, etc, etc.

Often, I organise my Untypical gigs by responding to contract job advertisements. I am, therefore, regularly in contact with recruitment firms who are in business to find candidates for their clients’ roles – both contract and permanent – and quite simply stated, they have no idea what to do with me. When their client says they want, say, a Project Manager, they go to their extraordinarily large resume data base (just out of interest, how many of those resumes do you think would be up to date – 2%?) and look for key words based on traditional job titles. They identify a few names, have a preliminary conversation with some or all of them and send a few of them off to their clients for an interview. The client, who often doesn’t REALLY know what they are looking for, chooses the one that “kind of” fits best – after all, their trusted recruiter has done a vast amount of analysis and presented their very best candidates, haven’t they?

No, in many cases – in fact, in most cases – they have done nothing of the kind.

Have they challenged the client on what it is they really want? Have they considered people’s skill sets rather than job titles? Does it necessarily follow that, when looking for candidates for a Project Manager role, sending a candidate who has 25 years of project management experience will be five times better than one who has five years of project management experience and twenty years of other skills, knowledge and experience?

Whenever I challenge a recruiter about this, I get the same answer EVERY time – “it’s a buyer’s market”, “clients can afford to be choosy” and “they know what they want”, etc, etc.

Bollocks they know what they want.

They THINK they know what they want and it’s just easier for everyone to stay safe and find someone whose job titles look good. Throw in a qualification – PRINCE2, PROSCI, Lean, Six Sigma – and then you have a built-in culling device as well.

I don’t want this to become a marketing exercise but at Untypical People we always DELIBERATELY put forward one candidate who we believe could do the job but DOES NOT match what the client wanted. We don’t do it blindly – we meet with our client and explain why we are doing it. I should also add that if there is a specific qualification that really IS required (e.g. to be a doctor, you must be registered with the appropriate authority), that remains a not-negotiable.

But, when I see a proposed job advertisement that says that the Project Manager MUST HAVE a PRINCE2 qualification, should I take that literally or work with my client to help them to understand that some really good project managers don’t have that qualification? Does someone with a PROSCI certificate and 2 years of industry experience really do a better job than someone with 25 years of change management experience and no piece of paper?

Our experience at Untypical People is that in about 40% of cases, when we put up the additional “left field” candidate, our client chooses the left fielder. That’s right, in 40% of cases, the person they choose specifically contravenes one of the so-called ESSENTIAL requirements.

But here’s the bit that makes it tough – to be able to do that intelligently, you really need to know your client and you really need to know your candidate(s).

I don’t mean “have a bit of an idea of the position description (certainly the job title) and company culture and how that matches a resume (which may have been written six months earlier for a completely different role in a completely different industry sector)”. No, I mean REALLY know the company, the role AND the person you are putting forward as a candidate.

In many, many cases, the world of recruitment seems to be revenue first, people second. The consultants are on low salaries and very high commissions – getting candidates, any candidates, in front of clients is everything. They don’t have time to get to know the candidates and given the high turnover of staff in the industry, they often don’t have time to get to know the client all that well either. And so, they find the key words in the “Essential” section of the position description, word-match them to a pile of mainly outdated resumes in the database and hopefully land a sale.

And while this is deemed to be active recruitment by business representatives and recruitment firms, people like me, who have a broad range of skills and experiences – and without wanting to sound too conceited – can add REAL value to an organisation through our BREADTH of experience, not just our depth, sit on the sidelines and shake our heads.

As the great man, Albert Einstein once said:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”

If you don’t challenge the norm, if you don’t push the boundaries, you’ll get more of the same. I will keep working with the very few recruiters who I think are prepared to do what I am suggesting here. I will continue to shun those who are simply lazy and see me as a product to sell. I will continue to offer an alternative recruitment model to the world and hope that it catches on.

Meanwhile, people will sit around at work functions whinging and whining about how bad their recruitment provider is.

Strange days, indeed.

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