Recruitment - maybe it deserves a bad name.

The recruitment industry gets a bad rap and whilst a lot of it is unjustified, the saying that there is no smoke without fire has some truth here. I am proud of being a recruiter and truly believe the job I do is important and worthwhile to both individuals and companies. So I get very annoyed with those people who let our industry down with their poor service or dodgy behaviour.

The reality is that the entry barrier into recruitment is almost zero. You don’t need a qualification, any experience, investment or a licence to becomes a recruiter and start trading immediately. It is common practice for agencies to hire someone with no experience and give them a go, often with little training. The opportunity to generate big fees quickly is a big draw card for people setting up their own agencies, regardless of how long they have been in the industry or whether they are any good. It is no wonder then that you get new recruiters and recruitment companies entering the market every day. Some will be very good and develop long careers and good businesses that add value to the industry. Some will quickly leave the industry but not before making some bad mistakes . Some will manage to float around the industry for years on end, never being very good and leaving a catalogue of dissatisfied candidates and clients along the way.

The ability to enter the industry easily and make quick money will always attract and retain an element of unsuitable, even cowboy recruiters that give us all a bad name. As an industry are we doing enough to identify and prevent this element of our industry existing ?

In Australia, as in most other countries, the industry has a governing body; the RCSA . The RCSA does a lot of good work but is essentially an internally focused body which is there to support and develop the interests of the recruitment industry and it’s members. It does have a code of conduct by which it’s members are expected to adhere to and a Professional Practice Council and Ethics Committee who oversee Dispute & Disciplinary Procedures. Any individual, including candidates and companies who use their member’s services can complain to the RCSA if they feel they have been wronged in some way. However you do not have to be part of the RCSA to provide recruitment services and if you are not then this code of conduct is irrelevant. Sure, job seekers and companies can access a list of members on the RCSA website and in doing so hope to choose a reputable organisation that is bound to an industry standard.

However, how many job seekers or people who are not actively involved in recruitment are even aware of the RCSA or that there is even an industry body? Would an Engineer seeking a new job, or a small business owner looking for help with recruitment know to look for an RCSA approved recruiter? If they have received a bad service would they know that there is somewhere they can complain to? As a comparison consider Accountancy, Law or even Real Estate as similar service driven industries. You would never get you tax return done by a bloke who wasn’t a qualified accountant, or buy a house using someone who up until last week had been selling used cars. You normally need to be qualified and / or have a licence to practice in these areas - it is not optional. You also have to undertake ongoing training and /or exams to remain operating in the industry. Furthermore you will be probably be regularly audited to ensure you are upholding the standards and punished, even expelled if you are not. Even with these regulations bad Accountants, Lawyers and Real Estate Agents slip through the net – but if you are unfortunate to use one then there is an expectation that there is somewhere you can go to complain. Why is recruitment not the same ?

Recruitment will never be a perfect industry, partly because there is no legal right to stop people setting themselves up as a recruiter. But for the good of the industries reputation, we need to make a clear distinction between the good, experienced, professional and ethical recruiters and those that simply want to make a quick buck and don’t care how they do it. We can do this by firstly being stricter in controlling and regulating the criteria and standards that recognise someone as an industry approved recruiter, and secondly being more vocal about it to the outside world. If we can do that then we will all benefit – the good recruiters anyway !

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Comment by New Negotiator on October 19, 2011 at 7:11am

Luke: Thank you for this honest article. Your perspective and sense of proportion are refreshing. One thing that I've noticed about recruiters is they attempt to be all things to all people. This is a difficult role to fill, one that leads, almost invariably, to  disappointment, if not disillusionment, among clients. Additionally, there seems to be a reluctance among recruiters to admit that they don't know something. In that regard recruiters are like lawyers, or investment bankers. There is no real harm in it, just an undermining of authority. Please write more articles like this.

Comment by Holland LaFalcia on October 19, 2011 at 10:30am

I 100% agree with this. I have seen training programs and business owners that advise their recruiters to manipulate the client/candidate and even lie. I was completely turned off by it.


There is a way to be persuasive while also being sincere (and not faking it).

Comment by Darryl Dioso on October 19, 2011 at 10:49am

We discussed this at Radical Planet and certification within an industry doesn't always lead to quality. Look at Real Estate (no offence to realtors) but you need a licence here in Canada but there are many realtors who give that industry a bad name. Same with Accounting. A CMA doesn't guarantee top notch quality.  

Comment by Amber on October 19, 2011 at 10:59am

Rules, regulations, and codes of conduct can help to slow down a few people who don't want to conduct themselves properly, but in the end it is each individual's character that governs this. Also, too often the good intentions of an organization or group turn into money-making opportunities or some sort of "power trip" for a few.

While I came into recruiting without specific training or education in the field, I came into it with "life" experience and what I feel is a basic sound character. So, maybe I wasn't (and still not!) an "expert" in every facet of every search I worked on. But my clients, candidates, and colleagues knew where things stood. If I didn't know the difference between an Engineer with a PE and without, I asked. If I didn't understand what a particular position was, I asked. And researched, until I felt like I could represent my clients well, honestly and accurately tell my candidates what the roles entailed, and was able to add something to the process all around.

Those who are manipulating candidates, being dishonest to clients, and screwing over other recruiters are just the same people who will be doing in any career they work in. And likely in the other facets of their lives as well. Unfortunately, trying to add more regulations, guidelines, and laws seems to often hinder those of us that are tying to behave the right way.

Comment by bill josephson on October 19, 2011 at 11:03am

Always interesting to read/hear from recruiters in other parts of the world, being here in the greater Boston area.  As a 30 year recruiter, 10 years with a national firm and 20 years self-employed having been trained I'll just say a couple of things.  Liars don't last in the business.  Recruiter "me" oriented self serving approaches don't play well or sell.  We're in a business serving our clients.  Our needs come 3rd, after the clients' and candidates'. 


And the hardest aspect to recruiting today, IMO, is finding candidates companies can't.  Enticing happy and frightened of the economy gainfully employed professionals to consider, accept offers, and start elsewhere with a stagnant hiring process taking on a life of its own.

It's a survival of the fittest.  And for us recruiters engaged in that fight our performance and reputation are all we have.  I remind myself of that daily as when people associating with us talk about us negatively, we're not around to defend ourselves.

Comment by Steven G. Davis on October 19, 2011 at 11:24am

Luke, great post.

I can echo what the others has stated. As I too landed her in my current role, without "formal" training. But it was the life lessons and work that I did prior that lead me to where I am at and the "type" of service I provide to my candidates and clients. It does come down to a couple of skills/behaviors, one is the ability to create a relationship, that is to say a "real-trusting relationship" whether with cleint and/or candidate, the second is customer service. Remembering that the customer is your cleint first and the candidates are our customers as well.  Recruiters will come and go because of the "ease" of entry, but the ones that will stay are the ones that have the ability to provide those top notch relationships and provide outstanding customer service.  Whether or not to have a certication, I think it would help, but it will never be a magic pill. Rotten apples will always be, the only good news is that they quickly fall off the tree.!!!

Comment by Boris Stefanovic on October 19, 2011 at 12:39pm

Great post but I have some doubts about the value of regulation in this industry. As a career agency recruiter (17+ years so far) I have often thought of the dichotomy between Service and Performance. Service is measured by repeat business (sometimes) and what clients may say to/about you (referrals), and Performance is measured in money.

Unfortunately overhead, salaries, and commissions are also measured in money. I have never seen a recruiter who was very well-liked by clients and candidates but who ultimately had poor billings keep their job. I have seen sleazy "cowboy" recruiters who bill big become the darlings of the management, coddled and enabled in their ego and substance abuses, along with their bullying interpersonal style.

For agency owners, it seems, there is no dichotomy: my experience has been that money is the only metric. For salaried recruiters I can see how "customer satisfaction" impacts their evaluations and career progress but outside that protected realm every recruiter is a quantifiable commodity, either an asset or a liability.

In this time of global governmental austerity I don't believe you'd get much support for more than a voluntary regulatory body. Does anyone have another proposal?

Comment by Sandra McCartt on October 19, 2011 at 2:11pm

Unfortunately it is impossible to regulate or legislate morality or ethics or good reputations.  Education or training does not make anyone any of those things.  The only people we can really control is ourselves.  In any industry there are sleaze balls, flakes, crooks and incompetent people.  It has been my experience that the aforementioned are not encumbered by any sort of regulation nor do they join or adhere to any sort of volutary group.

It's a nice thought that someone might control or get rid of all the bad actors in any profession but any moron can pass a certification and do but they tend to laugh at posts like this just as they do at speed limits and go right on doing what works for them.  Sure we can name them and then hear from some sleazy attorney (lots of those too).  Although truth is a total defense to defamation sometimes it's expensive to prove truth.  Believe it or not there are a lot of docs practicing lucratively without a license, attorneys who will sue a ham sandwich if someone pays them, accountants who can't balance their own checkbook and get their clients audited by the IRS due to taking too much risk..and have you been to a car dealership lately.

There are as many unethical companies as there are unethical recruiters so it's my take that most of them end up together and eventually eat each other like a tank of fighting fish.  Our time is best spent worrying about our own stuff that we can control as opposed to trying to make unethical people ethical or passing another law or regulation that only honest people will obey.  It never hurts for us to point out bad practices of other recruiters to our clients but often just sounds like sour grapes and it may be somebody's brother in law so my thinks i'll keep my efforts as ethical and competent as possible.  A lot of us have been around for a long time doing it that way while the hit em a lick and run boys seem to disappear after a flame out of brilliance that is mostly short lived.  If the jerks are big billers it is most likely with a jerky client.  They can have each other.

Comment by Luke Collard on October 19, 2011 at 6:48pm

Thanks for the comments everyone.

The general consensus seems to be that whilst regulation of some form might help clean up some of the bad element of our industry, it would never get rid of it totally. Agreed.There is no perfect solution as there isn't in other industries, where much stronger regulation than we have in recruitment still doesn't prevent bad operators.

However, just becuse we will never have a perfect situation, I think it is dangerous to just accept the status quo and not at least strive for better standards. At the end of the day, good recruiters who operate with ethics and high standards (as all of us in the RBC seem to) will not be afraid of regulation as they we have nothing to hide.

The next question is how we actually do that? I dont have the answer but of the things I mentioned in my blog I think the following would help:

- regular audits on individuals and companies resulting in an industry recognised quality rating

- sanctions and in extreme cases expulsion for those that regualr fall under the standards expectedfor  a clear

-an obvious and  easy complaints pocedure for clients and candidates

- an accredited licence awarded and refused based on these things

- and above all an industry body that shouts loud to the world that all this exists

What else....?



Comment by Sandra McCartt on October 20, 2011 at 1:27am
Good suggestions. What else? The money and people to do all that and who empowers this group to be able to enforce any of this? God, the state, the better business bureau, the eeoc, department of labor, IRS or SPCA?

Be real Luke, no professional organization audits all their members on any kind of basis to determine if they are operating ethically unless one is in a police state. Only the government or a financial institution has the right to audit a business and then only if the business has a financial obligation or receives government funds or violates the law resulting in a legally filed complaint.


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