Is the recruitment industry as smart as it portrays itself?

Recently, I've been doing some competitor analysis - I'm a UK-based headhunter by the way, so my research was biased in that direction - and I've been surprised by the results. There are probably two main threads that betray some pretty poor thinking and activity ...

1  Headhunters give dreadful candidate feedback - if any

This is more completely covered in my blog Hold your nose, there's a headhunter coming through. I've been applying for jobs where I've made certain my skills and experience are a good match. I've applied personally and tailored my CV/resume and covering letter. I'm not disappointed that I didn't get the job....or even and interview....but I'm shocked at the number of acknowledgements I've received. So far.........none.

2  Headhunters/Recruiters have dreadful websites

I judge a company by its website. They are a real reflection of the internal thinking that goes on. Too often recruitment websites are so generic that they weaken a company's image, rather than improve it. You get the sense they have a website just because everybody else has one. I don't have to like a website, but I have to be able to find my way round and understand a clear language that speaks to me and tells me what marks this recruiter out as different. Here's a list of my main gripes:

1. Blogs that are dead. No entries for months, or in some cases, years. If you're not going to blog, don't pretend.

2. Generic images. Photographs of grinning idiots shaking hands, people sitting around a boardroom table looking nothing like directors, thrusting youngish people talking on a phone (shot taken from below to emphasise power), people hanging around a lift (don't understand that one at all, but it's very common), images of globes, somebody making a presentation (often next to a white board), pictures of ladders etc - you know the sort of thing I'm talking about!

3. Lazy language. Words that just say nothing. Somebody has just said all the right things, but without any sense of style, or conviction. It's bland and boring, and if somebody can't be bothered to get that right on their website (a decent copywriter's not expensive), why would it be a surprise that nobody would trust them with their assignments.

4. Words like 'honesty', 'integrity', 'quality', 'professionalism', should be regarded as given. Writing about them gives the sense that the author is trying too hard, and is simply writing something to fill a space.

"Ah ahh" you might say, "If you're such a bright spark, then this should be an opportunity for you Martin", and you're right up to a point, but at least in the UK, and at least as a headhunter, these issues spread a tarnish that's reflects on all of us.

And what I've just written doesn't apply to everybody, but my unscientific research tells me it applies to most. I came across some stunning exceptions, but they were in the minority.

I'm now going to take a new look at my website. Perhaps I'm not as smart as I like to think.

Views: 294

Comment by Jerry Albright on February 11, 2013 at 9:01am

Howdy Martin. 

I'll agree on the feedback part.  I don't know if we will ever change.  It starts with us accepting ambiguos reasons from our client ("didn't fit it" - or "not senior enough"...) and then not drilling down further.  It's easier to just let it go since the client has already decided to move I think many of us are guilty (from time to time) of not having the "real" reason for the candidate being rejected. 

Regarding the web page though.  I'm going to disagree.  I'm one of those "have one just because it's better than not having one" types.  That's as far as it goes.  We do very little post/pray stuff, so we do not plan on much traffic to the site.  We're "proactive" recruiters here and don't see the need to spend much time beyond making sure we've got an online business card of sorts.


Just a thought.  Enjoy the afternoon!

Comment by Martin Ellis on February 11, 2013 at 9:55am

Jerry. Your website has no anonymous grinning idiots shaking hands or trying to look powerful. The copy is also well drafted and you have some real stuff that marks you out as being different. I didn't say a website needed to be pretty or expensive, it just needs to communicate what you do. In my book, yours does.

So while you disagree, I don't think you disagree as much with me as you think you disagree - If you can follow that!

Comment by Ryan Leary on February 11, 2013 at 10:11am

Martin - nice post here. Thanks. I will say that to your first I think that's due to 1 of a few possibilities:

  1. A lack of ability to search properly in their ATS
  2. The recruiter not understanding the job well enough to search "potential" Many recruiters screen out instead on in when searching in a corporate environment. This is due to having many openings they are working at 1 time.

and for your point in #4, I could not agree more. That goes back to my points above. Most recruiters at the corporate level I have dealt with are trained to "scan" for these words. Automation in their ATS has only hindered the ability of the recruiter to look outside of this vocabulary.

Comment by Marie-Clara Thaureux on February 11, 2013 at 11:07am


As always an enjoyable post. I agree with many of the points above, recruiters do have a tendency not to drill down (as Jerry says). This is a mistake. If I have sent a CV out to a client then I am confident the candidate is a very good match. (I do a fair amount of headhunting in my day to day), if my client rejects that candidate I want to know why?! Where did I go wrong, I want to be able to pass the feedback onto the candidate. I would also never underestimate the potential benefit this feedback can offer me when retained for future positions. The Website - Ah - How do you create your vision on a page / pages where only a few sentences may be looked at, my biggest issue with recruitment webs is that they are SO busy, they also read like an essay, i'm bored before I've started and that's only if I found the page I was looking for! Whether we achieved a different site when we designed remains to be seen! 

Thanks for the insight! 

Comment by Martin Ellis on February 11, 2013 at 11:23am

Thanks Marie-Clara. You're correct that many are very busy. It's not clear what they want you to read, so they put everything in just in case something sticks. It's a very odd approach.

Comment by Marie-Clara Thaureux on February 11, 2013 at 11:57am

I think it is the need to cover all bases and appeal to all market sectors. We tried a good header approach feeling if someone visited our site and only looked at the headers on each page it would convey what we wanted our image to be. No idea if it worked! 

Comment by Martin Ellis on February 13, 2013 at 2:41am

Marie-Clara. If you're busy, it worked - or at least it didn't put people off! The trouble is it's not always easy to judge the impact of our web presence. I know people have been recommended to me and they've visited my website before contacting me. I know who has followed up with an enquiry, but I've no idea if anybody has given me a body-swerve because they didn't like my website. Got to keep trying though.

Comment by Marie-Clara Thaureux on February 13, 2013 at 1:14pm

Martin - I took some time to look at your website today, I like it, it is clean, focused but personable (with the children - love those pics) It also feels like a true reflection of your personality which I like in a website. I notice the headers too - it goes without saying I like this idea. I think you can rest assured your website does the job far, far better than others I have seen.  

Comment by Martin Ellis on February 13, 2013 at 2:02pm

Thank you Marie-Clara. And I don't think there's one "integrity" in there - Don't go looking for it!

My wife built my website. She's flattered. She might let me watch the football now she's in such a good mood.

Comment by Marie-Clara Thaureux on February 13, 2013 at 2:08pm

Ha ha ha - Glad I could be of service, let's hope you support a decent team!


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