In the past eight days of travel in Australia and New Zealand, I’ve asked over 100 people, chosen at random, the first word that comes to mind when they think of recruiters. In the past three months, I’ve asked this same question while in London and also about the staffing industry in several cities in the United States. I need only one hand to tick off the number of positive responses I heard, which included “helpful,” “partner,” and “beneficial.”
On the other hand, and that one would need hundreds of fingers, the various negative replies were stunning, not so much in their selection, but in the vitriol with which they were said. The most common were:
Even the Australian press has elected a few choice words, such as these in a prominent business journal:
“Every industry has its deadbeats – but some manage to do an excellent job in giving everyone else a bad name. The recruitment industry is particularly prone to ‘bad apples’because of the fly-by-night nature of so many of the people who work there and the short-term focus of monthly targets.” – Fiona Smith, BRW, April 2013
So, are we an industry that helps or harms?
Your first response, most likely, is “helps,” which is true. And, I submit that any real harm done is perpetrated by a select few, those “bad apples” mentioned by Smith. Unfortunately, our belief in our value pales when stacked against global, public sentiment.
Yes, there are clients and candidates who see us differently, understanding, at least to some degree, the helpful nature of staffing and recruitment. However, the disparity in the number of companies using our services yearly versus during a decade, as illustrated below, demonstrates, at least to some degree, the disconnect with the tremendous value we provide.
The next step in the maturation of our industry requires that we do a much better job in helping more companies hire better people, faster than they would on their own. Also, an increasing number of candidates must feel as they though they’ve accomplished something they wouldn’t have been able to through their own efforts. The only way to do this is by laying out a process for both parties to follow that accomplishes better results for all.
This is often different from how we typically cater to clients, in particular, jumping through their hoops and following their processes. If their processes worked so well, would they even need to contact a staffing or recruitment firm in the first place?
The customer is always right, until the customer is wrong. All too often, we wrongly allow buyers to dictate price and process, hampering us from doing great work. This is where I suggest you begin in your contribution to the elevation of the reputation of our industry. Continually refine and improve your process and respectfully insist that those you serve follow this as the best way to do business. As long as you’re good at what you do, the results will speak for themselves, making it difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to use words like liar, cheater, or thief.