Global Recruitment BuyingIn 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.

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Comment by Nicholas Meyler on August 25, 2014 at 5:42pm

This is very helpful and rather interesting.  I have had some problems with Australians (on the other hand, I've also placed one who was very happy with my work).  I would say that the atmosphere in Australia is quite different than in the USA.  I've had some experiences with Australians who were, to say the least, extremely misinformed and mistaken, highly belligerent, and even criminal.  I suspect that if you took a similar poll in the USA, you would find almost exactly the opposite.  If you asked the person I placed from Australia to my client in Los Angeles, a startup in reverse osmosis that just sold for $200 million, I suspect you would get an altogether different answer.  It might be appropriate to consider the converse proposition: i.e. that there are 'bad apples' in Australia who taint the image of that country to my (and others') perception.  As a scuba diver, Australia's Barrier Reef is a potential destination for me, but I don't know if I want to spend my tourist dollars in a country where I am belittled for doing superb work... and it might be worth noting that Australia is a country which knew about the devastating effects of the "crown of thorns" starfish for three decades before deciding it would be important to try to preserve their greatest natural treasure.  

Comment by Stephen Hart on August 27, 2014 at 6:39am

Fabulous blog title and I quite agree with your summary. It is up to every recruiter to attempt to create a better reputation for the industry. It will take a long time to turn the boat around but I do hope it will happen eventually.

Comment by Craig Watson on August 28, 2014 at 6:37pm

@Nicholas Meyler I find your comments about Australia and Australians pretty offensive.

'I've had some experiences with Australians who were, to say the least, extremely misinformed and mistaken, highly belligerent, and even criminal'

Perhaps you should ask Scott (who has actually spent some time interacting with recruiters and people in Australia face-to-face) his opinion before passing judgement...

FYI... This month Melbourne was named the friendliest city in the world and Sydney 5th friendliest... Go figure???

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on August 28, 2014 at 8:29pm

That is called a "double standard"  --  i.e. that it is okay for an Australian to refer to me as a "Liar", "Cheater", or "Thief, but that it is not acceptable for me to call them the same thing. I've never found the kind of negativity I've experienced with some Australians towards recruiters anywhere else in the world... and I have happily placed at least one Australian (actually, it's several, but they were already in the USA), who I certainly would not characterize as belligerent, misinformed or criminal.

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on August 28, 2014 at 8:57pm

Scientific Experiment: Using Google Chrome, I did a search for “Recruiters are great”, vs. “Recruiters suck”. The first won out with 47,500 results, while the second (also entered in quotes) had only 2,580 results. I am pretty encouraged by that!


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