Some recruiters remind me of my house hunting days. I’d go to great effort to describe what I was looking for - the area, the price range, what I definitely wasn’t interested in etc. and lo and behold I would be bombarded for weeks afterwards with details of properties that were too big or too small, in a different location or not in my price range. I often think it must feel a bit like that for some employers who use recruitment consultancies. But why?
When I worked as an account handler or ‘suit’ back in my recruitment advertising agency days, one of my roles was to take briefs from a variety of organisations, go back to the agency and, working with a team of creatives, come up with a solution to their particular advertising needs.
No two days were the same. I might during the course of a typical one be out seeing a retail company in the morning and then picking up a brief from a local authority and a construction firm in the afternoon. Whatever the scenario, one thing remained the same – the need to take a decent brief, not just collect a job description and exchange pleasantries.
Why? Well, it’s obvious to any recruiter that is any good at their job that every company is different. Every organisation has a different culture, ethos, working environment, mission statement etc. To be able to recruit properly you need to understand who the client is really looking for, not just what the job title is.
To illustrate my point, here are my notes from two hypothetical (but based on reality) client meetings I’ve been to. All you need to know is both are looking for a Bean Counter to join their company:
CLIENT A is a small family owned business that has been established for over 25 years. They make PCBs (printed circuit boards). Modest offices in the town centre, but handy for transport links, they have 19 staff in all, including two people doing Bean Counting, the one who is leaving does so after 6 years in the role because her husband is relocating with his job. Staff turnover is very low so it’s not a place for high flyers, but for someone with decent bean counting experience who wants a steady job and income it’s a secure position working in a friendly, down to earth company. A regular 9-5, pays the market rate, no great perks but being small they are quite flexible regarding working hours, time off etc. When I asked the HR Manager the question “Imagine I’m a candidate. If I were to ask you why I should come and work for you rather than your competitor down the road, or for any other company that employs bean counters, what would you say?”. Her reply was that it’s a great opportunity for someone with a relevant qualification/experience in the field who probably lives locally and who wants a steady job dealing with a variety of clients in a small, friendly, easily accessible company. It’s a pretty autonomous role, no one looking over your shoulder all the time, so they’ll need lots of initiative and be happy working alone a lot of the time. The perks aren’t great but there’s lots of job security and we’re pretty flexible about working hours.
CLIENT B is a young, fast mvoing organisation that has doubled in size since it started out six years ago. They are a technology firm. Situated in a modern business park outside of town theirs is a bright lights, open plan set up where teams of bean counters work in ‘pods’ of six, covering specific regions around the country. They have SLAs and KPIs and set their bean counters targets. They also encourage them to visit clients from time to time, so some travel. They give regular reviews and invest in training & development. The best ones get to climb the ladder, the others move on within a couple of years. It’s seen very much as a bean counting training ground and has a fairly high turnover of staff. Those that shine thrive. In short, a corporate environment with scope for rapid career development for the best people. Out of town location, so awkward to get to unless you drive. Need to be willing to travel with the job. Money is OK, but not great. It gets better market rate wise as you move up. They have a bar/restaurant where every Friday night they have a beer bust. Oh and a dress down day. When asked the same question as company A, the reply was along the lines of them wanting go getting, aspiring individuals, probably with a degree but certainly with some bean counting experience. People who could quickly fit into the company culture. Target driven people who like being part of a team and part of a big, successful company. Need to be a bit extrovert maybe, certainly good communicators. No wall flowers here – as the HR Director put it.
Now, some recruiters who didn’t attend those meetings will simply see the job title ‘Bean Counter’ and think “Whoopee! I’ve got lots of qualified bean counters on my database! It’s time to cash in my chips” when in reality it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the huge differences between the two, even though they are for the same job title. The culture of the two organisations is a million miles apart, yet I would be willing to bet that many recruiters who got the assignment would just bombard their client with CV after CV of Bean Counters on their books and not take into account the ‘fit’ issue that is glaringly obvious from the above descriptions.
There’s also lots of good ammunition for a job board post in those two client briefs too. You could screen out a lot of unsuitable candidates straight away by writing about what the organisation wants rather than just cut and pasting what it says on the job description. Selling a job doesn’t mean putting in flowery bullshit about dynamism and challenge. It’s about being honest and true.
So, next time you go out to see a client, if you don’t already do so, drill down a bit. It will save you being seen in the same light as the estate agent (realtor) I mentioned above and after all, cultural fit is just as important as experience and skill sets. Or is it? You tell me.