What all recruiters WANT to say to their dumb clients

For agency recruiters, it often feels like clients are toying with them these days.

It feels for all the world that some* Line Managers, Internal Recruiters and HR types have conspired to make life for recruiters as hellish as possible. Job briefs given out to 6 agents, ‘urgent’ orders postponed after weeks of work, interviews cancelled at a moments notice, and worst of all, sudden silence and no status updates at all.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I am no blind defender of 3rd party recruiters. I criticise our industry regularly and loudly, and I am appalled by the incompetence of many on the agency side. What is more, it’s also true that many of these internal folk are at the whim of ‘higher–ups,’ who move the goalposts frequently, but I have no doubt whatsoever that some on the client side are revelling in their petty ‘power’, and derive ghoulish satisfaction at seeing those ‘smug recruiters’ suffer. I get told this in Australia and New Zealand. I got told it in South Africa earlier this year, and only last month, I was told this same thing by a group of UK recruiters in London. It’s universal. Inexplicably, the worst amongst those seem to be ex-agency recruiters, now preening on the client side. But that is another blog.

And we might feel compelled to criticise slow-moving or vindictive clients for their actions, and the impact it has on us as recruiters, individually and corporately.

But, in fact all that is a sideshow to the main game.

Corporates, who jerk recruiters around, appear to be oblivious to the reality of who they are hurting and the actual damage they are doing.

Here is the thing

The people who are really suffering are candidates, and the real damage being done is to their own brands and reputations.

Oh yes, make no mistake. It stuns me that employers can be so blind. When you cancel a job on a recruiter at the last minute, who do you think suffers? It’s the candidate, who has already been on three interviews with your company, has been led to believe an offer is imminent, and is now tossed aside, usually without any explanation.

And when you brief a recruiter on your ‘urgent’ job, demand a rapidly assembled shortlist, and then sit on it for 8 weeks, do you realise it’s not just the recruiter you have sent on a costly and frustrating wild-goose chase? There are six candidates who have been briefed on that job, told it’s you hiring, and advised their resume is on your desk. And if, foolishly, you have given that order out to 6 recruiters, that could be 25 candidates waiting to hear back from you. Getting increasingly angry. At you.

And don’t for a moment think the recruiter, stuck in the middle, is going to take the rap for your behaviour. Why should they? The candidate will know it’s your actions that have caused the disappointment and frustration.

And trust me, candidates resent your actions. They vent their fury at your unprofessional, disrespectful behaviour, and they blog about it, and they spit your name out across social media.

They tell their friends and colleagues what a bunch of cowboys you are, and they refuse to be considered for future jobs at your company, and for all I know they stop using your products and services.

And you deserve it.

So, wake up, you line managers, HR dudes and internal recruitment teams.

Your personal and employer brands are being irreparably harmed by your bureaucratic inefficiency (at best), and arrogant disregard, at worst.

And when the market turns, and hiring heats up, as it will, your chickens will flock home to roost. The best talent, and the recruiters who represent them, will avoid you like the plague, leaving you to hire from the dregs, and fighting to rebuild your personal reputation.

Which will be… mud

* please note, I said ‘some’. Not all. Not even most. Some.


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Views: 490

Comment by Leigh Duncan on August 20, 2013 at 12:16am

Greg, I could not agree more. Unfortunately this happens way too often.

Case in point : I recently experienced a client who took 5 weeks to get a contract to an exceptional candidate for a really tricky role after a verbal offer was accepted, for all sorts of weird and wonderful excuses. 5 weeks during which the candidate started to feel really insecure ("are they having second thoughts?") - and which required daily counselling sessions from me to reassure her. To make matters worse the client got annoyed with me for following up on the progress of the contract,and questioned the candidates commitment and trust in them.

I can honestly say it was one of the most emotionally draining recruitment experiences that I have had. Safe to say I choose not to work with them again. The candidate, who is well connected, will no doubt be sharing this experience with her influential friends in our rather small industry. The brand damage may be significant. 

Comment by Greg Savage on August 20, 2013 at 1:03am

Great example of what I am talking about Leigh. Thanks for sharing that

Comment by Chadd Balbi on August 20, 2013 at 8:53am

I think this is a very good read Greg. I try and emphasize to my clients on a regular basis that they miss out on top candidates by playing these games. It's sad that companies can treat candidates like this. Countless times my clients have put me in "urgent" situations only to wait 2 weeks to interview. Sad really. 

Comment by Greg Savage on August 20, 2013 at 9:00am

Thanks Chadd...sounds like you have felt the exact pain I describe in the blog!

Comment by Stephen Nehez, Jr. on August 20, 2013 at 11:32am

We received an e-mail on June 24th from our client alerting us that our candidate was chosen and they were preparing a job offer.  Her offer arrived on August 18th.

Comment by Greg Savage on August 20, 2013 at 5:58pm

Classic Stephen, pure classic

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 20, 2013 at 6:04pm

three month search for an IT wizard who a. pass their jicky test.  b. had all the technology they currently use. c. had all the technology they might want to use in the future..might.

Three interviews.  IT director called the HR Director at home and told her they had found their guy, make him an offer.  IT director went to recruiting coordinator first thing the next morning and said , "draft the offer and tell the recruiter to make him a verbal and be sure we don't have to enhance the offer before we send the formal offer.

Done, done and done.  Candidate says offer is good and he will sign and return upon receipt.  Two hours later IT director says that one of his managers is not so sure about the guy because they want to know what the candidate will do to learn another technology that they "might" want to use so let's have him come back for one more interview.  Ok, we splain it, candidate says fine and goes back one more time after being told he is getting an offer.  Then the IT director comes back and says, "well gee i guess i should have talked more to my manager, he has a real concern that the candidate won't put in the effort to learn that technology if we should decide to use it so we are not moving forward with the offer.

I have had a lot of goofy stuff happen but never had one where the Sr. director pushed the button and asked us to make a verbal , internal to prepare the formal then said he changed his mind.  We backed off.  Three months later they hired a guy from another recruiter.  He lasted three days.  They decided he had a conflict of interest because he has some web site that competes with the company.

We are not exactly burning up cyber space or the phone trying to fill the spot.  Even PhD's who are teaching the technology can't pass their little test.  It must be nice to be that cavalier about hiring, wait i said hiring. Uh, six months and they haven't yet except for three days.  Way to go boys.  How's that "brand workin for you".

Comment by Greg Savage on August 20, 2013 at 9:33pm

Talk about your client shooting themselves in the foot, Sandra.. both feet more like ....

Comment by David Hall on August 22, 2013 at 6:41am

Great article Greg. I'm a relative newbie, three years, working a very specialised niche and I've had this experience over and over again. More seasoned recruiters have explained to me that this goes with the territory and it's just something with which you have to put up. But frankly I put a lot of work, and time, building up rapport with candidates (I was once one of them) and getting them excited about the positions so I feel it acutely when they're on the receiving end of this type of experience.

Little by little though I'm ironing out these creases as I go along. We're a small shop so there's a ceiling on the number of assignments we can handle anyway and I now work, I know this might sound counterintuitive if not indeed perverse, on keeping the number of assignments low. Once that habit of thought begins to take root potential clients, who thought they were going to call "all" the shots gently, and I always maintain high levels of courtesy, discover over the course of our initial conversation that I haven't decided whether I want to work with them. I stress though that I allow this to gently seep into conversation as opposed to hammering a stake into the ground overtly. What's crucial though is that you must be for real, i.e. if it isn't feeling right then you really have to be prepared to walk away from that job. I've done this many times now and it's surprising how often HR, or whomever you're dealing with, arrives back in a week or two with an altered attitude and if they don't I simply take it that I, and my candidates have dodged a bullet.

I'm still far from eradicating this type of experience completely but to me it's a project which will need many refinements before I'm happy that I have a satisfactory working model. However by at least taking these small steps and a different frame of mind to the table I've already saved myself countless hours of wasted time and grief, ditto for my candidates. 



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