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All that is wrong with the Recruitment Industry

A blog post by Steve Buckley, posted almost 2 years ago.

Money and greed. It really is that simple.

Let's break it down to bare basics. A Recruitment Consultant should be an individual that helps speed up the recruitment process and take a significant workload of your plate. The better consultants should be well connected and be able to provide you access to strong candidates that would be otherwise impossible to gain access to. The consultant should be transparent, honest and most importantly, non-intrusive. The way the model should work is that you will elicit the services of a consultant, fill them in on your current recruitment needs and the areas you have been struggling with, agree on a defined timeframe and budget, and then let them work their magic whilst you get back to doing what you do best.

If you currently engage a recruiter and they fit the description of the above to the letter then congratulations. What you have found is an individual rarer than a stable version of XCode.

The Cost

One thing that is unanimously agreed about utilising a recruiter is that it is incredibly expensive.

Here's the bottom line: If you engage a recruiter to source an employee who will cost you an annual salary of £50k then in all likelihood you will end up paying said recruiter anywhere between £5k and £15k depending on what agency you engage. That's a lot of money for an introduction.

The significant sums of money involved have caused a drastic shift in how recruitment companies approach their clients. Most have abandoned the mature, well informed consultative approach and instead replaced it with a high volume, sales orientated approach. If you were to walk the floor of any decent agency it would feel like you stepped on to a trading floor in the heart of Wall Street. You will be surrounded by young, sharp salesmen and women with phones glued to their ear whilst admin staff run around frantically processing CV's and contracts and when you leave, your ears will be ringing from the intense volume of people shouting frantic orders to their support teams. Those that own and run recruitment companies know that the consultative approach gains them respect however the sales approach pays the bills.

The Reality

There are a number of reasons clients get a dozen calls a day from recruiters. It's generally the same reason job-seekers get calls from recruiters who haven't taken time to have a proper look at the CV.

Targets.

Most recruiters are heavily targeted to the point where they have to speak to at least 10-20 potential hiring managers and 10-20 job-seekers every single day.

The old adage stills rings true in this industry, 'It's a numbers game'. If you speak to enough people, someone will eventually listen to you. When I first started in the recruitment game I was a victim of a heavily targeted environment. My bosses couldn't care less about how much trust and respect I've built up with potential clients, the fact of the matter was if I hadn't spoken to 15 different hiring managers before close of business then I was in trouble. I made great money with that employer but I hated every minute of it. I had to sacrifice my dignity in order to generate business and I was calling CTO's and lead developers and pissing them off simply because they didn't have the time to speak to another recruiter and I would then have to insist why it was worth their while talking to me specifically which generally only enraged them even more.

I used to be a developer. I used to work for these people, I know how busy they are and I know how often they got pestered by people just like me and like I said, I hated it. So why stick with it you may ask. Refer to the first line of this post. Money and greed. I soon discovered that if I was willing to sacrifice dignity and allow the abuse and hatred to roll off my back, I will eventually speak to people who are in desperate need to hire new staff. If I fill those roles, I fill my own pockets with commission. There was zero monetary incentive for me to build a relationship of trust and respect, the short term gain was far more appealing. Every single one of my colleagues felt the same. We were all hired because we stated that money was what made us get out of bed in the morning.

The Lies

There is an underlying distrust of recruiters and whilst most of that distrust is based on the extortionate fees, there are less tangible reasons to justify the distrust that can be difficult to prove if you haven't worked in the industry.

The reality is that passive racism and ageism is still extremely active within the recruitment industry. All too often I have witnessed previous colleagues dismiss CV's based exclusively on the applicants age or ethnic origins as they feel is significantly easier to 'sell' a young, white European to their clients. Whilst an older candidate or a candidate with non-UK experience may be more than appropriate for a vacancy, recruiters are always looking for the quickest sell. A previous organisation I had the misfortune of working for had an unofficial yet extremely active rule where if the applicant had more vowels in their surname than consonants, their CV was instantly dismissed. When I challenged this rule, the appropriate management feigned ignorance and chose to continue ignoring the practice. All that mattered was that profits were on the up.

Some other questionable tactics include blatant disregard for employment law within the UK. My biggest bugbear is recruiter vacancies stipulating a minimum number of years of experience required when this act is in blatant conflict with UK equality laws that are in place to prevent employers from discriminating against candidates based on their age. Read more about the law in question here.

I've come across many employers complaining that recruiters have actually copied their job postings word for word despite not engaging said recruiters to represent them. The reason recruiters do this is simple. More often than not the vacancy will be identical with a slightly higher salary. Recruiters post these vacancies with the intention of intercepting the candidates before they apply directly and then 'selling' those candidates to the employer in question. The issue with this is that it is again in direct conflict with UK employment law that stipulates that recruitment companies can only advertise a vacancy in the event that the client has agreed to give them permission to recruit on their behalf.

Most agencies are members of the Recruitment & Employment Federation and if you have a complaint about a recruitment agency, the REC have an excellent complaints procedure which you can find right here.

The Change

I blame Hacker News for pushing me over the edge and making me want to take a stand. I got involved in the community originally because, as I mentioned, I used to be a Developer. Deep down in the dark recesses of my slowly withering heart there was still a flame burning for emerging technology and cool, inventive, ambitious start-ups. Tuning into the Hacker News community opened my eyes to the level of disdain for recruiters and like every good hacker, I saw an opportunity. I realised that if the vast majority of the industry is seen as a necessary evil then surely there is a gaping hole for someone to provide a genuinely useful and efficient alternative. If you want to read more about how Hacker Jobs developed as a result then read our first blog post.

The Future

The current recruitment model is dying a slow death.

The global recession played a large part in eliminating the fly-by-night recruiters and retained those in it for the long haul however there is an underlying feeling within the industry that they are on their last legs. More and more companies are developing internal recruitment teams to tackle the increasing recruitment costs and more companies are reaping the benefits of having a team in-house that know the business inside out and can do an infinitely better job of selling the company to prospective employees than what any third party recruiter could ever do.

It takes a lot of initial investment, time and resource to set up in internal team but those that invest the time and effort are now in a position where they very rarely have to engage a third party ever again. Start-ups can't afford this luxury, however I for one have noticed that start-up organisations are becoming more aware of the poor recruitment model and are investing more of their time in learning how to make their recruitment process more efficient.

Gone are the days of the dreaded 'Where do you see yourself in 5 years' questions and instead clued in hiring managers are investing time into digging through candidates GitHub repo's and design portfolios and focusing more on treating prospective employees as a fellow human being rather than just another payroll entry.

Job boards are not doing anything even remotely innovative enough to disrupt the recruitment industry and the primary reason for that is purely because no-one wants to upset their cash cow. Except us that is. We don't pander to the recruitment industry. Quite the opposite in fact. We've sent a number of warning shots into the air to make them aware that we intend on impacting the need for reliance on their industry. It's very early days but in my view at least, the demise of the industry is only just beginning.

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