Alison Humphries FIRP is Director of JAM Recruitment and Chief Examiner at the REC
In the 27 years I have worked in recruitment I can’t remember a time when I felt there was so much to do.
At an individual level recruiters have much more information to process and record than in the past. The global recruitment marketplace is both an opportunity for recruiters and a challenge; genuinely engaging with candidates and clients alike is more difficult than ever before.
Although the industry as a whole has grown exponentially, productivity per recruiter is a fraction of what it was (the RIB Index shows that most recruiters achieve about one placement per month. In 1985 I was expected to achieve eight per month). From the client and candidate perspective, recruiters create a lot of background noise, but they all sound the same.
So what’s the magic of the industry? What makes people hang on in?
For me it was when a client called me first, especially because this client had been a candidate who I hadn’t successfully placed when he was looking for a move a few months earlier. It happened for the first time in 1986. A management accountant who had been made redundant, he had attended several interviews I arranged but eventually had taken a role through another recruiter. Now in a position to hire, he told me that his reputation in the new company would depend on me finding someone who was right for what he wanted to achieve, not just someone who matched the technical aspects of a person specification.
In recruitment there will always be “distress” customers; those who have to cover sudden resignations, unplanned leave or spikes in demand. But more and more employers are aware of the strategic importance of recruitment. A good or a bad hire can transform a department or even a business.
Think about the last time your business made a bad hire. The effects last longer than the employee. Bad hires create a black hole of management time, demoralise others, encourage others to “round down” their targets and achievements and of course lose current business opportunities and the chance of future ones.
And yes, if you are the manager responsible, bad hires can damage your personal reputation and even your earnings.
The effect for our clients and candidates is just the same. Just because most of the recruitment industry charges only on results we are not absolved of responsibility. That’s why I have always made a point of telling clients if their requirements, package or recruitment process are unrealistic. I try to understand what clients are aiming to achieve from hiring, and sometimes I am able to suggest a different profile or method of achieving this. In the case above, my client was trying to reposition his department as business partners rather than auditors and bookkeepers. In the end he hired a candidate who had a lower level of qualification than originally requested, but had the right behaviours; she understood the business drivers and could interpret accounts for line managers.
I insist on telling candidates the downsides of roles, but putting them in perspective. I am convinced that candidates who became clients did so in part because of this. They knew that I would do the same with candidates I introduced to them, and so minimise the risk of candidates dropping out of the process.
If you work in a niche market, people will remember you. We can’t please all of the people all of the time, but we can remember that there is a long game to be played here while producing short term results. If you can get behind the job spec and discover what a person is trying to fix, avoid or accomplish you can create a long-term career in recruitment. There is nothing more rewarding than business which comes to you first.