The REAL irony of recruitment

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There is a thread on LinkedIn that is likely to run and run and run. It was posted with good intentions and borne out of frustration. The update reads as follows: “Definition of irony = Chasing a recruiter for several months and time and time again, them NEVER calling you back when they say they will, NEVER replying to your emails, having members of staff who answer the phone blatantly lie to you, then you getting a Head of HR job and said recruiter chases you to meet for a coffee and discuss my needs for recruitment within 5 days of your start date. Now that is ironic in my book! This is not a recruiter or recruitment industry bashing thread but my own personal observation.” Unsurprisingly it has turned in to exactly what you would expect, a recruitment bashing thread. Unfortunately the real irony has been missed altogether. The real irony is that recruitment has turned in to a circle of abuse that only the abused can break. You probably know this statistic already, but here goes. People who have been bullied are twice as likely to bully themselves. The candidate that experiences the worst that recruitment agencies have to offer is the only one that can break this circle. They can break this circle when they become the client. The client is THE customer. The stakeholder with the greatest power to define how recruitment agencies treat candidates. Indeed there are lots of things we agencies can do to improve the experience for candidates - all of which can be measured and reported. Unfortunately it’s an expensive model. Even more unfortunately, most clients don’t want to pay for it. The very people who often complain about the conduct of recruitment agencies are utterly unwilling to invest their own time and their (employer's) own money in improving the candidate experience. That’s the real irony.

Do Psychometrics make recruitment processes better?

By Celia Grand-Pierre Coming back to England and as part of my Masters Degree in International Human Resource Management, I wrote my dissertation on Psychometrics and Personality tests. Even though my subject was very specific to recruitment agencies, their use is widespread amongst companies in general. I collected Research and data from 22 recruitment companies. You might be surprised that all firms are using those tests internally (to recruit their own people) and/or externally (on behalf of their Clients). However, they weren’t satisfied with the results (18 agencies out of 22 according to survey responses)... but they still use them without making any changes. Most of the blogs I will be sharing with you will deal with these types of tests - what they involve, how retail companies are using them and in particular, are they really being used appropriately? If not, what are the alternatives to this ‘fashionable’ process? Indeed they are more than ever, a fashionable way to select the ‘best’ talent to perform a job. However, are they really making recruitment processes any better? What are they? Psychometric tests “…have the goal of assessing various cognitive abilities from numeracy and literacy skills to spatial awareness and more”. Personality tests are “…intended to highlight specific personality traits that could indicate suitability for specific roles. These can come in the form of personality questionnaires, leadership tests, motivation tests and situational judgement tests” So why do companies use these tests (specifically numeracy and literacy tests)? There are three major reasons:
    • To measure the aptitude and ability of candidates on specific tasks
    • To understand the personality and behaviours of candidates to analyse the possible fit with the company
  • To filter a talent pool due to increased competition and number of applicants
  Are they currently reliable? Those tests have now been used for many years and in my opinion, they are not currently used at their best.
  • Using numeracy and verbal testing as PART of a process can reinforce decision making.
  • They should NOT be used as a filter in order to attract the best candidate. There is still no evidence that a candidate who scores well at these ability tests are better at their job than a candidate having a bad score.
  • Similarly, Personality tests are reliable depending on their context. Using them as a first stage of a recruitment process could be risky and companies could miss out on some talent.
The danger of using tests at the first stage of selection: One of my friends recently applied to a vacancy with a large corporate in the UK. What was the first stage of the process? A numerical and verbal assessment which she had to perform within 48 hours of applying. “Well that was fast!” she thought. “They are probably doing that in order to check the motivation of the candidate and to see how quickly I can react”. To be fair, for some companies this could be a reasonable way of thinking as thousands of applicants are hard to deal with. However, filtering candidates and applying tests as the first stage of any process is not about attracting the ‘best’ candidates, but about reducing the talent pool. There are plenty of fish in the sea. However, by doing this, are we not missing out on ‘good’ potential candidates? After all, some candidates struggle with these tests, for a variety of reasons (another blog for the future!). In my next blog, I will discuss the different approaches employed by companies when utilising personality tests to select candidates based on cultural fit.

LinkedIn’s analytics backfires for many employer’s job adverts

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By Jez Styles You might have missed it but LinkedIn’s share price collapsed after their latest financial statement. LinkedIn has been under increasing pressure to increase its revenue streams and, with a slow down in growth to 20% in the fourth quarter from 56% in the equivalent period last year, many analysts are predicting this slowdown to continue with predictions of just 10% in 2018. At the heart of this slow down in growth has been LinkedIn’s over reliance on its ‘talent solutions’ which makes up 63% of net revenue. LinkedIn has attempted to differentiate its ‘adverts’ proposition from the standard job boards and through the acquisition of several firms including Fliptop. Late last year LinkedIn updated its job advert page for premium subscribers to provide further information for prospective candidates on employers. Read more here: Sounds great right? What happens when the analytics don’t look quite so rosy? And let’s face it, not every company on LinkedIn is in hyper growth. Indeed I happened upon the following advert recently. ***Looks like an interesting position doesn’t it? I might even apply myself… Hang on, let’s just look at those lovely graphs and charts before I do though… Oh! hotel choc 1 It seems that headcount has dropped by 18%, so 1 in 5 employees have left in the last 2 years. Hmmm that doesn’t look good for job security does it? Average tenure is 3 years? Well maybe the salary and package will assuage my concerns… choc NN Well, there are no details about salary and package and LinkedIn tells me that these roles typically pay anywhere from £30 to £59k…which is pretty broad by anyone’s standards. I might just pass on this occasion. And herein lies the rub. The more LinkedIn tries to differentiate and provide more information the more they will expose the ugly truth of recruitment. Not every company is Google or Facebook. Dry analytics will make some businesses look great, a lot very average and many quite unattractive. They don’t tell you about the culture, the people and what it’s like to work for the company. Which means that fewer, not more, companies will invest in LinkedIn’s talent solutions. Which means prices will go up and features will go down on our subscriptions. This means further disenchantment with LinkedIn. And if you want to see the numbers behind what I suspect is a growing trend in user disenchantment – click here!   ***Apologies to the guys at Hotel Chocolat for flagging this, I really like their stores and I’m not entirely convinced these analytics are a fair reflection of their employer credentials. Hopefully this post might lead to a few more, not less, applications!  

Contingent recruitment is killing the candidate experience

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment

My colleague Sophie wrote about the candidate experience recently (click here) and following some recent first-hand experience I felt compelled to write this blog. I don’t expect it to change anything but could do with getting it off my chest!

There have been a lot of blogs recently about how the agency-led candidate experience is deteriorating and to his credit, Mitch Sullivan (visit his blog here) is waging a one-man social war on Contingent recruitment. Mitch talks about this in a far more eloquent manner than me but I thought I would share my own thoughts on why it is having a detrimental impact on my own area of specialism in Retail.

For those not familiar with recruitment terminology, Contingent recruitment is, in essence, recruiting without guaranteed payment. No win, no fee. The alternative is Retained recruitment where traditionally a client will pay a third of the expected fee upon commencement of the assignment, a third upon production of a shortlist and a third upon completion. Retained recruitment is often thought to be the preserve of Executive Search but this really isn’t the case. There are of course other derivatives, including exclusivity (is it ever really?), mapping, project fees, the list goes on.

So why is Contingent recruitment killing the candidate experience?

  • Contingent recruitment is basically working for free…unless the recruiter is successful. So recruiters who only have a portfolio of contingent work will pick and choose what they believe will deliver a result. Consequently, some agencies will take a volume approach to the assignment and cover every candidate on their database regardless of suitability. Candidates will receive calls (or emails…) about roles that are either not of interest or they have no hope of ever securing an interview for.
  • Contingent recruitment often equates to the client using multiple agencies. Using multiple agencies will often generate a multitude of problems for candidates, recruiters and clients. The biggest issue that often arises is arguments over candidate ownership. Unscrupulous agencies, and we all know there are many, will send CVs to clients without the candidate’s knowledge or bully them into agreeing that they ‘covered’ them on the vacancy first. The end result; candidates are often forced to lie and are left feeling deeply uncomfortable with the whole process.
  • Savvy candidates are increasingly asking whether the recruiter is retained, exclusive or one of many. They are in essence, analysing their prospective employer through the manner in which they are conducting their recruitment. Multiple agencies – not placing trust in one supplier – what does this say about the culture of the business? Not retained – not serious about hiring the position? There are many other conclusions that could be drawn.
  • Contingent recruitment does not encourage an agency to go the extra mile when representing their client. It does not ensure the recruiter researches the business and can talk passionately and knowledgably. It will often lead to at best a half-hearted or at worst a misleading brief for the candidate.
  • Many agencies will do a great job when recruiting on a contingent basis and to retain some balance, Retained searches don’t always leave the best impression. However, where there is a Retained search there is genuine accountability. The recruiter has been paid in advance to provide a great service for all parties and as a result clients can manage that relationship accordingly. If the client briefs multiple agencies it is very difficult for them to manage performance in a measured and constructive manner.

Not every agency that works on a contingent basis does a bad job and indeed I will happily admit that I often work on a contingent basis with some of my clients (sorry Mitch). You hope in these situations you are rewarded for doing a great job but as we all know sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

However, I always do a much better job when retained. In fact I have filled every single brief that I have been retained on and ultimately, isn’t that the result that everyone wants? The candidate experience becomes crucial in this instance and when retained you have full ownership. You are also able to fully engage your internal resourcing function, you can write a good quality brief, you can meet candidates and spend time getting to know them. There will be some mistakes made, as in any job, but they will be mistakes not deliberate attempts to create unnecessary problems.

PS. For those recruiters that are contributing to a poor candidate experience - it will catch up with you and sooner than you think.

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Do employers and recruiters really care about the Candidate Experience?

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

I was prompted to write this after observing my colleagues go through a tough summer in recruitment. Tough, not so much due to the economic conditions as things are actually more positive than they’ve been for a long time but because of numerous issues simply getting our candidates through a recruitment process. I will try to elaborate .

During the recession, due to the glut of candidates on the market, companies have had the pick of the bunch. It really has been a ‘buyers’ (client) market. Companies in the happy position of being able and willing to recruit have held all the cards and conversely, candidates have had to accept that they are one of many and so need to do whatever it takes to land a rare job offer.

I think this situation has had an adverse effect on the ‘candidate experience’ which we recruiters often talk about and which is often held aloft by companies as something they are truly proud of.

The Candidate Experience is, broadly speaking, how candidates are treated when they go through a recruitment process. What the application process is like, how they are communicated with, what information they are given, how they are made to feel and if they are unsuccessful, how they are rejected from the process. It continues through the offer stage, notice period and on-boarding process.The quality of this experience should be important to companies (particularly in the Retail & Hospitality and Consumer sectors) because each candidate is likely to be a current or potential customer. In a competitive market where a strong brand is so important, it is important to ensure that your brand as an employer is as strong as your brand for consumers. It is also really important for recruitment agencies, as we need our candidates to come back to us for all their subsequent career moves. We work in an industry with such a poor overall reputation that individual companies simply cannot afford to lose candidates or damage relationships.

What has got me flummoxed at times this year, has been the disregard of the impact on candidates of poor recruitment processes, whether that be due to sketchy information, elongated timescales or poor assessment techniques.

Before I go any further, this is not about apportioning blame. As the ‘middleman’, our job is to deliver for our clients and support our candidates and, when all goes smoothly, it is a fantastic privilege. We must take the rough with the smooth and, irrespective of our lack of responsibility for how companies choose to assess people or treat them through the process, we need to act as a buffer and minimise the impact on the candidate and client if things aren’t as professional as they should be. What worries me is that a lot of processes suffer from a lack of common sense and worse still, a lack of common courtesy. We have seen examples of this over the past year and often I think it is because, when planning a recruitment process and assessment method, the assumption is that candidates should bend over backwards. In principle, I agree with this and if you are serious about getting a new job, you will need to be extremely flexible about making yourself available and travelling wherever necessary for interview. However, when candidates are currently employed, we have to respect that they should not jeopardise their current role when attending interviews. So, if we are only giving a few days notice for interview, we cannot expect a busy Store Manager, Regional Director or Head of Marketing to miraculously free their diary. Equally, when asking candidates to take a day off to attend an assessment centre, in my opinion, we should give them full opportunity to represent themselves. The current vogue for X factor-style rejections half-way through the day makes sense from a practical perspective however it is hardly fair on candidates, particularly if you have asked them to prepare a presentation in advance which they then don’t get to deliver. The same is true of interviews – much better to give a little more notice for interviews and make sure that the hiring manager is fully focused rather than a candidate travelling several hours only to spend 35 mins in the interview because the interviewer has another meeting.

Another issue candidates have raised is being interviewed by inappropriate people. Such was the experience of a Senior Operations Director whose first meeting with a particular business was with a junior member of the resourcing team whom was clearly out of their depth. When it came to giving feedback to the candidate, they lacked the level of knowledge or capability to deliver it positively and at the right level given the level of seniority. Feedback in general is a recurring issue. We are constantly in a position of having to make excuses to candidates who, several weeks after interview, may at best have a verdict, but don’t have any detailed feedback about how they performed. This reflects badly on the agency and the company concerned. The worst culprits are line managers and I feel for our in-house contacts who you can hear cringing as they explain that they have been trying to get feedback for weeks from an unruly hiring manager! For the hiring manager, you can understand the logic – why waste more time if a candidate is unsuitable? However, surely this comes down to basic manners: if someone has taken the time to come and meet you, the least they deserve is a response.

There are more extreme examples. We heard recently about a candidate who, after receiving a verbal offer from a client (thankfully not one of ours) and agreeing a start date 4 weeks hence, received no paperwork and no returned calls despite chasing them for 3 weeks! Needless to say, he accepted a role with another business. There are numerous examples like this and let’s be clear, anyone working in recruitment is going to struggle to keep everyone happy when there are so many complexities and variables involved. However, I think it’s important that we remember that candidates are not commodities to be traded but real people with commitments, responsibilities and diaries to manage like the rest of us. If they are working hard to land a new role by being flexible and spending time going through a process, the very least they deserve is to be treated with respect.

Interestingly, the market is on the turn. There are more vacancies and we are seeing the best candidates get multiple offers.

When things return to a candidate driven market, as they inevitably will, the Candidate Experience may become a deal breaker for candidates who view this as an indicator of the professionalism and company culture of their potential employers.

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