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The challenges of a career in recruitment

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By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment - Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I recently wrote a blog titled Top Eleven Best Things About a Career in Recruitment and jokingly mentioned that I would be writing this follow-up blog. In all seriousness, Recruitment is a very challenging career and anyone considering making the move into our industry should do so with their eyes wide open. In my view the pros far outweigh the cons, however in the interest of balance, here are some of the issues which can make the role so difficult. People have minds of their own!

Dealing with people is fundamental in recruitment – it is what we do, day in, day out. Every action you take, decision you make and issue you face is related to a person and so it follows that every single situation is unique. Once you have chalked up some experience in recruitment, you will have seen a huge variety of scenarios which helps you deal with different issues, however achieving this level of recruitment ‘zen’ is a long and painful process!

People can be unpredictable, unreliable, change their minds and lie. However strong you believe your relationship with a candidate is, they can still cause you problems if you do not anticipate possible complications. The same goes for clients.

Negative image of the industry

Most relevant for those working on the agency side, the perception people have of recruitment consultants is pretty unflattering, down there with Estate Agents on the popularity scale! We are seen as aggressive, sales focussed, arrogant and unscrupulous. Although I have met a few people who do fit that description over the years, the majority of people working in the industry do not fit this stereotype at all. Unfortunately, if someone has had a negative experience of a Recruitment consultant, it can be very difficult to win them over, but therein lies the challenge!

The Ups and Downs

Although the highs are great and accompanied by financial reward and recognition, the lows are tough to handle. There are so many factors which affect your success and you have to learn to anticipate these and avoid them where possible. At some point you will experience a slump when your CVs are rejected, jobs are filled internally, none of your candidates gets an offer and one of your placed candidates ‘backs out’ at the last minute. Those who build a long term career in this industry quickly learn how to cope emotionally with the stress caused by these setbacks.

Targets

Recruitment is a sales role. You are expected to ‘sell’ yourself, your candidates and your clients, develop new business, grow existing accounts and deliver against often-stretching revenue targets. While it is not about helping someone find a new role, this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job. Chances are, if you have the right qualities to succeed in Recruitment, you will thrive on targets and on beating your competition. If you are very lucky, you will work for a company where you are measured not only on your financial performance but on the quality of your relationships - repeat business, candidate and client testimonials etc. The phrase ‘you are only as good as your last quarter’ will resonate with most recruiters!

Frustration

The only joke I can ever remember is this one. Patient: "Doctor, Doctor, people keep ignoring me" Doctor: "Next!" This describes how recruitment can feel sometimes. Picture this. You have worked hard to understand your client’s business and have advised them about how best they can fill a problem vacancy based on your experience of recruiting day in day out and your knowledge of current market conditions. They don’t take your advice and insist on proceeding as ‘normal’. Several weeks later, the role still isn’t filled and you now get the blame for not delivering.

When you have a proven track record with the client and they trust you it does minimise this issue but it can still happen. Perhaps it’s because there are so many recruitment agencies all operating with varying degrees of integrity and experience that clients simply don’t view us as ‘experts’ or perhaps they don’t believe we have their best interests at heart? It takes time to build up a reputation in recruitment and often it is our own lack of conviction which perpetuates this situation. We should be more willing to politely walk away from business if the process is not collaborative.

Equally, on the candidate side, the perception some people have of recruitment professionals is so negative that candidates will often go into a conversation expecting the worst. This means that as a consultant who is genuinely trying to understand their situation, you spend most of the call trying to overcome barriers that need not exist. Again, this is something we must work hard to overcome by building trust over time.

There are countless other daily frustrations: candidate no-shows at interview or pulling out of a process with no explanation, clients cancelling interviews at short notice or changing the job brief – the list is endless! However ultimately, the skilled consultant will help minimise the impact of these issues by firstly anticipating possible complications and learning to ‘read’ people and secondly, by maintaining tight control of as much of the process as possible.

A thankless task

 Most relevant for in-house recruitment positions (in an agency, you may not get a thank you from your client but you will hopefully hit your bonus target). Recruitment teams in-house rarely get the credit they deserve from the wider business as recruitment as a discipline/professional is not valued in proportion to its importance to the business! They tend to get all the pressure when there is a vacancy but little credit for finding the right person and often hiring managers have little interest in a) how they have found the candidate and b) how much money they have saved the business by sourcing directly. Line managers are more likely to complain that the process has taken too long! Recognition is more likely to come from HR who, particularly if they hold the budget, will thank you for your efforts to source directly.

Some of these factors have been exacerbated during the recession and so, for those of you who have managed to hang on in there, you should find it a little easier once the market improves.

Despite these downsides, Recruitment is a great industry to work in – challenging, fascinating and exciting! For any advice about starting a career in recruitment, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Snap! What to do when you receive the same CV from two recruitment agencies

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

This recruitment issue is as old as time itself however it still occurs regularly and causes no end of consternation for everyone involved.

For the in-house recruiter, it places them in the middle of two battling recruitment agencies – never a good place to be!

For the agencies, it can be a frustrating problem which can ultimately end in loss of revenue.

The biggest victim in this is the candidate (although they are often the culprit – I will explain shortly…) as this can put them in a very uncomfortable position, damage their candidate ‘brand’ and even potentially jeopardise them getting a new role.

We have been asked by clients several times recently for advice on what they can do when this situation occurs so we thought it was worth sharing our thoughts. As ever, no hard and fast solution but perhaps if more people understood the consequences, we could reduce the frequency with which this still occurs.

Why it happens

There are several reasons why this happens:

An agency sends the CV of a candidate to a client without their permission or knowledge.

Sadly there are plenty of agencies who are still doing this. I understand why – in a competitive market when clients are using multiple agencies for the same vacancy, the process becomes more about speed than quality. Combine this with the micro-managed agency environment where consultants are measured on the number of CVs they send out, it is simply not conducive to any focus on quality or service. This is compounded when the client is happy to use the agency purely as a ‘CV shop’. There is simply no need to add any extra value. There are major issues with this approach. Firstly, it creates risk for the candidate. They may not want their CV to go to a particular client for confidential reasons. It also damages their brand as they are no longer in control of themselves a s a ‘commodity’. For the client, this means that they are looking at CVs of candidates who may or may not be interested in their brand, may not be culturally right and may not even be interested in the job!

A candidate forgets – or lies – about having sent their CV

Looking for a new job is a complicated, time-consuming and bewildering business.  Candidates are overwhelmed by non branded ads on job boards so, when they submit their CV, they have no idea which role they have applied to. Some agencies use this submission as permission to forward their CV straight to the client without speaking to them first so they may never know who has seen their CV. I’m sure we have all had the experience of having spent an hour on the phone, covering a candidate on a role, selling in the company, covering any objections and getting their permission to submit their details, only to find a week later that they went on to the company website and submitted their details direct! Grrr! Often this is done without realising the consequences although occasionally, a candidate will think they are increasing their chances by letting their details be submitted by rival agencies. These things happen and all of us involved in the process need to help candidates navigate these pitfalls by being as explicit as possible about what our actions will be so they can keep track.

One agency submits the CV on the ATS portal, one agency sends it direct to the hiring manager

In theory and when used correctly, an ATS should alleviate this issue, especially if the client adopts a first past the post policy or uses the duplicate alert function correctly. The problem of course is when agencies (that are most likely not on the PSL) bypass this process and send CVs directly to line managers.

So, what to do?

  • If you have an ATS portal, honour it. If agencies submit CVs direct to line managers but the candidate has already been legitimately uploaded to the portal, favour the agency that is a. on the PSL and b. is following your process correctly.
  • Use the duplicate alert on the ATS and penalise agencies that bypass this without your permission eg. by using their own email address rather than the candidate’s.
  • Be wary of CVs that are submitted very quickly after giving out a job brief. Has the agency actually spoken to the candidate? Have they given their permission to submit their application? Asking further qualitative questions about a candidate will help you gauge what value the agency is adding (why are they looking to leave their current role? What interests them about your business? How will they fit culturally?)
  • Ask for a cover sheet to accompany each CV. This is something we used when I worked in-house and it became very clear which agencies really knew their candidates. I know they are the bane of most recruitment consultant’s lives, but too bad! The information on a standard cover sheet is information that a good consultant should be getting in the initial registration call so it really shouldn’t be an issue to complete it.
  • When the CV is submitted by two of your favoured agencies, ask everyone to be transparent. If the candidate experience is important to you, ask the candidate who they want to represent them. Chances are they will favour the agency that had added the most value and who has spent the most time speaking to them about the company/role. By feeding back to both sides, any agency who isn’t adding value will understand that this is really important to you and your recruitment brand and will hopefully do better next time. The agency who ‘wins’ this particular battle will feel justified in spending time doing their jobs properly.
  • Beware of any agency who deals with this situation aggressively – chances are they are treating the candidate in a similar way which is simply unacceptable. In these situations, a good agency will put their own interests aside and ensure that the candidate is protected. Sadly, they often lose out because of this.
All of us working in recruitment have to accept that you will win some and lose some. Those of us who are trying to maintain high standards of integrity will take this on the chin. I like to think that the laws of karma will prevail…here’s hoping!

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

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In-house recruiters: how to nurture the relationship with your recruitment agency

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

Keeping the magic alive: how to nurture the relationship with your recruitment agency partner.

So you’ve been together a while. Although the initial frisson of excitement you experienced when you first met has dissipated, you are faithful to them (for the most part) and they have really met your needs. They know you better than anyone - even better than you know yourself sometimes - you trust them to give you honest advice. Your relationship has settled into comfortable companionship.

And then…you stop communicating as much ("there just never seems to be enough time"), you both start taking your relationship for granted and before you know it, the spark has gone out. You are left feeling, well….dissatisfied.

No, I’m not moonlighting as a marriage counsellor; I’m talking about the tenuous relationship between you, the Client and your recruitment agency partner! Given that it can be so hard to find a recruitment agency that you like and that can actually deliver for you (let’s face it, you have to kiss a lot of frogs…), it is worth both sides making the effort to make it work.

So what can you do to ensure you get the best out of your preferred agency and don’t have to go back on the market?

Spend some quality time

It is often the case that you meet an agency initially to establish the relationship and rarely feel the need (or have the time) to follow this up with regular meetings. As an in-house recruiter or hiring manager, you will be constantly asked by new agencies if they can meet you to introduce themselves in the hope that you are sufficiently convinced to give them a go. There is no question that looking at the ‘whites of someone’s eyes’ will tell you more than any glossy website about how they operate - values like empathy and integrity and ultimately how they will be representing your brand in the marketplace. However with the best will in the world, your packed diary will mean it is near impossible to meet on an ad hoc basis unless you are actively looking to brief new agencies with work.

However, there are some really good reasons why it is worth investing time in update meetings with your existing agencies. Firstly, it reaffirms your commitment to the partnership. You are saying "this is more than just a transactional relationship. I am investing time in you as a trusted supplier so you understand the needs of the business. In return I will expect you to deliver results". Secondly, it will move your relationship forward. It is incredibly hard to build a strong, intuitive relationship over the phone. Face to face meetings tend to facilitate more open and frank discussions. This can be useful to you if you need to renegotiate terms or deliver a sensitive or confidential assignment. It also builds trust on both sides which ultimately makes for better results.

An update meeting is also a great way to ‘refresh’ a brief for an on-going assignment. The fundamentals of the vacancies may not have changed however, chances are the consultant will have been working on it for a while and, particularly if you have struggled to provide detailed feedback on rejected CVs; they may have lost their initial momentum. By meeting the agency again to let them know what the business is now focusing on and what profiles are likely to work best, you will renew their enthusiasm to attack the assignment with new vigour and also increase the likelihood of you both getting a result.

Keep talking

As an in-house recruiter, you can find yourselves in difficult situations and under intense pressure. You are at the whim of the wider strategic decisions taken by your company which inevitably affect recruitment: restructures, redundancies, new store openings, new business wins. All of these will affect your job flow in a positive or negative way leaving you to adapt accordingly. When recruiting directly, you will need to inform your own candidates of any change in order to protect the candidate experience and the employer brand. When using agencies, you will need to inform them of cancelled vacancies, delayed processes and changes of brief. This can be really difficult, particularly when you know an agency has been working hard for you over often a significant period of time. You also have to manage the expectations (realistic or otherwise) of your hiring managers and will need to educate them about the challenges and opportunities presented by the current recruitment market. Being able to influence internally is one of the challenges faced by in-house recruiters and one which is often under-estimated by those on the agency side. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved and by communicating issues you are facing internally, your agencies will at least understand the context of decisions and be able to communicate these to candidates in an appropriate way. One thing a good consultant responds to is open communication – even if it means that they won’t make their fee, being informed will help them deal with pressure on their side. This is also an interesting test of an agency’s commitment to your business. If they have a tantrum when faced with a cancelled brief or rejected candidate and never call you again, this tells you all you need to know.

To err is human, to forgive divine

However strong the relationship and however well the agency has performed so far, you can bet your bottom dollar that at some point, a mistake will be made. Recruitment is a sensitive business and this, combined with the pressure many consultants work under and the time restraints imposed, mean that errors do occur. Chances are it will be unconsciously done or a simple case of human error and of course, it depends on what the consequences are, however it is rash for a simple mistake to wipe out the positive history you have together. This works both ways and the agency should be equally magnanimous if the mistake is made on your side.

Push the right buttons

Knowing how recruitment agencies work, how consultants are managed and what therefore motivates them will help you get the best from them. They will have a range of vacancies to work on and the truth is that they will focus on those vacancies that give them the best return – this may mean ease of fill or revenue. That said, when there is a positive relationship with a client, most consultants will genuinely want to help you. However, when negotiating terms and conditions, it is naïve to think that you will get the best result if the role is non-exclusive and at rock bottom fee rates, irrespective of how strong the relationship. It’s about making a commitment on both sides and, by ensuring that the agency has an incentive to prioritise your vacancy, you will get the result you want. When cost is an issue as is so often the case, give a period of exclusivity. Commit to interview dates in advance or facilitate a meeting with the hiring manager so the briefing is thorough. Remember, when working on a contingency basis, the agency will only get paid if they get a result.

A gentle stroke…

Real recruitment industry professionals want to be successful. This isn’t just about making as much revenue as possible (yes, let’s be completely frank – we need to make money, just like everyone else!) but it is also about feeling that we have supported our clients. That, because we did our jobs well, your job and that of your hiring manager will be just a little easier. Most of us are genuinely passionate about our clients’ businesses – we learn a lot about you and spend a lot of time selling your business to the wider community so we actually get a real sense of satisfaction from placing someone with you. Getting acknowledgment of a job well done is also an effective way of rewarding loyalty amongst your supplier base.

Honesty is the best policy

If you are really not happy, then let your agency know. So often, relationships break down because of a misunderstanding or an assumption made on either side. Most people would agree that the worst thing is not knowing – if we know what we have done wrong or what you aren’t sure about, we can try to fix the problem. Recruitment people are very think skinned – we can take it!

Tie the knot

Working on a retained or project basis is another effective way to get results. By paying a proportion of the fee up front, you are paying the agency for the work they are doing along the process – particularly important if you need them to add greater value by conducting detailed screening interviews or if a full search methodology is required. The total fee paid is the same, however by agreeing to work in this way, both sides are demonstrating their commitment to filling the role. The pressure is very much on the agency to deliver. Furthermore, I always found the biggest benefit of this approach was only having to talk to one consultant about a particular vacancy – no multiple briefing, update or feedback calls required!

I would be interested to know about the best agency relationships you have and what makes them work?

I wonder what the longest lasting client/agency relationship is in the industry?

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An inspiring day at Smart Resourcing 2013

  By Sophie Mackenzie AdMore Recruitment Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development. I was lucky enough to attend Smart Resourcing 2013 last week – an event organised and hosted by Recruiter Magazine. The conference is aimed at in-house recruitment professionals however, following our recent shortlisting for Best Newcomer at the Recruiter Awards to be held in May, we were offered the opportunity to attend with one of our clients. Despite being significantly outnumbered by my in-house opposite numbers (and feeling like the proverbial fox in the hen coup as a result!), I thoroughly enjoyed the event and found much of value to learn and to take back to the agency environment. The event was introduced by the charming Editor of Recruiter Magazine, DeeDee Doke and after a ‘seductive’ opening statement by the chairman, Roopesh Panchasra (which is difficult to do justice to on the written page but suffice to say involved Barry White!) the keynote speaker, John Vlastelica, took to the stage. Making his UK speaking ‘debut’, John shared his significant experience and numerous amusing anecdotes about recruitment and the challenges of influencing successfully in a recruiting role. I strongly urge you, if you have the opportunity to hear John speak, to seek him out – he provided a highly energetic and inspirational start to the day. Chris Bogh, the Founding Director of Eploy presented with one of their key clients, Matalan, represented by their Head Office Recruitment Manager Paul McNulty. Paul described the benefits they have seen following the implementation of their web based candidate management system which has seen a reduction in agency spend of 87%! There followed a series of parallel sessions covering a range of topics from training, board level engagement and an insight into the RAF’s recruitment strategy and process. This was a great idea, enabling the audience to choose which subject was most relevant to them and their business. I chose to hear Catherine Possamai, Director of Internal Resourcing at Capita talk about the challenges of engaging the board in a business with staggering complexity and scale. Following lunch, there was a panel discussion about Big Data, a subject which provoked a range of opinions. I have to say, I struggled to get my head around the issue and my main learning was that it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that counts!? In the second parallel session of the day, I heard about the significant recruitment project delivered by the Network Rail team and how they effectively managed a volume campaign and an effective onboarding programme which has positively affected retention within the business. The final afternoon session was fascinating, opened by Paul Modley, Head of Recruitment at LOCOG. We took a visual trip back to London 2012 before Paul explained the phenomenal task faced by the team to deliver recruitment on such an immense scale against specific timescales and with the added challenge of working with an RPO and against a significant political backdrop. Through all of this, the commitment to diversity was evident and what was interesting was how Paul and his team engaged the relevant local communities to achieve the results they wanted. I certainly hadn’t fully appreciated the implications of keeping a workforce motivated when faced with the ‘cliff edge’ once the Games had taken place and clearly, the LOCOG team took the lessons from Sydney and took steps to limit the impact of this. The final ‘slot’ fell to Ryan Broad, Head of Global Recruitment for MPC, the company responsible for visual effects on Prometheus and Life of Pi. This was a real eye opener for me, never having recruited in a creative space before, and Ryan outlined the issues involved in delivering a pipeline of creative talent and ensuring that at any one time, he knows who is available, what their skillset is, where in the world they are and at what price! Quite staggering and even more so considering the fact that Ryan manages all this information through Taleo. The key message I took from Ryan’s presentation was the importance of understanding your candidate market and what motivates them to take a role – in this case, the opportunity to work on cutting edge technology, on a cool movie and ideally with their friends! All in all, it was a brilliant day – well organised, useful and inspirational. Although aimed at in-house professionals, I found it useful to get a greater insight into the challenges faced by my clients and got plenty of tips to take back to the office. If you get the chance to attend next year, I strongly urge you to do so. Having this opportunity to hear some of the best recruitment minds share their experience made me reflect on the industry as a whole. What struck me about the day was the willingness amongst the presenters, panellists and delegates attending to openly share best practice and the over-riding commitment to everyone involved to raise the profile of Recruitment as a profession both internally in their own organisations and amongst the wider business community. I couldn’t help but wonder why there are so few events of a similar nature on the agency side? Are recruitment agencies so competitive that they wouldn’t see the benefit in coming together to discuss how to improve? Surely the in-house representatives at Smart Resourcing are ultimately competing with each other when it comes to attracting the best candidates; however they ultimately consider themselves as ‘on the same side’. Equally, I wonder why the two sides of the recruitment profession are so polarised? Do both sides feel they have so little to learn from their opposite number? Adrian Thomas, former Head of Resourcing at Network Rail, spoke passionately about Recruitment as a profession and the need for it to have greater appreciation for the role it can play in delivering strategic advantage for companies. Whether in-house or as an agency supplier, we all have a part to play in this and we should all be thinking about how we can do things better to ensure our industry gets the recognition it deserves. I"d love to hear your thoughts about other useful industry events you have attended... Thanks to all involved with Smart Resourcing for giving me the opportunity to attend! Smart Resourcing 2013 www.recruiter.co.uk/news/2013/03/recruitment-just-got-smarter/ Smart Resourcing 2013 Speakers www.smartresourcing2013.com/speakers/ By Sophie Mackenzie http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sophiemackenzie , AdMore Recruitment www.admore-recruitment.co.uk - Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.
 

What do you do when your Retail Employer brand needs a refresh?

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development. 

The most challenging, and by it’s very virtue interesting recruitment is often when you are resourcing for an employer whose brand does not quite match up with candidate perceptions. This can work two ways. A business may have a great employer brand but in truth be a difficult to place to work and develop a career. Conversely, there are many businesses that have a poor employer brand but are actually a great place to work. This mismatch often arises for two key reasons; firstly businesses change - a company may have had a high staff turnover previously but due to a change of CEO/HRD the underlying problems have been removed. The second reason is that many people confuse the customer brand with the employer brand. Yum! Brands (The parent company of KFC) are a great case in point. Potential employees think ‘fried chicken?’ but do not necessarily know the fantastic, employee- focused career opportunities they offer.

So, what can you do to educate candidates?

I was recently invited to a Retail networking event at Harrods. I’ll declare my hand early; I used to work in Harrods. It was an amazing experience and I can honestly say that it was the most theatrical and exciting place to ‘retail.’ However, it would seem that many candidates do not see Harrods as being an employer of choice. Following a period of change at Harrods (click here for more information) the Resourcing team have decided that now is the time to win hearts and minds.

The event was by invitation only (thanks to Linda Treen for the invitation!) and was aimed at attracting the top talent from retail that had thus far declined to attend a formal interview. It was typically Harrods - held in the Georgian restaurant where we were offered some beautifully crafted bacon rolls served with coffee and tea. The Retail Director, Paul Thomas, kicked off the day with introductions. This was perhaps the most powerful part of the day. There were 8 Harrods employees present; they came from Asda, Zara, Tesco and a collection of large and small retailers. Not the typical luxury backgrounds one might expect. They also had interesting career paths; it would seem that the path from Operations to the Support functions was well travelled. I guess that is the benefit of having the core of your business and its supporting Head office within a few miles of each other.

Following the introductions, a chap by the name of George Hammer talked about his own experience of setting up the Urban Retreat salon concession in Harrods. George is a classic entrepreneur and was quick to cut to the chase. Harrods is not an easy place to work quite simply because the standards and expectations are so high. As he put it, if you want to work somewhere spectacular you will have to take a risk. This is an interesting point, as this is absolutely about confidence. If you are confident in your ability then why would you not be successful? His most memorable quote being; "be exceptional, do not be average." George is clearly an extremely successful entrepreneur, he was the founder of Aveda amongst many other concerns, however he seemed to connect with the audience and many of the candidates present were clearly impressed by his honesty and his passion for Harrods.

Paul Thomas went on to talk about his own career path (Asda - Saturday boy to Store Manager, Sainsburys, Harrods Food Hall) and then fielded some questions. Paul was candid about his own decision to join Harrods with the admission of a wobble during his notice period prior to joining – had he made the right decision?  He was keen to tackle the negative perceptions within the room. A few candidates opened up and to Paul’s credit he dealt with these in a way that encouraged others to raise their own concerns.  He talked about the operational roles being narrower, yet deeper, than normal. He discussed perceptions around a more mature workforce and the ‘stuffy’ stereotypes. He noted that in the four years since they have started measuring employee engagement, they have seen a marked improvement in scores. This willingness to meet these questions head on certainly engaged the audience.

I noted with interest the number of candidates that were keen to formally register their interest in Harrods following some further informal conversations. I suspect that the Resourcing team were slightly surprised to get such an immediate result. Jenny Parry, Head of Resourcing, told me that she was primarily hoping to get the message out there that Harrods is evolving.  Judging by the reaction from the candidates attending, I think they certainly achieved this. It would be interesting to know what other retailers are doing to actively manage their employer brand in what is proving to be a period of intense change in the retail industry, comments below please!

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

 

How to win the heart of an In-House Recruiter

 

As an agency recruiter for 6 years, I thought I knew a fair bit about recruitment and I admit, I shared many of my colleagues’ frustrations about the role of the In-House Recruiter: difficult to contact, process driven rather than commercial, a barrier to building relationships with Line Managers.  It was only when I made the move to an In-House role myself that my eyes were opened – so many things made sense and I couldn’t help but think "if I only knew then what I know now"!

As in all relationships, there are two sides to every story - for what it’s worth, here’s my view on how to build a fulfilling client relationship.

Plenty more fish in the sea:

The number of recruitment agencies operating in the UK is staggering. Many  are mediocre at best but many are excellent. The In-House recruiter is literally spoilt for choice – if one agency fails to deliver, they can easily give a new agency a try or brief one of their other proven partners. The only differentiating factor is the service you deliver. This isn’t just about providing candidates for the vacancy (candidates are rarely exclusive to one agency and most are easily accessible on Linkedin, providing there is the time for a direct search). What they want is a Consultant with a professional and genuine approach, who respects the process and can source the best candidates in the market which they themselves will struggle to find.

Size really doesn’t matter!

Take heart, boutique agencies everywhere! The days of winning business by flaunting the size of your, ahem, database and the number of national offices is long gone. In my experience, size rarely influenced my decision about which agency to engage. My most successful working relationships were with smaller agencies who were true specialists in their sector, had genuine networks and who really wanted our business. They also had the added benefit that I could work with the same person on each assignment without being referred to another office depending on the geography of the role. Consultants were often experienced with a mature approach and so conversations were direct, open and honest and any issues were solved quickly with the long term relationship in mind.

Play by the rules:

If the client asks you to upload CVs onto their portal, just do it. Love or hate these ATS systems (a view often shared by the in-house teams themselves), they ultimately enable you to stake your claim on a candidate. Most in-house recruiters will operate a first-come, first-served policy when it comes to duplicate applications. Yes, it will take longer than flinging a CV on an email and will require adding extra supporting info on your candidate (but shouldn’t you have this info to hand anyway?). By not following the process, you cause extra hassle for your client and to put it bluntly, for every agency that doesn’t use the system, there are plenty that will. Enough said.

Compromise:

Nobody’s perfect. I found myself on several occasions giving inadequate interview feedback, cancelling interviews at short notice and putting whole processes on hold for months on end – the very things that I had complained about when on the agency side. Even the most professional companies will make mistakes and let you down; such is the nature of recruitment on both sides of the fence. I really valued the consultants who would take this on the chin and move forward. I relied on them to communicate positive messages to the external market and as a result I was confident that our brand was protected. Consequently, I had real trust in those agencies and would fight their corner internally to ensure they were briefed on vacancies in the future – often on an exclusive or retained basis.

Communication:

The volume of emails can be crazy so if you don’t receive an immediate response from your client, bear with them. Make emails as clear as possible, get to the point and be courteous. An email sent in frustration with a tone to match will not be well received and will certainly never be forgotten. Also, make sure your auto-signature appears on each message, including on replies. Keep file sizes low if possible.

The Blind Date:

A good in-house recruiter will be open to strong speculative CVs providing they are sent to them in the first instance and providing they are pre-qualified by the agency (a well written email to accompany the CV is easier to forward internally).  Equally, they will be unlikely to respond well to unsuitable, blanket ‘specs’ sent with the aim of hitting the target stats for the week (I was monumentally unimpressed by an agency who sent 16, yes 16, spec CVs on one email, causing my Outlook to reach it’s limit at 5pm on a Friday afternoon when I was about to send my weekly reports!). There is nothing more likely to induce a "Dear John" email or a black mark on the PSL than indiscriminate speculative approaches.

Honesty:

The best agencies will be honest about what they can and can’t do.  Your client should respect you for turning down work if you genuinely feel you can’t do it justice – this will save everyone’s time and build confidence that when you do accept a brief, you will deliver a result.

Empathise:

Any decent agency trains their consultants to show empathy with their candidates, encouraging them to understand their motivations and uncover their reservations in order to build the relationship and make the process easier when it comes to landing an offer. Rarely however do they talk about empathy with clients. Until I did the role, I had no idea about the challenges faced by in-house recruitment teams. There is pressure from all sides: demanding Line Managers, HR Directors (often with different agendas to the hiring managers), internal politics, existing agencies and new agencies trying to get access to roles, administrative duties and the practicalities of managing email inboxes which frankly beggar belief. And that’s before they even start recruiting directly to reduce costs and increase the ROI for recruitment systems and Linkedin Recruiter licences.

Clearly, while the in-House Recruiter remains pressured in this way, they will rely on their trusted agencies to support them however, having an understanding of the politics and bureaucracy that often accompanies the role will enable you to offer the supportive service required.

Making a commitment:

So many agencies are purely transactional. They are only interested in specific briefs and when the going gets tough, they move on to work ‘closer to the fee’ with clients who will move quicker.  I understand the commercial pressures for an agency consultant however by taking a long term view and sticking with your client through thick and thin (recruitment freezes, restructures and cancelled vacancies) you will really stand out from the crowd. Often the in-house recruiter is as frustrated as you by these setbacks and will really appreciate the agencies that stay in contact when things are quiet. Undoubtedly, when things pick up again, you will be the first person they call.

So there you have it – if I think back to the agencies I really rated during my time In-House they all had one thing in common – they kept it simple, did the basics well and delivered quality not quantity – surely the key to a long lasting and mutually satisfying relationship!
Sophie Mackenzie

 

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