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SARAs – A Credible Award or just a Popularity Contest?

By August 5, 20104 Comments

I have noted from a number of recruiter e-mail signatures received over the past couple of weeks that the Seek Annual Recruitment Awards are nearly upon us again, and marketing efforts have begun to elicit votes from job seekers.  This is a welcome thing for it presents an opportunity for us in the New Zealand recruitment industry to let our hair down a bit (especially as there is no Seek Blue Ball again this year) and celebrate the recruitment firms out there giving great service to their candidates.

Or is it?  You see, I have often wondered about the status and substance of these awards.  Are they really a useful indicator for potential clients of who is providing the best candidate care?  And would this actually succeed in swaying the opinion of a potential client towards a certain agency?

Or are they simply a popularity contest amongst the recruitment firms actually bothered to invest time and effort into a marketing campaign to get job seekers to vote for them?

For those of you who aren’t aware, the SARA’s are awarded to recruitment firms in different categories ranging from small, medium and large in size, to generalist, specialist or IT in nature.  The winners are determined by who gets the most votes from “job seekers” that determine that firm to be their favourite recruiter.  I put the inverted commas around job seekers because you don’t actually have to be a job seeker, you can be anyone with a computer that doesn’t contain a cookie identifying you as someone who has already voted.  The contest is also only open to the firms that choose to enter so it is does not provide complete industry coverage.

I look back at previous winners and finalists of the SARA’s in New Zealand and wonder whether they really are an award worth striving for, or if they might be a bit of a poisoned chalice?  I can see 5 or 6 of the previous finalists from the past couple of years who have now totally gone out of business.  OK we had a vicious recession to get through but clearly it was astute business practices and hard work that kept companies afloat, not the ownership of a SARA.

I also wonder where are some of New Zealand’s bigger brands and operators?  If you look at some of the larger advertisers from the Herald’s annual Career supplement – the likes of Momentum, Gaulter Russell, Numero, OCG, Robert Walters, H2R and Sheffield – they are nowhere to be seen at the SARA’s.  It might be presumption on my part but I am imagining these firms don’t even enter into the contest (and a look at their websites indicates a lack of marketing towards the awards).

I think the idea of having these awards is fantastic and I for one am really looking forward to the event (if I’m still invited after this).  But I just think that a SARA could be something to really covet, to really aspire to, and to proudly market to future potential clients, if they were a bit more than a simple popularity contest, powered by the most active marketers, from the firms that actually bother to enter.

ITCRA sponsor an award for CIO Magazine for “Excellence in IT Recruiting” (won by Absolute IT this year).  With these awards IT recruitment companies are assessed on a number factors ranging from client feedback to staff development and are assessed by an independent panel of industry experts – in this case Julie Mills of ITCRA (ex-RCSA President), Brett O’Riley, CEO of NZICT Group and Judy Speight, Executive Director of Accelerating Auckland.  Now here is an award that can be held up with pride in front of clients and candidates alike.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the SARA’s are a great idea and, despite the number of previous finalists who have struggled in recent years, there are also a number of winners and finalists who I have worked with extensively and recognize them to be outstanding operators and recruiters.  I just think the award itself lacks a little substance and credibility, especially without the entries of some of the other firms mentioned above.

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.