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Why Bother Typing Up Candidate Reports?

By February 10, 20116 Comments

I met a recruitment client this week who has done a very nice job building up an Executive Recruitment business over the last few years.  Being an Executive recruiter he obviously has high standards, he is an accomplished recruiter and he recognizes that he has to provide a service that is a real cut above the competition to win the big fees from his clients.

So I was surprised to learn that he has abandoned the practice of compiling a “Candidate Profile” or “Candidate Report” to go with each CV he submits to his clients.  Apparently he has discovered that they are a waste of time and hardly any of his clients bother reading it.  On occasion he might put a few lines in the e-mail accompanying the attached CV, but that is it.  His clients have enough faith in his judgement and if he recommends someone then that is enough for them to interview.

Now I have seen recruitment companies taking things to the other extreme.  A CV submitted to a client is merely the icing on the cake, with the cake being a big, sugary, stodgy lump of reports, interview transcripts, verbatim reference checks and psychometric analyses with mind-bending graphs and summaries.  But if you think about it, is all of this absolutely necessary?  Or is it, as I am starting to suspect, more a pious front of pomp and ceremony designed to justify the potentially large outlay in recruitment fees by the client?

Let’s look at it this way:  I bought a house back in 2007 (yeah poor me…top of the market…boohoo).  The estate agent handed me a big ring-bound stack of conveyance documents, titles, reports and marketing materials.  All I looked at was the basic information like land size and number of bedrooms and paid closest attention to the photos.  Let’s equate this to the CV.  Then I decided to view the property, and rather liked it.  Let’s equate this to the interview.  See where I’m going here?  Likewise if you go to a travel agents to book a holiday (possibly a poor analogy – does anyone actually do this anymore?)  Are you more swayed by the glossy brochure, or the travel agent actually relaying their own experiences of the holiday destination to you?

Back to the CV Profiles and I do actually write them up myself.  Often just a one-pager.  But only if I have interviewed the candidate in person and can express my genuine observations and opinions in the report.  I do many telephone interviews in my job too and these just come with a few lines in an e-mail instead.  Writing up a report after not actually meeting someone in person is just false and pointless.  Even then, I have on numerous occasions had clients call me up to ask what a candidate’s salary expectations and visa situation is, even though it is all in the Profile, and I know they have just gone straight to the CV.

In contingency recruitment, where a recruiter can potentially do a lot of work for nothing and will only get a fee if the referred candidate actually ends up accepting a role, it is very tempting to just flick the CV across and not risk wasting your time on a report when it might not yield any income.  However, as soon as you allow yourself to enter this way of thinking, you become another one of those bottom-feeding “flick and stick” merchants (or not stick as is usually the case) that give recruitment a bad name.  There is a big difference between just sending a CV (or even a Linked In profile, as I have done before) to clients who value and trust your judgement and don’t need all of the frills, and recruiters who do this to clients they have no relationship or connection with, and are just lazy and looking to cut corners.  If you truly believe your candidate is right for the job, writing a report demonstrates you have belief in your convictions, and is never a waste of time.

But I do think that many recruitment companies go totally overboard with this and I would challenge these destroyers of rain forests in the thinking behind their actions.  Yes there are clients out there who will wonder at the expense of a $10k+ recruitment fee, but it is wrong to try and justify the fee through physical embodiments of “look at all of the hard work my team has done compiling this massive report”.  In these instances explain, instead, that the fee is partly for the immediate services rendered, but also to reflect the years of unpaid work that has gone into building up the level of knowledge, expertise, contacts and networks required to actually tap into and access the talent that you are able to put forward in such a short space of time.

By the way, I just asked my wife about this.  She used to be an internal recruiter before becoming Charlie and Bonnie’s PA.  She says she liked the reports and always read them.  She probably read the entire ring-bound set of documents from our estate agent too.

So what do I know?  It would be good to get your opinions…

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.


  • Thought provoking post, Jonathan and some very good points raised. I have often seen paragraphs and paragraphs of fluff and nonsense on a candidate summary page that adds no value …’she was very well presented and was friendly and articulate…blah, blah, blah’. It’s embarassing that such rubbish is deemed acceptable as ‘assessment’ from a professional recruiter.

    My view is that the summary page should provide the evidence gathered by the recruiter that proves that the candidate matches the job’s Key Selection Criteria. This extra work is probably not necessary when you are dealing with a client who will just interview your candidates solely on your recommendation but if you don’t have that level of relationship and especially if your resumes are forwarded onto another, unknown and unmet, decision maker then an effective summary page can make all the difference in securing an interview for a candidate whose resume doesn’t automatically sell them.

  • Bob says:

    Jon – bottom line, depends on your relationship with your client and also the commitment from the client. If it’s a bun-fight with no commitment and multiple agencies then covering email with quick sentence on each will suffice. It’s the consultant’s jobs to convert to interviews through their influencing skills either phone / face to face.

    Key account, or retained client, can be a very lengthy summary. That said, the majpority of my key clients (who are, as you know, leading NZ corporates) have told me they have no interest in long summaries. They want CVs and my opinion on each candidate, that’s what they are paying for.

    Other clients want chapter and verse.

    Agree with Ross above, paragraph after paragraph of verbose BS just sends your CVs straight to the box marked “bin”.


  • Jayne Rice says:

    Aforementioned Wife here, yes I did indeed read all of the information supplied by Estate Agent in addition to all of the report submitted by the Building Surveyor which is why in addition to being Charlie & Bonnie’s PA and your EA I am also responsible for the delegation of ongoing household maintenance.

  • Riki Sila says:

    Jon, Great Points and yes the recruitment has a long history of cowboys and ” short cutters”. I personaly believe that strong specific pertinent points is enough for clients to view, depeneding on your relationship of course. I have always been a great believer in knowing your candidate and CV in great detail. The equation I use is interview, pertinent poiints and being able to justify and elaborate more on your points via phone converstion or a meeting in person with the client! “Dont be afraid to cross sell a strong candidate over the phone to a cleint” …

  • Hi Jonathan.
    Good discussion. I agreee with a lot of your points and Ross Clennet’s response as well. I would also add that profiles on candidates, you have met, and interviewed, should only add to the information in the resume. Just to re-hash the information in the resume is a waste of everyone’s time, no wonder clients don’t read them. However salient points gleaned from the interview that may not be in the candidate’s resume, (as most candidates do a general non-spefic resume) is certainly worthwhile and is one of the many reasons that your clients will pay you a handsome fee.
    Rosemary Scott