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Top 5 On-Boarding Mistakes made by Recruitment Companies

By March 17, 20113 Comments

Remember that time as a kid you got invited to your little school buddy’s birthday party?  He was bragging about it all week long at school.  The invites had been sent out and they had glitter on them.  The party was going to be held at the local leisure centre and there would be swimming, followed by some football, then lunch at a nearby assault course with a clown and a magician in attendance?  You were giddy with excitement.

Then Saturday arrived and your Mum drops you off at the leisure centre where the pool is closed for cleaning and the gym out of bounds due to an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease through the air-con.  It’s raining so the assault course is off limits so you end up playing arcade games with your mates instead.  It’s ok, not the worst way to spend the day, but nowhere near what you had expected… Then Bozo and Merlin turn up stinking of booze and Merlin’s forgotten his rabbit.

Bit of a come down?  No doubt about it.  The thing is there appears to be a few recruitment companies starting to play the part of your old school buddy all those years ago.  As the recruitment market picks up post-recession and good recruitment talent becomes harder to come by, there are an increasing number of firms making some quite outlandish promises to prospective employees.  Now there’s really nothing wrong with that per se.  If you decide that the best way to acquire recruitment talent is to offer them 70% commission, 30 days holiday and season tickets to the Blues then that is fine.

But you have to then actually back that up when they join you.

Amazing as it sounds, there is an increasing amount of this going on.  Recruitment companies will be, and are, competing for the top talent in the market, and it is natural to conjure up unique selling points and other methods of coercion to land your recruiter.  But I cannot stress enough how critically important it is that you maintain credibility by actually providing what it is you initially promised.


The current phrase for this new phenomenon is “onboarding” which must be fairly new because Word just underlined it in red!  But most of you in recruitment will be aware of what it is, and how important it is to get it right and make sure your new employee’s first experiences of their new job are fabulous ones, helping to cement their longer term loyalty and buy-in to the company vision.

Here are my Top 5 On-Boarding Mistakes made by recruitment companies:

  1. The promise:  We sit on a large number of PSAs and have an extensive database of candidates for you to put forward for roles.  The reality:  You’re on 3 PSA panels, one of which will only deal with the company’s top biller, and the other two just keep re-appointing your company because of the 8% fees you agreed to back in 2001, which means no-one has ever bothered recruiting roles for them.  The candidate database is made up of CVs sent in in response to generic ads from 2 years ago and no contact has been made to assess suitability or availability.
  2. The promise:  We have a tight-knit team who generate a fun, sociable atmosphere and having Friday night drinks every week.  The reality:  You have an insidious clique of long-timers who shun new employees and bottom drawer good candidate CVs, as they see the new employee as a threat to their own desks and slice of the pie.  They make crude comments and jokes during the first week and on Friday they do go out for drinks, but don’t invite the new person whose name they never found out anyway. 
  3. The promise:  You will have a car park as part of the package.  The reality:  The car park space is on the other side of town beneath a huge bird-infested tree forcing you to spend every Saturday morning cleaning off the bird product spattered all over your roof. 
  4. The promise:  You will have a company phone and laptop as part of the package.  The reality:  You “inherit” the clunky old Toshiba laptop with the processing speed of treacle trickling uphill.  The mobile is quite new but looking through it you find it still contains the lewd photos and dodgy text conversations of the previous incumbent of your desk (who was fired for inappropriate behaviour towards other staff members, funnily enough). 
  5. The promise:  All your tools will be ready for you to start recruiting right away, from day one.  The reality:  You arrive on day one to find your desk doubling up as the dumping ground for everyone’s coats and jackets.  Moving them aside you find your new log-on for the computer hasn’t been activated and you have to wait until later in the day for IT support to get onto it, the only programmes accessible being Solitaire and MineSweeper.  As for business cards, you are told that the server room is piled high with boxes of business cards for previous employees like some kind of business card tomb.  To avoid further potential loss you will only be ordered your business cards once getting through the 3-month probationary period.


These are all real-life experiences I have witnessed over my years in recruitment, both as a supplier of recruiters to the industry and also as a recruiter within the industry.  What employers need to realise now is that it is one thing making promises to get someone to sign up, but takes a lot of leadership and follow-through to actually ensure everything happens as promised.  If not, do not be surprised if your shiny new employee does a quick about-turn and turns up at your main competitor a few weeks later.

To finish, it is important to mention that the prospective new employee also has a big duty of care before accepting their new role.  It is quite natural for a new employer to go to some kind of length to sell their company over their competitors, especially in a tightening labour market.  If you are a recruiter looking for a new role, make sure you ask the right questions and really dig into the promises made by the person interviewing you.

Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Kerry Kirwan says:

    Great Whiteboard Jon. Especially liked the car-parking one which mirrored my first experience of recruiting in Auckland, except it was only the ‘office support’ recruiters who got the 15 minute uphill walk and the birds. The ‘exect’ consultants had carparks in the building.

  • Emma Meldrum says:

    Hi Jon,
    I had a smiliar experience with a company a few years ago, promises, promises, promises.
    The problem is some business owners and long term Managers (only a few) see their own businesses through rose tinited glasses. Thier company is the best, no one does business like them… on and so on.
    Upon commencing work and after a few months i quickly realised that even though the people i worked with were great, the comany itself lacked nearly all that was orginally promised prior to my acceptance. But i must agree with you, i hold myself 70% responsible for this decision, if i had only asked a few more questions i would probably have detected that all wasnt so green on the other side of the fence. Having spent over 10 years in the industry i kicked myself for allowing myself to get swept up in the excitment of the shimmery, shinny promises. But you certainly live and learn!! 🙂

  • Peter H says:

    All sadly too true. You missed out the reality of the description of the “hot desk – no cold calling needed”
    I await the next post that describes the different types of recruitment company interviews & the questions. I love the ones that start off so very casually with “and so who are your major accounts?” then ( avoidng any eye contact ) “who’s the person you deal with there?”. Often even before the requested glass of cold water arrives on the table . I swear I’ve heard the shuffling feet of people lined up on the other side of the screen, wating to get the info. The discrete knock on the door & note passed to the interviewer “ask him about XYZ Company””