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2011 SARAs – SEEKing Credibility

By November 10, 201120 Comments

Aaah the SARAs.  Seek’s Annual Recruitment Award roadshow rumbled into life in Auckland last night and didn’t disappoint.  Great venue, great canapes, great company.  Formal chit-chat, followed by swiftly concluded bestowing of awards, followed by a gradual descent into alcohol-fuelled chest thumping, substance abuse and illicit dance floor liaisons that are the very hallmarks of any good recruitment awards ceremony.

Unfortunately, though, the awards themselves continue to disappoint.  It is fabulous that the recruitment industry has awards to strive for, to boast about, and to celebrate, and good on SEEK for providing such a contest.  But the elephant in the room last night was the repeated discussions around just how possible it is to manipulate and influence your scores.  The winning recruitment companies are the ones who secure the most votes in their categories.  Now ostensibly those votes are supposed to come from the candidates and jobseekers handled throughout the past year by that recruitment firm, but in reality absolutely anyone can vote as long as it is one vote per unique IP address.

For the record, I would like to extend my congratulations to last night’s winners, who are:

There were also 4 recruitment companies honored as “SEEK Legends” for winning their award 3 years in succession.  So well done to Focus, Geneva Health, Potentia and Madison for that.

I would also like to make a particular doff of my cap towards the South Island recruiters that came up to Auckland last night.  It’s been a tough year for the South Island and it was great to see so many make the effort to join in with us Auckland recruiters.  Good on you the guys and girls from Buzz, Fluid, Select and Sourced (see Michelle, told you I’d mention you).

I sent out a tweet announcing these winners straight after the presentations last night and the reply I got from Aaron Dodd, a canny recruitment observer in Melbourne, really sums up the problem SEEK has with these awards, saying:

“Do those awards lack as much credibility in NZ as they do in Australia?”

Add to this a couple of stories I have heard in recent days:  One involved a colleague who received a Facebook request from one of his “friends” to vote for his recruitment company for the upcoming awards in Australia.  Only problem is that their “friendship” extended as far as them having met and chatted while waiting in a queue for a nightclub in Argentina 2 years earlier and they had never been in touch since.  The other guy wasn’t even in recruitment back then either.  How many other votes was his company obtaining in similar ways?  Then last night I was regaled with a story about another firm who last year paid each temp an extra $5 bonus if they voted for them.

To their credit, SEEK have enough awareness to recognise the rising sentiment, and from what I could gather last night this will be the last year that the SARAs are conducted in this format.  And I must also hold my hands up and admit that I don’t have all the answers myself.  Looking at more revered trophies such as the CIO Excellence in IT Recruitment awards, or the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards, they are typically characterised by a more robust submission process concluding in an expert panel assessment of deserving winners.  Perhaps this could be incorporated in some way.

But hey, this is The Whiteboard, and this is a place you recruiters can feel free to have your say.  What would you suggest?

Oh and one last thing, thank you Sarah Sheridan from SEEK for arranging such a fabulous evening last night.  The mini bangers ‘n mash were a triumph.

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.


  • Anonymous says:

    Awards have their place but should not be taken for anything more than an agency that went all out to get votes or buy a trophy.

    A previous company I worked for in the UK sponsored the “E-Financials IT Banking Recruiter of the Year Award”, which we also won……………Hmmm.

    Luckily our logo was already on the award so we saved a bit of money there.

  • bob says:

    yawn. as per usual I see there is a complete absence of the of the bigger name recruiters in attendance. No offence directed at the winners of these awards but I think anyone in recruitment realises these awards are a joke and just an excuse to get pissed at Seeks expense (which isn’t a bad thing in itself). There are some pretty big / well-known brands that  in NZ just don’t bother getting involved.

  • Rory Walker says:

    on the money with those points Jonathon – you are a compelling writer. seek should be canvassing their own candidate / applicant base for the results perhaps?

  • Shane Burton says:

    Interestingly enough the SEEK Awards were on the same night as the NZ Law Awards, both events I think suffer from the same issues that you’ve mentioned above.

  • Adrian says:

    Who really cares about these awards?  I was once asked by my employer to tack a voting request onto my email signature, in which case I responded by pointing out that by adding a “y” to tack, it would better define that request.

    TradeMe could have the answer as they already have a client feedback function.  They can use that to get into Seeks market share!

  • Lee says:

    I don’t have the answers either, but needless to say the format makes this a complete farce. I think there is absolutely a place for the recruitment industry to have awards, to reward excellence, but with all due respect to the winners of the awards this year – what exactly do they mean when your industry itself see’s this as a useless process holding little esteem?
    There are a number of excellent recruitment businesses out there who never even got a mention, simply because they didn’t push people to vote. and why is it that individuals can’t be rewarded rather than just businesses?
    Mr Rice, there’s a gap in the market – who has the balls to stand up and fill it??

  • Jason B says:

    Thanks for the mention of Sourced (and Michelle), Jonathan – for what it’s worth (clearly a moot point), I’m really proud of our runner-up ‘win’. The support shown to us, by our clients and candidates, has been very humbling. While I agree that the method of measure needs work, and the appropriate people have been candidly advised as such, knowing that someone said yes to doing something they get no real reward from (in the form of a vote) is a great thing on so many levels.

  • paul jacobs says:

    Congrats to the #winners. Even more robust methods of assessment can have their limitations. Sometimes members on a judging panel may have their own biases or lack any understanding of what leading practice looks like. Often an entrant or initiative is judged on self-report, personalities, and the quality of the pitch document, rather than on the quality, innovation or impact of the initiatives. 

    Maybe in these recruiter awards there needs to be a better way to assess the jobseeker experience against pre-defined criteria, in addition to structured client interviews. But I can see lots of limitations around this too. I would like to see evolution and innovation within the industry assessed.

    Are any of the winners #winning in social media land? Are they innovating in how they’re sourcing and attracting candidates and showcasing their clients? Is there evolution happening within the industry?

  • Anon says:

    its a shame to hear the disappointment and negativity towarsds these awards.  really, it is a time for recognition for some of the toughest workers in the toughest industry!

    no need to me tough on those who win!

  • Anonymous says:

    Great comments this week. thanks for your contributions.  To anon, I don’t think it is negativity so much, more that there is definite room for improvement.  Recognition amongst only half of the industry is good, but how much better would it be to be recognised and awarded after going up against the WHOLE recruitment industry?  The trick is creating awards that every recruitment business in New Zealand / Australia are desperate to win.  Victory under those circumstances will far outweigh the warm glow afforded by winning the current awards, which has to be a good thing.

    I also like Lee’s suggestion of an individual recruiter award (I believe FEMA do this in Australia) and Paul’s thoughts about an innovation in recruitment award.  There is scope for improvement and I think SEEK are open to it.  I can put my hand up to offer my personal suggestions but still think large organisations such as SEEK are probably the right industry bodies to be running these awards.

  • George Smith3636 says:

    Just bring back the Seek Ball, everybody happy 🙂

    We can all then talk about how we are having the best month ever…….

  • Auck99 says:

    Anon – do you have any idea how these ‘awards’ work? Any good recruiter has to work hard in a tough industry, the only people that have worked hard to gain accolades in the SEEK awards are the companies marketing people who have been begging candidates for votes.  No quality checks have been put in place, no references on why these people have cast their votes. 

    As far as I’m aware there are not even any checks on where these votes have come from, consultants probably ask their friends on Facebook to vote – as long as they are from unique browser ID’s. 

    These awards stand for absolutely nothing in the recruitment industry, any respected recruiter would never claim to relish winning these trophies.  Bragging about it just a joke!

  • Matt Devitt says:

    Excellent article and well written Jon. I applaud Seek for hosting the events and agree that the voting method needs adjusting and hopefully more recruiters taking an active participation in this process…not too active though!

  • Seth O'Meara says:

    Anon – are you a anonymous LinkedIn prowler as well?. Personally, If I was a recruiter, I would rather cheese grate my manhood than accept an award from a flawed system. Seth

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  • Surprised says:

    I am surprised with the element of negativity and bad sportsmanship that is appearing. The bitterness in the comment of “Any respected recruiter would never claim to relish winning these trophies” is such a shame as we all work so hard in this challenging industry.
    It is free for any recruitment company to enter and there are a wide variety of agencies, including some big names that enter. I think it would be great if even more agencies took part in the SEEK awards. Bring on the competition I say! No one forces anyone to enter, it is all up to the individuals themselves.
    As an industry we need to stick together, not be putting the knives into each other. We need to reward and celebrate success.

    • Hmm says:

      competitive people – it can bring out the best or worst in people – and this attitude REALLY stands out within the recruitment industry huh!