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Personal Branding in Recruitment (and why it matters)

By February 2, 2012One Comment

The time has long gone when a recruiter of dubious moral and ethical standing can hide behind the glossy corporate image of their particular employer of choice.  In the age of advanced recruitment technology, social media, digital content sharing and mobilised networks, a recruiter’s own personal brand has taken on far greater importance and prominence.

For some this is a problem.  Where they could previously ply their recruiting trade behind the standardised processes, phone scripts and e-mail templates of their publically-listed firm they could get away with a range of behaviours.  Not so nowadays, and for some others this is in fact a very good thing.  It enables recruiters in lesser-resourced boutique firms to make a name for themselves, showcase their credentials, magnify their credibility and carve a more enduring niche into their industry of choice.

For those in the larger corporate firms, the goldfish bowl of modern day recruiting gives them an opportunity to develop their own personal brand and brush off the feathers they have been tarred with by association with a firm whose reputation was based on the behaviour and reputation of previous colleagues and other divisions.

I myself discovered this at an early stage in my recruitment career.  Hays is a global recruitment firm that seems to court industry disapproval and criticism in whatever region it might operate in.  Despite its ability to turn a profit that many recruitment businesses can only dream of, it seems to be the widely-accepted wisdom amongst most others in the industry that Hays operates in an unethical, underhand and overly aggressive manner.  From my own personal experiences, I found this to be true in some instances, but in many others I found I worked with top quality recruiters who benefitted from excellent training and well-developed technology.  Nevertheless, it became very quickly apparent that I would need to develop my own personal brand in my particular industry in order to avoid being regarded in a poor light purely because of who I worked for.  Recruiting in niche industries probably made this easier, but in my time there I developed a recruitment style that I continue to this day, and the way I recruit is irrelevant to the brand that might happen to sit at the end of my e-mails or on the top of CV profiles.

I recently heard a couple of stories that shoved this straight to the front of my mind again.  On a Group Linked In discussion recently there was a long comment left by an internal recruiter who wanted to justify why they can appear to behave like such obstacles, rather than conduits, to the work of agency recruiters.  Receiving a call from another large-agency recruiter, she informed him that she couldn’t see his candidate as his firm wasn’t on their PSA (heard that one before right?)  She later found out that he bypassed her and went straight to the hiring manager with his candidate.  The hiring manager liked the CV, so she had to take the time to sit down and look through it and work out a shortlist for interview.  Upon challenging the behaviour of the recruiter, he informed her that his Divisional Manager had told him to do it, and to say that “…it is only fair that your hiring manager know who the best available talent is on the market.”  As it turned out, the candidate had applied elsewhere in the company in the past and had spectacularly bombed at interview, so wasn’t at all suitable anyway.

Naturally, this particular internal recruitment team now have a one-size-fits-all impression of all recruiters within that entire global brand, just because of the behaviour of one recruiter and his particular division (and how it was led).  Only by developing a strong personal recruiting brand will any future recruiters from that firm be able to get this particular team to return their calls.

Then yesterday I spoke to a very senior candidate who had had a fantastic experience dealing with the Permanent Executive recruiter within a particular firm.  After agreeing to be represented to a couple of senior positions, they then decided she would also benefit from a look at some Executive Leasing opportunities they had on, and so she was passed onto the firm’s Contracting Recruiter.  This experience didn’t go so well.  With just a cursory look at the CV and previous interview notes, she was asked bluntly about what hourly rate she was expecting.  Caught a little off guard, and not having worked on an hourly basis previously, she said that it would depend on the particular role, what level of leadership and responsibility etc.  She was then abruptly cut off and told, “Listen, you need to give Recruiter’s a straight answer.  This is Contracting and we don’t have time to talk generally around the questions asked.”  The candidate walked away.

So again, the good work of one was undone by his colleague.  This candidate could quite likely end up being a client of  that firm one day and, whilst she might be open to using them for Permanent recruitment, there is no chance of Contracting getting a look in.

Good quality recruiters have nothing to fear from all of this.  The technology is there, the social recruiting platforms are there, the speed-of-light referral systems are there.  It’s time to make sure you are using them to your utmost advantage and developing your own personal brand.


To finish off today with a quick personal plug:  One man who knows plenty about recruitment reputations and personal branding is the recruitment trainer Ross Clennett.  As one of Australia’s most prominent recruitment trainers and outspoken bloggers, Ross will be coming to Auckland on 14th-15th March to run two full day workshops and provide a keynote presentation on the evening in between.  We at Rice Consulting are exclusively hosting these events at our very cool workspace in Auckland’s CBD, Generator.  Seats are selling out fast but you can still register for one or more of the events by clicking here, and each workshop ticket purchased also gives one free ticket to the evening keynote, Q&A, and free networking drinks afterwards.

See you there!

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.

One Comment

  • Stewart Farr says:

    Good read. However, I do have a word of caution, specifically about your last statement “Good quality recruiters have nothing to fear from all of this.”
    If only this was true. But it is very easy to taint people with same brush. Recruiters are no more vulnerable than anyone else. Which probably reinforces your argument more – build a personal brand. Prove your better that the pool of fools and sharks out there.