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New Zealand Recruitment CEO’s Speaking Out (without saying too much)

By February 16, 20122 Comments

Earlier this week saw a sizeable gathering of Auckland’s recruitment community for a breakfast panel presentation with a clutch of New Zealand’s recruitment leaders.  Hosted by the cheeky, chirpy James Cozens we were treated to 90 minutes of valuable insights, leathery bacon, worthwhile reminders and a smattering of smug back-patting and hilarious chest-thumping.  For all the hard times recruitment has gone through in recent years it’s great to see the indomitable spirit of competitiveness and self-belief remains.

A range of pre-prepared questions were enough to elicit some interesting responses from the panel.  However, the questions were so far-reaching that the responses could have formed a whole day’s conference given proper consideration.  As it was, we ended up with a rather hurried hour and a half where the lack of time and the understandable “caginess” in a room of competitors led to an examination of recruitment in 2012 that barely really scratched the surface.

Nevertheless, in a panel discussion that started off with an over-abundance of words like “challenges” and “pressure”, some pearls of positivity shone through, and some fine points were made.  Here’s my pick (paraphrasing):

Jacqui Barratt from Salt on PSA’s and fee reductions:

“We have to believe in the value of the service we are offering and not be so willing to always drop to the lowest fee going.  You need the courage to push back when downward pressure is placed on fees and margins.  We must say to Mr HR and Mr Procurement that we are not your paperclip provider, we are your talent provider, and we can add value to your entire business.”

For another take on the downside of downward fee pressure have a read of this fabulous post, essential reading for all procurement people considering implementing PSA’s for recruitment services.

Simon Bennett from Madison on Social Recruiting:

“We made a conscious decision to develop our overall social media recruitment strategy and tailor our output to the conversations and content that the different clients in our business really want to hear.  More than that, we realised the importance of developing our recruiters’ personal brands.  In the past this consisted of no more than placing their photo on our website and then screening their calls.  Now they are actively encouraged to engage with their social media networks in a more personal way.”

Check out my blog from a couple of weeks ago for more on personal branding in recruitment.

George Brooks from OCG on contingency versus retained recruitment:

“We have appointed Colmar Brunton to conduct an in-depth survey of our clients’ expectations of us as an industry.  Without revealing the entire findings, one of the most striking things that came out of it was that they don’t expect, or even want, us to recruit contingently.  Overall they are surprised that we are willing to work for nothing and would actually prefer us to offer our services on a retained basis.  The most surprised were our government clients who didn’t quite realise how contingency recruitment worked and revealed that it is not even legal for them to accept services from any supplier for free.”

One of retained recruitment’s most vociferous supporters, Aaron Dodd, speaks on the subject here.

Mike Davies from Adecco with an “outsider’s” view:

“After a long career in various other industries I came into recruitment five years ago and I have to say it is the toughest industry I have ever worked in.  This room is full of some of the most professional, competent and hard-working people in business and what we are doing is dealing in people, which makes it so important but also so tough.  Our industry is not always portrayed in the best light but I can assure you this is the toughest industry I’ve ever had to run a business in.”

Nothing to add to that really other than a tip of the hat to Mike and a thank you for the recognition.

Plenty was also said that didn’t quite ring so true.  Without dissecting it all in too much detail, I’m not in agreement that we need to be regulated as an industry.  The entrepreneurialism of recruiters is what makes them perform to the best of their abilities.  Sure, there’s cowboys, but with the growth of social media and fast-spreading word-of-mouth it’s hard to get away with dodgy practices so much nowadays.  I don’t need a qualification or license to prove my worth.  You can look at my Linked In recommendations for that.  As for the next RCSA conference in Fiji, this just smacks of being a bit 2006 to me.  Times are still tough for many and this doesn’t send the right message.

Lots was also said that we’ve all heard before.  “Job boards are on the way out”.  Yep, we know, and so do they, believe me.  “I don’t want to read Tweets about what you had for dinner last night”.  This is the classic response of someone who entirely misses the point of what Twitter is all about.  It is neither a job board, not Linked In, nor Facebook, but a mixture of all whereby you can get across a succinct message, tie it into your professional work, while also developing a more humanised brand for your business.  Yes, many miss the point, but I don’t Tweet about what I had for dinner anyway (I haven’t checked so I might be opening myself up to further criticism here, but go ahead and dig in if you like!)

Were you there?  What were your thoughts?


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.


  • Stewart Farr says:

    I found your comment “I don’t need a qualification or license to prove my worth. You can look at my Linked In recommendations for that.” interesting. 
    At what point do you think this would be sufficient for candidates? Rather than ringing (even harassing) referees?
    I mean I’m not that old, but I remember when the reference letter was all that was required. 
    If a linkedIn comment is sufficient reference for you to get work, why does a candidate need more than that for them to get work?

  • Gary says:

    One of the comments that James Cozen’s made: “We are Consultants” is something I see that industry has to really work to live up to – maybe some ‘self-regulation’ may help with this. With a 20+ year brand in our business sector we certainly live on our reputation and intergity and is our key strength but I do have concerns about the practices of some organisations.