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Why Clients Shouldn’t “Do It Themselves”

By May 3, 20126 Comments

I saw a Harcourts ad on a bus this morning saying that “Nurses Make Great Estate Agents” in an effort to attract more agents to their books.  Interestingly, on the day following an unexpected jump in jobless figures to 6.7%, the same bus also proclaimed from its electronic screen above the windscreen that they, too, were hiring, with an 0800 number for aspiring bus drivers to call.  Recruiters I talk to are busy, so there’s something not adding up with those unemployment figures as clearly jobs are out there.

Anyway, the nurse-to-estate-agent ad got me thinking as we’re currently selling our house through Harcourts at the moment and probably like many recruiters I find myself closely watching the behaviour of my listing agent and thinking “I could probably do this myself”.  I think my agent probably realises I think this (maybe it’s the fact I insisted on rewriting the wording of his ad for him, or baffling him by suggesting he put a QR code onto the sign outside our house!)

The remarkable similarities between our two professions have drawn many a blogger’s comparison before but as I’m right in the thick of it at the moment I can’t resist drawing the analogy myself.  So would recruiters also make good estate agents?  Should Harcourts be considering altering their bus adverts to capture another potential source of sharp suited raconteurs looking for a more buoyant sector to ply their trade?

There’s no doubt that the basics sound familiar.  Phoning homeowners in a certain area to try and get listings is like cold-calling clients with a yellow pages in front of you.  Going to potential vendor’s houses to sell your service is like a recruiter’s client visit and pitching for business.  Listing and marketing a property is no different to writing up a job ad, canvassing your database of candidates, and making some targeted approaches to people with the right experience for the role.  When an agent has found an interested buyer they must then negotiate the offer and acceptance with the vendor, just like a recruiter selling in a candidate, steering through interviews and eventually negotiating the terms of the employment agreement.

Now our estate agent is a great guy.  Gregarious, personable, knowledgeable, good track record and tells you like it is.  We bought our new house from him and liked him, so gave him our own listing.  But if he were a recruiter, he’d be what we would call very “old school”.  Sure, he’s aware of technology and likes his Apple gadgets, but his strength lies squarely in the face-to-face contact with people he can engage with at open homes.  He’s good at listening, he gets underneath what people really want, and he is convincing and passionate about the product he is selling.  I’m confident he will sell our house, but I’m pretty sure that the buyer will be someone he encounters face to face at an open home.  Not for him the “passive candidate” equivalent of a casually-browsing homeowner.  Not for him the searching of databases for interested buyers seeking a house like ours.

The recruiter in me really came out last weekend when I read this article about Aucklanders struggling to get onto the property ladder.  I alerted my agent to the following excerpt:

“Catherine Sutton and husband Brent have been looking for a three-bedroom home in Auckland up to $650,000 for a month. High priorities are a good primary school zone, public transport and a backyard for future children. But they’re more flexible after realising they won’t get all of that.

“We’re beginning to consider suburbs like the Sunnynook edge of Forrest Hill and parts of Glenfield [on the North Shore].”

Now one thing’s for sure: If all estate agents were just like recruiters, Catherine and Brent would have been inundated with “headhunting” calls by now.  But my agent seemed confused at this suggestion, wondering how you could go about contacting them (he has just joined LinkedIn and has one connection), and stating that if they are looking to buy then they’re bound to come across the listing in Property Press or online anyway.

So it’s clear to me that there are many similarities between our professions and I’m sure recruiters could make good estate agents, and vice versa, but we should also feel good about how far we have moved in the world of recruitment.  If you were a recruiter adopting the attitude of an estate agent then your response to taking in a job brief from a client would be to purely bung an ad on SEEK, send an e-mail around the database, and wait for candidates to apply.  Many of us in recruitment have moved on significantly from this low-value behaviour and have harnessed technology, social media, direct marketing and headhunting to get the desired outcome for our clients – and if you’re doing all of this you should feel satisfied that many other professions are now trailing in your wake in terms of proactivity, value-add to clients, and innovation.

And as for doing it myself?  Well it would be the height or hypocrisy really wouldn’t it?  As an agency side recruiter I am constantly having to talk up the value agency recruiters can bring to a business rather than HR “doing it themselves”.  And the same argument applies here.  Sure, I could have a go at it, maybe do it better than many others out there, but I’d rather leave it to the expert Mark.  I’m busy doing what I do best, and that’s recruiting and running a business, and don’t want to take time away from that to do what Mark is already doing for me.

So I’m feeling pretty good about the lessons learned in this exercise so far:  The argument of outsourcing professional services rather than “doing it yourself” holds as true as ever.  And secondly, we in recruitment that have embraced technology, social media, innovation and sophisticated search methodology can hold our heads high amongst our peers in the other professional services.

Tell that to your clients who want to do their own recruiting.

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.


  • Estelle says:

    As my first comment on Jon’s Whiteboard, I would like to extend an invite to everyone to attend Jon’s open home party that Ness, Sean and I are throwing – Jon will be providing the beer but not actually attending….

  • Luke Collard says:

    Nicely put Jon – the analogy has been used before, but rarely expressed so well. As you say, for those of us recruiters that have moved with the times, been early adopters of new technology and methodology, and generally taken recruitment up a few notches, we should be proud of our expertise and the value we can provide. Good luck selling your house !

  • Jayne Rice says:

    As Jon’s Wife (who ocassionally puts the odd comment on here) can I please stress to all those attending the open home party that Estelle, Sean and Ness are throwing the importance of taking your shoes off before you come into our amazingly clean and tidy house. And do not even attempt to bring in any Weetbix onto the property in case any of the damn stuff gets onto my clean floors as the substance is banned from this house for the next four weeks.

  • GCA says:

    Most of the recruiters I have previously dealt with certainally wouldn’t be given the task of selling my house. Why?? Because they don’t have the courtesy to keep you in the loop and contact you regarding the recruitment process. Even a quick email’s fine. If not being put forward for the role to just be straight up with you and tell you why ( you didn’t get the job or be put forward for an interview ) and what to improve on next time. Just be straight up with us guys. They have never been helpful in guiding you the candidate to the perfect job ( Thats left to your own accords ) Selling you to their client to get the interview and possibly the job.

    In all I have not found a recruitment agency ( In Auckland ) that takes the overall HR process seriously. I have come across plenty that push you to one end and ask you the ideal role for them to only turn round and say  that ” They don’t have it but really like you and will let you know if somthing good comes up.” I also dislike recruiters promising to ring you or to meet up with you about the job they have arranged an interview for, ( and never turn up ) or to turn up to the interview only to have the interviewer or their client not received or read your resume. Oh and recruiters insisting on references only for them to not ring them or to just kick the tyres This is just for the first stage of job interviewing and certainally not in their client is interested in taking your application further.

    I will admit there are some recruiters and HR people that are very professional and take ther job very seriously. Whist a lot are just Cowboys, Backyard recruiters, Smooth talkers who I would never trust ( just to name a few ) and which really lets the whole industry down. Demining the credibility of Employment agencies altogether.

    • riceconsulting says:

      Hi GCA, thanks for your comment and you make some good points. I think though, as a jobseeker, the analogy might better compare you to a potential house buyer. Listing agents in real estate are representing their vendors, much the way recruiters are representing their clients. Recruiters don’t exist to provide an employment service to job seekers and as a recent real estate buyer, attending numerous open homes, I was surprised at the lack of follow up, feedback and communication I got from estate agents who I would have thought should be calling me to assess my level of interest in the property I viewed and work out if I was a potential buyer for their vedor or not.

      One or two agents did, but most didn’t, so it is like recruitment really where there are a few great operators and then there’s the rest.

      You make a very valid point though, and one voiced many times before. We in recruitment can, and must, improve our level of communication with jobseekers, even as a courtesy, as it is the singular thing that most people outside the industry complain about, and probably the easiest to fix.