Skip to main content
EmploymentJob BoardsRecruitment

The coffee-drinking David vs. the cold-calling Goliath

By June 14, 20122 Comments

Having to follow on from Sean Walters’ epic blog offering featured last Friday on the Whiteboard, I must admit to approaching this entry with a degree of trepidation.  It’s not that I think I’m less entertaining or insightful than Sean, it’s just these characteristics are best displayed in a face to face setting (preferably after a few drinks).

For those of you who haven’t had the dubious pleasure of meeting me yet, I (Estelle) specialise in placing recruitment consultants into recruitment agencies predominantly in the Auckland area.  I originally earned my recruitment stripes in the heady world of “Rec-to-rec” in London.  After what can only be described as a fairly tumultuous 4 year introduction to the exciting world of recruitment, I returned home in June last year to continue my recruitment career with Rice Consulting.  To date I have the honour of being Jon’s first employee in his expanding recruitment empire, and the only New Zealander in the fold.  It’s been suggested that he’s now changed his recruitment policy and now employs anyone but Kiwis.  Anyway that’s enough about me, back to the purpose of today’s blog.

Being in the unique position of being the only rec-to-rec practitioner in NZ who has worked in this appreciated and respected (cough, cough) niche in both NZ and the UK, I’ve noticed a number of startling differences. Yes, we both make money from the placement of candidates; yes, we both burn-out after 6 years, and yes, we both like to imbibe copious amounts of alcohol at the office Christmas party and embarrass ourselves on the dance floor but that’s where the similarities end.  To make things simpler, I’ve broken these differences down into 4 key areas.  And because it’s a Friday, and this wouldn’t be a Whiteboard without a gentle kick of the hornets’ nest, I’m including my picks for who’s doing it right.

Business Development/Cold Calling:
Ahhh, Business Development.  Like Marmite, recruiters either love it or hate it.  And there are various approaches and qualities to what’s being done across both recruitment markets.  In NZ I often meet with recruiters who class talking to a PSA client and obtaining a job brief as “business development”.  These same recruiters pull a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp if asked to actually pick up the phone to a “stranger”.  Apparently the stranger danger campaigns of my youth have really hit home.   In a stark, but not necessarily better contrast, UK recruiters are all about the business development. They just luurrvve a bit of the ol’ BD. Give a pom recruiter an inactive database, and he or she will call through it before you can finish your over-cooked roast dinner.   Calls are made in volumes to potential new clients with little to no research done prior to the handset being picked up.  When this does result in an opportunity that is deemed as too hard to fill, it’s on to the next one. People use the term “scatter-gun”; it’s more like Napalm. Across the whole of Europe.

Result: UK


Client Visits:
In the UK the term client visit is often used but rarely acted upon.  Targets are set around this, crucial piece of the recruitment puzzle, but are rarely met or enforced.  I think there are two main reasons for this, clients are happy to use your services without meeting with you; they’re time poor and don’t understand the value add, and from the recruiters perspective, you can make money in the London market without doing it. So unless your client is next to McDonald’s and you’re hung-over, why would you bother?  In one of the London based rec-to-rec agencies I worked, the mantra was unfortunately that there was no point in meeting with either clients or candidates, that this in fact detracted from time which could be spent on the phone.  In NZ, both recruiters and our clients really seem to value the “high touch” recruitment model.  Either that, or there’s a conspiracy amongst clients and the New Zealand coffee industry.  The outcome: a greater chance to give real value add service and also fosters long term quality relationships.

Result: NZ 
Head Hunting:
Head Hunting in NZ seems to be on the menu of very few recruiters.  Some may not have the stomach for it, some may not see the value and others think the market is too small.  When it does occur it is done in a very passive manner, rather like staging an affair.  Furtive glances at a LinkedIn profile, a tentative suggestion of a meeting via email, a discussion of “what and how” over a few drinks, and before you know it your cheating on your current employer.  In the UK they have Head Hunting for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Their approach is a lot more forward, about quantity and not quality and occurs with a shocking lack of preparation.  It really is literally half way between speed dating and swinging.

Result: UK

Job Boards:
Obviously there is a difference between the job boards we Kiwis use compared to our UK cousins, but more pertinent to this debate is the functionality we expected to get from these boards.  In NZ, the job board is an extension of print media advertising.  The recruiter sets the trap (in the form of a misspelt advert), and scurries in to work in the morning to see what CV’s they’ve caught in their inbox.  As much as the leading players in the space tell us that their functionality is broader than this, the vast majority of recruitment via job boards goes through this process.

In the UK, firstly, the choice of boards is several times larger, but you would expect that given the size of the market.  More interesting, though is that as a UK recruiter you have the opportunity to search the job boards database of registered users to find exactly the candidates you are looking for.  Imagine Seek’s new Job Seeker Profile offering but on steroids.  If Seek give us somewhere to set our traps, Monster opens up the game reserve and gives us a high-powered rifle.  In my experience, in the UK a surprisingly small number of placements are made from ad responses. Searching the CV database is where the money’s at. It’s like the database you’re staring at now. Multiplied by five thousand.

Result: UK

I can hear what you are thinking, if it is so good in the UK, why aren’t you still there?  And although it seems from this that the UK are doing it right, that’s certainly not the case.  If we were scoring this properly, not all four topics would be weighted evenly.  Getting out to see clients for example, is hugely important, and by observing them, you’d think the English were glued to their chairs.  “Value add” is also not a concept a UK recruiter will have heard of, let alone worked to.

Also, when it comes to who’s got it right for enjoyment and job satisfaction, the most compelling piece of evidence is in my office here in Auckland. 3 people from the UK and a returned Kiwi.

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.


  • David Nolan says:

    Estelle, that’s a great piece of work and
    probably quite accurate – especially about the cold calling and there really is
    a knack to calling without preparation and asking those lovely, broad,
    open questions rather than making assumptions and selling in straight away “I
    know you recruit x and I have x now…” but often things are misread. So I ask,
    is research a good thing? Will reading notes from an internal database that say
    “don’t use recruiters” often put people off the call or encourage them to use
    presumptive and poorly framed questions like “I know you don’t use recruiters
    but can I forward my details in case this changes?” or worse still, just send
    an email that takes time and does little. As a recruiter who grew in the UK
    market, I don’t mind a bit of BD at all. It has the benefit of potentially
    starting new business, generating a new contact that is happy to speak about
    their field or generating a new candidate. But we have discussed all this
    before, and I think it was over a beer! 

  • James Cozens says:

    Hmmm –  you guys have set the bar higher for Jonathan when he returns!  – or is this some cunning plan to hand over the reins?

    Good work – have a great weekend