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Recruitment: Your Fantasy Career

By June 18, 20152 Comments

Once again, The Whiteboard marker is in my hands this week. Promising Jon that I’d avoid any controversial topics, my beady eyes were drawn to the recent “is she/isn’t she black” race scandal currently dominating most media channels. For those living under a rock or running too many unreliable temps, the story runs as follows: Rachel Dolezal, a self-identified black woman and prominent civil rights activist, has stood down as President of the Spokane Chapter of the NCAAP following allegations (from her parents amongst others), that she’s…well…not actually black. The story is currently unfolding quicker than I can actually type, but it would appear that Ms Dolezal had previously sued her University for discriminating against her for, back then, being white. She has also “mislead” the media about the identity of her real father, and made claims about her family being hounded out of the “deep south” by racist Sheriffs. I’ve seen the photos of her real Dad, and he’d be more likely to be thrown out of a lawn tennis club for being too middle-class.

Sadly, it would seem that Rachel Dolezal has actually been doing some good and noble work, but this will now be disregarded based on her perceived deception. We seem undecided as too whether she’s an unscrupulous careerist prepared to “black face” for social standing, career progression, and/or money, or….she genuinely identifies as being black, with her apparent deceptions being the result of some kind of mental illness.

If we reflect on our own industry, most of us will have encountered a few candidates with questionable pasts. You know the ones. They often show up late or cancel last minute. Usually there’s been a death in the family or a baby to rescue from a burning building. When you do meet, it turns out they were the former Director General of the CIA, they’re a Rhodes Scholar, and can run a 4 minute mile. In fact, they did that very morning. Usually they’re easy to spot, but some walk the tightrope of sanity with just enough skill and panache that the optimist within all us recruiters clings onto the idea that they’re actually telling the truth. Like Imodium for your gut instincts, the hope of a quick placement is a wonderful drug.

As perhaps you can imagine, recruiting recruiters throws up a fair share of fantasists. I’m not suggesting that you have to be unhinged to think that working your tush off to fill a role on a contingent basis, whilst competing against 6 other agencies is crazy but…..

Recently, a colleague interviewed a candidate who had all the right attributes of a great recruiter. Smart, presentable, credible, charismatic, with just the right amount of “edge” to want to out bill her colleagues and wipe the smirks of their complacent faces. All good so far. She was also a champion dancer, owns a restaurant, and had recovered from a life threatening accident. Can you see where this is going? A quick background check showed she had “amended” her entire work history, would be dropped off to hospital for “treatment” only to be seem running in the opposite direction, and her dancing accolades amounted to the Macarena in Danny Doolans on a Thursday night. I have the same award myself.

Personally, I’ve experienced even worse, and not from a candidate. This time, it was a manager at my former employer (yes, I was once employable). To great sadness, it was announced that he was taking time out to receive cancer treatment. The business was rightly supportive. It would appear however, that by “cancer treatment” he meant “having a gastric band fitted”, and by “chemo” he meant “a bic razor across the scalp most mornings”. Shocking stuff.

We’ve also been left red-faced in front of one of our favourite clients, with a US based recruiter who span a yarn so incredible that she’s probably now recruiting in Narnia. It’s a long story, but involves being locked in a house in South Auckland, phone-stealing passengers on Aeroplanes, and getting off flights that she never boarded.

Assessing a candidate is equal part science and art. Technical questions, mixed with conversations to establish “fit”, tempered with references from colleagues and clients, informal conversations, and cross referencing CVs with LinkedIn profiles must all be used to justify our fees. In our industry, where too many recruitment candidates were the “top biller last year”, we’re always trying to suss out the real story. It’s easy to be sceptical about the value of reference checks; one firm’s lowest biller will be a superstar somewhere else, so I encourage hiring managers to take each reference in context. Perhaps more effective is the off-the-record conversation, generated by that rumbling of doubt deep in the recruiter’s belly. The client reference is also a powerful tool.

On the subject of client feedback, for those with a free evening next Thursday, we have the very smart Aaron Ward of AskNicely fame talking at our quarterly #RicePowWow. Aaron will be talking about how businesses are delivering great experiences for candidates and customers using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) framework. There’ll also be booze and pizza aplenty. RSVP here.

Enjoy your Friday everybody.





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.


  • Craig Watson says:

    Brilliant… brilliant…and dare I say it… Brilliant!!!

  • Kara Smith says:

    I read the odd blog and was thinking to myself just this week actually that being a blogger just isn’t for everyone. I have to give it to you though, that was a great blog and very true on all levels.