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Playing Fantasy Recruitment Manager

By July 23, 20154 Comments

While most kiwi sporting interest is currently centered on the approaching rugby world cup, the world’s attention is more heavily weighted towards the impending start of the English Premier League season (that’s soccer for you readers out there who believe all balls should be egg-shaped, and I know that’s a majority of readers on this blog).

Whilst I myself, after almost ten years in New Zealand, have inevitably fallen under the rugby spell (my 2005 self would stare incredulously at my 2015 self shouting things like “hands in the ruck!” or “knock on!” at the TV) I am still, after all, a pommie recruiter with a deep-rooted love of football and the premier league.  Also whilst I will actually be back in England for the RWC, flying the flag for the All Blacks (cue wails of derision from my English readers), most of my attention is currently focused on the assembling of new squads for the start of the EPL.

The problem with living on the other side of the world though, is that most of the exciting stuff happens while you’re asleep.  Obviously it’s impossible to attend matches and immerse yourself into a matchday atmosphere sadly nowhere to be seen in kiwi sporting events.  But it’s also pretty impossible to get excited by watching games on TV, as unless you get up in the middle of the night, you usually already know the result before you watch the recorded game.

Which is probably why Fantasy Football is so popular around the world.  For the uninitiated, it’s kind of like footie picks on steroids, with some added layers of strategy as you pick players and build teams, rather than just picking results.  It’s fun, and helps you feel involved and part of it all, even if you’re on the other side of the world.

Worryingly, it’s also how many “recruitment leaders” seem to formulate strategies for building up their businesses.  The only issue with this is that building a recruitment business is real, it’s tough, and it’s expensive.  Taking a “fantasy manager” mindset to it just doesn’t work.

My thinking on this was inspired by a candidate I met recently who was telling me about another role he had interviewed for.  As a senior IT recruiter he is in predictably high demand, but his expectations are also predictably high along with it.  So it was with some despair he attended this interview with a senior recruitment manager who’s sole strategy was “we have a million dollar IT recruiter in Auckland, so we want to do the same here, and build a team around you.  It’s worked well there, so should do here too.”  That was it.  The extent of the strategy was to just plug anyone with a bit of IT recruiting nous into a role and watch it rapidly grow.

However, as anyone who paid big bucks and picked Falcao or Ballotelli for their Fantasy Football teams last season will tell you, it just isn’t always as simple as that.  The Auckland recruiter mentioned also happens to own shares in the business, and has been doing it for over 15 years.  He has a team of resourcers that he has hand-picked over recent years too.  His personal brand is immense in the specific market he specialises in, but his company’s brand is better-known nationally for far less technical type roles.  The so called “strategy” this firm were looking to impose just won’t fly, and luckily this candidate was astute enough to realise that, and turned them down.

The thing is, this is something I’ve seen tried and failed so many times in recent years it’s unbelievable.  Recruitment companies who specialise in things like Law or Finance or Construction just going “oh look, IT recruitment is busy, I met a guy billing $60k/month on an IT contracting desk recently, let’s open up our brand in IT…”  Plucking an IT recruiter out from somewhere and shoving them into your business isn’t enough of a strategy.  It’s pure fantasy recruitment managing.

It doesn’t work.

The very few firms I have seen find success with this approach (and it’s not always been introducing an IT arm, but most of the time it is), are those who have somehow secured the services of a genuine name in the new sector they want to build, have usually offered some form of equity or shareholding off the bat, and have then applied the necessary investment into branding and promoting, coupled with the patience and self-belief to hold their nerve while it builds.  It’s not easy to do, it’s expensive, and it’s nerve-wracking.  But if you’re going to do it, you have to do it properly.

Otherwise just join the ranks of other firms who have tried, failed, lost a load of money and just gone back to concentrating on what they do best.  Which is actually what makes a top recruitment firm work so well anyway.


PS – for those of you who managed to chew through the first half of this post without clicking “Back” and are also entering teams into Fantasy Football, I’ve recreated last season’s league for recruiters Beyond The Boiler Room which you can all join – the code is 419858-175874

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.


  • Andy says:

    Hi Jon

    We see a bit of that happening when an Auckland firm is looking to expand into Wellington, or an established Wellington firm wants to start up an IT brand. More often than not it fails.

    Also, am signing up now for the fantasy league!!

  • And as the girlfriend of a staunch north-westerner, my preference has gone the complete opposite way – used to love rugby and be baffled by soccer; now it is firmly FOOTBALL in my world and not entirely amiss to see me dragging myself out of bed at 4:00 am for the odd game. (Emphasis on “odd.” His dedication definitely still far outweighs mine.) Oh how things change!

  • Spot on, Jon. It happened with one of my previous employers, many years ago (surprise, surprise the IT desk in an accounting recruitment agency was an expensive failure) and I still see it frequently now. I would guess the failure rate at around 95%. Building depth in your capability is almost always a more profitable long term play than going wide.