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Are the kids really alright?

By September 17, 20154 Comments

I try and stay positive. Recruitment has a habit of beating you down occasionally, but to last in this industry, you have to have hope. Hope that a candidate shows up to an interview. Hope that the offer is sufficient. Hope that next month will be “the one”. My usual level of optimism has been dented of late however, we a succession of junior candidates. Candidates that, worryingly, represent the future of our industry. I’ll try and keep this jovial, but be warned; todays’ Whiteboard comes from the pen of a man 33-going-on-70…

Let me take you back to Tuesday morning. A junior recruiter is booked in to see me. 6 months recruitment experience, and we just happen to be working with a great agency who are looking to hire, train, and develop some bright young things. I was quietly optimistic about this one. The interview starts and it’s going well. She’s bright and has just the right amount of “edge” (some would call it attitude) to cut it in the agency world. We quickly get on to salary expectations. The conversation goes as follows;

Candidate: “I wouldn’t look at anything less than $60k basic”

Me: “When I arrived in New Zealand four years ago, with over 6 years agency and internal experience, do you know what my basic salary was? $60k”

Candidate: “But I know what I’m worth . I was 3 months with an agency and 3 months as an internal recruiter. And in that 3 months as an internal recruiter, I filled nearly 10 roles”

Fixing me with a determined stare, she re-affirmed;

“I know what I’m worth Sean.”

I explained what my client was prepared to pay, what the earning potential was, and more importantly, what the learning and development opportunity was. I told her to go away and think about it, and email me her thoughts. I always ask this, and I store the responses in an outlook file labelled “I’ve had a think, and I’m more suited to internal recruitment”.

And it’s not just salary expectations. Recently, I met with the archetypal Gen-Y-er. The floppy hat. Late for our meeting, soy latte in hand. They type of person that carries a dog and Instagrams their dinner. A walking hash-tag. This candidate had spent a total of 6  months in an agency. Obviously never placed anyone. That’s no fun. She did write some content for the website though. That pays the bills right? This one wanted to be an internal recruiter, however, informed me that she had very specific requirements. The abridged version is as follows;

Candidate: “I like, really wanna be an internal recruiter. Do you have any clients in the music industry? ‘Cos I really wanna be an internal recruiter in the music industry”

Me: “Are you a musician?”

Candidate: “No, but I literally love music. It’s like whenever I drive somewhere, I like literally listen to music like the whole journey”

Me: “Awesome, Spotify just rang. They want a Global Head of Talent, based on Ponsonby Road. You’re more than qualified for the job.”

Candidate: “Really??”

Me: “No.” 

The problem is, as I write this, I feel myself becoming something I swore I never would. I’m a grumpy old man bemoaning the “youths of today”. We weren’t like that in my day, we ate coal for breakfast, worked 26 hour days, and we had “proper” winters. My mum still claims she once ice-skated to school down a frozen river. For the record, there isn’t a river within 10km of her school. Truth be told, as I think back through the fug of my booze-addled recruitment career, vague memories of a 22 year old Sean Walters demanding a Blackberry and the right not to wear a tie flash through my consciousness. Like my 15 year old self, thinking I’d invented sex until I opened “that draw” in my parent’s room {shudder}, I was that Gen-Y-er. The clothes were different and taking photos of coffee cups wasn’t yet a thing, but the attitude was the same. I was the self-entitled little shit that I’m blogging about today.

And therefore, there’s hope. Hope that the self-entitled little shits of today, will grow, learn, and develop into the self-entitled big shits of tomorrow. And let’s face it, where would we be as an industry without a healthy over-inflated sense of worth?

Have a good Friday everyone.



p.s. On the subject of youth, next Thursday sees the return of everyone’s favourite Recruitment networking event, the #RicePowWow. This time we’ve got the guys from Talent Solutions talking about the cool stuff they’re doing with Fletcher Building and Mainfreight. I’m upping the bar tab for this, so it should be a goody. All Recruitment and HR types welcome, just RSVP here.




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.


  • Marisa Fong says:

    Laugh out loud funny!

  • Amanda says:

    Well Sean, you gave this grumpy ole recruiter a laugh for today and a little bit of hope for the future! Thank you.

  • Hamish says:

    Gold Sean. True, and you have to ask the question about priorities – when one is taking photos of their food, before, during and after dinner….

  • Malcolm says:

    Sean, I think it was in The Trip to Italy that Steve Coogan (in character as himself) quotes I forget who, saying “When you’re under 40, seeming unhappy makes you look interesting. Once you’re 40, and beyond, you’ve got to do everything you can to smile. Otherwise you’re just a grumpy old man”.
    Perhaps that should be 33.

    Keep up the good work.