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Recruiting Without Prejudice

By May 3, 2016No Comments

You’re usual blogger is once again in foreign lands, so again, I’m in charge. *Although, given the reaction to the April 1st Whiteboard, many of you will be expecting this.

It struck me this week that an embarrassing proportion of what I do as a recruiter is more “judgement” than “assessment”. Let me be clear on my definition. Asking if a candidate has ever selected and implemented an ATS, or what their billings have totaled over a 12 month period. Assessment. Asking where they went to school, whilst thinking that their shoes look cheap. Judgement. Being candid, either I’m a bad person (possibly), or I just know that many of my clients base their hiring decisions on metrics that aren’t entirely competency based.

I soothe my guilt by telling myself that we all have have our metrics. Your usual blogger commented to me, after speaking with a quality candidate, that personally, he’d never hire him; “It’s the way he answers the phone. He sighs before saying hello”. I myself am a stickler for tardiness. If a candidate shows up late, I’d like a reason. If on greeting, an apology isn’t forthcoming, they have to work pretty damn hard to impress me. I, like the rest of civilization since the dawn of time, am also perturbed by a moist, limp handshake.

Likewise, part of the assessment toolkit of an old client was the “speed of walking” metric. They’d point to the meeting room and allow the candidate to take the lead. Woe betide anyone who strolled at a leisurely pace. And heaven forbid they wanted to actually take in the ambience of a potential future workplace.

As a business, we have a strong track record of placing newly arrived backpackers into both agency and in-house recruitment roles. In our experience,  these “fresh off the boat” recruiters often display a hunger, energy, and a willingness to pick up the f*cking phone, that some of us lost back when Hudson were successful. We met one such fresh arrival this week. She’s a junior recruiter, well presented, and with business development balls the size of cantaloupes. Her background is in an office support and volume environment, and we have her meeting with some of the best agencies around town. Unfortunately, we were beaten to the punch by one of our competitors . The difference being, our competitor met her before she’d even had the chance to purchase business attire. She has therefore been represented to recruitment companies either solely operating in the blue collar space, or generalist agencies who, in terms of reputation, cling onto the periphery of “average”. Same candidate, different clothes, very different outcome.

UK politics is currently a case in point. For those that don’t follow it, to summaries; David Cameron, who is PM, is posh and has sex with pigs (actual pigs, his wife is actually alright). The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, is poor and dresses like Geography teachers used to dress before adults wore hair gel. To one journalist “His sloppy attire is disrespectful to the voters he represents“. The PM himself  suggested he should “put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem”. Whether his circa 1972 trade union chic will put off the voters is yet to be seen. What is clear, is that a slightly crumpled beige suit won’t affect his ability to lead a nation, but hell, we’ll still judge him on it.

Our role as recruiters is not just to assess technical fit. There’s probably an app for that. There usually is these days. Instead, we are handsomely rewarded to assess the intangible, the nuances, the other. In an evolving world, the challenge lies in treading the fine line between cultural assessment and perpetuating our own or our clients’ prejudices. It’s a difficult balance, when for every corporate insisting on anonymized CVs, there are ten clients complaining about the slight caking of a female candidate’s foundation.

As recruiters, all we can do is challenge our clients and our internal stakeholders. Represent the girl with the limp or the guy with the mullet. Coach the un-ironed candidate around presentation. Ask the hiring manager why a Rugby fan is a better accountant than a League fan. Prejudices take time to shift, but nothing broadens the mind like being proved wrong.

So have a good Friday everyone, and don’t buy cheap shoes. Especially if you’re interviewing with me.


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.