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The Schooling of Recruiters

By August 3, 2017No Comments

When I first embarked on the rollercoaster, fingernail-shredding, rec-to-rec game back in 2007, the Auckland recruitment market had quite a different look, feel and flavour to the one we all operate in today. Ten years ago the market was dominated by larger recruitment brands, most recruiting across several verticals, many with a global presence beyond New Zealand, and far fewer one-man-band or niche specialist firms.

An assessment of who were the top recruitment firms in the market back then could be made by spreading out the many pages of the NZ Herald’s Career supplement and seeing which recruitment agency brands had convinced their clients it would be a good idea to advertise their vacancy in the Herald. In fact this was even a time when recruitment consultants, moving from one firm to another, might find themselves mentioned in the Movers and Shakers column in that paper too.

When the CV’s of those recruiters came across my desk, one common thread stood out to me: the names of the schools they attended. Particularly recruiters coming from the bigger, glossier firms with brands joyfully splashed across the job vacancies of their clients. Being still relatively fresh off the boat from England, the names of schools here didn’t really mean much to me. But I was quick enough to learn that presenting CV’s of recruiters who went to schools like St Kentigern’s, Auckland Grammar, Epsom Girls, Diocesan, or St Cuthbert’s, frequently generated a far greater degree of interest and sense of urgency from the client. Especially if the client had also gone to the same school.


Even coming from a place like England, I learned an awful lot about nepotism when I got to New Zealand.

Ten years on, I wonder to what extent this phenomenon has changed? My memory about this was jogged by a recent article in the NBR about old school ties in New Zealand, and the somewhat surprising revelation that most of the inhabitants of their recently-released 2017 Rich List did NOT, in fact, attend New Zealand’s more aspirational educational establishments. As the article’s author Chris Keall points out:

“…when you look around at the movers and shakers in New Zealand business and society, a good whack of them … went to meat-and-potatoes schools in working class suburbs like Mt Roskill and Mt Albert”

Although, sadly, I don’t believe any recruiters featured on this year’s Rich List (unless you count Emergent shareholder Diane Foreman), it does make me wonder whether the same can be said for our industry on the modern recruiting battlefield.  Certainly, the CV’s coming across our rec-to-rec desks nowadays are far less likely to feature a “good” school like those mentioned above and in the article.

Ten years ago the in-house recruitment model was in its infancy.  Many companies, especially the larger corporations, would default to using recruitment agencies for nearly all recruitment and the successful recruiters back then were the ones able to combine a high-brow and cerebral consultative style with ready access to the right kind of connections. There’s little doubt the type of schools that kept your parents’ wallets light and lean also furnished the student with a network of influence and privilege, and the ability to communicate and conduct oneself in a certain way. Back then recruitment was all about who you knew, more than what you knew, and the school you went to in New Zealand definitely mattered in that regard.


Nowadays I think recruitment is tougher. Whilst a consultative style is a nice-to-have feature in a recruiter, if they’re not able to work incredibly hard, hustle around HR and in-house teams, scour various channels to source talent outside their immediate networks, and handle ever more brutal rejections, they’re unlikely to cut the mustard. Looking at the CV’s we’re getting nowadays, it seems that those fee-paying schools aren’t turning out many graduates with that blend of characteristics, but that’s probably no bad thing really.

The Rich List shows that it’s more about who you are as an individual, rather than where you’ve come from, that makes you successful. I’m glad to say that recruitment, at least in that aspect, seems to be very much the same.

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.