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Controlling Recruiters By Fear (And Other Retention Techniques)

By October 19, 2017No Comments

Hello I’m back. Thanks Sean for looking after The Whiteboard blog while I was away in the UK.¬† I’m sure you’ve all enjoyed a change of voice. It’s hard not to like Sean’s particular schtick¬†if you know what I mean (I hope you do as I see how this could be unpleasantly misinterpreted). A particularly popular post was from back on 21st September:¬†The Whiteboard’s Guide to the 2017 Election.

I left New Zealand a day before this post, taking some sense of pioneering pleasure in being able to cast an early vote actually at the airport, just before jetting away from these shores. Imagine my surprise to return almost four weeks later with no actual outcome yet reached. Finally we heard last night, so-called “Kingmaker” Winston Peters rolled into the Beehive and set up his snake oil wagon on Labour’s side of the patch, forming a coalition Labour Greens NZ First Government and making a Queen instead of a King.

I don’t know about you but my overriding reaction to all of this was…meh. It’s all dragged on too long and the buzz is long gone. I’m just glad there will be someone running the country again now. It makes me think of the feeling you can sometimes get when you make a really hard-fought, long-winded and complex placement. The initial excitement of sourcing a perfect candidate, the thrill when you realise your client is going to make an offer, and then the long, protracted agony of negotiating between a risk averse client and a jumped up candidate who feels they wield more power than they do. To eventually make the placement is more a sense of relief, and happiness that you can move on to other things now.

I’ll move on too.

Recruiters are fickle, flighty, delightful and maddening all at the same time. We’ve been recruiting them for many years now and have learned of many different types of recruitment cultures. We know most New Zealand recruitment firms and this knowledge helps us to consult with our candidates when it comes to resigning, negotiating the awkward conversations and how to ensure integrity, ethics and respect are upheld in what is a competitive and unpredictable industry.

We know, for example, that if you work in a certain recruitment firm, you are likely to be immediately walked upon resignation. A wrench that can be a shock to the system, but better handled if we can help the candidate be prepared for it happening. We also know another firm that will do the opposite, and make you work your notice in a sometime spiteful way, even if you are leaving for a direct competitor. Another will puff out its chest and make instant threats of lawyers if restraints of trade are breached in the merest way.

These actions are supposedly enacted to protect the best interests of the firm in question. The reality, though, is that this posturing is a thinly-veiled retention strategy. Over the years I have spoken to many recruiters from firms such as these, desperate to leave for something new, but held in terrified thrall by the prospect of how sh*t will go down if they do muster the courage to resign. In many, many cases this has lead to the recruiter staying on longer, shackled to an unhappy career by the fear generated from treatment of previously departed colleagues.


An example from this week takes this to a whole new level though. A leaked email made its way to us that was a recruitment Director informing his company staff of a colleague of theirs who was resigning:

Hi Guys

X is gone girl today, out of my life. When people are gone in my life they are gone forever!!!!

Will we will catch up with her… i am not wasting 1 minute or $1 on that bitch again…

PS I am going to let her sink herself with her loose lips, and then i am going to say, get out, get the fuck out…

This Director is a bully and also judging by his grammar and spelling a simpleton. However he also thinks he is smart, and that rants like this will somehow bind his remaining crew together in some kind of anti-X solidarity, and no doubt feel that he can instill enough fear to make sure no-one else has the temerity to resign along with X.

What a prat. I sincerely hope his team have the fortitude to reject this cowardly approach and follow X right out the door. Unfortunately having worked with recruiters for over ten years now, I don’t have much confidence they will.

The recruitment industry is competitive, fluid, fast-moving and people move around quite a lot. There are some recruitment leaders who foster an open, collaborative culture to engender loyalty, respect and low attrition rates. There are others who can’t handle the unpredictability of our industry and seek to impose control through fear, command and control.


What kind of leader are you, or will you one day be?

Finally for today I’d like to give a special mention to Amaria Osman who has recently joined us as our Wellington Business Manager. We’re both honoured and excited to have someone of Amaria’s experience and talent join our team. Welcome to the team Amaria!

Be nice everyone, and enjoy the long weekend.

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.