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The Mishandling of Handley

By September 27, 2018No Comments

Recruitment agencies cop a lot of flak for not keeping candidates informed throughout a process. “I’m sorry, the role is being re-scoped,” “They think they might actually need somebody at a different level,” or my personal favourite, “An unforeseen recruitment freeze has just been put in place” are lines we all deliver and hate. Nine times out of 10, candidates are disbelieving, and I don’t entirely blame them. By the time I actually have that news to deliver I’m usually knackered from a good ol’ game of client-chasies, and with however-many other roles on the go, sometimes the small things – such as “no news yet!” updates – fall through the cracks.

Well, this week the widely-publicised recruitment saga of Derek Handley and the ill-fated NZ CTO role (one I’m surprised Jon didn’t apply for, given his standing as one of NZ’s top CIOs) has allowed a sliver of insight into the type of client behaviour we’re often dealing with behind the scenes. With an odd mix of relief and disappointment, I’ve watched the media spin a tale that feels all too close for comfort, complete with mixed messages, broken promises, suddenly-altered timeframes, uncertainty around the role itself and then – worst-case scenario – a ghost role. Withdrawn altogether. I say relief because on one hand, it’s comforting to know it’s not just us mere mortals who have to grind our teeth through this kind of muckery, but even typing that feels grossly bittersweet. Sure, I can thumb my nose and crow, “Even the Government gets it wrong!” but that’s not reassuring. It’s gutting.

Handley holds no hard feelings toward the PM, and so he shouldn’t. She is an angel in human form. But he is disappointed in the process, and rightly so. One month ago Handley was offered and accepted the position as the first Chief Technology Officer for New Zealand. Following that he and his family left New York, their home for more than 10 years, to return to New Zealand, a process no doubt expensive, emotional, tiring and not undertaken without huge consideration.

Then the role was withdrawn.

I feel bad enough for candidates when this happens after they’ve taken time out of their lives to attend one or two interviews, but to move countries. With their entire family.

The Government has compensated Handley to the tune of $100K, a settlement he and his family have decided not to accept personally and instead donate toward a fund that can help tackle the issues of “digital inequality” Handley is no longer able to. (Spark Foundation have stepped up to the plate for this.)

Derek Handley has himself penned a humble, clear and possibly-too-kind insight into the whole debacle. He finishes by saying, “It is only through truly understanding our unique differences and what each of us represent and can bring to the table that we can create better, newer paths forward for our nation. There is considerable opportunity for us as New Zealanders to improve how we go about doing that for each other for a kinder, more inclusive, transparent and open-minded country.”

It might be tacky of me to piggy-back on, but I think the same for recruitment in general. This poor experience of Handley’s has shone a spotlight on the sort of poor behaviour we see echoed throughout NZ business all the time – wouldn’t it be nice if all parties everywhere adopted a kinder, inclusive and transparent recruitment approach?

And wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all compensate disenfranchised candidates when roles are yanked away at the last minute…?

Natasha Foster

Recruitment Consultant at New Zealand firm Rice Consulting, shaking things up in the HR world. Photographer on the side, Te Reo student, rock climber and learner surfer. Most happy off the grid.