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The British Invasion

By October 4, 2018No Comments

“You don’t know if you want a job until you’re offered the job”.

This was the advice given to flaky candidates at second stage interviews by the man who taught me how to recruit. The rationale being that in a London market, competing aggressively for top-talent, clients would often make offers too good to refuse. If we could nudge our candidate one step closer to this offer, we were that much closer to a very long boozy lunch. In this market, it was not uncommon for candidates to receive several offers from several business at the same time. These candidates had put their “best foot forward” on multiple occasions. Like a Thai hooker’s testimony that “Mr Sean….you so big!!”, the candidate has engaged, ingratiated, laughed at the right time, said the right things, and most probably committed to a long professional relationship with several besuited future bosses simultaneously, only to leave all but one sobbing with despair and rejection come daybreak.

The UK market seems adept at producing candidates who get offered jobs. UK candidates will be who they need to be, say what they need to say, and display a level of fake attachment and commitment that would make Ted Bundy proud. I’m allowed to say this by the way. I was born there. My advice to you is that no matter what discipline you recruit in, introducing a UK candidate to your client is, like backing The Blues to lose and the Topp Twins to make you feel uncomfortable, a pretty safe bet.

Speaking with my colleague Scott this morning, who does a very good job in the very tough agency rec-to-rec space, it became apparent that not once has either of us had a candidate from the UK let us down in an actual interview. Not show up, absolutely. Mess us around afterwards, probably. Turn out to be a bullshitting narcissist, sadly occasionally. But my word, do they know how to turn it on in the interview.  Sure, not all are hired, but almost without exception our clients never tell us that their time was wasted. These candidates wear the right suit, say the right things, make the right noises, and in the most part, get a second interview. It would seem that being born in a country with a population of sixty-five million turns the interview into a contest to be accepted, rather than what it should be; a two-way fact-finding session, where both parties can be open and transparent in the hope that stars align.

That is not to say that these UK candidates are a waste of time. Many can walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Across New Zealand, UK or UK trained recruiters get more of their fair share of market spend. Given their ability to punch above their weight, I can’t blame agencies for their desire to always look at a UK recruiter. The challenge comes in the robust assessment of these people when they are candidates rather than employees.

So what is to be done to sort the wheat from the chav (sic.)?


I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in on some training sessions from Ross Clennett, who I regard as the top recruitment trainer in this part of the world. To steal from his training literature…

“46% of all new hires fail, and only 20% achieve unequivocal success.”

(Leadership IQ, 2012)


“The #1 reason for failures is an overreliance on hiring manager evaluations of talent in the interview process.”

(DDI (2012): Global Selection Forecast)

So collectively, we, and our clients are crap at interviewing. And stealing from Ross again, the strongest predictors of work performance according to some boffins in some labcoats somewhere are:

  1. Work sample tests
  2. Cognitive Ability tests
  3. Structured interviews
  4. Peer ratings
  5. Job knowledge tests

So…contrary to popular opinion, sounding like an Eastenders extra with a fat tie knot doesn’t even make the top 10.

Incredible huh?