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Underdogs Take First Bite

By July 24, 2020No Comments

This was the week ladies and gentleman. Although many recruiters will tell you different, this was the week that I saw the first signs of economic recovery. Perhaps more 90s landing strip than 70s bush, for the first time since lockdown, I’ve got the sense that those little green shoots of recovery have pierced the permafrost of economic despair. Y’see, without sounding like a little’ bitch, I may have had it harder than most recruiters. At Rice, we’re predominately a perm recruitment business. Strike one. I also recruit Internal Recruiters and HR people who don’t make corporates any profit. Strike two. I’m also not an IT recruiter. Steee-rike three and you’re out. Recruiting internal recruiters and HR professionals in a market flooded with internal recruiters and HR professionals has been, quite frankly, horrific. I’m not the only one however. The world of permanent agency recruitment is geared towards a candidate short market. When clients can’t recruit someone themselves in less than 8 hours of searching, they come to us. If recruiting an internal recruiter was as easy as banging three lines up on LinkedIn (as is the case currently), I wouldn’t exist. Well, I’d still exist, but I’d be a professional shoplifter or wrestling commentator.

This was the week that it all changed however. Not only did I have “inbound” work for the first time in months, but my LinkedIn feed was awash with “Congratulate Dave on their new job by insincerely pushing a button”. I would wager that I’ve seen more of these updates this week than I have in the past two months. And given that we’ve already agreed that a candidate short market favours the agency recruiter, this has to be a good sign. Long may it continue.

However, and there is always a “however”, I have noticed a marked difference in the quality and reputation of the firms who top candidates are being hired by. Without sounding like a brand-snob, in the most part it has been the politely named “challenger brands” who have been first out of the starting blocks. That is not to say that some great candidates haven’t secured great jobs. This is a sentence I have to include so that no one knows I’m referring to them. However, in the most part, a number of firms have secured the services of a caliber of candidate who they wouldn’t have secured previously. Given my colleague Scott blogs incessantly about football, I have a self-imposed rule that I’m not allowed to reference the sport. However, I’ll break that in this instance. There are some managers of struggling clubs who have made some very shrewd signings in the post-covid transfer window. Recruiters and HR professionals who have said “I’d never do that” are now “doing that”. Please don’t get me wrong – this is in no way a criticism. Prior to this week, I was one unanswered voicemail away from selling my cute little bee-hind on K-Road. Needs must my friends. Needs must.

I have to give credit to these underdogs for being bold and “not wasting a good crisis”. The recruitment process we’ve observed from their more illustrious counterparts so far has been more akin to the legendary tantric lovemaking technique of former Police songsmith Sting; Lots of in an out for a protracted length of time with no final pay-off. A number of smaller or less regarded brands have taken a more “everyman” approach to hiring; two interviews and an offer. Pump pump squirt.

What will become of these new “big name” hires? Well, for some, they will sit it out in the professional hinterland for the bare minimum amount of time. Once the aforementioned green shoots return to being a lush lawn, these  guys will be out the door in a heartbeat. Like a photo of Stalin, this brief stint with the “challenger brand” will be airbrushed from their LinkedIn profile with words like sabbatical and “boutique non-specific agency”. However, something else might just happen which the incumbent brand leaders should worry about. If a firm hires enough good people they will become a very good business – regardless of any brand legacy. Not many businesses offer something so unique that a competitor with the right people couldn’t steal their crown. If a business has big enough cojones, now is the time to mount their challenge. Covid has been unique insomuch that it hasn’t just been the B and C grade candidates who have been given the ol’ heave-ho. It’s been largely indiscriminate in its carnage. There are some absolute superstars looking for work out there, and with Auckland sized mortgages to pay, none of us can afford to be as discerning as we once were. Some big businesses will lose ground to the plucky underdogs. Mark my words.

The anarchist in me kinda likes this topsy-turvy world. Not that I like to see anyone struggle (well…almost anyone), but this reshuffle of the deck could prove to be a great leveler. Full credit to those businesses who have started hiring again, and for those who haven’t, well, you should probably watch your back.

Have a good Friday.