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Recruitment’s Unsettling Truth

By April 9, 2021No Comments

Happy New Year readers. Although some would argue I’m 3 months late, if you’re anything like me, there’s only one “new year” which I celebrate and/or commiserate. Last Thursday, we marked the end of the financial year with the first Rice PowWow in what seems like an eternity. 80+ semi-pissed recruiters in one room listening to Jason Walker talk about recruitment isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but sadly, it really rocks my boat. It was great to catch up with recruitment buddies old and new, and props to TradeMe Jobs for sponsoring, and Jason Walker of EQ3 Consulting for providing, what I thought, was one of the best and punchiest PowWow talks to date. Jason spoke on candidate attraction strategies, and managed to cause a bit of a stir amongst the glitterati of recruitment in attendance. Without regurgitating my non-existent notes, Jason suggested that the candidate market can be split into 3 groups:

  1. Sprinters: These are the 4.9% unemployed, and those ferociously looking for a new job. They are easy to attract, but due to their desire to accept any job, hard to control. They’re also not what our clients typically pay us to find. These are the guys grinding against every girl on the dance floor in Danny Doolans.
  2. Joggers: Joggers make up a large proportion of the market. They are neither fearful of losing their job, nor totally secure. They may apply to a job that takes their fancy, but they’re not actively looking. These are the ladies who are happily single, but might accept a drink from a handsome stranger before the band kicks off with Mustang Sally.
  3. Walkers: These are the people who feel safe, secure, well-loved, and well-rewarded in their current job. They are not applying for your jobs and are not receptive to your call. They, of course, are what our clients want us to find for them. These are successful career women who married the annoying git who is both smart and good looking.  These women do not go to Danny Doolans.

However, this is not a blog about Jason’s training. It is instead about the room’s reaction to one point in particular. Basic principles of marketing suggest that for each of the above three segments, a different approach is required. According to Jason, the way to engage with the “walkers”, those hard to budge, high performing candidates that our clients want to pay us for, is to communicate something that intentionally unsettles them. Either by planting a seed that they are not as secure in their role as they think, or that opportunity, promotion, and money is passing them by. A mixture of carrot and stick. The insinuation that their fella has got very close to his new PA, or that some well-hung billionaire is eyeing them up. Further to this, if you’re a recruiter and not prepared to say these things to a candidate, then you should give up your desk to someone who will.

I was MCing the event, giving me a good view of the crowd. When Jason suggested this, the crowd reaction could be split into three groups. Firstly, those who agreed and gave a wry smile. Secondly, those who were horrified. And thirdly, those who weren’t fucking listening. This is the PowWow after all. It would seem that to some, intentionally unsettling someone who was previously happy is the equivalent of taking a dump in someone’s picnic hamper on a sunny day. And the “if you’re not man enough, then I’ll find someone who is” rhetoric reeked so much of early 2000s Hays that they could almost smell the Joop! aftershave. And what do I think? Well I agree with Jason. Firstly, we are in business, and if we don’t make placements, we cease to exist. Making good placements means good careers for our candidates, and good outcomes for our clients. It therefore follows that making 20% more placements makes more people happy, and as recruiters, we should be financially rewarded for what we do. There is no need to apologise for our success, and in a tough market, if we’re not maximising our desk, we should move out of the way and give it to someone who will. Man, I’m sounding like Gordon Gecko. I hope I don’t get cancer from Catherine Zeta-Jones’ fanny (although I’d probably take the chance).

And when it comes to intentionally unsettling candidates, I agree again. Recruiters are hated by many, however, in my experience, it is not because we persuade people to look at jobs via the methods described by Jason. No. We’re hated because we ghost candidates by not giving feedback when they’re unsuccessful. We’re hated because we put crap-to-average candidates in front of clients. We’re hated because we bicker about candidate ownership. We’re hated because we hound clients not candidates. We’re hated because we’re expensive without demonstrating value. We’re hated because some of us are just dickheads. We’re rarely hated because we used cunning and guile to get a candidate to the table. In fact, when we do get these “walkers” to the table, they often end up with a better job, better prospects, and more money. These “walkers” then buy us recruiters a nice bottle of wine. But no one talks about that. Our role is more akin to a dating agency, not arranging marriages. We make introductions, but we don’t pull the trigger. Any person blaming a recruiter for being in a crap job needs to have a long, hard look at themselves. We suggested you go on the date, we didn’t march you down the aisle.

Of course, the real skill is unsettling those “walkers” without telling outright lies, but I’m guessing Jason charges for that content.

As always, keen to get your thoughts.