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I’m trying to get myself an au pair currently. I say “myself”, but of course I mean “my family” as single men can’t get au pairs. I know because I tried back in 2014 and they almost called the police. Being an agency owner myself, I saw the value in using an agency to help find someone who would be living in our house, driving our car, and looking after our daughter for the next 6-12 months. It’s kind of a big deal. After a few recommendations, I found an agency, created an online profile, and spent over an hour answering the world’s longest questionnaire. It asked my job, my partners job, the size of my house in square metres, the layout of my house, what we eat, what we drink, if we have pets, and how often we have noisy, animalistic sex. Everything. Personally, I would rather just a phone chat, or even a meeting in person at my home with the agent, but apparently this is not how it works. Anyway, I fill out the form and wait to be contacted. Contact comes a couple of days later, not as a phone call, but as a series of three emails. Each email has about 3 or 4 bullet points, and a scanned-in, hand written application form from some young woman in Europe. Each application form has a different brand at the top. The email instructs me to read the application form and tell the agency which ones we want to video interview. The agency has not spoken to the au pairs, they have not spoken to me, they have simply purchased an application form from a number of European companies, sent them to me to interview, and will charge me $3k for their “work”. This is how au pair “recruitment” works apparently. I of course ignore these emails. After some chasing, I decide to call the agency. I explain that reading hand-written application forms, and then paying for the privilege to do so isn’t really my jam. Instead, I ask if we can have a chat, I can tell them what we’re all about, and perhaps the agency could suggest one or two suitable applicants. Y’know, a bit like recruitment. This is agreed upon and I give a warts’n’all description of our lives, and what would work for all parties. I explain that we love wine and craft beer, so a non-drinker wouldn’t work. I explain how we’re not into silly computer games. I explain how our (my) sense of humour can be a bit “out there”. I explain that we’re very liberal in our approach to life. I swear like an old sailor during this conversation. I am myself. The conversation ends with the agent telling me; “Fantastic. Ignore everything I’ve sent you, I think we have the perfect person for you. I’ll send through the details.”

The details: A highly-Christian 22 year old American woman from Alabama who “mentioned that she is involved in children’s ministry and would potentially like to continue to practice her Christian religion whilst in New Zealand”

Now maybe I’m giving off Christian vibes these days, and maybe she thought I was joking when I highlighted that we are staunchly atheist on our application, but I’m not convinced that this would be the perfect match for our family, are you? She is probably a lovely woman, I respond, but perhaps better suited to the household of anti-abortionist religious zealot Chris Luxon? Not Casa Walters. We’re more pentagrams of salt and candlewax on the nipples than Kumbaya and talking snakes. I am yet to receive another profile.

An au pair agency is quite obviously a recruitment company. They charge a placement fee and then clip the ticket each month. However, the level of service is not even close to what even a sub-par traditional recruitment firm delivers. Then I started looking around at other aspects of my life and realised, almost everything is a recruitment company these day. They’re just disguised as something else, and typically offer a level of service way below what actual recruiters would ever get away with. The reason I now have room for an au pair is that we’re moving house. In order to get my current home ready for sale I employed the services of some weird firm on Rosebank Road called Service King. Ran my an absolutely batsh!t crazy Filipino/Thai woman called “Danielle”, Service King do home repairs, garden maintenance, plastering, painting, cleaning, deck staining, house cleaning, window cleaning, dog walking, .net development, brain surgery, and would probably provide a jazz band for a Big Four Accounting firm’s client soirée . I have never asked them to do something that “Danielle” hasn’t claimed to be an absolute expert at. Unsurprisingly however, it is rare for a Service King branded vehicle to show up. And it is also rare for work to be carried out during the day. Instead, Danielle recruits immigrant workers to come and plaster your house at night once they finish their day job. I had a painter show up at 9pm. I kid you not. Danielle is a recruiter, and a fantastic one at that.  And if you get a taxi these days, you’re using a recruitment firm. Uber don’t own cars or have a grumpy woman with a CB radio in some horrible office. Uber have some software, a bunch of freelance drivers with their own vehicles, and just need to recruit enough drivers to have one closer to you than their competitors. We shared an office with Uber when they launched in New Zealand, and they’re a recruitment company. We also see it in the world of digital. Your design agency can build and do anything for you right? Except they can’t, but can hire freelancers who can. And if you want software built, then it’s always a “yes”. And then someone scurries off and recruits someone who can. We’ve even seen a number of tech consultancies “pivot” into the world of recruitment when they’ve realised that’s what they actually do. Some, like Techspace have really embraced this. Others are still swimming in that big Egyptian river. It’s the same with construction firms. I know a recruitment GM who got into blue collar recruitment as his old man owned a construction firm. They soon realised that they were doing more recruiting than building, and it was better on the back. In this gig economy, recruitment is everywhere and only getting bigger. I still think no one does it better than the professionals.

Anyway, have a good weekend everyone.

^SW

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