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We’re all mature enough to admit that sometimes nothing beats being handcuffed to a bedpost and spanked by a friend, colleague, or loved one. Not all handcuffs provide stressed-out recruiters with kinky relief however. Some bind us to doing jobs we really don’t want to be doing. Actually, it’s not just about volition. Some handcuffs keep us in jobs we’re not actually suited to; preventing us from reaching our true potential. And yet we sit there, year after year.

The obvious example of this is the much-maligned “golden handcuffs”. On the face of it, golden handcuffs seem a very “first world problem”. Not many of us would feel comfortable telling someone on minimum wage that we’re paid too much to leave. However, first world problems are still problems. And in a post-covid world, we see firsthand how these handcuffs are negatively affecting the recruitment industry. To give you some context, if you started working for a new recruitment agency in the 18 months following the last lockdown, it’s very likely that your basic is too high for your ability. In most industries, this is a real score, but in an industry where thresholds are linked to salaries, you’re possibly sitting there right now making zero commission. Perhaps you’re also putting an unhealthy amount of pressure on yourself. And maybe your bumhole is clenching every time your manager calls you in for a meeting. You are trapped. With a lifestyle and mortgage based on a basic of $100k, and yet not enough work out there to bill the amount to justify this, what are you going to do? Many agency GMs have used this to their advantage. If you can’t create a positive work environment, then you have to pay people too much to be able to ever leave. And this is where many of our candidates find themselves today; paid a high basic. Underperforming against this number. Working in a firm they mostly despise. Hating their boss. Hating their work life. And with interest rates so high that they can’t take a hit on take home pay for even three months. Golden handcuffs indeed.

Golden handcuffs also apply to those at the other end of the spectrum. What do you do if you’re a multi-million dollar contract IT recruiter working for a once well-regarded firm, which is now a bit of a laughing stock? Do you walk away from a near seven figure income and start a contractor book from scratch? If you did, you would have a mighty fine set of balls on you. Instead, it’s probably easier to accept your lot in life and avoid the office at all costs. These cuffs aren’t gold, they’re rhodium.

There is another colour handcuff we’ve being seeing a lot of lately – and these are decidedly blue. If you are a “blue collar” recruiter, it is currently almost impossible to break these shackles and move to the white side of life. Here at Rice, we’ve worked with a number of polished, professional, extremely sales-focussed, blue collar recruiters who have been unable to get a foot in the door in the professional services space. Perhaps fed up with their Monday mornings being dictated by the Warriors result, many blue collar recruiters want to work more regular hours, with a different candidate base, in what is deemed a more “professional” environment. This is of course hugely unfair and hugely prejudiced. Some of the best recruiters around (and certainly high-billing) work in the blue collar space. However, like a PA who judges their position in life based on what their boss does, us recruiters base how smart we are on how smart our candidates are. We do this because we’re f*cking stupid. To transition from blue to white, the vast majority have two options; either they accept a role with a sub-par white collar recruitment firm, or they stay working for quality firms, and take baby steps over a period of several years. Like conquering Europe, you don’t goosestep straight on to British shores. You push through the Netherlands, Belgium, and enjoy a crusty baguette on the Champs-Élysées first. And so we see the convoluted path from blue to white collar. Typically this either goes Blue collar – white collar construction – property – professional services, or blue collar – temp business support – perm business support – professional services. Now try and achieve this in good time without being perceived a job-hopper.

The other way blue collar recruitment firms handcuff their staff is with smoke and mirrors. If you work in blue collar recruitment and can only tell me how many hours you book, and not the gross margin this achieves per month, you will not get a white collar recruitment role. GMs of Blue Collar recruitment companies know this, and they hate their Consultants knowing how much money they make for the business. They hate it because if they knew, Consultants would ask for more money. They also know that if a Recruiter can’t articulate what they bill, they won’t get a job elsewhere. Blue handcuffs indeed.

Anyway, enough from me. Have a good weekend.


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