Why I Love Recruiting

Why I love Recruiting

Recruiting is so often misunderstood and misinterpreted and is incredibly hard to do well. Friends, family and past co-workers have often asked me; Why do you still do it?

Well thanks to a spur on by RecruitingBlogs I have finally put it down in words, Why I Love Recruiting. Its important to share what’s to love about our job with all the negativity around, so I hope this inspires some people and demonstrates to others why it can be a great profession to be in and stick at…

Two words: ‘PEOPLE’ and ‘BUSINESS’.

PEOPLE: There is nothing that fascinates me more, never has been, never will be. My job, especially as I’m also a business leader, is 100% about people. My clients are people, my talent are people, my employees are people and my services and solutions are all people focussed.

People are intriguing, frustrating, passionate, annoying, fun, boring, clever, dumb, irrational, rational, strong, weak, single minded, pliable, emotional, passive, dominant, detailed, sloppy, fearful, fearless, intuitive, blind (not in seeing sense), knowledgeable, well read, narrow minded, interesting, aggressive, friendly, desperate, cynical, angry, happy, caring, selfish…and the list goes on.

I am responsible and accountable for making sure that within this mix I introduce the right people to each other, keep them interested as they ‘date’, manage all the delicacies of their individualisms and the process they go through and then make sure they are happy thereafter. Now to do that well is a challenge. It’s varied. It’s a journey and it has its ups and downs, highs and lows. No other job I can think of would deal with people in such a concentrated way.

BUSINESS: Other than People, here is nothing that interests me more than Business. I get to see and listen to businesses and the people that make them every day. I get to learn about what works, what doesn’t, what’s new, what’s old, issues, solutions and everything in between. I get to see them grow and develop and become all they can become. I’m privy to insights and inside thoughts from the grad to the CEO.

I am responsible for listening so I truly understand them and the people in them. I then get to introduce people into them and watch them all grow and benefit from this introduction.

Both the above can be thankless, painful, political and difficult tasks but it is satisfying in ways I cannot begin to describe (you really have to live it to understand) when it all works.

I love recruitment because I love people and their differences, and businesses and their challenges.

I love recruitment because it pays me to be involved with people in one of the most important aspects of their lives, their careers and their businesses. I get paid to do what I love. Corny, maybe, conveniently truthful – absolutely!

Do what you love. When you love your work, you become the best worker in the world.
Uri Geller

Recruiters are dead…long live Recruiters!

I often get asked by the slightly less experienced and slightly more nervous recruiters I meet (online or offline), how we can compete with corporate recruiters and all the latest DIY social recruiting tools and my answer is 2 fold:

1-      Do NOT compete with them. Not directly anyway. You must always understand your market and build a valuable niche and service for it.

As agency recruiters we provide an outsource service and by default as a service provider we do things people either don’t want to do themselves, do it better than they do, or more efficiently or all 3 in various combinations.

If you have no Value then you will lose and rightly so. Stop stressing about what others are doing and provide your unique value proposition using a nice mix of deep set knowledge, the best capability/solutions out there, that fits and adapts to the market and its needs…and people will buy it.

A typical example I give is I know plenty of people who, like me, hire tax agents. Now, I know I could do the tax return myself – I have done so (grrrr, rips out hair thinking about it!).

I certainly have the brainpower to go through the necessary government instructions. I also have enough smarts to be able to get a few clever returns but I don’t, I do some of it myself throughout the year and then outsource the big bits I want to.


Well, quite simply I met a Tax agent I liked. He did a good job. I saved myself hours of (what I consider and really no offence here as its meant to highlight I know most non-recruiters would find sourcing boring) boring work I was then able to spend with my wife and it also removed one area of stress from my life. He also found a few things I had missed and got me a better return which helped pay for his service. Also, I knew I was covered by him. Someone had my back.

If, as a recruiter, you can have / provide some, most, if not all of these kind of benefits, you will always be used and valued by many many clients.

2-      Compliment them. Corporate recruiters or Social tools such as LI or BraveNewTalent might be perceived to be trying and steal your market $$ but at the end of the day they are not external service providers and people will always buy a service, so it is actually not really your $$.  These 2 are obviously different though, so let me split them up.

  1. First, Corporate recruiters. Some consultants think it’s the end of their world as more and more clients build internal capability. My view on this is the opposite. The more recruitment is promoted in the right way in a company the easier it is for you to source for them. Sure some internals have it all wrong and are difficult to recruit for but lets leave those people (on both side of the equation i.e. consider only good agency folk too) out. You might need to adapt to the changes in your client and understand different needs but I am yet to meet any company that hasn’t outsourced some part of their Talent Acquisition.

Second, move on. If you are truly not valued despite doing a great job then help the growing companies compete with the big boys that can afford internal teams. Help the SMEs and smaller corporates get the best talent out there and grow into real threats for the bigger companies. Innovate and be brilliant to help your new clients.

Finally, corporate recruiters only care about their line managers and companies. This isn’t meant to ruffle feathers, its a reality. The biggest difference between you and them is the diverse options you can offer Talent. Make sure that that is true and you will have a loyal following they can’t and won’t want to compete with. To Talent, every corporate recruiter equates to another relationship just for one client’s opportunity. You could (I stress the could to make a point!) manage their whole space/search.

2. Second, Social Tools. Again, these are great but HOW MANY?!? Seriously, I am a tuned in Digital recruiter with a Blog in two locations, active on Twitter, LI and have HootSuite and an RMS and PMS and even I drown in the onslaught of Tools.

How do you think the Talent feels?

They apply to Co. X, and Y and Z and they don’t hear anything back and they get calls from companies they don’t want to hear from and they are told to create a profile here, and use FB and who else knows what and they fit this in around their busy and stressful lives?!?

OR, they meet you, a recruiter who is specialised, knowledgeable, connected and NICE…a living person that can say, “don’t worry Fred/Jane” I work with X, Y, Z and can manage the whole thing for you…Again, its not for everyone, there are those that don’t mind building a million different profiles, or managing different tools…that want that control…but there are plenty of people that are really not interested and would rather someone else does it for them. They just need to be able to TRUST you and if you build that TRUST, they will work with you.

The caveat to all this is of course 1) make sure you have Value (a niche and a service worth doing that is needed) and 2) make sure you are good at what you do so you can deliver for those willing to outsource. If you are stressing about the NEW talent world because you know you don’t have 1) And know you are not 2) then, I’m afraid it’s time to shape up because I have no sympathy for that.

Talent Strategy – a must for business now and for the future

Talent Strategy – a must for business now and for the future

One of the things that still baffles me in today’s market is the disconnect between CEO’s listing Talent as their number one pain point and priority and the lack of directional strategy advice being fed into them.

Talent is important – fact. Top Talent shortage is an issue and a major commercial inhibitor and yet in the vast majority of businesses it is not incorporated into the business strategy. Marketing, and Finance have strategies intrinsically linked to the business strategy but HR is rarely included and Talent (in its own right) next to never. If you spoke to a business leader and asked them to exclude Marketing and Finance from the business strategy they would tell you it’s impossible. This is where we need to get to if businesses are going to make the right decisions with regards to Talent. Talent leadership needs a seat at the table and I don’t mean HR, I mean Talent.

Any Talent strategy these days needs to consider two things 1) an exceptional acquisition model where the employment brand is strong and central to all other actions and 2) engagement that is fueled by meaningful development. If you don’t up-skill current staff you will need to find more new staff!

The other side to this coin you must consider is what Talent itself thinks. This shouldn’t be too difficult; after all you are not always the client. You yourself are the Talent too! Recessions, layoffs, boom and bust economics are a reality and people are always looking at their opportunities and risks. Things are not long term. Stability is rare. People will therefore always be considering how to get ahead and loyalty can never be one sided. The strategy must be honest about this and implement solutions around this. All ideas must be built around values true to the organisation and can cover initiatives such as flexibility, development, employment brand and engagement.

If attracting and retaining the best Talent is a serious ambition of your company then it must have a serious place in the wider business strategy, the leadership team, and the communications piece. Without these there will be no top talent, and no chance of competing in the business environment of the coming years.

If you wish to discuss your Talent strategy with us, please do not hesitate in contacting us and have a great half year ahead!

Why you should never “low ball” an offer in Talent Acquisition

A recent experience highlighted this issue once again, but to such a degree that I needed to write about it this time. There are many people who have tried to justify “low balling”, particularly in the sales spaces I have worked into, where the pressure, particularly in “macho” terms is to look at the OTE/upsides.

However, I have never heard or witnessed a single case that’s gone well in all 11 years of consulting. To be clear I want to define “low ball”. I am not talking about offering the lowest acceptable offer (also not advised if you’re serious about QoH and retention) or an offer that is off because of bad process and communication i.e. expectations aren’t dealt with up front or not clearly outlined. Those are inexcusable talent acquisition mistakes. No, here I am referring to an offer substantially lower than the ‘known’ low amount advised by the recruiter or directly from the candidate.

So with that in mind, what are the other possible reasons hiring managers would “low ball”? Well there is only 2 and all reasons when push comes to shove fall into these following categories:

a)      Financial restrictions – internal banding,  upfront cash, risk/reward

b)      Get a good result (pure perception) i.e. get someone for cheaper than you thought you’d have to pay thereby getting a competitive advantage over both the market and making it easier to and quicker to get your return.

If the answer is a) then again, as with poor or no communication upfront, the reality is the reality. Avoiding this reality by being vague or saying “it’s in the ball park”, because you really like the look of the resume or are excited by the potential, doesn’t make the reality go away. There is no case ever where when you have understood what a candidate’s lowest limit is, anything lower than that at the end of the process is acceptable or going to bring on board an engaged and ready-to-go talent.

If it’s b) then I can tell you it will never be a good result. You might get them cheaper but they undoubtedly will feel aggrieved and there will be mistrust and confusion over value and belief in the company. It’s hard enough to get Talent engaged and retained when things are done brilliantly, let alone starting off on the back foot.

The fact of the matter is that all expectations should be laid out up front. If you cannot meet that person’s lowest expectation you should not go through the process. Apart from wasting your own hiring and HR managers’ time and efforts, you will not ever secure an engaged and committed Talent whatever the answer to the offer. Also, they will always be open to further, more realistic offers from the market down the track. The true cost of losing out to another company once you have paid and trained for 6 -1 2 months will far outweigh the savings in salary you thought you were making.

Finally there are a myriad of consequences that come from low ball offers that only add to the argument, they should never be done. These include market reputation and employer branding, disengaged recruiters, disgruntled hiring managers and the pressures that come with people’s time wasted. Always secure the best talent you can by putting your best foot forward.

Recruiting Top Talent – you reap what you sow

Everyone (even the least progressive management teams) is waking up to the reality that the competition for top talent is here to stay –even during the GFC it was seen as a competitive opportunity the most progressive leaders took advantage of. However, these were the rarer ones and unfortunately few have woken up to the reality that it is not as simple as loosely agreeing to an HR policy “fine, I’ll agree to a policy that we chase the passive talent – go do it!”

As a talent acquisition specialist I have spent the last 11 years of my life finding the best talent and fitting them to the best relevant firms and I know what it takes so I am still staggered that there is such a “you’d be lucky” attitude to Talent which directly contradicts the trendy “passive talent” policy companies’ claim is in place. There needs to be a far more wide-reaching and strategic approach to attracting Top Talent, otherwise you are just wasting everyone’s time – the recruiters’ (internal or agency), the candidates’ and probably most importantly to you – yours!?!

So if it’s not enough to walk into a meeting room unprepared, be good cop / bad cop and then slap down some low ball offer as if the Talent is lucky to be alive, what is? Here are some of the things you need to consider for your Talent Acquisition strategy:

Consistency! Whatever you take from this article and other pieces of advice you read make sure you are consistent. If there is no consistency there is no trust and if there is no trust you will not secure and retain the best people.

Communication! There is nothing more frustrating for a recruiter (internal or agency or HR) to know there is a fit but that no-one is prioritizing the communication around their thoughts. It’s all that’s needed. There is only so long as recruiters we can keep the Top Talent “warm” without it – they are people, not bakery items!

Branding This is the 360 face on the two above. You need to know what your brand stands for from an employment point of view. It needs to be intrinsic and true to your Business Brand, Values, Mission, Policies, and most importantly the Reality of how you treat Talent – rewards, autonomy, freedom, training, development, support etc etc!

Hiring as a business profile. How come all the CEOs are constantly quoted in industry articles saying “Talent is our number 1 priority” and yet there is no Chief Talent Officer. This needs to happen and I believe it will. In the interim make sure that the profile of Talent Acquisition is promoted with the same consistency and messaging internally as it would be externally, and make people accountable on how they perform in this arena – especially line managers!

Profiling as a business priority Back in the day, good agency consultants did so much “extra” for the companies they worked for that the wider recruitment industry didn’t realise they were doing and other clients (didn’t know they) missed out on. If you cut costs or brought TA in-house you (initially) miss out on these vital extras that help land the best. One main item included training line managers in profiling for specs and interviewing against those profiles. Make sure everyone involved in hiring can do this – it is imperative to know what you are looking for, why you are looking for it and what makes the best version of that person. My suggestion here is you focus on Results. I’ve implemented ROWE but even if you don’t want to go that far, a focus on the results you want will help you define the activity and skills needed to perform.

Understand your needs and listen to theirs. Do not just search for people who fit your “brief”. Work out the profile and then go to the best talent with open ears and an open mind. Once there is a discussion, make sure you listen to what they want and offer them that. Crazy, I know but you’d be surprised how often it’s not done! If you cannot offer them what they want, take them off the list. Even if the rest of your strategy is so good you land them, you will never keep them so it is unlikely they will be worth your investment.

Holistic view and a two-way street Make sure that you view the whole process in a holistic manner and sell as you test. The is an important balance but if it’s too easy you will not attract the best and if it’s too laborious and drawn out then it won’t secure the best. Entice, test, entice, test and close…quickly.

Training This deserves as separate line item despite being mentioned in $$$$ and profiling section. As Nike so eloquently advertised, just do it! Without training, policies are worthless and pointless. People need to know Why and How and What if/else. Without these elements you will not make the progress necessary to attract and hire the best.

Communities! Build them. No “ifs” and “buts”. The landscape of Talent Acquisition and Recruitment is changing and changing fast. If you really want the best you need to have specialist Talent Managers / Recruiters that know their space and are engaged long-term with the Talent within. Old school contingency Search and Selection just won’t cut it for much longer. If you are not serious about building communities and partnering an agency that is managing its Talent then you are not serious about attracting the right Talent.

Why should you do all this?

SIMPLE – If you want the best you need to have the best strategy. If you have a paper-thin employment brand and recruitment process then however much you service it with all the right words people will see through it and it’s never going to attract the best Talent. Good people, by default, aren’t stupid. There is one thing I constantly ask the most resistant and difficult senior managers and HR professionals. As a minimum – do you do what it would take to secure yourself! The answer , unfortunately, is often a sheepish “no”…

If you want consultation on best recruitment practices and talent attraction strategies, please ping me a note.

Rising attrition and what to do!

Below is an excerpt from a recent interview I did for Campaign Asia on attrition rates in the media and communications world. It’s bad, and a senior regional exec I know well said in a cynical tone “well its all good for you, Rob!” which demonstrated what I know people think when they do see the stats…recruiters must be making tons of money.

The reality is different. Sure it’s easier to get vacancies on a contingency basis. Sure we don’t need to chase a million clients to get a snippet of work. However, it is a lot harder to fill them AND believe it or not, high turnover is not exactly an attractive trait for a company to have that we represent. It is not a sustainable position for anyone.

Job satisfaction for a good recruiter is not money but relationships and they only thrive when all concerned are getting what they need. We want the Talent issues fixed more than anyone and I would much rather clients partner us on retention and engagement strategies, and listen to us when we are talking about employment branding and partnership solutions that will improve your talent acquisition success and reduce costs, than spend more money on repeat contingent recruitment transactions.

Rob says turnover rates have already risen from around 20 per cent a few years ago to over 30.  

“In some agencies it has recently been as high as 40 per cent,” he says.“That means people are moving jobs on average every two to three years.”

Within advertising and media, Fanshawe says much of the attrition is borne out of an industry sector in continuous change through the growth of ‘digital’.

Online media has exploded and large corporate companies, like Lenovo, are now catching up and starting to build their own, dedicated internal teams.”

He says the Asia-Pacific region has generally higher attrition rates at the moment because, even factoring in the global financial crisis, it consists of the key growth markets where talent is in short supply.

A Robert Walters survey found that over 55 per cent of professionals in the Asia-Pacific region are hoping to move jobs in the next three months. The research was part of a global poll that interviewed 2835 professional-level workers around the world. Each was asked when they were hoping to switch jobs, with options ranging from three months to three years. As well as the 55% of regional staff who hoped to leave within the next quarter, a further 25% hoped to leave their current employment within six months.

With all this in mind please make sure you start thinking about Talent in a completely 360 fashion. Every single candidate you speak to is a channel to market, every job you have an opportunity to stand out. Your Talent Acquisition solutions need to be holistic, continuous, consistent, strategic and brand conscious. Do not treat it as a cost but as an opportunity and you will be amazed at not only the improved retention stats and quality of new Talent but also bottom line savings and revenue growth gained.

Going ROWE: The Final Step!

This is the final part of the ROWE interview I did, on our final session of the ROWE migration. I explained what happened in Culture Clinic and what it feels like to goROWE!

So, the big day arrived and there was quite a buzz about the office! It was clear from the chatter stemming around the excitement for the Culture Clinic session and knowing we were about to fully goROWE!

After reflecting on the Sludge session, the 3 impediments (judgment, beliefs, and time), and the 13 ROWE Guideposts, it was good to hear that there was no Back Sludging (that nasty talk behind each other’s back). However, we realized all the Sludging was internalized. The team contributed willingly to share their Sludge-Fessions and the atmosphere was one of relief knowing “we are all in this together.”

“I really realised in the migration meetings what a huge change this was going to be. I got some flutters of excitement about how life was going to change, and I also noticed colleagues feeling the same thing – working through those sessions really drummed in that this wasn’t just a flexible working policy, but a concept and perception change to the way we view work”. –  Principal Consultant

We are going through a particularly busy time at the moment in Singapore and as Asia leads the world out of this recession, we are at the forefront of helping that happen for businesses from a Technology, Media, and Communications Talent perspective. Fundamentally, we are growing which means looking at potential new office solutions in Singapore, opening an office in Hong Kong for clients in North Asia and China, finding the best Consultants to join us across the board and, of course, implementing ROWE and looking at solutions such as WorkSimple. These were just a few of the projects on top of running sales & operations for SEA in the here and now! So with ROWE in mind, I applied myself to arranging my days and evenings around getting the RESULTS I needed whilst still keeping an exercise routine (which was important as I had just come back from a long illness), seeing my wife, and enjoying life (huh, shock horror hey!). As it turned out, this often meant working the first part of the day from home and then going into the office to focus on activity in the city.

As an example, I am happy to share my own Sludge-Fessions. My Sludging came from the pit of my stomach. I am sadly my own worst Sludger. The team was great and as they shared Sludge-Fessions, sharing mine greatly helped me. The work I got done at home in the morning was tenfold – as it was done without distraction. However, the guilt was there every day. Despite being frantically and effectively busy at home, I began to feel nauseous as the time in the morning moved on – I had to get into work! What were people thinking? What if a client didn’t reach out to me on my mobile? What if they couldn’t see me on Skype? Guilt and fear drove me to pack up and move into the office at a time when it broke my flow. This may seem silly to you reading this, but I guarantee you, if you were brought up with a strict ideology around punctuality and then worked in a strictly timed office environment all your life, no matter how progressive and liberal you might think you are, the internal feelings you have when you go ROWE will completely surprise you!

After a short break, we moved onto the 2 games – “The Feud” and “Do Something Scary”. Both were really instrumental in the mind shift. For The Feud, we split into two teams – girls vs. boys. The girls kicked butt! Although in a fantastically cheesy way, I can say everyone won. Once we had gone through the Scary cards and wrapped up, everyone felt nervous but ready.

“We’ve always been told that the business is our business and with ROWE, it actually feels that way now. It’s amazing what happens when we take away ‘GOING TO WORK’ and switch it to ‘DOING WORK’ instead.”  – Senior Consultant

The old way of working 9-5, five days a week in a cubicle were officially behind us. There were still elements of fear, worry, anxiety etc held by all in varying degrees about what would happen and how we would cope, but that’s always the case with something new. That is the lizard brain (to borrow from Seth Godin) – fear of the unknown – and our lizard brains are quieted – we ship! We ROWE!!!