Happy Easter Recruiters and there’s a birthday next week…

Pop!  That surprised you didn’t it?  Like an early hatching Easter chick, here is this week’s Whiteboard post, poking its fluffy white head out of the internet eggshell to wish you an early Happy Easter.

Well what with it being Good Friday tomorrow, and The Whiteboard traditionally getting its weekly stroll around the exercise yard on that very day, I thought I’d better give you all something to read a day early this week rather than posting something as well read as a Hays Social Media policy.  Speaking of which, my rubbish usually gets collected on a Friday morning around the time I post The Whiteboard, so can anyone tell me if I’m supposed to chuck that up the end of my driveway a day early too?

Truth be told, I have little to report this week.  It’s a short week.  It’s been a frantically busy start to the new financial year here in New Zealand and all seems to be picking up very nicely indeed out there in the wider Asia-Pac region of recruitment.  The Auckland office of Absolute IT have invited me to a local bar to watch Spurs (pronounced bleurgh) v. Arsenal but I have unfortunately booked myself out all morning in a meeting of which you will hear more about further into the future.  Plus almost the entire office supports Spurs, having very recently farewelled their lone Arsenal supporter, and the way Arsenal are playing I’m not sure it sounds like an enjoyable prospect.  If you guys are reading this from smartphones at half time then cheers to you and go the Gunners.  [Update: Arsenal are 3-2 up at half-time, sorry I’m not there now!]

Honestly, if you’re an IT recruiter looking for a new home, and sad enough to support Spurs, then speak to those guys.  You probably wouldn’t even need an interview 😉

But wait!  I do have a small piece of news to impart.  This is the 51st posting on The Whiteboard, where I have published a fresh blog post every Friday since it all kicked off on 22nd April 2010 with the following thoughts:

“…if you are an agency or internal recruiter, particularly in New Zealand, or perhaps a recruitment Director or company owner, you might like to check in with The Whiteboard every now and then.  We should be posting something up every Friday and hoping to lighten the mood towards the weekend, as well as keep you informed of news, articles, opinion and gossip from the world of recruitment, with a definite leaning towards the Asia-Pac region that is our hunting ground.”


Yes next week will be The Whiteboard’s first birthday and I hope that some of my plans and aspirations for this blog have come true over the past 12 months.  It has been a pleasure to write and comment upon various goings on in our world of recruitment but most edifying of all has been your growing support, from reading numbers, subscriptions, comments and general word of mouth comments made to me.  Thanks for your support and keep those comments coming.  I look forward to ever more vigorous debates over the coming 12 months.

For a birthday present I am taking The Whiteboard on a designer shopping spree.  Watch out for the new-look Whiteboard next week and if its bum looks big – don’t be afraid to say so.

All that is left to say is Happy Easter to everyone out there in recruitment and I hope you all enjoy a well-earned break.  But mainly to the New Zealand recruiters, not because I live and work here, but because you jammy Aussies have such a prosperous economy your Government can afford to give you Tuesday off for ANZAC Day as well.

At least that’s an extra day’s revenue on temp margins for the New Zealand recruitment firms.  Clutching at straws?  You’ve got to look on the bright side!

Top Five Fails with Cafe Interviews

Before I crack into this one it is worth noting that there is a very valid argument that recruitment interviews should never be held in public places such as cafes for basic confidentiality purposes.  I am sure there are many of you out there that would never dream of conducting interviews this way.  But there is no getting away from the fact the world of work, and most importantly the way we work, is changing rapidly.  As businesses gradually shift away from the large, monolithic corporations, to the more nimble, agile, subject-matter-expert businesses, all fuelled by smarter technology and communication channels, the humble café is becoming more and more a place of work, networking, business meetings and interviewing.

This article from the website Stuff.co.nz (via the SMH) caught my eye last week.  It looks like Australians have coined the word “Coffice” to describe this new workplace revolution.  Unsurprisingly this is catching on big time in New Zealand too, where a more casual, relaxed and well, just Kiwi, approach to business has been evolving, making cafés the ideal spot to conduct business in a relaxed, sociable and non-threatening kind of way.

Over my years in recruitment I have found myself increasingly meeting up with clients and candidates for coffee.  If I am meeting someone for the very first time then I typically try and avoid this, and stick with more formal locations like my own office, but this isn’t always possible, particularly when visiting other cities where I don’t have a permanent base.  During that time I have learned from a few mistakes, and honed the art of making these meetings as professional and confidential as possible, without losing the feeling of relaxed sociability that makes this form of meeting more appealing in the first place.  I have also heard many horror stories from other recruiters, and experienced some myself first hand, where this practice has not been done effectively at all, leaving both parties with a bitter taste in their mouth (and not from the coffee).

So as the “Coffice” plays an increasingly large part in a recruiter’s toolkit, here are my Top Five Coffee Interview Fails, to help you avoid the many pitfalls in this kind of meeting and make the most of the opportunity:

  1. Eating Alone      It is best to avoid eating during an interview altogether no matter whether you missed breakfast and the hollandaise sauce on those eggs benedict on the next table looks oh so creamy.  If you have agreed to catch up for a breakfast meeting, or a lunch meeting, and your candidate is expecting to eat, then go ahead.  But if your candidate declines your offer of food, then you must avoid eating too.  There is nothing worse than trying to interview a candidate when they are staring at the runny egg slowly solidifying on your tie and you are staring at the croissant flake you just spat out and landed on their forehead, and you are the only one eating.  A senior recruiter recently told me how he had been interviewing with a large, global recruitment firm, and all had gone very well and just had the final stage of meeting the GM who would rubber stamp the deal.  The GM asked him to meet for a coffee around breakfast time.  Upon meeting the senior recruiter declined the GM’s offer of food, but the GM went ahead and ordered himself a huge plate of bacon and eggs.  So the interview consisted of the candidate doing all the talking while the GM scoffed at his trough and noisily chewed his way through a fry up the whole time.  The ensuing offer of employment was swiftly turned down by the candidate, whose impression of the entire brand is now tarnished by the mental image of watching a scoffing, slurping GM conducting a cursory interview.
  2. The Obvious Interview                 You can often tell when someone is being interviewed, or has met someone in public for the first time, by the body language of both parties.  But it is poor form to make it so blatantly obvious with CVs strewn across the table, the candidate’s name blazoned boldly across the top, and you shouting out behavioural based questions over the din of the café.  Most candidates will be slightly nervous or apprehensive in an interview situation and this kind of behaviour will add a significant does of embarrassment.  Nobody likes to show off that they are looking for a new job, especially to other random members of the public, not to mention the chance that someone they know might spot them.  As the interviewer I have always found it important to memorise as much of the CV as possible and keep it tucked away in a folder for quick reference at only the most crucial moments.  It is ok to ask questions and make notes on a blank piece of paper but ask the candidate first if they are comfortable with that.  If not, then you will have to find a more private place to talk, or make it a less formal coffee chat and arrange a more formal follow up back at your offices for some other time.
  3. The Noisy Café                 The coolest café in town with the funkiest dub beats being laid down from a booming sound system and a massive lunch time surge is not the best choice of café to conduct interviews.  It might make you feel hip and contemporary to be interviewing someone there, but your candidate will be distracted by the noise, and made uneasy by the close proximity of chattering work colleagues, and you will not get the best out of them.  Look for larger cafés, particularly ones with booths.  Hotel lobbies also make excellent meeting places for interviewing and are well worth the small premium you pay on the coffee prices.
  4. The Chance Encounter                  There is a chance you might spy someone else you know while interviewing your candidate.  This is especially true in smaller cities like Wellington.  When this happens then a cursory nod of greeting or recognition is more than enough, but even this will distract your candidate.  Definitely avoid doing what I have witnessed a few times, where the recruiter loudly greets someone by name, even stands up to shake hands, have a chat, and then introduce them to their candidate.  It is all well and good networking and sharing contacts around, but during a job interview is definitely not the time or place.  Just wait for your contact to declare to your candidate that they know their boss and bumped into them just last night, and watch the blood drain from your candidate’s face, along with any chance you had of representing them to your clients.
  5. Forget-me-not                  It is a very dangerous ploy to try and remember everything you have discussed with the candidate over coffee without making any notes.  When I have decided that it would be a bit too awkward to sit there openly asking questions and taking notes, then I have hung around after the candidate has left and quickly scribbled down all of the salient points from the meeting, and areas of agreed follow up.  It is then very helpful to send a recap e-mail to the candidate, thanking them for meeting for coffee, and covering off the main points of what you agreed to do.  It is also ok to re-confirm some of the more important points, such as availability or salary expectations, via e-mail.  If you just leave it a few days and then start selling the candidate in to clients, with no notes to refer back to, you may as well not have bothered meeting up with them in the first place.


I think the “Coffice” is an excellent place to have a catch up with candidates you recently placed to see how it’s all going, or to meet clients for a general catch up where you are not taking down complicated job briefs.  But for first time meetings it is a scenario fraught with danger, and if it is the only way of meeting to interview for specific roles, then it is worth keeping the above points in the back of your mind so you can get the most out of the time spent.

SEEK Launches Jobseeker Profiles and it’s Better Than Expected

This week saw the promised launch of SEEK’s foray into the online CV database market with Jobseeker Profiles.  The premise behind this is an attempt to flip the traditional job board model on its head and turn it into a proactive job search tool for job seekers, rather than reactive one.  Instead of applying to job ads as they appear on the site, this enables job seekers to post their CV and profile onto SEEK’s database and become searchable by recruitment agencies and employers looking for keywords or experience contained within those CVs.

Of course, this is a bit like when the football A-League was announced and launched back in 2005, bringing professional football to Australia and New Zealand for the first time.  Many people were like, “OK that’s cool, but really it’s about time seeing as every other country in the world has a professional football league already.”  So it is with this, with job board goliaths like Monster already having pioneered this facility many years hence.

So will it take off in our region?  The traditional resistance has always been that in a smaller market (particularly New Zealand) job seekers are going to be less inclined to post their details publically looking for a job in case their current employer should happen to stumble upon it.  I imagine SEEK will have set up numerous screens to protect the obvious identity of the candidate, until the candidate permits the release of their details to the employer, but it is still a cultural mindset that will be hard to shift.  The reaction amongst many of my fellow recruiters has been pretty under-whelming so far, a bit like the opening game of the A-League which I attended where Newcastle Jets lost 1-0 at home to Adelaide Utd.  A lone header from the visitors punctuating an inability for either team to string any passes together stuck a pin into the barely inflated pre-game bubble of excitement.

But I am an advocate of change and innovation if nothing else, so I am committed to giving this new thing a go.  And seeing as it’s Friday Whiteboard Day I thought I might as well provide you a running commentary of how I get on with my first foray into Jobseeker Profiles:

–          Open browser and click into SEEK.co.nz.  Looks familiar, notice the tile in the bottom “Look for a job while it looks for you, employers and recruiters are searching for people like you now”.  OK so that’s for the job seeker, but what about me?  I want to see what profiles I can find.

–          Click into it anyway to see if that’s where I should go…no it’s just for the job seeker.  OK well I’ll take my usual route for posting ads and click on “Advertisers Post a Job Ad” at the top of the screen.

–          Aha, here we go.  A new “Candidates” column on this page.  Click into “Jobseeker Profiles for your roles”

–          OK it all looks pretty nice, excitement and anticipation starting to build, where do I go next?  Only place I can see to go next is clicking on “your roles”

–          Here we go – familiar page but with a new “Jobseeker Profiles” column.  It is telling me there are 70 jobseeker profiles available for my “Experienced Recruitment Professionals” job ad – sweet.  Got to check this out, click on the 70.

–          Reduce the field to 29 by adding the keyword “recruitment” (as I am looking for experienced recruiters here, the word must surely appear on all profiles of experienced recruiters).  That also thankfully eliminates the “Hard Warking Boy” who wants to be a butcher (not sure which letter he mis-typed in that sentence)

–          Must say it looks like there might be one or two useful profiles for me here…have a scout through them.  As an introductory offer SEEK are giving away 10 free profile views per job ad so I’ll compile my short list and see how it goes…

–          OK got my 10 job seekers and click “Checkout”.  7 will have their CV’s released automatically and 3 are private profiles, so they get to review my job ad before releasing their info (this is where jobseekers worried about their boss seeing them looking can cover their arses)

–          2 of them are already registered with me.  One is a candidate I already placed 3 weeks ago.  The others are there for me to peruse and decide what to do with.

Overall I have to say this is quite a slick process.  It looks good and, once you have found your way into the right area of SEEK, it is very easy to use.  As for whether it will throw up the results recruiters are looking for?  Well I must say I was surprised to see the profile of a candidate who I have already placed.  This proves irrevocably that this could work very well for us in recruitment.  The fact he applied to me directly as well as posting his own profile meant I was able to work reactively on finding him a job, but this shows how it could become a more proactive process.

Looking at the rest, I will make contact, but on first glance doesn’t appear likely there will be the right fit in there.  But as this is taken up by more and more agencies and employers then more job seekers will load their details up and the quality of the database will improve.  I can definitely see this being of benefit, especially for overseas candidates moving to, or returning to, New Zealand, who wouldn’t necessarily know who to contact or where to look.

This is a good move from SEEK.  The calls about job boards becoming less and less relevant are getting louder, and have obviously prompted SEEK into launching this new product.  But this kind of move was essential for SEEK to remain relevant, to display some innovation, to just keep us all interested, especially as the likes of Linked In and Google make searching for candidates without job boards a realistic option for many recruiters.  Yes, this has been done before, but I must say SEEK have done this well.  As long as they now invest proper amounts in marketing this new feature to job seekers, to improve the size and quality of their database, then this could be a very useful tool in the recruiter’s candidate sourcing strategy.

Keen to hear about anyone else who has tried out this new feature in their particular sector, and any feedback you might have.

Fee Splits: Right or Wrong?

I received a call this week from a highly experienced and long-standing Executive recruiter whose nose had been severely put out of joint and they wanted to tackle me on a certain issue.  I know what you’re all thinking but sorry to let you down – it wasn’t me or something I had said that had upset this recruiter (not this time anyway).  This recruiter had been the subject of one of the most contentious issues in our recruitment industry.  This must surely be one of the most divisive issues we have.  What elephant in the room am I referring to?

The split fee issue.

Now I’m well aware that many recruitment firms do this internally.  You know, when Johnny Rookie stumbles upon a great candidate but hasn’t managed to win any business from clients yet, but Sally Farquar-Bigbillingham has a great role on with one of her (exclusive, darling) clients, so they agree to split the fee 50/50 (once poor Johnny has been put through the wringer and made to do all the leg work and admin).

But this was of a different flavour entirely.  A fee split discussion between two recruiters from different firms.  I’m keen to get your opinions on this matter, so to simplify things I have decided to relate the story like a film script.  Let’s stick with our characters Sally and Johnny, but bear in mind they are from different recruitment firms, in different parts of the country:

                [Sally’s mobile phone rings]

Sally:    Hello?

Johnny:    Hi is this Sally?

Sally:    Speaking.  Who is this?

Johnny:    You don’t know me.  I’m a fellow recruiter and saw the ad you placed in the paper yesterday.  I happen to have the perfect candidate for your role.

Sally:    Oh excellent, thank you for that.  I am just on my way to review the applications now so please do send the candidate through.

Johnny:    No love, you don’t get it do you?  I called your client up to tell them I had the perfect candidate, and for some reason they told me I had to talk to you about referring the candidate in.

Sally:    Why would you call my client when I’m recruiting the role?

Johnny:    Because I have this candidate who would be perfect, don’t I?  So anyway, how about we both get something out of it and split the fee 50/50 if they take my candidate.

Sally:    I don’t think so.  I won a competitive tender to recruit exclusively for this role so I’m not about to lose half the fee to you.

Johnny:    Well I have this candidate exclusively and I want them to be considered for this position, so what are we going to do about it?

Sally:    If I were you I would advise your candidate to apply directly to me for this role and I’ll take it from there.  However, I would suggest your candidate is severely lacking in judgement if they are at GM level but agreed to register exclusively with you – whoever you are.

Johnny:    I’m a recruiter at X and I’ve been doing this 10 months.

Sally:    Well I’ve been doing this over 10 years and I don’t like the cut of your gib.

Johnny:    I know, I looked you up on Linked In.  But why are you standing in the way of the best outcomes for my candidate and your client?

Sally:    I am not standing in the way young man.  I am following due process and your candidate is perfectly entitled to apply directly to my ad.  It is you who is acting without integrity or ethics.

Johnny:    [Getting irritated and aggressive] Listen lady this can be an easy transaction for us both to make money.

Sally:    You should be taking the long term view on this and doing what is right for your candidate, rather than treating them like some commodity.  They will repay you for it in the long run.

Johnny:    Look, I’m not just in recruitment to make placements and to make money, I really care about the candidates and clients too.

Sally:    Pull the other one.

Johnny:    So you won’t do a split?

Sally:    No.

                [click – click – both hang up]

Ahh, the fun and games of fee splits eh?  Now I myself am a little undecided where I stand on this issue.  I certainly think that Johnny showed a lot of front and guile that will be useful attributes as a recruiter.  But he did go a bit far with the unprofessionalism in my opinion.  Fair enough to ask the question, perhaps, but taking it too far to push it as hard as he did?  Somewhat lacking in respect and integrity?

I myself have partaken in fee split scenarios with competitors of mine in the past.  The difference in these occasions though was that the competitor approached me directly saying they were struggling to fill a role and did I have any candidates that might suit, for a 50/50 split?  It so happened that I did and the transaction was a successful one.  It did leave me feeling like I’d had a fling with an old flame who I had vowed never to go near again though.  But the allure of the split fee was too much to resist.

I know I’ve referred to the real estate industry in the past, but again there are similarities here.  Estate agents from one firm often show prospective buyers around the house listings of competing agencies, if none of their own stock match the requirements, for a split fee agreement.  I myself was introduced to my house by a Barfoots agent, when it was listed through Harcourts, and they agreed a fee split between themselves.

So anyway, Sally and I are keen to hear your opinions on this.  Where do you stand?  Was Johnny rude and obnoxious to make the approach?  Or is Sally being too precious and indeed standing in the way of the best outcomes for his candidate and her client?

What made Johnny think it was ok to call a client based off a co-branded ad with another recruitment agency?

Or does this highlight a difference in recruitment style and approach between Wellington and Auckland?  It would certainly be interesting to hear the thoughts of any of my Australian readers on this too, who I imagine do these kind of fee splits on a regular basis…

Is Your Hiring Process Quick Enough?

One of the strongest arguments against the practice of contingent recruitment is that the speed of response required to beat your competitors and get the wins up on your whiteboards dilutes the quality of service to your clients and candidates.  Smug, goatee-beard-stroking, retained assignment recruiters brandishing exclusive deals with their clients smirk into their chilled Chardonnays over leisurely lunches with a member of their prospective shortlist as stories are regaled of desperate contingency recruiters scrambling over each other to fire away said candidate’s CV the quickest.

But the huge majority of us out there are contingency recruiters, in the trenches, fighting hard to get some wins on the board, and finding ourselves in the necessary evil position of working at speed to fight off the competition.  Sure, many of you aspire to work more roles on a retained basis (hopefully without the need to grow a goatee), but this takes time, building of long-standing relationships, a significant track record.  All good things to work towards but not always something you can achieve in your early years of recruiting .  You can’t go to Barnet in England’s League Two and say “Look, we know you want to be more like Arsenal down the road and play in the Premier League, but you need to stop running around, shooting and missing the goal so much….just make sure you take fewer shots but that they go in more often.”  It just doesn’t work that way.

But as the market hots up again and the battle for top talent intensifies, there is no doubt that the recruiters who respond the quickest and most effectively, and the clients who behave in the same way, will come out with the results they are looking for.  But I wonder if this fact has sunk into the New Zealand business community yet.  Even in Australia, where it is widely acknowledged that the market is hotter than a nuclear fuel rod, frustrations amongst recruiters persist.  One of my Aussie Linked In connections commented a week ago:

“Time kills all deals. Candidates now have MULTIPLE opportunities. Don’t let the good candidates slip through your fingers”

Time kills all deals eh?  I’m not a fan of the phrase, mainly because it was the mantra of a particularly nefarious recruiter I once worked with and sends shudders down my spine, but it is true nevertheless.  Many recruiters responded to this simple comment with frustrations of their own.

So I thought I would test these frustrations against the very same recruitment industry that is expressing frustrations with their own clients.  OK, recruiters are starting to miss out on placements due to the time it is taking their clients to decide, so how good is the recruitment industry at moving quickly in a tightening labour market?  I collated the following information on average time to hire from my own clients in the recruitment industry, for the past five Quarters, the number being the average days it took from the date of the first interview to making the formal offer of employment:

Q1 2010                13 days

Q2 2010                24 days

Q3 2010                23 days

Q4 2010                29 days

Q1 2011                14 days

There does seem to be a clear increase in the sense of urgency amongst many New Zealand recruitment companies in reaching a quicker hiring decision than they did last year.  Although they were equally quick in the first Quarter of 2010.  Was this industry excitement at the launching of Rice Consulting and an unquenchable desire to use my services as quickly as possible?  Or is the first Quarter of each year always filled with greater levels of optimism and bravery that lead to faster hiring decisions?

Whatever the truth behind these numbers, there is no doubt that recruitment companies that want to secure top talent in 2011 are not going to be allowed to slope back towards the 23-29 days kind of mark again.  Those that do will find the candidate you just offered has already been working for your competitor for two weeks and has just paid a visit to your top client.

Top 5 On-Boarding Mistakes made by Recruitment Companies

Remember that time as a kid you got invited to your little school buddy’s birthday party?  He was bragging about it all week long at school.  The invites had been sent out and they had glitter on them.  The party was going to be held at the local leisure centre and there would be swimming, followed by some football, then lunch at a nearby assault course with a clown and a magician in attendance?  You were giddy with excitement.

Then Saturday arrived and your Mum drops you off at the leisure centre where the pool is closed for cleaning and the gym out of bounds due to an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease through the air-con.  It’s raining so the assault course is off limits so you end up playing arcade games with your mates instead.  It’s ok, not the worst way to spend the day, but nowhere near what you had expected… Then Bozo and Merlin turn up stinking of booze and Merlin’s forgotten his rabbit.

Bit of a come down?  No doubt about it.  The thing is there appears to be a few recruitment companies starting to play the part of your old school buddy all those years ago.  As the recruitment market picks up post-recession and good recruitment talent becomes harder to come by, there are an increasing number of firms making some quite outlandish promises to prospective employees.  Now there’s really nothing wrong with that per se.  If you decide that the best way to acquire recruitment talent is to offer them 70% commission, 30 days holiday and season tickets to the Blues then that is fine.

But you have to then actually back that up when they join you.

Amazing as it sounds, there is an increasing amount of this going on.  Recruitment companies will be, and are, competing for the top talent in the market, and it is natural to conjure up unique selling points and other methods of coercion to land your recruiter.  But I cannot stress enough how critically important it is that you maintain credibility by actually providing what it is you initially promised.


The current phrase for this new phenomenon is “onboarding” which must be fairly new because Word just underlined it in red!  But most of you in recruitment will be aware of what it is, and how important it is to get it right and make sure your new employee’s first experiences of their new job are fabulous ones, helping to cement their longer term loyalty and buy-in to the company vision.

Here are my Top 5 On-Boarding Mistakes made by recruitment companies:

  1. The promise:  We sit on a large number of PSAs and have an extensive database of candidates for you to put forward for roles.  The reality:  You’re on 3 PSA panels, one of which will only deal with the company’s top biller, and the other two just keep re-appointing your company because of the 8% fees you agreed to back in 2001, which means no-one has ever bothered recruiting roles for them.  The candidate database is made up of CVs sent in in response to generic ads from 2 years ago and no contact has been made to assess suitability or availability.
  2. The promise:  We have a tight-knit team who generate a fun, sociable atmosphere and having Friday night drinks every week.  The reality:  You have an insidious clique of long-timers who shun new employees and bottom drawer good candidate CVs, as they see the new employee as a threat to their own desks and slice of the pie.  They make crude comments and jokes during the first week and on Friday they do go out for drinks, but don’t invite the new person whose name they never found out anyway. 
  3. The promise:  You will have a car park as part of the package.  The reality:  The car park space is on the other side of town beneath a huge bird-infested tree forcing you to spend every Saturday morning cleaning off the bird product spattered all over your roof. 
  4. The promise:  You will have a company phone and laptop as part of the package.  The reality:  You “inherit” the clunky old Toshiba laptop with the processing speed of treacle trickling uphill.  The mobile is quite new but looking through it you find it still contains the lewd photos and dodgy text conversations of the previous incumbent of your desk (who was fired for inappropriate behaviour towards other staff members, funnily enough). 
  5. The promise:  All your tools will be ready for you to start recruiting right away, from day one.  The reality:  You arrive on day one to find your desk doubling up as the dumping ground for everyone’s coats and jackets.  Moving them aside you find your new log-on for the computer hasn’t been activated and you have to wait until later in the day for IT support to get onto it, the only programmes accessible being Solitaire and MineSweeper.  As for business cards, you are told that the server room is piled high with boxes of business cards for previous employees like some kind of business card tomb.  To avoid further potential loss you will only be ordered your business cards once getting through the 3-month probationary period.


These are all real-life experiences I have witnessed over my years in recruitment, both as a supplier of recruiters to the industry and also as a recruiter within the industry.  What employers need to realise now is that it is one thing making promises to get someone to sign up, but takes a lot of leadership and follow-through to actually ensure everything happens as promised.  If not, do not be surprised if your shiny new employee does a quick about-turn and turns up at your main competitor a few weeks later.

To finish, it is important to mention that the prospective new employee also has a big duty of care before accepting their new role.  It is quite natural for a new employer to go to some kind of length to sell their company over their competitors, especially in a tightening labour market.  If you are a recruiter looking for a new role, make sure you ask the right questions and really dig into the promises made by the person interviewing you.

Croquet and Pimms at the SEEK Estate

SEEK did something quite unexpected yesterday.  They hosted a very pleasant, convivial, civilised and not-at-all-brash garden party at Alberton House the “SEEK Estate” to host a range of clients, recruitment and corporate, to say thanks for our business.  How jolly decent of you SEEK and thanks for having us all along.

Now this was no legendary SEEK Blue Ball thronged with roaring recruiters, chest thumping suits and tottering tipsily on high heels.  This really was an indication of where we have come as an industry since the heady boom days.  The recession put paid to the Blue Ball, the flash venues and manically drumming Japs fading into a distant memory from 2008 as SEEK’s swollen coffers started to run as dry as those of their recruitment clients.  This was altogether a far more genteel occasion.  Recruiters are still in the process of hauling themselves back out of the recession.  No doubt work is picking up significantly and revenues are returning, but there are still a multitude of wounds to lick and heal, which came through in the polite and reserved chit chat that characterised the evening.  No more the sneering gloating over vanquished competitors, more like a few sideways glances and acknowledged mutual respect between competing firms who are all really just glad to still be in recruitment.

Forget Saatchi & Saatchi...it's Simon & Simon (Madison)

But for the wider recruitment masses, it was suggested by JP from Seek (who is now to be known as John-Paul as he was introduced by his new GM), that the Blue Ball will return.  So we will once again have a night of heavy drinking and general letting-hair-down behaviour.  Then we will really see if the recruitment industry leopard has managed to change its spots, or as I suspect is just currently wearing a clever spotless disguise in preparation to cast it aside when the boom returns.

The evening was also an opportunity for SEEK to introduce their aforementioned new GM.  Take a bow Janet Faulding and welcome to New Zealand’s recruitment community.  Janet has a background in running radio stations but did some online stuff as GM for Vouchermate.  We had a chat and she seemed pretty cool, although introducing her new account manager John as a fellow Pom, when he is from Zimbabwe, didn’t go down so well!

Janet Faulding speaks

It seems like The Whiteboard divided opinion last night as well, which is excellent news and just what I am trying to achieve – a bit of debate in our industry.  To be fair, there were many positive comments from some readers of the blog, and just one that suggested I was pushing things too far in a small market – but it’s all good and we’re all entitled to an opinion.  I have to take my hat off to the Manpower crew who were very magnanimous despite the panning received by many commentators a couple of weeks ago.

On that note the blog went past the 10,000 views mark last week, so thanks for all of your reading, especially those of you who contribute, comment and join in the debate on issues in our industry.

So there we have it.  No juicy gossip or salacious details on misbehaving recruiters this week I’m afraid.  I must say a big cheers to the guys from Hays, Recruit IT, Madison, and Automotive Employment, who carried the evening on in Snapdragon in the Viaduct.  It was a great night, but I really am all talked out, so I’m going to slink off to find a coffee and hopefully something abundantly greasy that I really shouldn’t be eating, but will be so good… I heard something on the radio yesterday about a battered sausage covered with chips and wrapped in bacon… a Piggy-Chip-Dog.

Mmm, that’ll be the ticket…aren’t hangovers great?

Recruit IT flying under the radar and banning use of flash

Giving Candidates the Uncomfortable Truth

Recruitment, as we all know, can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.  Periodic highs from making placements and securing a new client can be swiftly expelled by savage lows and doubting introspection when things don’t work out so well.  The longer you spend in the recruitment industry the better equipped you are to deal with these highs and lows.  As Rudyard Kipling said, it is the making of you when you can treat the imposters of Triumph and Disaster as one and the same.  So seasoned, hardened veterans of recruitment will greet a big-fee placement with no more than a mildly raised eyebrow, and equally confront the loss of a contractor to the competition, or a permanent placement falling over inside the guarantee period, with barely a flickered downturn at the side of the mouth.

For me this week has been one of those weeks.  You know, one of the flickered-downturn-at-the-mouth ones.  Things just haven’t quite gone to plan.  The Midas touch has taken a well-earned rest and my candidates are not getting the breaks this week, and I have had more interview rejections in one week than in a long time, probably since the recession (when I was hardly even arranging interviews, let alone getting clients to say “Yes, I actually quite liked them and would love to have them on board thank you.”)  Now I’m ok with this.  These days I know how to get the positives out of these situations and make sure the weeks ahead follow a different path.  But it was how I have had to relay the feedback and rejections to my candidates that I have found quite interesting.

When I started out in recruitment I probably didn’t quite have the guts to be brutally honest with candidates.  Of course I would let them know they had been unsuccessful, but out of my natural inclination towards people skills, candidate care and customer service, I would try and soften the blow by pulling the punches.  If someone was rejected for having a poor personal appearance and crumpled suit, I might say to them that the culture fit was just not quite right and the client couldn’t see them suiting their particular team dynamic.

Of course, this kind of feedback isn’t at all helpful to the candidate, which is why I no longer sugar-coat my feedback and give it to them straight, whether they like it or not.  These days I am always mindful of the quote from Timothy Ferriss:

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations they are willing to have”


This has always resonated strongly with me since I first heard it and is probably the main reason I no longer try and dress up my feedback to candidates to “make them feel better”.  What has really struck me this week though, is how well all of my candidates have taken the brutal, honest, constructive feedback given.  Sure, they’ve been disappointed, surprised, mildly offended, and in one case strangely relieved (!) but all have responded well to the constructive feedback and I could tell it will actually help them as they plan their forthcoming career moves, whether that be trying out again for a new opportunity or making more of their current role and position.

In recruitment we are often accused of being poor communicators with our candidates, of not listening, of lying, of providing inadequate feedback.  In his latest blog post Greg Savage relates the story of a fellow sideline Dad watching their sons playing sport, who turned to Greg and declared his hatred of recruiters.  As a senior IT professional he had recently left his old job and had a less-than-satisfactory candidate experience from the Sydney IT recruitment industry.  The post is well worth a read for all of the comments alone  but some of this candidate’s beef included:

  • They tell you lies. They lie about the jobs they have, and they lie about what stage your application is at with the client.
  • They provide no feedback, or scant feedback on the process, on interviews and on client opinions.


I personally have long ago made the decision to be bold and give it like it is to my candidates.  Of course I will then enter a dialogue about how things could be better, or different, next time, but it is amazingly liberating and powerful to feel you have given your candidate everything there is and held nothing back in reserve so as not to hurt their feelings.

And thank you to my staunch candidates this week all of whom took the bad news on the chin.  Let’s work hard to get it right next time.

A Poor Sense of Timing from Manpower Professional

For a change I don’t have a lot to say this morning, other than to gather your thoughts on this job posted on SEEK at 1.18pm yesterday:

Engineering opportunities across the ditch

  • Get paid to move away
  • Great career progression opportunity
  • Excellent travel opportunity for the family

Our hearts go out to all those affected by the recent events in Christchurch. Having been there in September for the 7.1 earthquake and endless aftershocks, I can relate to the destruction and post traumatic distress the latest shocks have caused.

If you are looking for an opportunity to get away for a while, Australian Engineering firms could be your silver lining. With paid relocation and resettling assistance, the next 2 years could be an experience that you and your family will not regret.

Our consultants are currently working on Senior Engineering roles across a variety of disciplines and locations including:

Electrical Engineers:

  • Senior Distribution Engineer -Electrical Engineering MV and LV Distribution
  • HV Substation Design Engineers
  • Transmission Lines Design Engineers

Civil Engineers:

  • Principal Maritime/Marine Structures Engineer
  • Senior Civil Engineers – Land development
  • Senior Civil Engineers – Water resources
  • Senior Hydrologists
  • Principal Water Resources Engineer
  • Senior Structural Engineer – Career path to Branch Manager
  • Principal Geotechnical Engineer – Water retaining structures

Metallurgical and Process Engineers:

  • Process Engineer – Minerals processing experience preferred

These opportunities are with well renowned organisations on the East Coast of Australia (predominantly Brisbane) offering excellent salaries and career advancement opportunities. If you would like to discuss any of the above roles or how you would go about moving. Submit your CV using the APPLY button

This ad was posted almost exactly 48 hours after the earthquake struck on Tuesday. There are still people missing, the rescue and recovery mission is still underway, and there are still people out there hoping against hope that their friends, relatives or colleagues will make some kind of miraculous reappearance from the rubble of Christchurch. Am I being a little precious here, or is this just way too early?

Now the author of this job posting seems like a good enough boy. He was in Christchurch during the original September quake, caring for an ill relative according to his LinkedIn profile, and I don’t imagine this was meant with any sense of malice. But I do think it displays terrible timing and a naïve lack of judgement. From the way I read it, it appears his colleagues in Brisbane have gathered together their hard-to-fill engineering roles, determined that the fact he was there in September means he has “earned his stripes through the aftershocks”, and has the right angle to post on their behalf.

This is not helpful at this time. This is an attempt to generate commercial gain for your business, thinly disguised as offering a helping hand to Cantabrians keen to escape with their families. If it’s too early for the Crusaders, it is too early for Manpower Professional.

I have a couple of other quick observations on this. Firstly that half the city is still without power so quite how the Brisbane office of Manpower think potential candidates will have the means, never mind the will, to even read this job posting is beyond me. Secondly, Christchurch is in ruins. The city is smashed and from what I can see from the news the famous Mainland spirit has taken a beating too. I think that in time there will certainly be many Cantabrian engineers looking for pastures new with their families, but right now and for the coming months their skills and abilities are going to be crucial in helping the city recover.

And what of the Manpower Professional office in Christchurch itself? This office is consistently vying with South Auckland for the top performing branch in New Zealand. What would these guys make of this attempt, by their own colleagues “across the ditch”, to lure skilled engineers away from the disaster zone their city has become?

I listened to Mayor Bob Parker on the news last night talking about the need to behave with dignity and respect at this difficult time. Obviously that message hasn’t made it as far as Brisbane yet.

Is Recruitment the Real Barometer for Economic Recovery?

This week I made a placement into a recruitment firm that came with a $5k signing-on fee for the candidate.  I felt a little bit like how Fernando Torres’ agent must have felt when he negotiated a £50 million signing-on fee from Chelsea (ok ok…I said “a little bit”)

But this is indicative of the way the recruitment market is heading now in New Zealand, and even more so in Australia from what I have heard.  We have come flying out of the traps into 2011 and it is busy, very busy.  The demand for recruitment talent is high because recruitment firms are getting so busy they are starting to struggle to deliver, in some areas.

Check out some recent Tweets, in the past 2 weeks, from recruiters that I stalk “follow”:

“Farrow Jamieson just finished the best January Revenue in a decade.  The New Zealand Recovery is underway!”  @nzheadhunter


“What a week.  7 placements in the Melbourne office.  Bring it on!”  @hamiltonrec2rec


“RFP’s, proposals, presentations, new business, all on a Saturday & with no hangover 2011 is going to be busy and is shaping up nicely!”  @JamesNutt11


“Congrats to Gordon and Philippa for accepting your dream jobs in the NFP sector!!!  February is gearing up to be a good one!!!!”  @Talent_Capital


“And sales and business development roles aplenty!  2011 recruitment market in NZ is looking promising.”  @bobwalkerNZ

OK so this all sounds fabulous right?  Add to that the supposed “shot in the arm” that the Rugby World Cup is going to deliver to our New Zealand economy.  $500m according to a presentation by the New Zealand 2011 Business Club at an HRINZ function on Tuesday night.

But how does all this positivity stack up against the seemingly negative statistics constantly coming out of Government?  According to this article from Bernard Hickey, English and Key have admitted New Zealand may have statistically hit a double-dip recession already and despite it being an election year are talking up fiscal responsibility and reducing debt.  Furthermore it seems consumer confidence dropped again in February. 

And what of the RWC2011 economic benefits?  Are we really pinning our hopes of a sustained recovery on this one event?  I recently read a brilliant book called “Why England Lose” by Simon Kuper & Stefan Szymanski (2010).  Here is a pertinent excerpt:

“The raising and dashing of hopes of an ‘economic bonanza’ has since become as integral a part of a modern football tournament as the raising and dashing of hopes that England will win it…Euro 96 generated about £100 million in direct income for Britain.  This was peanut dust beside the £12.7 billion spent by all overseas visitors to the country in 1996.  Meanwhile, a study by Liverpool University and the city council found that the 30,000 visitors to Liverpool during Euro 96 spent only £1.03 million between them.  How many jobs did that create?  Thirty, all of them temporary.”


Simple message – don’t pin your hopes of increased recruitment activity and economic stimulus on the Rugby World Cup – just enjoy it for what it is, showcase New Zealand to the world, and for God’s sake don’t plunge the country back into a fatal depression if the All Blacks fail to win it!

Another alarm bell was rung last week with the liquidation of a long-established Accounting & Finance recruitment business in Auckland.

However, I am a recruiter like those Tweeters above.  I am busy, I am confident, I am positive.  I just struggle to see how the vibe in recruitment relates to the words coming from economists and politicians mouths.

Maybe we should ignore Government statistics which are old news by the time we read them.  Maybe the recruitment industry is the true barometer of what is happening out there in the employment markets and economy as a whole.  What do you reckon?