Tag Archives: Follow Up

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.

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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.

Why Recruiters Have Terrible Follow-Up…and what to do about it

One of the biggest gripes against recruiters that clients and candidates have is about our lack of follow up, saying we will do something and not doing it, our lack of communication.  There are many, many candidates out there, in particular, who harbour very low opinions of recruitment consultants for failing to acknowledge their application for a job, failing to tell them they are unsuccessful, or worst of all failing to provide feedback after they have gone to the time, trouble and expense of attending an interview with a client.

Why is this?

Well with some I believe it is procrastination – putting things like that off for a fear of failure or inability to cope with the mounting workload.  For others it might be a fear of conflict and not having the heart to give someone the bad news (I can assure you candidates always hear about the good news – very quickly!)  But for many recruiters it is simply a complete lack of organizational skill.  They are outgoing, driven, motivated sales people that just don’t have the “admin gene” in their make up, and often this is allowed to slide by managers, particularly when the recruiter is posting big numbers, because it is the sales skills that are universally most coveted in recruitment consultants.

I have worked in a number of different recruitment environments and in that time encountered a huge variance in the levels of competency in different recruiters.  I have witnessed some truly terrible recruitment practices – even once a recruiter who simply deleted applications from candidates based upon their name.  Unsurprisingly he is no longer recruiting, but probably never should have been allowed near a recruitment desk in the first place.  But I have also encountered some decent enough recruiters, who genuinely have the best interests of the clients and candidates at heart, but who are simply incapable of planning, prioritizing and organizing their desks and their business to the n-th degree that is so essential to running a truly successful recruitment desk.

The recruitment industry is packed full of well-meaning recruiters who end up giving us all a bad name because they cannot be organized enough to follow up and do what they say they are going to do.

I’m not trying to be one of those recruitment trainers here – but I recruit for the recruitment industry – and I want to see us all raise our game as an industry and improve the way we are perceived in the wider business community – because that can only benefit us all.

So here goes.  Follow up has never been a problem for me and I make absolutely sure I always follow up with all clients and candidates – it is a matter of pride for me – not to mention a point of difference to my competition.  There are a small number of reasons that I am able to operate in this way and always follow up:

1.         In my first recruitment job our CRM system was Adapt and I mastered the use of the excellent To-Do List function which basically ran my desk for me – telling me what to do and when.  By ensuring I always logged every action into Adapt it always reminded me when something needed following up (a CV sent to a client, a client/candidate interview occurrence, a 30-day check with a placed candidate).  Using this function quickly taught me about the process of recruiting and even prioritized different tasks for me (I still remember the order of importance: 1 for Offers, 2 for Interview feedback, 3 for CV send outs and 4 for monthly check up calls).  I know this is a popular system, and one Momentum have recently implemented in New Zealand, but I would imagine all recruitment CRM systems would have something similar – use it.

2.         I am a clean desk Nazi.  You know the type.  There aren’t many of them in recruitment companies but I’m one of those rare ones that only likes to have the bare essentials on my desk to recruit with.  For me that means a phone, a computer, a note pad and a pen.  OK I’ll admit to the family photo too, and an occasional cuppa, but that’s it.  Anything else on the desk means it needs actioning before the end of the day – which could be a CV for a candidate to call, or some client visit notes to put into the system.  If my desk is cluttered then my brain is cluttered and I find myself spinning in circles – but this way everything is actioned before I leave at the end of the day and guess what – no-one complains about lack of follow up.

3.         Which leads me onto the third tactic I employ and that is that my e-mail inbox is treated like a virtual, electronic extension of my desk in the real world.  Most of the time it contains no more than 10 e-mails, which will very rarely be more than 2 days old.  If it goes longer than a page and I can’t see the bottom then I get anxious!  OK I know I must have OCD issues going on like crazy here but believe me, it helps hugely with the follow up.  Candidates I want to reject with a standard reject template are put in a “Reject” folder and I will typically send off a load all in one go.  Important messages from clients or candidates are put in other folders, if they don’t require a response, and so on and so forth.  But as long as my inbox is clear then my thinking is clear and I find I can get a whole lot more done.

This last point is of real interest to me.  I have worked with recruiters who stare with genuine astonishment at my empty inbox.  I have had colleagues with literally thousands of e-mails in their inbox, many waiting to be actioned, and many of such little importance they could have been deleted long ago.  Is it little wonder that we always get accused of poor communication and follow up when one of our most important lines of communication is choked full of crap?  I would be tempted to perform an electronic “Heimlich Manoeuvre” on the offending objects causing the choking – and bulk delete the lot of them.

Anyway, this blog post has ended up being far more sanctimonious than I originally intended, but hopefully there is something there that might spur some of you into sorting out your desks and inboxes and getting on top of communicating effectively and efficiently with clients and candidates from now on.

I saw a good video on the BBC website last week about managing your e-mail inbox so there might be some useful info to help there.  Greg Savage also makes a very valid point in his popular blog The Savage Truth that the best thing to do with e-mail is to not do it – pick up the phone instead – it is far more effective!