Tag Archives: Greg Savage

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.


Who’s Got The Best Christmas Party This Year?

Good morning everyone and it’s a bright and breezy one today as I’m off to Greg Savage’s RCSA brekkie seminar in Auckland this morning.  Perhaps I will have already met many of you readers by the time you read this, who knows?  If you did then lucky you as today you have a double dose of Rice Consulting!

Anyway, it seems like it’s coming around to that time of year again.  Yes I believe this week is the official launch week for the Recruitment Company Christmas Parties!  That time of year where we can all let out a collective, and often drunken, sigh (belch?) of relief and joyously reflect back on a year of highs and lows in our crazy, quirky world of recruitment.

Already Directors will be sending out Memos reminding staff of appropriate behaviour at company events (many going on to flout those very same rules themselves).  Team-building games will be devised, flirtations will be planned, seating arrangements hatched and vegetarians counted.  Drinks will be drunk and, because it is 2010 and not 2009, Secret Santas will almost universally be more than $10 per person.

And, of course, arguments supressed and resentments harboured will eventually come forth with great gusto and ease of delivery…and someone will end up crying.

You gotta love it.

Hays Auckland Christmas Party circa. 2006 (shortly before Jason Walker got onto the Karaoke)…

So what will 2010 mean for your Christmas Party this year?  In 2009 you’d have been lucky to get some burnt offerings from the barbecue in your Director’s / Manager’s back yard.  I doubt your partners would have even been invited last year (which is a bad thing….ok?).

But 2010 already seems to have put the smile back on a number of recruitment leaders’ faces.  Beyond Recruitment  are kicking things off in style with their Christmas Party being held on this very day today with the Auckland team flying down to join their Wellington counterparts for a day of team-bonding followed by an evening in the flashy new waterfront bar “Foxglove” (apparently heavily frequented by Government Department CEOs and suchlike).

I also saw a tweet from Focus Recruitment that they will be popping over to Waiheke for a lunch at the Mudbrick Winery (in the helicopter Tony?)

So what are the rest of you up to this year?  Is anyone doing anything a little bit “different” or are we all going to just enjoy the fact we can run up a bar tab without sweating too profusely this year?

And if you’re not doing anything that flash don’t worry too much, here at Rice Consulting it’s dinner for two at the new restaurant round the corner.  Partners are invited.

RCSA New Zealand…is there a point?

Can anyone out there explain to me the reason for the RCSA in New Zealand?  My business has been up and running for almost a year now and I have to say that the existence of the RCSA has only come into my consciousness four times during that period:

1st time – opening the doors to the business I thought I would look into becoming a member of the RCSA, purely for the purpose of belonging to an industry body that represented me and my profession and having a badge to display, to state that I belonged.  I thought about the ROI on the $425 and decided I would wait a bit until it became more apparent why I should fork out that money – I am still waiting.

2nd time – Greg Savage’s visit to Auckland to present Riding the Recovery.  A fine presentation it was too.  I learned some useful tips, networked a bit, actually got a couple of jobs out of it.  Brief chat with Greg, started following each other on Twitter – all good.  But I didn’t need to be a member to attend, so I promptly forgot about the RCSA again.

3rd time – Ross Clennett’s visit to Wellington to talk about the new era of Brand You.  Again, a great presentation and well worth attending, some more networking, couple of jobs, brief chat with Ross, follow each other on Twitter, now regular commentator on The Whiteboard – again all good.  Didn’t need to be an RCSA member though.

4th time – meeting with a client earlier this week who mentioned that they were long time members of the RCSA and were even involved with the running of the New Zealand branch at Board level etc.

Now this last reminder was interesting because I had entirely forgotten about them.  As a recruiter in New Zealand it never comes into my conscious thought.  And the comments from this client went a long way to justify my stance because they realise that the RCSA “has no teeth” (their words) in New Zealand.  It turns out that in Australia the RCSA certainly does have some teeth, and isn’t afraid to bare them from time to time.  For instance, in Australia you cannot tender for business from Government departments unless you are a member of the RCSA.  Who knew?  Further than that, if you do something dodgy or unethical, and get kicked out of the RCSA, you also automatically get kicked off the Government recruitment panel.

Now this is good stuff.  This sounds like the kind of thing I would see some more ROI in.  Advocacy.  Training.  Lobbying Government on Employment Legislation (did the NZ RCSA have any say or input into the recent 90-day laws in NZ?).  Enforcing ethical behaviour through arbitration and holding recruitment firms wholly accountable for their actions.

As far as I can see in New Zealand, as it stands, the only reason to be a member of the RCSA is so that you can go somewhere to complain about the conduct and behaviour of a fellow member.  Even then it is about as effective as a football manager screaming at the fourth official in a Premier League game – they are there as a sponge to soak up your anger and ire – and let it gently dissipate away again – nothing can actually be done about it.

I suspect I am not alone in these thoughts.  Looking at the list of RCSA Member Companies in New Zealand, there are plenty of household names, a few of the Globals, plus an impressive smattering of regional recruiters.  But there are some very noticeable absentees too.

This isn’t right.  I think that our industry in New Zealand needs a strong representative body who is seen to be providing genuine support, development, resources – and also a bit of policing.  With the market picking up again there will sadly be the re-emergence of the recruitment cowboys who are in it to make a fast buck at the expense of our wider reputation.

You all know that New Zealand subsidiaries of Australian corporates need proper, dedicated, committed leadership in New Zealand that understands New Zealand and doesn’t treat it as another state of Australia.  Otherwise it just doesn’t work.

The RCSA needs to do the same with its’ New Zealand branch.  Grow some teeth – show us what you can do – and then you’ll get my membership fee.

Otherwise we need our own industry body altogether – unique to New Zealand – why not?

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!