Tag Archives: ITCRA

SARAs – A Credible Award or just a Popularity Contest?

I have noted from a number of recruiter e-mail signatures received over the past couple of weeks that the Seek Annual Recruitment Awards are nearly upon us again, and marketing efforts have begun to elicit votes from job seekers.  This is a welcome thing for it presents an opportunity for us in the New Zealand recruitment industry to let our hair down a bit (especially as there is no Seek Blue Ball again this year) and celebrate the recruitment firms out there giving great service to their candidates.

Or is it?  You see, I have often wondered about the status and substance of these awards.  Are they really a useful indicator for potential clients of who is providing the best candidate care?  And would this actually succeed in swaying the opinion of a potential client towards a certain agency?

Or are they simply a popularity contest amongst the recruitment firms actually bothered to invest time and effort into a marketing campaign to get job seekers to vote for them?

For those of you who aren’t aware, the SARA’s are awarded to recruitment firms in different categories ranging from small, medium and large in size, to generalist, specialist or IT in nature.  The winners are determined by who gets the most votes from “job seekers” that determine that firm to be their favourite recruiter.  I put the inverted commas around job seekers because you don’t actually have to be a job seeker, you can be anyone with a computer that doesn’t contain a cookie identifying you as someone who has already voted.  The contest is also only open to the firms that choose to enter so it is does not provide complete industry coverage.

I look back at previous winners and finalists of the SARA’s in New Zealand and wonder whether they really are an award worth striving for, or if they might be a bit of a poisoned chalice?  I can see 5 or 6 of the previous finalists from the past couple of years who have now totally gone out of business.  OK we had a vicious recession to get through but clearly it was astute business practices and hard work that kept companies afloat, not the ownership of a SARA.

I also wonder where are some of New Zealand’s bigger brands and operators?  If you look at some of the larger advertisers from the Herald’s annual Career supplement – the likes of Momentum, Gaulter Russell, Numero, OCG, Robert Walters, H2R and Sheffield – they are nowhere to be seen at the SARA’s.  It might be presumption on my part but I am imagining these firms don’t even enter into the contest (and a look at their websites indicates a lack of marketing towards the awards).

I think the idea of having these awards is fantastic and I for one am really looking forward to the event (if I’m still invited after this).  But I just think that a SARA could be something to really covet, to really aspire to, and to proudly market to future potential clients, if they were a bit more than a simple popularity contest, powered by the most active marketers, from the firms that actually bother to enter.

ITCRA sponsor an award for CIO Magazine for “Excellence in IT Recruiting” (won by Absolute IT this year).  With these awards IT recruitment companies are assessed on a number factors ranging from client feedback to staff development and are assessed by an independent panel of industry experts – in this case Julie Mills of ITCRA (ex-RCSA President), Brett O’Riley, CEO of NZICT Group and Judy Speight, Executive Director of Accelerating Auckland.  Now here is an award that can be held up with pride in front of clients and candidates alike.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the SARA’s are a great idea and, despite the number of previous finalists who have struggled in recent years, there are also a number of winners and finalists who I have worked with extensively and recognize them to be outstanding operators and recruiters.  I just think the award itself lacks a little substance and credibility, especially without the entries of some of the other firms mentioned above.


“Job Descriptions” Are a Waste of Paper

I was kindly forwarded an interesting article by a client this week and there is a part of it I feel compelled to comment upon.  The article was published in the Computerworld New Zealand magazine on 19th July and was titled “ITCRA clarifies questions raised by online comments”.

For those of you who don’t know, ITCRA stands for “Information Technology Contract and Recruitment Association”, who are a body to which most kiwi IT recruitment firms appear to belong.  It also appears to be where the recently departed RCSA Commandant Julie Mills skipped across to.  Anyway, the article came about in response to a previous piece where John Wyatt was interviewed for the magazine, and it begins like this:

“Last month, Computerworld published an interview with Recruit IT Director John Wyatt, which discussed whether IT firms were specific enough when writing job descriptions for roles they seek to fill.

Many of the positions Recruit IT is asked to fill don’t have formal job descriptions attached, Wyatt said.  He added that the IT industry could benefit if job vacancies assigned to recruitment firms contained more precise details of what the candidate is expected to do.”


Julie Mills then goes on to respond to the 47 comments that were left on this previous article, many of which followed the usual boring patterns around low barriers to entry in recruitment, whether recruiters actually use their databases, why salaries are left off job advertising etc, etc, ad nauseum

But I want to make a comment on John Wyatt’s original assertion that the IT industry would benefit from giving recruiters clearer job descriptions:

Really?  I mean really?

You see I’m not so sure about that, and the reason for that is that job descriptions are a complete load of arse – a waste of paper – a pointless invention by under-worked HR departments seeking to attach a process and a label to everything.

Job descriptions may well describe a job, but they certainly won’t describe the ideal person for the role, nor will they describe the lucky person who eventually wins the job.  The reason for this is that any hiring manager, or recruiter for that matter, worth their salt, will hire on attitude first, and teach skills later.  Now I will concede that there are certain jobs where a certain level of technically definable skillsets are justified, IT being one of them, but why don’t you just put together a brief list of those technical skills and not waste time fluffing it up with all the pointless warm and fuzzy stuff?

The same logic applies here to the recruitment doomsday merchants who keep asserting that technology is going to render the recruitment industry impotent.  First it was e-mails (recruiters used the technology to their advantage).  Next it was the internet (recruiters learnt to harness it to market services and seek out candidates).  Then it was job boards (agencies now provide at least 80% of job board revenues).  The next wave is smart job boards that will be able to seek out candidates from online posted CVs who match certain criteria for a job, removing the job of the recruiter.  Of course, this will also fail to remove the recruitment industry.  The reason for this is that recruitment is not a science, it is an art, and the only machine capable of determining a match, a fit, is the human brain.

Job descriptions fall into the same category as this – you simply cannot accurately describe the perfect person for the role by listing a range of character traits, experiences and achievements.  Yes you can require a Degree in Chemical Engineering for a Process Engineer in an Oil Refinery but leave it at that.  That’s about as far as it goes.

As for John Wyatt’s belief that the IT industry would benefit, I assume he means that more placements would be made, of more candidates who more accurately fit the mould.  Come off it.  A good recruiter will find the right fit for a company by meeting the client, spending time in their business, really getting to know the workings and the culture of the firm, the social aspects, the balance of personalities.

A job description is a crutch for recruiters – to help them craft a half-decent sounding job advert – and to send to their candidate to make it appear like they understand the role they want to put them forward to.  Rip it up.

Now if there is one industry where it is totally impossible to contrive a straight-faced and useful job description, it has to be the agency recruitment industry itself.  But of course there are firms who have tried to put down the job of a recruitment consultant into a formal HR document, and I would like to share with you some of the best JD bits I have come across in my time recruiting for recruiters:

“Being ‘straight up’ with clients and candidates alike”

Should this really need to be in the job description?  Shouldn’t this kind of go without saying?  I suppose it says a lot about our industry.

“Having fun and not taking ourselves too seriously”

This is great.  I’ve worked with people in recruitment before who definitely don’t adhere to this one.  I’d have loved to have been able to wheel out the JD every time the sour face came on.

“Instigate appropriate number of sales cycles to generate and maintain a constant business pipeline.”

Pound the phone.  Just write it.  Pound.  The.  Phone.  Stop with all the flowery nonsense.

“Be literate and numerate”

Is this line really worth the effort of typing it into the JD?  This is like saying “breathe regularly”.  The funniest thing is that the next one was in the same JD…

“Present candidates all candidates honestly to clients”

Is it a grammatical error?  Or did the author write “candidates” before pausing to have a think, and then deciding to make it clear that they meant “all candidates” and not just the ones that might actually be worth putting forward.

“Ensuring our offices present a tidy and professional image always, and to encourage clients to visit them”

I can just imagine the new rookie recruiter, in his/her second month, starting to get some confidence going and referring back to the JD in their training manual or employment contract, and having a client turning up in the back office one Monday morning.  The desks of recruiters are generally not worthy of the inspection of your clients!  Of course, inviting them to your polished marble reception areas before interviewing your shortlist in the chromed, coffee’d and fresh-flowered boardroom is a different matter.

Just a bit of fun.  But seriously, get out there and get to know your clients better.  Don’t rely on a JD from HR and, even better, rip it up and make the placement anyway.

Have a great weekend.