Tag Archives: Rice Consulting

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.

How Effective is Linked In for Recruitment?

I clicked over that holy grail of social media targets this week when my Linked In network exceeded the 500+ mark.  I was quite chuffed with myself.  Social media is a key part of my marketing and branding strategy and, particularly as a recruiter, Linked In is a critical tool in networking with professionals and sourcing candidates for roles with my clients.

Or so I thought.

But having reached this milestone of the digital networking space I thought I would do an audit of my Linked In network and try and assess exactly how effective mine was.  After all, my approach to Facebook and Twitter are at odds to my hunger for connection-building on Linked In.  With Twitter I try and keep the list of people I am following as small and targeted as possible.  Most are involved in the recruitment industry in some way, then there’s a smattering of Arsenal-related tweeps and a couple of other amusing social media types.  But if I am “Followed” by some online hotshot with thousands of Followers of their own and a daily splurge of online diatribe, I won’t automatically “Follow” them back unless I am actually interested in what they have to say.  With Facebook, which I rarely even use these days, my approach is even more at odds with Linked In.  I have always actively sought to keep my network of “Friends” below the 100 mark (which I think it just crept over again recently).  I just think that it is highly unusual you would really have a real-life network of more than 100 friends, so I don’t see the point of treating this differently in the online space.

So how effective is my Linked In network?  Well I am currently up to 506 connections and I was surprised to discover that exactly 100 of these connections are not in any way related to recruitment, which if you’re not aware, is the niche area I recruit for.  I wondered if these 100 people were my Facebook Friends, jumping across to my Linked In realm to try and get noticed by me, because I certainly wasn’t on Facebook!  In fact half of them probably are friends from school, University, football etc, with the rest being made up of pre-recruitment work colleagues, and about 4 or 5 who I have to say I have no idea who they are…!

Still, that means over 80% of my network is directly related to, and mostly currently working within, recruitment.  Which pleases me greatly, as this is the kind of network I am seeking to build, from a professional standpoint.  So okay, I know that if I write a Status Update, or post a link to The Whiteboard, or mention a role I am recruiting for, then lots of recruiters, mostly in the Asia-Pac region, will see it.  Great.  But how do you measure the effectiveness of this?  When all is said and done, the ultimate aim of my business is to place recruiters into roles within the recruitment industry.  So how many of my placements for 2010 can I directly attribute to my Linked In network?

One.

What’s that I hear you say?  Yes…I said…One.  Hmmm.  I joined Linked In in 2007 and have worked hard building my online brand and network.  Many hours would have gone into it over the years.  But was it all really worth it?  Just for one guy to say he had found me on Linked In and me then taking him through to eventual offer and acceptance stage with one of my clients.

As a comparison exactly 50% of my placements for 2010 came via online advertising, mostly on job boards, in particular Seek.  Now I am also happy with this number in comparison to previous years as it used to be a much higher percentage.  Watching the percentage of applicants being placed as a result of online advertising reduce means that a larger proportion are coming to me through word of mouth and referrals.

And I think this is where the intangible benefits of a strong, engaged, Linked In network can really be found.  All of those candidates are connections of mine on Linked In.  Many could have seen my updates and decided it was time to make a move, but applied through my website, for example.  Others were referred to me by colleagues at work, who might have been connected to me on Linked In, but rather than directing them to my Linked In profile took the easier route of just giving them my phone number.

So I have to say I am happy with my Linked In network, with its strength and relevance to my specialist sector, and with my Return on Investment for the hours put into it.  But it seems impossible to scientifically assess its effectiveness in monetary terms.  Okay I can say I have made one placement in one year as a direct approach to me on Linked In.  But my gut feel, my instinct, is that my efforts in the social media space have generated many more word of mouth referrals.  Just don’t ask me exactly how many!

I will leave you today with one final thought that my analysis threw up.  17 of my connections have surnames beginning with “Mc” or “Mac” and all of them, bar one, are in the middle of highly successful recruitment careers, most of them occupying senior positions within the industry.  So if you’re ever unsure about whether to bring someone of Celtic origin into your recruitment team, chances are you should just go for it, they look like they’re made of good stuff!

Sharpen Your Sales Pitch by Explaining Recruitment to Your Parents

Do you remember when you first tried explaining recruitment to your parents?  I can still picture that glazed look of befuddlement now.  I’d been with Hays in Australia for about 6 months when they came over to visit from the UK and see how their son was coping over here on the other side of the world.  They knew I had got a job in recruitment after I’d sent my CV around Sydney for Sales jobs and had ended up getting nothing but interest from recruiters to actually work for them (no surprise now that I know the magic Sydney formula of Sales Experience + Pommie = RECRUITER!)

My first taste of trying to explain recruitment was on my second client visit, where I was going solo, to a small client who rarely used recruitment companies (the first client visit was with a 7-year veteran and we went to AbiGroup, one of Australia’s largest construction companies, where I grinned and nodded a lot while she did all the talking).  That was tough enough, but not even in the same ballpark as trying to explain it to my parents.  To be fair to my Mum, she had read in the Sunday Times about some lady in Sydney called Julia Ross who had a house on Sydney harbour, so she thought it must be an ok job to be in.  I got the glazed response but nothing more taxing than a “That’s nice, dear”.

My Dad was a different story though.  Being much more business-minded he wanted to really understand how it all worked:

–          Me:        “You get a vacancy from a client and find candidates to fill it and arrange them interviews.  Then you negotiate the offer and acceptance and boom – job done.”

–          Dad:       “How much does it cost?”

–          Me:        “Well Perm placements usually cost a percentage of the first year’s salary, around 15%-20%”

–          Mum:    “Perm?”

–          Me:        “Not like the hair Mum…”

–          Dad:       “You meant Permanent?”

–          Me:        “Yeah…”

–          Dad:       “So why didn’t you say that then?”

–          Me:        “It’s just what they s…”

–          Dad:       “It’s like saying fridge instead of refrigerator”

–          Me:        – biting my tongue-

–          Dad:       “So how do you find candidates?”

–          Me:        “Usually search the database, post some online ads, maybe get some referrals…

I tail off at this point because the glazed expressions have returned with a vengeance and I can almost see my words sallying forth over the heads of my parents, who have started wondering when their son will make use of his Law degree and get himself a proper job…like in Law.

I do believe they have moved on a bit from this way of thinking, now I’m running my own recruitment business which supports my family and all, but there’s no better way of practicing your sales spiel to your clients than explaining what it is you do to your parents, I can assure you.

Now I must dash because said parents are actually arriving in Auckland today for tomorrow’s Christening of lil’ Bonnie Rice and I need to collect them from the airport.  The only problem is that now they are showing more interest in the business they have stumbled across The Whiteboard and have actually been reading back through my blog posts.  I mean, how on earth am I going to explain this to them?!

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As a quick aside, it was gratifying to learn earlier this week that The Whiteboard came it at number 24 on the US website PhD in HR’s Top 50 Up-and-Coming HR Blogs.  Most of the blogs appear to be from the US and UK so it’s good to represent New Zealand amongst that lot – whoop whoop.

A Christmas Gift from The Whiteboard

So here we are then.  Christmas Eve 2010 and the recruitment world is about to sign off for the year.  If you are still frantically trying to close out a deal or, even worse, having to work right through between Christmas and New Year, then you are in the minority and my commiserations go out to you.

But wait!  Here is something that might cheer you up a bit.  Christmas is a time of giving and we at Rice Consulting are a giving sort of bunch, so we would like to drop off this lovely bottle of 1/4 Acre Wines 2008 Chardonnay to the first recruitment team to post a comment on today’s Whiteboard blog.

 a nice little drop

You can post whatever you like, but please include the HR or recruitment team you are part of, and your e-mail address and contact number so I can get in touch to arrange drop-off.  If you’re in central Auckland then you’re in luck and you might even get a visit in person from me this morning.  If not then I’ll be in touch for your postal details.

Ready, set, go….which recruitment team is going to have yet another bottle to wind down proceedings this Christmas Eve?

The Whiteboard will return in the New Year at some point, most likely on 14th January.  Thank you to all of you out there who have read and commented on the blog this year.  To you and also my clients and candidates worked with during 2010, whether placed by me or not, from all of us at Rice Consulting (that’ll be just me then…) have a happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.