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Thursday, January 18, 2007


Why need recruitment be such an unpleasant experience?

by Liam Dowds


I think most of us accept that people are an organisation's most important asset. So why is it that for all of us (employer, candidate - even recruitment agency!) the simple job of people recruiting other people is often a less than pleasant experience?

For the truth is, recruitment is not something many people look forward to getting involved in; nor is it an industry held in particularly high regard. Yet still it remains a vital activity; the process of attracting and then successfully bringing in talent into an organisation. Everyone has need of the service at one time or another: either in our role as an employer or as a candidate. Recruitment, therefore, impacts everyone - personally! So why - if all of us have a vested interest in making recruitment work - does it so often fail to do so?

Consider some of the following:

I think that whilst we may all want to receive good service, we don't always give it! It may be because we're too busy and we lack the time and resources. Yet, if we're honest, too often we fail to give recruitment and the people involved in it, the attention it needs and deserves.

Whether we're the Line Manager, the HR or Recruitment Manager, the candidate or the recruitment consultant; bottom line we don't give each others' interests enough consideration and attention. Usually, we're easily convinced our recruitment problems lie with the other party, rather than with ourselves.

We're all candidates, aren't we?
In particular, not enough consideration is given to where candidates' are coming from; their issues. And this is where a lot of recruitment goes wrong.

It's as if recruitment can only be employer-centric or candidate-centric, but somehow it can't be both.

In most cases, the recruitment process will be skewed towards the needs of the employer, with the candidates' interests often overlooked. This can result in needlessly negative candidate experiences: failure to acknowledge receipt of CV, unexplained delays, a lack of feedback etc. As well as causing unnecessary anxiety to the candidate, it inevitably affects their perception of the company; both as an employer and as a future customer for their goods and services. Not a smart move, in an age when it's increasingly recognised that a company’s "brand values" should be core to everything they say and do.

And it's not as if we don't know that this is what's going on out there; all we need do is look to our own experience as a candidate to recognise it's true!

In fact, if we look at it another way: isn't an employer really only a candidate who happens to be recruiting? Shouldn't all of us, therefore, be treating candidates the way we'd like to be treated as a candidate?

Yet all too often it appears we forget what it's like being a candidate once we're the employer. Forgetting that recruitment is very much a two way process; candidates choosing employers every bit as much as employers choosing candidates.

Treat candidates like customers
Employers, if they're to recruit more successfully, should try to manage their candidates with the same skill, care and attention as they lavish upon their customers. For, as with customers, candidates are no different in that they'll prefer to go where they get the best service.

Simply put: the quality, style and speed of the recruitment process and the message it sends out to candidates, can often be just as important as the salary and job opportunities on offer.

It's a competitive marketplace
Some employers may overlook the fact that they're in a competitive marketplace; competing with other employers, often for the same candidates.

Before an employer can make the choice as to the best person to hire, they must first attract candidates to apply to their vacancy. But that's only the start; since it's likely these same candidates will apply or have already applied to other vacancies with other companies as well.

Important therefore, but often forgotten, is continuing to attract those candidates all the way through the recruitment process. Otherwise, a candidate risks being lost to the competition and the process repeated all over again at great cost both in time and money.

There are many past wrongs with which candidates, employers and recruitment agencies can legitimately use as reasons for blaming each other for the current mess; but it doesn't solve the problem of trying to turn recruitment into a more pleasant experience…for everyone.

However, no matter how galling it may be for those employers previously wronged, it is they who remain best placed to influence everyone else's behaviour - perhaps more so than they realise.

For, ultimately, it is the employer who appoints an agency to act on its behalf and it is the employer who pays their fee. And, as always - money talks!

Employers, I'm convinced, really can exert greater influence than they do. Ensuring the level of service delivered in their name is of an acceptable standard and rigorously enforced. If an employer recruits directly, they need to be confident that the appropriate processes are in place to ensure each party receives good service; both internally between Line Managers and the HR/Recruitment team and externally between the employer and the candidate.

Finally, I don't for a moment suggest these issues are for employers' to resolve on their own. It's also abundantly clear that recruitment agencies as well as candidates need to get their act together and be more honest with each other and with employers'.

However, I'm certain we'll never break the cycle of poor recruitment experience without employers' taking the lead, since they're the only ones with any real influence. For ultimately, it's the employer who calls the shots in terms of deciding strategy, who to use and who to pay! They really do have more influence than they may think.

I'd encourage them, therefore, to take a lead which the rest of us follow; using their influence to promote and reward the giving of good everyone.

Only then will all of us be more confident of receiving (nay, insisting upon!) good service in return.

Liam Dowds is a Director of CIRCLe, the Executive Search & Selection firm behind CIRCLeRecruiter: a web based recruitment service which makes recruitment a more pleasant experience…for everyone.

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