Recruitment Consultants

I’m thinking of doing a post on recruitment consultants, and people’s views of them. So a poll is necessary.

Has your overall experience of recruitment consultants been:

  • Generally bad with some exceptions (59%, 102 Votes)
  • Generally good with some exceptions (24%, 41 Votes)
  • Very bad (17%, 29 Votes)
  • Very good (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 173

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For those of you who like to comment, please share your experiences below.

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29 thoughts on “Recruitment Consultants

  1. Well, since I had a headhunting business, I was brilliant and useful and all the rest were rubbish and useless.

  2. Them: “Hi – I searched for <keyword> and your profile came up as a match because it was mentioned as an aside but isn’t anywhere near a qualification. Would you like this job where <keyword> is an absolute and basic necessity for the job?”

    Them: “Hi – I have a job for you. I so totally didn’t read the bit of your profile where you specify to unsolicited recruiters that they should provide general location, salary range or skills required, so won’t bother providing them, and we can play 20 questions later.”

    Them: “I have a job…”
    Me: “I’d need at least §800K to move for my current position”
    Them: “It’s only §590K – would you still like to apply anyway?”

  3. The secret to happiness is low expectations. My expectations of a recruitment consultant are very low, and I am occasionally okay with the outcome.

    Getting a decent job (or just your next job) is typically about your networks, not the recruiter.

    As an aside, I do wonder why a lot of these types in Australia are from the UK.

  4. “I do wonder why a lot of these types in Australia are from the UK”

    Because of the tragic crash in double glazing sales back in the 90’s.

  5. Recruiters do seem to behave differently across different industries though. Where I work (tech) they generally do little more than match words on CVs with job descriptions and schedule interviews. Maybe give you some pointers about how the type of thing the company asks/expects at interview, if you’re lucky.

    On the other hand, my brother is a recruiter in Logistics – I know they personally interview candidates themselves before taking them on/putting them forward for jobs.

    The main difference I see between the two is that those in my brother’s world understand the jobs they’re recruiting for (having done them themselves previously), whereas the tech recruiters I see generally don’t have any experience in what they’re hiring for.

  6. Dear TDK

    I noticed that your CV lists experience with software XYZ 25 years ago. That software was acquired by Business Objects who were in turn bought by SAP. I infer that you can do full SAP implementations even though you list no more recent involvement with SAP, Business Objects or even XYZ which is long discontinued. If this interests you please send your latest CV (even though I’ve obviously already got a copy, from which I obtained your details).

    Dear TDK

    I’m excited to present an exciting opportunity to apply for a position which is clearly junior to your current one at roughly one third of your current salary. Please can you call me at your earliest opportunity.

    Dear TDK

    I am the nephew of General Amabocho, the late head of the Nigerian Home Army. He has $50M in a bank account which we cannot access. If you send me your bank details…

  7. I do wonder why a lot of these types in Australia are from the UK.

    This could be FILTA a new version of FILTH (Failed in London – Try HongKong)

  8. The blogger formerly known as The New Australian coined the term ADULTS: arrived down under, London too stressful.

  9. All bad experiences.

    Most want to sell me a fantastic opportunity, being a 1-year contract to do mat leave cover in a crap town other than the crap town I live in, four rungs below my current job title for a third of what I’m earning. They haven’t even bothered to read my linkedin profile and get booted with prejudice if I am connected.

    One “consultant” that actually works for my employer once tried to poach me to another. He also got booted with prejudice.

    The very few I bite on (literally one a year if that), I am not convinced they even are retained by the client, but just trawl the job boards. I am equally unconvinced they even pass my application through all the time. I know one that did, and I know one that definitely did not (discovered through contacts in the target company, and got the “consultant” to confess). She also got booted with prejudice.

    I always talk money first – they will come out if you say you are going no further without that discussion. Not because it’s important but because it screens out 95% of inquiries. Every employer I have had in the last 15 years has bust their budget to hire me, and I’m not going to work for a company hiring to budget when they should look at the individual first. That rules out, as Tim will know, most places with overweening tick-box HR departments.

  10. A good recruiting consultant is rare as rocking horse dung.
    When you find such a one, cling to them for dear life.

    A person would be lucky to get more than one worthwhile recruiting consultant in their entire life.

    I could go on all day with stories of incompetence, and even downright malfeasance.

    Most recruiters are pedestrian at best.

  11. Try putting yourself in the shoes of a small company director. You want to expand, your widget-making business needs a widget-maker with some experience, so how are you going to find one?

    Or perhaps you’re a team leader in a mega-corp with a terrible HR department, so you decide to hire a contractor for the team. Without a recruiter, how will you find one?

    In short, they’re a necessary evil. Even though they take a tithe off my income, I wouldn’t have the contract at all without them.

  12. When I was looking for £20k jobs, recruiters would treat me like shit. I thought it would change as I made my way up the food chain.

    When I was looking for £120k jobs, recruiters would treat me like shit. I thought it would change as I made my way up the food chain.

    It didn’t.

  13. Almost all terrible – with a few notable exceptions.

    Remember – you are not the client, you are the product. The organisation they are placing you with are their customer.

    The current useless idiots I am with didn’t bother contacting me until a couple of weeks before my contract is due to expire and are only interested in placing me to continue (which can’t happen due to local HR rules – been there too long.)

  14. The difference in the perception recruitment consultants have of themselves versus how everyone else perceives them is comical. To them they are titans of business, high-flying savvy salesmen with an entrepreneurial flair. To everyone else they are one step below estate agents, and two below subhuman garbage.

  15. I would caveat though that I have once found a half-decent recruitment consultant who: 1. Actually offered a decent job that matched what I was looking for and my skillset. 2. Understood the company she was hiring me for and the work I did 3. Coached me for the interview.

    Shame I then didn’t like the people I met in the company itself and so declined, but the recruitment consultant stood out.

  16. @BiG: I’m going to be nice to them and say just above. I can see the need for recruitment consultants. The only need I see for lawyers is to provide the opposing lawyers with jobs.

  17. Recruitment consultants add little value for either candidates or hiring managers. They add value for HR by giving them a stack of CVs, work that HR would have had to do themselves. In IT this involves little more than putting an add onto jobserve, something that a hiring manager could do but are prevented by HR.

    On the candidate side we need the basic information: money, location company name; which many agents are absurdly coy about. Having rung me, they then think that I am a spy for another agency. In this they are still better than direct contact from HR who want to spend hours waffling on about how amazing their firm is and find the idea that I want recompense for working for them rather distasteful.

    Sadly neither of the most involved parties has any pull with them, it is HR holding the purse and their only interest in the candidate is sex quotas and whether we might turn into an expensive embarrasment that sues them or needs firing. It is as if estate agents were paid by the police rather than the seller.

    Hiring for a small business I never used them and didn’t miss them. Hiring in a large firm we had no contact with them. Being hired they don’t add much aside from wasting my time with long phone conversations. I do wonder how they are going to fare with the younger generation who don’t use voice calls much if at all.

  18. If you think recruitment people are ghastly from the candidate perspective, try being in any kind of senior or public facing position in an up and coming tech company that has recently closed a funding round.

    Seriously, you spend weeks beating them off with a sh*tty stick.

  19. The ones I’ve used to get people into a project (developers, business analysts, data gurus for SAP etc) have been okay over the last couple of years. Generally understood the requirements and not loaded me with no hopers CVs.

    Couple of idiots, but no where near as bad as I would have thought

  20. I’m not always that impressed with moans about recruitment consultants. There is a huge variation from sector to sector and at different levels of seniority and different types of assignments.

    A lot of the moaning appears to stem from the misconception that the consultant works for the candidate. They really don’t. People also seem to think they should be held in the same esteem with which they regards themselves, which isn’t always realistic, even if it would be nice.

    It also seems to be very much concentrated at the ‘meat grinder’ end of the business, and particularly IT, where the dynamics of the business means that meat grinder type processes often suit markets with unusually skilled and intelligent candidates, many of whom have personality deficits and the inflated egos that come with a boom industry on top.

    I’ll declare my bias – I have two in my family. They work on higher end finance type roles and the practices are a world away from the stuff you hear above.

    You also wouldn’t believe the crud they have had to deal with on both the client and candidate side over the years. The behaviour of some people in both categories is far, far worse than anything I ever hear about consultants. Up to criminal levels even, on rare occasions (since you ask – illegal hiring practices, fraudulent business conduct, harassment – sexual and otherwise, stuff like that)

  21. Is a consultancy what used to be called an agency?
    Like logistics used to be transport.

  22. On the selling side, recruiters may be useful for workers in the early stage of their career before they have built up a network of contacts. Once people have been around for a while, it seems that most job opportunities in my particular industry come through personal contacts.

    On the buying side, last time I came in contact with recruiters was when the company needed to add a person to the team with some rather specialized technical skills — and none of us on the team had a personal contact with an individual (a) with those particular skills, (b) whom we trusted from prior experience, and ( c) who was prepared to uproot and move.

    HR had contracts in place with several different recruiters — who provided lots of CVs. It quickly became clear that some of these CVs had simply been scooped off the internet and forwarded under the recruiter’s cover sheet, perhaps even without the knowledge of the individual concerned. On the other hand, one of the recruiters did turn up an excellent candidate. Whether that was merely a case of a blind squirrel finding a nut, I cannot say.

  23. Good RCs have had a relationship with the client for many years. They’re not going to kill the golden goose by sending brilliant applicants who they know won’t fit in. They have their acreage and they farm it.

    After I was attacked at home I went through a rough patch. I sat out for a year, which didn’t do my CV any good. One RC asked some deep questions and sympathised, “You’ve been going through a rough patch, haven’t you?” I replied, “This morning I went riding for a couple of hours. What’s rough about that?” She sent me for the job, which was a bit of a stretch for me, and I got it. Not because I was a brilliant applicant, but because she saw I’d fit in.

  24. I’ve dealt with precisely one RC who had a clue – she was, like the one Michael van der Riet mentions, embedded with a particular company for some years and thus knew the culture and the job requirements.

    She hired me at a time when I was being offered jobs by that company and two or three close competitors. I chose the company I did in large part because she was so cluefull.

  25. I once had to manage the process of engaging a new CEO for a QUANGO. (Yeah, sorry.) Interviewed a number of major recruitment firms. Selected the best of them to start the hunt. They came back with a number of excellent candidates . . . and then the politician at the top of our totem pole slotted in a political appointee entirely outside the agreed process (who ran the place into the dirt, and then skipped on to a fresh failure a few months before the organisation got a bullet in the back of the neck). Main point: if you go into recruitment, be prepared to be jerked around from every angle. Secondary point: structure your fees so that you get paid for the work you’ve actually done, when you do it – don’t structure it in anticipation of recovering it all at the end of the process.

  26. There are several reasons for a “job” to be advertised which doesn’t exist depending on who is doing the advertising:

    1) A new Recruitment Agency wants to build up its database of CV’s so that when a company asks them to recruit a Serbo-Croatian speaking hunchback dwarf called Hubert that can ride camels they can delve into their database of CV’s and come up with the goods. Yay for them, eh?

    2) A company is approaching its annual salary review process and wants to see what is out there and the average salaries being commanded so they can offer the industry average and/or say to anyone asking for a higher raise “we can replace you with people willing to work for less”.

    3) The company wants to give the impression that it has won a big contract. Anyone seeing that Bogdog, Gobwort and Flange are advertising for 10 engineers, a quality manager, three quality engineers and 50 shop floor staff will think “They must have a big order. I’ll buy shares!” or some other motivation.

    4) The company HR department has nothing better to do and wants to see what is out there and occupy their time “productively”.

    (Note – all of those reasons were described to me by a ex-HR manager when I was discussing how to improve my application process).

    As for recruitment consultants, I applied for a job which could have been written around my experience and qualifications. I didn’t get it and after a suitable interval had to contact the recruiter (What? You don’t think that they would deign to lower themselves to bother with an applicant when they didn’t need to?) and was told that she “didn’t understand my CV, it was to technical”. After some discussion it turned out that she had a PhD in Spanish and literature and her PhD thesis was Latin American 19th Century Lesbian poetry. I kid you not. She was recruiting for an engineering company and when I pointed out that my CV was intended to concisely inform the engineering manager of my abilities, she haughtily said “Well, I didn’t understand it”. My take away from this is that you don’t need to know anything about the subject, what the company does or the skills needed by the company to become a recruitment consultant.

    But as others have said above, you are the product and the company is their customer who is paying the bill so you can’t complain too much. However, their attitude acts as a negative filter and only those whose application appeals and satisfies a (for example) a recruiter with a PhD in Spanish and literature and whose PhD thesis was Latin American 19th Century Lesbian poetry gets passed on to the company concerned.

    Any recruitment process that is optimised to make HR’s (and by implication, the recruitment consultant) life as easy as possible and is wholly computerised is unlikely (in my experience) to result in an interview. One trick is to copy and paste the job advert into the end of your CV, make the font 1 point tall and the text colour white. That way the computer will pick up the key words and your CV MIGHT get read by a human being (and I am stretching the definition of “human” here) but I wouldn’t count on it. But I’m old and cynical, eh?

  27. I’m generally held to be unemployable but one must work hard at it.

  28. Drove 2 hours to meet with one. Before hand discussed how I was only interested in full/part-time positions that were not doing document review. We talked, he showed me a few very cool jobs that weren’t publicly known about yet that I was middling qualified for. He said my resume looked excellent, no advice on formatting/changes (it was reviewed by multiple pro’s before hand, so maybe true). Signed a standard deal, then he sent me nothing but document review jobs for 2 years.

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