Recruitment consultancy is a dogs life - I know, I've been there. On the other hand, most employers find it incredibly difficult to find IT staff of the right calibre - I know, I've been there too. And pity the poor old candidate, spreading a cascade of CV's to every distributor, agent, employer, mover and shaker in the hope that perhaps one in twenty will land on the desk of a relevant decision-maker - I know, I've also been there.
As a wise man once said - "CV's are like manure, they work better if spread about a bit".
Although recruitment agencies are much-criticised for lack of professionalism it is very difficult to be professional without a reasonable amount of co-operation from the client.
Typically, a Recruitment Consultant will make 50 or 60 telephone calls each day to contact less than a dozen relevant decision-makers.
Of course, direct candidates have the same problem but are unlikely to be as persistent as agency Consultants. Why employers spend thousands on advertising and fail to deal with the response efficiently has always been a mystery to me.
Having worked through those employers who have no vacancies or claim to use "preferred suppliers", the consultant then has the problem of getting a reasonable job specification. It is very difficult to find the "right person for the job" if you don't know what the job is - a statement that "we need INGRES people" is just not good enough to identify the right candidate or to "sell" the job to that candidate.
Another problem is the lack of feedback - if you put up the wrong candidate it helps your on-going selection process to know why. Also, it is a matter of common courtesy and good public relations to let applicants know where they stand - you may not want them today but they could be just what you need in a few months time. Of course, it is easy to see the problem from the employer's point of view - they are bombarded with sales calls and CV's which are often irrelevant to their needs.
Often, the employer's response is to make a specific individual responsible for co-ordinating IT recruitment although this is usually seen a method of fielding sales calls rather than a strategy for solving the staff shortage. Of course, this will not prevent salesmen from calling managers directly if they have no success with the appointed co-ordinator.
When I worked as a recruitment consultant, I spoke to several recruitment co-ordinators who would only accept my company as a "preferred" supplier after I had placed several people with them. The only possible way to achieve this state of affairs was to "pester" individual managers until I placed the required number - which rather defeats the object of appointing a co-ordinator.
Having now worked on all sides of the three-sided fence, I am pleased to offer my own approach to the management of the recruitment process.
In my view, the appointment of a recruitment co-ordinator is an excellent idea provided that it is seen primarily as a solution to the staff problem rather than a method of diverting sales calls. My personal approach would be to welcome any source of applicants including agencies whom I would mailshot with specific requirements so that there was no need for them to keep calling.
As previously mentioned, a detailed specification will certainly cut down the volume of paper received, especially if you insist that agencies only submit relevant candidates. I certainly would not restrict my contacts to "preferred" suppliers as there is no sense in turning away any potentially useful applicant.
The same logic applies to "closing dates" in advertisements - why turn away anybody before the jobs are filled. Of course, I would ask agencies to observe some basic rules such as obtaining the candidate's permission before submitting their details - there is no point in dealing with CV's of unavailable applicants.
The response to both agency and direct applicants would be given as quickly as possible - it is especially important to reject people courteously - you would be considered for ANY IT vacancies arising within the company. All too often, applicants are submitted ten or twenty times by a variety of agencies before they are granted an interview or they may be interviewed two or three times by different managers within the same company.
At best, this leads to excessive paper-shuffling, interviewing and disputes over agency "ownership" of the candidate although I personally consider the loss of good applicants to be a far more serious problem.
In conclusion, I suggest that the common employers' claim that "people are our greatest asset" will only have credibility if recruitment is conducted on the basis of that other well-known maxim "first impressions count".
© Brian Smith 1994
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