Speaking of Perceptions…

Yesterday, a post came out on SmartMoney called “10 Things Employment Recruiters Won’t Say“. This article was written for the benefit of job seekers, but I think taking a look at the perception it sends on how recruiters are viewed can be equally as, if not more, valuable from the recruiter’s perspective. Here’s a short summary of the ten items listed in the article:

  1. “There are better ways to find a job.” A recruiter or agency is one part of a job search, but it shouldn’t be your primary source – and maybe not your secondary one, either. Referrals – that is, a connection made by someone you know – remain your best bet.
  2. “We don’t work for you.” Recruiters work for the hiring company, and that’s where their allegiance lies – not with the job-seeker.
  3. “Until a year ago, I was a car salesman.” …job seekers have to vet a recruiter with the same diligence they’d investigate a potential employer.
  4. “The job we advertised may not exist.” Recruiters often advertise appealing jobs that aren’t vacant, just to build up a stable of candidates
  5. “We already know quite a bit about you.” As soon as you sign up with a recruiter or search firm, they check you out – your background, your credit history, even legal records.
  6. “Our jobs aren’t so hot either.” Because most agencies don’t get paid unless they place candidates at jobs, the weak labor market has taken its toll… A lot of experienced people have left the field, leaving “empty desks and brand spanking new people who have never done this before.” That means you often don’t get the best help in your job search, particularly working with smaller firms…
  7. “You’re at the mercy of a computer, just like online job board users.” Even if you submit your resume on fancy stationery, it gets scanned by the recruiter or staffing agency; It’s this digital process that drives the professional match-making [today].
  8. “The ‘temp-to-perm’ carrot is rotten.” Many staffing agencies hold out the promise of permanent jobs after success in a temporary position, but that trend isn’t holding in this recovery… a CareerXroads survey showed that positions explicitly advertised as temp-to-perm accounted for just 1.6% of all hiring in 2009 – and even in better times, that rate was only around 3%.
  9. “If you have a job, I could get you fired.” Not all recruiters are careful, and the last thing you want is to have your resume land on the desk of your current boss… and then there are the aggressive recruiters who pull resumes off LinkedIn profiles and job boards and circulate them without getting the candidate’s permission – or even letting him know.
  10. “If I’m in Virginia, I probably won’t help you find a job in Nebraska.” Recruiters at big firms have little incentive to spread your resume around to other locations; they’ll have to split a commission with the colleague that helps you land a job.
Yikes. While these points may in fact be truths, the shared analysis of the points can really cut to the core. Remember this post on perceived unethical recruiting practices from a few weeks back? #4 in the list above seems to be a rehashing of some issues from that post. Whether or not any, all, or none of the above items rings true to you, the sentiment still exists. And while one commenter to this article brandished his sword in defense of recruiters…
Run by attractive James Bond types, these go-getters are hungry and determined at all costs to bring in their big fish of the day. They’re like hungry fishermen out to net a whale, yea, like femme fatale versions of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, they bag big corporations and top paying positions for reasonable fees. These ladies don’t have credentials in the HR business; they have the battle scars and spoils to prove they’re corporate mercenaries all the way.

…these types of articles do tend to paint what our industry does in a less than favorable light. Granted, we’ve all dealt with the “can’t help” job-seekers who don’t quite grasp the concept that we work for the client and aren’t a ‘talent agency’. (Barb Bruno‘s Ask Barb column in the next issue of The Fordyce Letter addresses this) That doesn’t mean in our hearts we don’t want these folks to find work. We just need to take care of the party involved who is paying our bills.

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Keep in mind: while there will always be ‘bad apples’ out there, favor is built up one candidate at a time…one client at a time…one changed perception at a time.

So how do we achieve a balance, recruiters? I am asking you – what are some of the things you do to keep your clients happy while at the same time giving your candidates warm-fuzzies? How do you personally overcome unfavorable perceptions of external recruitment professionals? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter, FordyceLetter.com and SourceCon.com, with ERE Media. These days she's working on some super cool market intelligence and data analytics projects. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.

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