Good practice recruitment – don’t annoy procurement applicants!

Our lead article on our newsletter this month (register below right if you don’t get it already) was a bit of a rant about poor practice in recruitment. It was based on experiences of a couple of my friends, but I made the more general point that for most organisations, pi****g off procurement people is not a very good idea. You may be selling to them one day, whether you’re a Telecoms or consulting firm, outsourcer or even a provider of consumer goods. So even if they don’t get the job, you should try and make them feel reasonably positive about you.

Certainly in one case, a friend was indeed in a position (as a senior procurement person) to influence the business prospects of a firm that showed an interesting mix of incompetence and arrogance through their recruitment process!

Of course, often the work is outsourced to a recruitment firm, so the recruiting organisation may not even know whether good practice is being followed. In the newsletter, we were particularly critical of organisations that don’t even acknowledge applications or tell you that you haven’t got an interview / the job.

If you don’t hear from us assume you’ve been unsuccessful” is in my view just unacceptable, particularly these days when email and other technology allows you to notify people a damn sight easier than in the olden days when you had to write to people!

Anyway, we got an interesting response from Gail Pyrah, the eponymous boss of GPA, one of the best known firms in our market.  GPA is actually altering their process slightly as a result of our article.

We have always acknowledged every email and CV that comes into the business but we don’t usually provide feedback to candidates as to why their application has not been successful.  It would be too time consuming to do so.  However, we have adjusted our process to put the initiative back on to the candidate, telling them that if they want feedback about why they haven’t been considered, then they can call to speak to a Consultant.  This should go some way to bridging the gap.

That seems like a very good idea – I’m pleased they always acknowledge anyway, but offering feedback is very helpful. Of course, sometimes you aren’t that bothered, if the application was a bit of a long-shot, but most of us will have had times when we just couldn’t understand why we'd got a "no"!

We’re happy to publicise good practice from other recruitment firms , and ’d also be interested in any bad experiences individuals have had – I won’t commit to “naming and shaming” in every case, but if any patterns emerge, we may be able to follow up and bring some pressure to bear.

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Voices (14)

  1. quality:

    This article is very informative. Thank for information.

  2. Chris Chapman:

    Recruitment “consultants” – IMO, they often make Swiss Tony look like a model of conservative probity. Many agencies have a high staff turnover rate and they never ring you back after promising the earth when you know they will show no imagination whatsoever in looking for potential employers in related fields. Conversely, some of the older established agencies having staggering levels of incompetence and complacency. And don’t get me started on those outfits posing as recruitment specialists but are pretty obviously just after a few quid for rewriting your CV…

    Then there are the agencies which send totally unsuitable vacancies – I may have had a career in automotive purchasing but what on earth makes them think I am an experienced CNC setter or sheetmetalworker or willing to take a job at a third of my current salary? And what gave somebody the idea that I am an ex-serviceman – trying to unsubscribe is far worse than anything Readers Digest was ever capable of.

    I suspect there are many “ghost” vacancies used to sniff out purchasing staff thinking of leaving so they can bombard the HR department of their current employers with the CV’s of potential candidates. Particularly noticeable when you are working in a specialised purchasing field and a vacancy advertised can only be your own job (which you know is not under threat).

  3. Final Furlong:

    I rather like the comparison that ‘Huhh’ has made between estate agents and recruitment agents!

    I’m in one of those funny moods today(!), so here we go….

    What the business model might look like if some estate agents adopted the practices of some [less reputable] recruitment agents:

    – pay me 30% of the rental price (if you rent it), and, after months of renting it, pay me another 30% of the purchase price if you decide to buy it outright;

    – I know very little about the housing market, nor anything about houses actually;

    – I know very little about the roads on which any of these houses are located – I came from a completely different housing market;

    – I didn’t pay any attention when you were outlining what you actually want – I’ve just trying to recall the names of the three houses that only recently came on to the market, which are at the forefront of my mind;

    – you can’t extend any of these houses without my express permission and without paying me some more fees;

    – it may look like a run-down shed, the door of which is slightly unhinged (and it looks like ‘no-one’s home’), but, trust me, it’s warm inside (though it might smell of wee)

    Where the business models of estate agents and recruitment agents already currently align(!):

    – here’s the basic descriptions of three houses/candidates, two of which I’ve never actually seen, but I’ve been told by their owners that they’re great – you must see them for yourself and tell me what you think of them;

    – within the details of these houses/candidates that I’ve given you, there is a ‘wild card’ – I know it’s not what you asked for, but take a look at it/him/her (this makes you reject one from the outset and instantly start ‘comparing’ a shortlist of just two – this is a well-known, widely adopted practice…);

    – on the whole, houses/candidates are just commodities when there is a down-turn in the market – when there’s a upturn in the market they all become ‘rare properties’ attracting higher fees;

    – Many proposed houses/candidates often have no drive

    – I might take the house/candidate from under your nose and sell it to someone else at the last minute who is offering a higher fee;

    – these houses/candidates have been on the market for some time, and have been seen by lots of potential buyers (but we’re not going to tell you this unless you ask us…);

    – I only deal with rentals – if you want to buy outright, you’ll need to speak to one of my colleagues;

    – some of these houses look great from the outside, but there’s nothing on the inside – no contents – you’ll have to provide all of that;

    – You really need to undertake your own due diligence, surveys and references – whether they leak, or simply fall apart in your hands – no refunds!;

  4. Gordon Murray:

    My most staggering expereince was to receive an email ‘Dear John’ saying ‘after careful considerartion ….’. Only amazing by the fact that it was recieved at almost mid-night and within seconds of my submission of application. Yes, it was from a household name in the procurement world!

  5. Huhh?:

    If you think of the what a recruitment consultant is; they’re basically estate agents in pointy shoes – they are usually low paid, commission driven animals operating in a tough market. They never have any real knowledge of the industry they’re recruiting for, and indeed of business in general.

    It’s not surprising 85% of them provide a shockingly awful experience.

    1. Richard Silk:

      I’m not sure that the post from the anonymous contributor is entirely fair. I’d argue that some recruiters have a fair idea of what makes a decent professional within the market they are recruiting.

      Accepted, not all recruiters are great. However, I wonder how many internal Marketing, Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Engineering, IT (etc. etc.) Stakeholders / Customers think that their procurement team are exceptional and provide outstanding service 100% of the time? In my experience, there’s a fair gap between the most capable procurement professionals and those making up the numbers, too. However, the fact is that as recruiters we are a pure service providers and our attention to candidate satisfaction needs to be focused at all times.

      I’m always trying to improve on existing performance and I’d be interested to know how the 15% of recruiters that you had a positive experience with differentiated from the rest.

      1. Huhh?:

        Richard – the 15% do some simple things:
        1. They don’t advertise jobs they don’t have to garner CVs – a common practice.
        2. They speak to you and understand what you’re looking for and what will be a good fit for your skills
        3. They understand who and what they’re recruiting for, the role, where it fits, the politics, what the recruiting managers hot buttons are and what areas of your skills you should be presenting.
        4. They return calls or mail you personally to give you feedback on your application, good or bad.

        By no means exhaustive – but I’ve only dealt with one or two who do this.

        1. Richard Silk:

          Morning Huhh? and thanks for taking the time to respond constructively. My last comment on what is clearly an emotive subject!

          I entirely agree that advertising jobs that don’t exist is bad practice. Infrequently a role that has placed slips through the net and remains on a recruiters website. However, adverts to be aware of lack content or state ‘more info to follow’. Candidates are smart enough to know which organisations practice the latter type of advertising so should be aware of the possibilities.

          Talking to candidates is undoubtedly the best way to get the most accurate understanding of their capability and drivers, and you are right that in general, recruiters are doing this less. We are trying to buck the trend, but still it would be impossible to talk to all candidates as regularly as we would like.

          Knowledge of the client, role, culture and a line managers hot buttons should all be given, the best recruiters will develop an acceptable and working understanding of these factors. However, it has become more difficult to do this as the market has changed and with some major organisations, if a recruiter makes a call into a line manager to establish a rapport and better understanding they can be struck of a PSL by the ‘Talent Manager’ or RPO organisation – surely that’s counterproductive in getting the right people into the organisation?

          Your last point is again common sense and where a candidate has gone into a recruitment process with one of our clients we always seek feedback, though it’s sometimes not as forthcoming as you’d expect after a candidate has invested in the process.

          Recruiters are never going to be experts in their field unless they have come from a practicing background or recruited in a particular functional area for a long time and unfortunately the industry is now littered with organisations that are either sales businesses in disguise or one man bands that have become recruiters since the advent of Laptops, Mobiles and Linked In. As a quasi procurement professional, all I’d urge the purchasing community to do is select your partners carefully – some of you will be in a role where you can influence or make this decision on behalf of your businesses. Once you’ve got a partner you trust help them make the process work, SRM has positive effects in recruitment as well as other areas of expenditure!

          Finally a tongue in cheek comment on the keen property developer ‘Final Furlong’ (love these anonymous posts!). Have you considered the scenario where a hard working estate agent has actively marketed the property, arranged multiple viewings, brought the two parties together, secured a “sale” by guiding both parties through the negotiations, supported both parties through the contracting phase, agreed to painful payment terms……..before the Buyer withdraws a day before completion despite offering on the house? 🙂

        2. bitter and twisted:

          And do they also…

          5. Challenge their idiot clients half-baked requirements and unrealistic salaries


    2. Yersinia:

      I would like to take issue with “They never have any real knowledge of the industry they’re recruiting for……”. This may be true for some “high street” recruitment agencies but I was a recruitment consultant in a specialist science recruitment company for over 10 years. They employ qualified scientists with industry and HR experience so are therefore able to provide a tailored recruitment service with real added value for client companies and applicants.
      “Estate agents in pointy shoes”-my foot!!!

      1. Huhh?:

        I would suggest that you too are in a minority. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spoken with “Senior” recruitment consultants or “Compay Directors” who display complete and utter ignorance for the industry or role that they are recruiting for. It’s not a minority.

        And Yersinia – why would a scientist with 10 years industry and HR experience want to go and be, basically, a commission based sales person? Unless they cannot get a role in science and in HR….

        Unfortunately the recruitment industry talks a great game, but delivers a generally appalling service at point of use – bit like the banks really!

      2. Huhh?:

        Oh and go check out the dedicated group on linked-in that is debating the same topic. Not pretty reading for the recruitment industry.

        Classic example of an industry self-deluded on the perception of it’s users. Most people hate using agencies due to the service they get. Most recruitment consultants think they’re offering a great service and that the people who use them like them.

        Which is why many employers are using the net to bypass the agencies – I mean in the internet age what value are they adding for their 10% or whatever they charge?

  6. David Atkinson:

    It always amazes me that the CIPD don’t beat-up on HR professionals for the lamentable practice of not providing unsuccessful candidates with responses or, in the case of interviewees, some considered feedback.

    To me, it suggests a lack of integrity and must surely be counter to a real or implied ethical code of HR. As this piece suggests, it’s also bad for business.

    It’s about time the HR profession got its act together.

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