Monday, March 19, 2012

Are External Recruiters Providing ROI?

March 2012

Last year I started a small consultant business, hoping to work with small and growing businesses. The intent was to help these businesses be successful over the long term because while most business owners are focused on sales and wowing the customers with their great product/services the day to day support of the people who work in those businesses is often left aside as something to think about ‘later’; some human resources requirements are not prudent to leave to later as there are legal implications which, ignored, could lead to very expensive and devastating circumstances. In addition, paying attention to the people that work in your organization matters over the long term because the way they feel at work affects the way they approach their work.

A Change Sort Of

Recently, I applied for a position with a crown corporation. This may seem counter-intuitive to switch from an independent consultant to a public service role, but the agency in question had hit the news in a big splash last year over allegations of egregious bonuses paid to executives and mismanagement in general. This year a recruiting agency posted a job for a Director, Human Resources in which they proclaimed a desire for change. If one was to believe the job posting they truly wanted change, truly wanted to become better able to provide excellent service to their clients. But I was not sure how sincere that was. I was also intrigued, enough to submit my application for consideration because if they did, in fact, want that kind of change, it would be an exciting role. Crown corporations are not known for efficiency or excellent customer service. And I wasn’t looking to work full time for someone else. But the prospect of real change, the kind that gets people excited about their work and energized to accomplish more-that did intrigue me. So I submitted my application to the recruiting agency.

My Lesson As All Negative Experiences Are

Now, I think it would have been best if I left well enough alone although I will take some time to learn from the experience and perhaps provide better service/products to my clients.

What Happened

About a week or so after I submitted my application I received a call-I had just walked in the door and was headed back out for a meeting. It was the recruiter from the agency screening for the crown corporation. She wanted me to talk right then and there without warning. I noted that I was on my way to a meeting and requested a scheduled date/time. I did get the impression that this was not well received but it was conceded to, after, some complaining about a “busy schedule loading quickly”-which is designed to force me to accept a time suitable to the recruiter with little if any consideration for my schedule. But, hey, I am a flexible person. So I agreed to her time the next morning and then set about rescheduling my entire morning (including inconveniencing other people) to suit her. Not that she appreciated that at all. Instead she spent time complaining that she had tried calling me numerous times the day before and the calls would not go through (no one else that day complained about a problem at all and since her supposed calls did not register on my line at all the problem was likely at her end) but she left me feeling like it was my fault. She even commented that she wasn’t even going to try again. I think I was supposed to feel that she had done me a favor by calling this time. This whole conversation did not make me feel comfortable by any stretch of the imagination but as is my style, I approached the next day with a positive mindset. After all, this was the external recruiter, not someone from the organization.

So: 11:30 AM the next morning comes and goes. I am in a quiet space suitable for a discussion about a job but my phone does not ring, and does not ring and does not ring. I start to wonder if the phone problems she announced the day before were occurring. I start to wonder if I wrote down the wrong time (not likely, but you think about these things) and I start to wonder if I should just get on with my day. What if she was not going to call as promised at all? Then 14 minutes later, (14 minutes feels like a lot in limbo) the phone rings and it is the recruiter. Asking if I am at work, if I can talk ……even though we specifically scheduled this time the day before-did she assume I would not have been prepared?

The whole phone call went steadily downhill from there. I ended up bowing out at a point when I realized if I spent any more time on the phone with this recruiter that I could only feel worse. She was extremely condescending, very dismissive of my accomplishments over the past seven years (she only considers being a paid employee of a corporation or a crown corporation to be valid as indicating competency) and by the time I realized I had to end the call, blatantly insulting. It was a truly horrible experience and if the organizations that hire their services are unaware that they are treating people this way they are not getting a good return on their investment.

So, if you use external recruiters, do you know how they treat applicants? Do you really know-because not only I have encountered rudeness before (although this one was by all means the worst) I have heard from quite a few people that they have experienced some really disrespectful behaviour from external recruiters. Do you use ‘mystery shoppers’ to determine if your external recruiter is representing you in a positive manner? Because like it or not-the way they treat people they do not even forward on to you is the way those people view your organization. When was the last time you really truly understood what the commission based recruiter was providing and how they represented your organization? Some are great at what they do and some are not. It pays to run a quality check.

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