Saturday, 20 March 2010


When did it become necessary to find a job, or recruit by using an agency? I remember a time before Internet Job Sites, or recruitment agencies, a time when companies placed job vacancy notices on billboards outside the factory gates, adverts in newspapers, with careers teachers and even on school or university notice boards. People found employment this way, and businesses found employees, it seemed to work well, local people found local jobs with local companies. Word of mouth, friends of friends and family connections ensured a steady market for both talent and roles, of course this lead to some nepotism and ‘jobs for the boys’, but also ensured that when you hired someone, you at least knew their parents, brothers, sisters or friends and thus they were more likely to come recommended by people who you respected or trusted.

On the downside of course the ‘talent pool’ as its called in HR speak, became fairly shallow and people were squeezed into roles because of their DNA, Chromosomes or School Chums rather than their experience and abilities – still Britain built a Great Empire on this basis, conquering more than half of the known world, establishing democracy, a legal and schooling system emulated and copied by the whole world, all based on a buddy society.
Of course this process still remains strong within the civil service, financial and government sectors to name but a few. Whilst those of us not benefiting from the public schooling, correct blazer and tie wearing gold card membership into these professions, may feel an element of resentment towards those that do, I cant help feeling a sense of pride and security when I hear a ‘proper’ English accent on the TV exclaiming that the British Government will do everything in its power to blah blah.
As an aside I was once in the presence of some media types over dinner in Beijing, who were deriding the current British Ambassador to China, as a pompous, public schooled ponce and that what the foreign office needed was some real people, some earthly individuals who had grown up on the wrong side of the tracks, made their way the hard way and knew how real people felt. They suggested that I should seek a career in this direction, and that I knew more about the cultural differences, business restrictions and opportunities affecting British businesses in China than any double barrel named toff from Oxbridge would. Whilst I may have agreed with the later part of the comment, I exclaimed that I personally felt secure, and proud that the person in charge of representing my country had a plum the size of a grapefruit in his mouth, had endured (or enjoyed!) years of beasting from the older boys, and was slightly barmy. I couldn’t imagine anything worse that finding myself locked up in a foreign cell in some hellhole, only to be met by the local foreign office representative who greeted me with a broad regional accent!! These people and their ever so stiff upper lips, are as essential as the Queen, bad public transport and wet weather – without them England would be – well America!

Anyway back to the main topic – recruitment. I have had to endure years of interviewing both as interviewee and interviewer. I must have spent months asking tedious and crass questions, and listening to even more tedious and crass answers. All of this when lets face it if you haven’t made your mind up by simply reading someone’s name on the top of their CV, you certainly have after the first 15 seconds of actually meeting them. Rarely do you change your mind during the interview because of the response to a question or perspective on a an issue – yes I know that you will say that is ridiculous and I should be ashamed, but all I am pointing out is what everyone else does, and lets be honest what is natural. You knew who your friends would be before you found out that they had a fetish for naturism or a flatulence problem, and now that you do know; you still send them a birthday card. Of course I am generalising and there are those odd occasions where your preconceptions are challenged, which is why you go through the interviewing exercise rather than just reviewing peoples names.

The real point of this blog, was to ask the question “what purpose do recruitment agencies provide?” I have to admit to mildly despising them, if estate agents our the backside of the universe, then recruitment agents are the enema – there I have said it, got it off my chest and probably doomed myself to a torrent of abuse from angry of Basildon. However before I go on I have to admit that amidst a sea of inept sycophants, there are those who float to the top and actually listen to the client/job seeker and try to provide an understanding for both a clients and a candidates needs.(Lord Search & Select, Wetherby’s, and UK Sigma are 3 that spring to mind as being both professional and personal and would thoroughly recommend – and not just because they know where I live! ). The rest suck in poor, sometimes desperate job seekers by advertising jobs that don’t exist for clients they haven’t yet won, and then pitch candidates to companies who hadn’t realized they needed a new director of international and domestic battery charging, with a degree in modern art and twelve years experience of lollipop tasting.

Having been on both sides of the table, trying to find work and trying to find employees the service levels from agents is incredibly varied and unfortunately the bad ones have a detrimental affect on those who treat it like a profession rather than a telemarketing job. When I left college I worked for a Chartered Surveyors, which at the time was a pin stripe profession and I rubbed shoulders with people who had names like Charlie, Byron and Robert, then the estate agents took over and destroyed any professionalism and respect the industry had. Sadly I can see this happening to the recruitment profession, unless they can find a way of dissuading the cowboys from taking over. I realize that they are ‘only providing a service’, but please, please, please sort yourselves out and find a way of controlling those that wish to diminish and degrade an otherwise modern day essential part of business, oh and if you do get any good jobs please don’t hesitate to contact me!

1 comment:

  1. Great, this is one of my favourite topics.

    Ironically, the need for job recruiting agencies blossomed because of the internet where suddenly, a job posting in Rubber Boots Michigan Gazette became accessible in every corner of the globe. HR managers started finding that even the hint of a vacancy would compel them to not only take out their map of michigan or the US, but their entire atlas. Thousands of resumes would pour in from Karachi to Kalamazoo and jam poor HR's inbox.

    Hence the need for agencies.

    Unfortunately, in the filtering process of ensuring that the hopeful candidate truly knows what a PPAP and a PSW are, they sometimes miss out on some of the harder to spot traits such a intelligence and pragmatism.

    In many ways job recruiting agencies are based on the same model as real estate agents. Simply substitute "great starter home" for "This guy's not too bad but at the wage you're willing to pay don't expect much better." Or "Immaculate, waterfront dream home" with " This guy's really good with a proven track record but he knows it."
    Like estate agents (or realtors as they're know here), they make an obscene cut on selling something they had no involvement in creating.