Recruiters Rank Lower than Real Estate & Car Sales People

In Roy Morgans’ 2015 Image of Professions Survey  Nurses still hold the No. 1 spot in the occupations ranked as the most ethical and  honest.    No surprises there but interestingly,  Real Estate, Advertising & Car sales people ranked 28, 29  &  30 respectively.   But recruiters were not to be seen in the Top 30 rankings at all

How much further down they sit  is  unknown, but it’s pretty clear Australians have a pretty  low regard for the recruitment profession.

Every industry has  good and  bad  operators and recruitment is no different.  So before I call out the elephant in the room,  I will  pay homage to those in the industry  who do a great job and have people’s  best interests and ethics  at heart.   Recruitment is a damn tough game as it's  like a tennis match where you as the 'ball' can  get smashed really hard across the court  by clients &/or candidates.   In my opinion,  the ethical, honest and dedicated recruiters who really give a damn  are circa 30% of the entire industry.  And from that  springs all manner of grievances  apportioned against the remaining 70%.  But it's not always the fault of the  individuals but the over arching hiring eco-system and its protectionist dogma.  

And this is a great pity as the role of  recruiters should be respected and considered a noble vocation.   Recruitment is not just selling an object or  regular  professional service.   It is intersecting at  the coalface of peoples' careers and  livelihoods at a time of  vulnerability and intensity.  And clients likewise  experience  angst to hire and retain the right people to ensure  company objectives and goals are met.   So  it should be a well regarded profession  but it is not  because  generally: 

Recruitment companies see themselves FIRST and foremost as being  a SALES business

The structure, remuneration, KPI’s and orientation are totally 100% sales driven and focused  with a  'kill of the win' mindset.    And within that model, rewards are only aligned to $$$ (placements).   And whilst many good people enter and remain in the industry, more  leave just as  rapidly  as only the ferociously competitive or self employed recruiters  can and will survive.   

Sales is an absolutely  crucial skill of being a successful recruiter.  But powerful  influencing skills and due diligence are just as important.  Over the  10 years I had run my own boutique agency  I could have billed 2-3  times more than I did  IF  I didn't give a flying fig about integrity  and turned a blind eye to all manner of issues and warning bells from clients and candidates.

Let's reflect for a moment on  other service providers such as accountants, lawyers, architects, surveyors, hairdressers, counsellors, sports trainers, builders, beauty therapists, doctors etc.   They all consider themselves first and foremost as  ‘specialist service providers who are passionate about their craft’.     They too must have a business  sales focus to make $$ but they don’t see themselves primarily as  a ‘sales business’.  Their 'why' is  far broader than sales and that is the lynchpin differentiator.     All businesses have to be profitable and sustainable to survive and thrive and again recruitment is no different to any other service provider.  

And taking it a step further, no other  type of  service provider works for a client without a guaranteed fee,   a project, hourly  or day rate.  But contingent recruiters (who make up close to 80% of the market) do, and often there isn't any fee if a placement doesn't occur, despite perhaps weeks or even months of work.  And the fees of up to 25% of salary are frankly ridiculous if you really stop and deeply analyse it.    If a role takes 1 month to fill vs 3 months, the time to costs ratio  should be aligned in part. 

Many hiring companies have been conditioned to de-value their recruitment job briefs by listing with multiple agencies (especially for the hard to fill roles).   Why - because they believe they can get better outcomes by spraying & praying and most  recruiters will jump in and fight to the death to win that placement.   So the  Dollar Recruitment Monster emerges time and time again.    After all it is  challenging to place a role at super lightning speed to ensure other recruiters don’t snap the  prize or candidates don’t pull out and take another role.  

So how can we make changes toward a more humanised and respected recruitment industry?  It is a massive challenge and will take  many years, an entire business community effort and a focus away from the intrinsic and illogical structures  of the current eco-system.   But we can start with a few ideas: 

Recruiters – Have the courage to have the difficult conversations with your clients around fees and behaviours.   Stand strong and don’t settle for rubbish.   If a client treats you or your candidates poorly RUN. 

Re-visit the  old style sliding scale % of salary fee structure.  We all know that often filling those more junior roles is far more time consuming than  senior briefs.   Re-design charging based on a SWOT analysis, the jobs complexity and market forces - NOT just the salary.    The model just sets up the recruitment beast and everyone is trapped.   Yes I know most recruiters will all go arghh- but don't let fear and greed immobilise the needed changes.  You will also attract a better calibre of new recruiters to your company - and that is a good thing to raise the industry bar.

Train and re-train your staff on caring for candidates and humanised interviews skills.  Encourage a culture of understanding and respect for candidates.

Introduce non sales KPI’s - ie rewards around metrics of follow-up calls, email responses, referral benchmarks.  

Don't spray and pray your candidates all over town (you know you do it).  Having rewards and KPI's that are NON sales will really lift your personal brand and respect in market - and that of the sector. 

Companies  - engage  the specialist good  recruiters (aka in the 30%)  who have a real  human focus and a commitment to dedicated care and work.  Negotiate a great fee for upfront and ongoing service.  Try it. 

Stop the nonsense of ticking and flicking your   briefs all over town (you wouldn’t do that to any other service provider),  Your  employee brand really suffers also which makes candidate interest wane.   And when  you do find a great ethical recruiter – treat them as a true partner not an evil must engage with gritted teeth commodity.  Treat providers  well and they will deliver far more than you could have hoped/paid for. 

Both sides – stop being so transactional, inhuman and realise you are NOT selling a generic product but a very important human service which impacts lives and business immensely across financial, social and environmental factors. 

There is a lot more to add to this topic  but here’s hoping that by 2020 the Roy Morgan Survey will be ranking recruiters in the Top 10 of Australia’s most respected and ethical professions.