A few years ago, I thought I would dip my toe into the interim market.  I was astonished to be asked, without anyone meeting me, for vast amounts of personal information along with my actual passport, not a copy,  as a first step, before I could even talk to anyone about the types of roles they may have that I may suit.      It felt as a candidate entirely one sided, only one recruiter was happy to meet me – very happy to give a shout out to Matt Brooks at Better Placed HR, get to know me, scrutinise my CV and work with me.   Was lucky if I got a robot email from others. Occasionally got a call saying “this is just you”, and then a dead trail of unanswered emails and calls.   It was a disheartening experience.

I don’t hear many happy stories about recruitment in fact I hear sad and unhappy stories from the many people I coach and talk to.

Here’s a list of some of the things I hear about recruitment:

  • I hear that recruiters are swamped with applicants and they don’t have time to acknowledge.  They’re busy.
  • I read that it’s accepted (by recruiters) that experience in the charity industry is considered reason enough to deter you getting on a short list for other sectors.
  • I hear that recruiters don’t return calls after initial interest.
  • I hear that candidates go for interview and don’t get feedback.  The recruiters are too busy.
  • I hear that recruiters are busy.
  • I hear recruiters talk about their pet hates.  “it really gets me when “they” put their hobbies on their CV.  I DON’T WANT TO KNOW YOUR HOBBY SO GO AWAY”
  • I hear recruiters saying that they only have 30, 20, or 5 seconds to look at a CV.
  • I read on on-line forums that candidates, many of them, are considered quite stupid.
  • I have been told that some agencies do advertise bogus jobs to build their CV data base.
  • I read that recruiters attribute poor standards to poor briefs from their clients.

What are your standards?

To what scrutiny do you subject your own providers of recruitment I wonder for people, talent, human capital, human resource, your most important asset?    Is it 20 seconds?    Is it more than that?  Do you care about the candidate?

When you are working with a recruiter, some questions:?

  • How do you know that they operate to ethical standards?
  • What is the candidate experience that they offer?
  • How do they conduct themselves with you?
  • Do you moan about them?
  • What could you gain if you take more in – house?
  • What can you do to ensure your candidates are not victim to petty prejudices, unconscious bias, and your conscious bias?
  • What training do their consultants have, what CPD do they undertake?


  • Do they have a diverse staff – or do they have the same, age, ethnicity, industry, academic background?  If they do, they may be unconsciously looking for people  who look just like them.
  • What data can they provide you about the diversity of their candidate pool, and how diverse are the candidates they are providing to you?
  • Do you give this the same attention and standards that you would want for yourself

In house, outsourcer.  You may think it’s enough as it is.  “That’s just how it is”.

I don’t think that is good enough.

I am not writing this from a perspective of immunity from subjectivity, none of us are.  I’m not immune to irritation from a candidate that doesn’t seem to have read the brief or.  I still work from time to time with clients on key recruitment assignments when it’s relevant to work I am doing with the organisation.   I’m working on myself and exploring diversity and group identity.

This is updated from the original post in February 2016, prompted by a thought from Paul Duxbury.   I’ve been trying to find some data about UK recruitment; I’m interested in the age and ethnicity profiles of people placed in permanent roles via external recruitment.

If anyone reading could point me towards this data, thank you.


#HRevent14 No news, good news, new news.

Day 2 of HR Event, halfway through that second day. I’ve heard three keynotes and three sessions.  Talking about organisations and people.    We hear a real mixture of conventional methodologies, sharing of practical case histories, through to some new thinking.  I’m not saturated yet, although feeling the pain of the Powerpoint.

There are some themes that are emerging;  There is no news – it’s all been said somewhere somehow.  There is good news, that when applied with heart, some stuff works really well.  There are some new perspectives, deeper insights – this is the new news.

We talk engagement;   my view – If you present a set of slides, you will create a passive audience.  I’m no neuroscientist but I bet neural pathways get very narrow the more that we are talked at.  I wonder sometimes if it’s a metaphor for how what we call employee engagement is approached.  A neat, tidy, logical plan.  It makes perfect sense, so of course, it will work.   Where are you reaching me emotionally – because when my emotions are engaged, then I can learn, change, shift.

The material led by word slides has to be very good indeed to engage me.

And, some of it was very good indeed.

There were two standouts.

One of the keynotes gave us glamorous subject matter; an anthropological enquiry by Rasmus Ankersen into the Jamaican “running gene*.     Everyone sits upright in their seats.    Lots of pictures, even moving pictures with sound.  We all become alert.    The subject also was about talent – finding the goldmine in your own organisation.  A construct (talent)  that I struggle with.  But, what a turn around for me.

Do you go after “talent that shouts” or “talent that whispers”?  The coach at the local Jamaican sports club where Usain Bolt and other super achievers trained is no runner, or indeed, no athlete, himself.   He promotes a hard work ethic,  searches for hunger and creates the conditions for people to excel.  We were encouraged to seek out the “talent that whispers”.  The “talent that shouts” is probably already taking care of itself or we are taking care of it.   Do not be beguiled that the talent that shouts is the only talent.    The talent that whispers – not necessarily the A graders – that’s where there may be a hunger for better that can be nourished..

The speaker was so alive, moving, talking to us not at us, creating a story, and sharing some insights.

The other session which grabbed my attention was visceral intelligence.  Alexander Mackenzie – the speaker told us he had a background in story telling.  He told us a story about noodles and singing; that a beautiful song remained when the singer is long gone.  It creates a visceral experience.  Contain your selves, settle down.  We were invited to get involved in experiencing this for ourselves, and in a short six minutes, we revealed insights to ourselves, more than we could have believed possible at the outset.   Alexander talked about fearless leadership, and I say there is a possibility for beauty in all our relationships, work too,  if we believe it.

We spend a lot of time worrying about how we prove the worth of “human capital” *shudders*.  There is no news – it’s already well documented how to engage employees and how this pays back into results.There are books, researchers, surveys, programmes.    We know how to do it, on one level – the intellectual level.  The visceral level requires you, me us, to step into the unknown, the uncharted, the undiscovered.

There is good news; HR Event shows that there is a growing body of evidence and research to educate, inform and influence business leaders – that includes HR people who are also business leaders.  “The business” is your business.  The quality of the conversations, even with my unfriend the power point slide, shows there is much thought and effort that is being expended into developing people in the organisation.  We’re a long way off whilst we talk about people as Human Capital – and there is so much more to do with trusting non managerial staff’s perspective and opinions, and so much more that HR can do to get out of the way of managers, and let them make their own mistakes to learn from.

There is new news; that the thinking about the uniqueness of the individual, the potential for all of us, and the blending of visceral intelligence with intellectual and emotional intelligence.

Both speakers wove a story to get us involved.  One used images, one used the audience.   Perhaps something to remember when we are imparting vital messages

Look for talent that whispers.

Weave stories

Get visceral.  Not courses for other people; allow yourself to access deeper.