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.



7 thoughts on “

      1. Well Meg, most recruitment agencies work the contingency business model and actively sell that ‘success only” aspect as the reason that the client has nothing to lose by giving them the vacancy.

        So if a company does that with 4 agencies, all of them are not going to do much more than look for the low hanging fruit – and if that doesn’t result in interview activity they move on to the next vacancy. On average, a perm recruitment agency will fill about 1 in 5 of the vacancies it receives, that’s assuming it has some niche market specialisms. The more generalist the agency is, the higher that ration becomes.

        Because all 4 agencies are looking in the same places for the same types of people (often made narrower by the client who only wants to pay a fee for the so-called “perfect candidates”), there is a lot more candidate duplication all of which reflects badly on the hiring company.

        The narrowness of the brief means that agencies will sometimes generate lots of candidates that the hiring company won’t see – at least not through the agency. Again, rejecting these candidates creates another pile of work that they simply don’t want to do because they’re too busy racing against other agencies and their own clients stupidity.

        If you could view the whole process on film speeded up, it would be a bit like watching a Keystone Kops movie.

  1. The recruiters I use know that they are the first point of contact with a potential employee. We expect individuals, who show us the courtesy of being interested in potentially working with us, to be treated with respect (that applies to recruiters and the candidates they represent and also possible clients and other third parties). There has to be trust and understanding before you can be an ambassador and that is what a good recruiter is for me.

  2. Sadly meg. You would not have had to scratch far to find your list of comments.

    Having had 15 years in the recruitment sector I have seen many of these things.

    What recruiters fail to realise sometimes is the perceived position of power they have in the eyes of the candidate.

    The last 7 years has seen massive change in the industry. Whist clients talk about candidate experience really they only care about price, or perceived value of a recruitment service does not not allow agencies to afford to meet candidates.

    There is a race to the bottom and sadly candidate experience will be at the bottom. Both clients and agencies are culpable.

    The growth of Ats and internal schemes will soon make them the bogey man.

    Nice blog. The more that speak up the better

  3. So, if clients don’t care about the candidate experience and only price, I infer that these are likely to be organisations that pay lip service to the relational aspect of organisational life.

    I hope that my blog reaches one employer who as a result of my questions, adopts a closer scrutiny of their recruitment consultancy, and resets expectations. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts Alex.

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