Interviewing Backwards – Reverse Engineering Recruitment Part 1

Darren Ledger:

Improvise your interview style and win over passive job seekers, the ones who are basically window shopping.

Originally posted on Recruitment Utopia:

Time-wastersThe Candidates are coming

A candidate driven market is one whereby the candidates are in the driving seat and they call the shots. It means that they can window shop to their hearts content. In the retail world consumers now undertake what is commonly known as ‘showrooming’, guess what? Job seekers are doing it too. Ultimately it will cost you time and money, it will ensure you miss recruiting deadlines, maybe fail to deliver strategic goals or projects. Simply because showroom job seekers will interview, they will even go all the way to offer stage and then decline. Simply because they can.

Exceptional talent, the kind of talent that you want in your organisation has options. They know who they want to work for and why and generally they tend to meet with those organisations first. The chances are if you are privileged enough to get some face time…

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Motivational Self Belief Speakers or Snake Oil Salesmen

images (1)Yesterday I was offered a complimentary ticket to attend a show by a world renowned Motivational Speaker and Author. I use the term show to describe the event because I simply don’t know what else to call it. If it’s anything like the Tony Robbins gig I attended about 20 years ago, show is the appropriate word. The only things missing on that occasion were Elvis Presley costumes and knickers been thrown at the stage, although I do recall we got to see some Kung Fu and Karate moves.

I’m curious though. This is BIG MONEY. There are summits, shows, seminars in the recruitment industry that charge upwards of £1,000 per day per delegate to attend. There is no Gala Dinner or Hotel in that fee either. But for throwing a huge chunk of money at some guy who recruited back in the day when we were all carrying Rolodex and your clients had the number for your local pub, they’ll tell you how to explode your potential. I’m not sure Michael Page or any of the founders of the UK’s leading listed recruitment organisations or their current CEO’s ever attended this kind of event, in fact I’m pretty certain that they didn’t. But they still sell these gigs out, a bit like the Rolling Stones I suppose, you know that what you are going to get is a dusty book jacket, but just maybe there will be that one amazing rendition of a wonderful song that will become legendary like Coldplay performing Fix You at Glastonbury. As a recruiter you just want that one snippet of information, that nugget of gold that will elevate you to the summit of recruitment excellence.

The truth is, if you ain’t got it, you simply ain’t got it. Harsh but true. We are not all destined to be multi-millionaires from this industry and we shouldn’t all want to be. Of course monetary reward plays an important part in what we do, that is fundamentally why most of us go to work. But for me passion for the industry, a love of your job and what it offers you in terms of emotional and psychological reward are just as important. Are you proud of what you do and how you do it? If the answer is a resounding Yes, then just keep doing it until it becomes a No.

In the meantime if you really want to see a Motivational Speaker – there are loads on Youtube for free. Gather the office around and check out my absolute favourite: Kevin Nalts –

The World’s Worst Job Advert – Job Seekers Beware

The excellent organisation Safer Jobs

The excellent organisation Safer Jobs

Want to know what one of the toughest things to be in the World right now is? It’s being a Job Seeker. Trust me, if you haven’t tried it, do. Even if you just pretend for a day. Let me give you one example of why.

Whilst browsing through my professional twitter feed last night I came across this post from The Daily Smarter, for a ‘Director, Human Resources’ vacancy:

“THE TML GROUP INC. – Toronto, ON – strategy to the business strategy Previous experience working in a startup company an asset Candidate Profile: A high energy Leader, the incumbent must be self-directed and motivated Must have a sense of urgency and an entrepreneurial spirit to be successful in a creative and fast paced entrepreneurial environment. Results oriented, the incumbent must also have the ability to “roll up” their sleeves and get involved at a detailed level to ensure that appropriate solutions are delivered in… – Tempo indeterminato – Full time – See more at:

First impressions count and after reading that my first impressions were “How truly bloody awful”. I was stunned by the sheer idiocy of the advert, the absolute lack of any real content or insight. Job seekers have a hard enough time sorting through the rubbish out there in a quest to find a genuine vacancy, but this really does take the biscuit. I thought to myself, this firm needs more than a HR Director, they need a Lecturer in 101 English Language.

But the real kicker was yet to come, curious as to what kind of company could actually post such an advert, I clicked on the ‘Apply now, click here’ link. Fully expecting at worst to be taken to a job board aggregator or similar. Nope, I was actually taken to an page and an advert for a war game called Fate of Arun. I hate war games. So I skipped the advert thinking that maybe this was some kind of initiative test. It wasn’t, it simply took me around to another advert. basically enable anybody to get paid for sharing links on the internet. So effectively there are now hundreds of people who post misleading job adverts on job boards with Apply Now buttons that take you to an advert for something completely different. I’ve seen this in other places and job boards as well, always the free to post ones where there are no real formal checks on content or actual validation of the posting companies identity or authenticity.

This is a shame, as I said at the beginning it’s tough enough being out there in the job market without having your time wasted by pointless exercises such as this. My advice, stick to the credible job boards where an organisation has to pay to advertise. There is a whole plethora of creative and innovative ways that unscrupulous con artists and similar can exploit job seekers whether they are looking to extract up front payments from you or steal your personal identity, but few if any of them will actually pay up front for the privilege.

More information on Job Board Scams and how to be safe here: Safer Jobs

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Retail Tech Recruitment – Treat job seekers as consumers and reap the rewards.

Originally posted on Recruitment Utopia:

imagesSo here we are at last, 2015 has arrived and with it for many, a new age of economic optimism. The retail technology helter-skelter has finally begun to shake out, despite the original doom mongers predictions of a surreal virtual world of on-line stores, it looks like bricks and mortar is here to stay. As a guy who likes to pick things up, try things on and generally get a feel for the quality of the merchandise, I’ll drink to that.

But on a very serious note, we are all excitedly talking about Endless Aisle Inventory Management Systems, little data transforming into Big Analytic’s and how RFID is the new black. Yet few of us are really looking at applying the same level of innovation to the way we attract and engage exceptional talent. Beyond investing in a careers portal and an applicant tracking system (ATS), our desire…

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How to choose the right Recruiter for your firm – use a lie detector test?

Lie DetectorIt’s January and probably like me, you are looking forward to an amazing 2015. But you know that achieving your organisations aspirations could hinge on how well your recruitment strategy works.

So how do you choose the perfect recruiter for you? Even if your organisation has been kind enough to unleash procurement and entrust them to set up a PSL for you, how do you know that the recruiters on that PSL can get the job done?

When I’ve worked in interim in-house roles I’ve often wished that I could formally demand that I put my recruitment service providers through a lie detector test. The reasoning behind this is that rarely, in fact never in 20+ years in recruitment have I ever heard a recruiter say “I can’t do that.” Or “Not really my cup of tea, I’d recommend you go to XYZ firm instead.”

More often than not what is said is more like this:

“So Mr Client, you want a Spikey Haired Carrot Cruncher with experience of living on the moon and has expertise in categorising alien life forms? No problem, that is our speciality.”

“Of course I can find you 6 outstanding passive candidates who have no intention of leaving your competition in 2 weeks for a role with your organisation which is paying less, that’s my personal area of expertise.”

I recently met with a high street recruiter who is renowned for recruiting temp clerical staff. They told me in their opening statement that they also do executive search. I asked them to explain their process and assignment strategy, and then sat back as they dug a massive hole big enough to hide a jumbo jet, or possibly even the ego of a Million Pound Biller Recruitment Consultant in!

So answer me this, if you could hook a recruiter up to a lie detector machine and ask them 5 questions before you agreed to do business with them, what questions would you ask them and why?

‘PC gone mad’ Some people see offence in even the most inspirational things.

A friend of mine is a teacher in a primary school. She felt that the approach to encouraging and teaching a class of 6 and 7 years olds about disability, diversity and how people overcome adversity needed freshening up a little. So she showed them this image.

Most of the children laughed. I admit I laughed when I first saw this image, the simplicity of it appealed to my peterpanicity™ factor. I’ve made that word up by the way as a term to define that inner child most of us still have.

The teacher, let’s call her Emma, asked the children what they actually thought of the image generally. One boy pointed out that Bob could actually still be knocking at the door using his knees. Emma asked him to demonstrate this. From there a general discussion ensued about how Bob could knock on the door without any arms. This wasn’t done in a light hearted manner the children took Bob’s challenge pretty seriously and demonstrated some pretty exceptional levels of creativity and ingenuity. Emma took them through a series of activities and discussions to explore a whole world of adversity including blindness (and partially sighted). The children responded brilliantly and the whole point was to enable them to understand and appreciate that people are people, we all have challenges, we all struggle with certain things from dyslexia to hearing loss to more severe forms of disablement. We all deserve respect and admiration for who we are and we all deserve understanding. Excuse me for some brevity here, Emma is a teacher and explains the whole lesson in a far more animated and professional manner than I ever could.

To finish Emma showed the children a short video montage of clips from the Paralympics and also of former servicemen with disabilities undertaking extraordinary feats. Emma then set the children some homework that required the participation of their parents. It included a printout of this image and some very simple activities to be done in their home environment to enable the children to appreciate how challenging things can be for some people and how amazing we all are in the face of adversity.

Guess what happened next?

Recruitment Agencies to blame for UK Immigration Issue!

Yvette CooperThe Shadow Home Secretary (and Opposition Leader in waiting) Yvette Cooper appeared on BBC2’s, Newsnight yesterday evening and took the opportunity to pretty much blame the whole immigration issue on Recruitment Agencies. You can watch the programme here.

Apparently the only reason we have such a heated debate and what many see as a major issue on the subject of low skilled migrant workers is because Recruitment Agencies have effectively spent years luring low skilled eastern European migrants to the UK by:

  1. Advertising jobs that don’t exist to lure these people here
  2. Undercutting wages in the low skilled sector and using these people to achieve this aim
  3. Exploiting low skilled migrant workers to destabilise the job market

She also did in her opening statement blame employers for most of the above as well. Now first of all let’s just clear a few things up. Yvette Cooper obviously doesn’t know the difference between a Recruitment Agency and a Recruitment Business. This is quite an important definition, especially in this context. The Government’s own interpretation can be found here but I’ll save you the time by cutting and pasting the definitions for you. I hasten to add that these definitions are from the past Labour Governments very own invasive and pretty ineffective interference during their last escapades in power:

Employment agencies

Employment agencies find work for work-seekers who are employed and paid by employers. This is often called ‘permanent employment’ because once the worker has been taken on, they’re an employee of the company they’re working for.

Employment businesses

Employment businesses engages a work-seeker under a contract who then works under the supervision of someone else. This is normally called ‘temporary agency work’ or ‘temping’.

Workers under these arrangements are paid by the business instead of the company they’re supplied to.

Recruitment Agencies Point

Now first of all I’m pretty confident that Yvette Cooper has either confused the two variations or just decided to lump the whole industry in together during her direct and entirely unfounded attack on the industry. I can see absolutely no commercial value to be had in an Employment Agency (permanent placements) either advertising jobs that don’t exist, bringing low skilled workers from overseas for jobs that don’t exist or even to be frank being in the market for permanent low skilled / unskilled jobs that don’t exist. Can you? Please someone feel free to enlighten me on this matter. I can however see exceptional commercial, economic and practical social reasons for an Employment Agency to bring into the UK skilled workers from the engineering, medical, research, science, technology and other similar sectors. It makes perfect sense to me for the NHS or Technical and Engineering sectors to use Employment Agencies to find and source skill sets that are in significant shortage in the UK. In fact our health service is a clear indication of the significant importance of this activity, as are many of our major engineering and technology firms.

I am therefore confident in my conclusion that Yvette Cooper was actually referring to Recruitment Businesses. But what’s in a definition when you are slandering a whole industry? Hey whilst we are at it let’s put Ballet into the same bracket as a lap dancing bar. They both feature women and are both a form of entertainment after all.

Recruitment Businesses Point

Recruitment Businesses have on a daily basis almost 1,000,000 workers engaged. That is pretty significant. There are some truly tremendous recruitment companies out there providing an incredibly important service to both employers and job seekers in almost every conceivable type of industry and job from street cleaners to temporary Financial Directors. 99.9999% of them operate legally and with a high degree of integrity and professionalism. This is easily verified by simply searching for the number of prosecutions of malpractice or similar.

But of course there have been and still are some unscrupulous Recruitment Businesses who would go to great lengths to bring in low skilled migrant workers for jobs in agriculture, logistics and distribution and the service industry. We heard only this week how one of the UK’s largest food service companies Greencore who make sandwiches for retailers such as Tesco has had to innovate and develop a plan to recruit possibly 300 low skilled employees from Hungary for a new factory in Northampton – article here simply because despite numerous initiatives in the UK they simply cannot find the staff locally. Despite there being over 8,000 unemployed people in Northampton.

Now I know it really isn’t that straightforward and there is a significant debate here about the minimum wage and so forth. But the Government set the minimum wage, if it is too low to sustain the average entry level or low skilled job seeker then raise it and surely some proportion of that 8,000 unemployed in Northampton will be attracted to Greencore. Create incentives that offset the increase in the minimum wage with the savings in social benefit payments. Is this really such a complex challenge? By doing so the business of attracting low skilled migrants to this country for low skilled jobs (many of which according to Yvette Cooper don’t actually exist) and undercutting wages and undermining the job market wouldn’t have any valid commercial value would it? Recruitment Businesses would still be required for seasonal variations and to provide temporary cover for sickness, growth and similar. Our entire logistics and distribution network and all the associated businesses from the postal service to drinks manufactures would grind to a shuddering halt in the run up to Xmas without these services.

So the real issue here is the failure to police rogue recruitment ‘businesses’ properly. Isn’t it?

The Labour Delusion

What Yvette Cooper conveniently overlooks is that it was her Government who completely overhauled the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Regulations 2003. This invasive piece of wholesale legislation which proved to be pretty ineffective and became an administrative nightmare for the vast majority of ethical recruitment businesses was essentially geared specifically to stop exploitation, it made it illegal to advertise jobs that didn’t exist (Yvette), it came down hard on gang-masters and recruitment businesses who flouted these regulations. It didn’t really. What it really did was stop some rather questionable practices in the modelling and entertainment industry.

Yvette Cooper also overlooks the fact that it was their ineffective approach to mass migration and their benefit hand out culture which led to this current situation where we have the largest ever number of school-leavers attending an immense network of Further Education facilities until the age of 18, many of which demonstrate no intellectual or even personal aptitude and capacity for further education and should by rights be starting out their lives like most people used to do back in the days of industry and manufacturing at the bottom, making sandwiches and aspiring to be a team leader, a manager and onwards to becoming a Managing Director or entrepreneur and so forth. Now they leave FE after 2 years with an NVQ as a Nail Technician or in Digital Media or Design and they won’t even consider a low skilled job paying minimum wage. Order picking in a warehouse or stacking shelves in Tesco’s is beneath them. So here we go again, in come the low skilled migrant workers.

Essentially what Yvette Cooper needs to understand is that a business can only supply a service if there is a demand for that service. Accusing the service providers of being the cause is ridiculous from any perspective but a Labour perspective wanting to shift blame as always onto someone else.

To blame this in such an openly vindictive manner on employers and employment businesses, not Employment Agencies (that’s right Yvette, spot the difference) is nothing short of libellous. But to be frank I’m delighted to see that Yvette Cooper offers no threat, she has a profound ability to demonstrate utter ignorance and incompetence. Once she becomes the Leader of the Opposition she will continue in the legacy left behind by her predecessors Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. A legacy that has seeped into the British mind-set whereby nothing is their fault and someone else is or was always to blame for their own short-comings and failings.


In writing this post emotions as have run high. As any of my followers will know I am extremely proud, passionate and protective of my industry. An industry which has provided me with an amazing career, experiences and opportunities.

As such there may be errors in my write up, my personal and political opinions may be evident. But I wear my heart on my sleeve and write what I believe to be correct. But please do feel free to comment and critique or correct any aspect which you feel I may have misrepresented or misunderstood. I am after all merely a recruiter and not a correspondent or columnist.

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