Category Archives: Ethics

Dear Dave – Please find my CV attached

Ah don’t you just love these people? Where would my business be without their unrelenting and endearing overtures. Everything from ‘Dear Esteemed Recruiter’ to ‘My Most Respectful Sir’ is used as an introduction. My particular favourites are ‘Dear Mrs Darren’ and ‘Dear Dave’ which always makes me smile and of course reminds me of the late Roger Lloyd-Pack and his infamous character Trigger in Only Fools and Horses.Dave and Trigger

But seriously, its bloody annoying. I can’t think of any other scenario whereby someone would just assume that they can access and utilise your expertise and business services for free and expect some form of service when I have no idea who you are and have not invited the introduction. It is nothing less than spamming.

I will use a live example. This morning some candidate who I only know as Chronos1@gmail.com sent me an email with the subject title ‘cv’. Now at first I thought this may be a phishing scam but took the decision to open the email on my phone. This enlightened individual had sent his ‘cv’ randomly to over 1,000 recruiters across the world and lucky for me he had openly Cc’d all our addresses so we could all see each other. I love the sensitivity of this approach. Not only does Chronos1 want me to waste my time reviewing and unsolicited ‘cv’ but he also wants to compromise my email address by creating and distributing an open mailing list. Or maybe he just thought we may all like to get in touch and discuss the merits of such a wonderful candidate. Maybe he thought that advertising the fact he had mailed it to over 1,000 recruiters would provide some kind of race to secure his candidature?

I doubt it because the idiot forgot to attach his ‘cv’ to the email. I use the term idiot loosely here of course.

This is spamming and if job seekers think this is how to get themselves noticed they are as delusional and misguided as those idiots who automatically apply to every single job advertised on every single job board in the hope that the Exec Search consultant recruiting a Group Finance Director might sit up and take notice when they see Bob Smiths comprehensive work experience as a fork-lift truck driver and banana harvester.

As for Chronos1, if I had the capability I would send you back a virus to ensure that any access you had to the world wide web was disabled for the sake of everyone.

Right I must leave this blog post here. I have to dash and send off all my tax paperwork to a couple of hundred accountants I have never met but have recently connected to on LinkedIn in the hope that despite being very busy one of them might just sort out my company tax return for the year for free…..

The Recruitment sector needs a rottweiler not another toothless industry body.

Charming, lovable, full or personality and loyal. A perfect mascot for a fantastic industry.

Charming, lovable, full or personality and loyal. A perfect mascot for a fantastic industry.

Mitch Sullivan prompted me to write this in response to a discussion post he made in the IoR LinkedIn Group which you can find here – Mitch’s IoR Discussion . It was rather novel to find a real discussion point in the group for a change. For months it has just been a constant barrage of people trying to sell their services via thinly veiled blogs like training, SEO, Social Media Solutions, Applicant tracking systems, umbrella company services….. blah blah blores… So it was quite refreshing to see some people getting involved again. Anyway, I digress. Mitch asked the following question:

“What does being a member of the IoR say about you and / or your business? For me what it says the most loudly is that you find the changing recruitment landscape too bewildering and what you really want is someone/something else to solve your problems for you.

What do you think? Am I being a little harsh here? If so, why?”

As someone who was an open critic of the IoR when it was first mooted and someone who openly challenged it as an organisation I stated my reservations from the beginning. I don’t care about badges or status or being part of a club. To be honest the IoR offers nothing in this context, there is no camaraderie that I can discern other than a few cliques, the few events they do hold in the North of England are usually more about selling me services or enabling some other service provider to sell me services. There is no active promotion of ethical recruitment, solution or quality focused services. Even if you are actually at the cutting edge of radical recruitment innovation the only support or promotion you receive is offered on a pay for basis. You could for example develop the most profound, game changing exceptional recruitment innovation to date and would have to drain your bank account to get the IoR to support it. In fact it is circa 4 months since I swallowed my pride and joined and I can’t think of one singular benefit thus far of the membership from a business or personal development perspective, although many have been offered with a ££££ attached.

Saviour of the industry, or just another looking to generate revenue?

Saviour of the industry, or just another looking to generate revenue?

I’m yet to understand how funding the IoR to develop a whole raft of revenue generating training courses, vocational qualifications and apprenticeship schemes benefits me or the industry. The IoR is yet to fully advise me of the outcome of the multitude of meetings they have attended at 10 Downing Street. In fact I suspect that there should probably be a public enquiry into exactly why 10 Downing has nothing better to do with their time than keep meeting with the IoR. As yet I’m at a loss as to how some of the most significant innovators, the absolute creme de la creme of entrepreneurs and successful brands such as Micheal Page and Robert Half and many other managed to create such great businesses without any vocational training in recruitment. How these and many other companies such as Adecco, Kelly Services and all the fabulous boutiques actually trained some immensely talented recruiters without some form of recognised apprenticeship program? Yet they did. But I digress. This post isn’t about training and courses and qualifications. It is about the impotence of yet another recruitment industry body.

There needs to be some form of regulation or at the very least there needs to be a loud voice that can influence and lobby government and other associations on behalf of the recruitment industry both external and internal. There needs to be an organisation that can create a partnership and a collaborative dialogue with the CIPD for example. But ultimately there needs to be some form of professional complaints body, somebody with bite who can investigate, mediate and who can punish the guilty or resolve disputes forcefully. Personally I am an advocate of their being an Industry Ombudsman who can mediate disputes and complaints and where necessary have the power to discipline or even exclude. This body would have to be impartial and have jurisdiction to some extent over both parties, in the same way as the FSA or the Banking Ombudsman would. Is the IoR the organisation to do that? I very much doubt it.

What we really need is an RIR, a Recruitment Industry Rottweiler. We need some kind of organisation that is independent. Someone who companies faced with questionable invoices, bad practice and legal disputes can refer to for not just advice, but action. We need a body that will arbitrate between recruitment firms to settle disagreements, act as a protective representative for candidates with genuine concerns such as breaches of confidentiality, duplicity and so forth.

The IoR isn’t a rottweiler by any stretch of the imagination. My disappointment thus far with the IoR is not just it’s lack of bite it is the people behind the it. Many of them are not actually recruiters and even the ones who claim to be often haven’t recruited for over a decade. Harsh as it may sound but the organisation and many connected with it, the so called Genius Team for example are wholly engaged in their own little personal status and promotional crusade. Many of the Genius Team (not all I hasten to add) are precisely the people who have worked diligently over the last decade to dumb down the recruitment industry, to simplify it, dilute it and to focus it on volume, process and KPI’s not quality. We have people that apparently we should aspire to on that team who have created recruitment businesses built around offering bargain basement multiple job board advertising, a kind of Poundland of recruitment where they provide a service which simply auto posts job vacancies for £499 + Vat across 3000 job boards. This has undermined the whole concept of great, even exquisite recruitment. We have representatives in the IoR who were personally responsible for driving the concept of Preferred Supplier Lists, who developed and drove the idea of automated recruitment processes and as a result are directly responsible for all those poor recruiters whose only contact with their clients is an automated email with a vacancy description and a demand to be the first to provide a handful of anonymous CV’s pulled off the same jobs boards with no due diligence or care at 12% margins.

So no, the IoR isn’t the answer. It is in many ways littered with dinosaurs. It is influenced by people protecting their assets, looking for ways to milk other recruitment businesses assets and generally keep things the way they want them. One thing the IoR can do is provide you with a plethora of ‘big billers’ or ‘industry leaders’ to come and train your organisation and consultants to keep doing things the same way, poorly. They talk about conversion rates, call rates and worse of all they encourage quantity above quality.  They don’t train you how to really blow your clients away, they don’t educate clients that there is no short-cut to exceptional recruitment. You don’t see the IoR in The Times extolling the virtues of service excellence, of recruitment processes that focus on accuracy and understanding and consider cultural fit and attitude as well as experience and skills. Similarly what is the IoR’s view and advice on those recruiters who send unsolicited CV’s with terms attached and then send a company an invoice when they recruit the very same candidate through alternative, direct or more structured channels. What is their stance when a retained recruiter successfully finds the right candidate and 1 month later their client receives an invoice from BOBaJob Recruitment Ltd on the basis that they sent that candidates CV to one of their hiring managers 5 months ago? What is the IoR’s stance when a client refuses to pay a placement invoice with 30 days payment terms for 120 days and threatens that businesses very existence because of cash flow issues?

Can anyone tell me of any actual action, mediation or resolution that the IoR has been explicitly responsible for? Have they investigated or punished anyone? Have they actually established any strict guidelines which automatically resolve issues around candidate ownership, mass mailing of CV’s, exploitative terms in PSL’s. Is there a HR Director somewhere who breathed a sigh of relief and now has a whole new perspective of the industry because the IoR has protected them or resolved a major issue for them? Is there a recruitment business member of the IoR who have had a disputed client invoice paid without the need for legal action and expenses because the IoR mediated and delivered a solution or compromise?

My guess to all the questions above is probably not.

Don’t fear the doubters and those who won’t conform.

Every brave initiative meets resistance and have no fear, there will be an abundance of recruiters and recruitment business owners who will aggressively argue against any kind of housekeeping, who will rally against any such Recruitment Industry Rottweiler. But the question should be why they feel this way. It isn’t wrong for the valiant, for the virtuous and the sincere to crave equality and quality in equal measure. There is no shame in wanting your industry to operate and deliver the very best in world class solutions. The only people who would fear that are those who thrive and are nourished by the lack of controls and restraints.

Which corner do you stand in? Given the choice if there was an alternative do you think your client organisations would rather work with a recruiter who complies and signs up to the Recruitment Industry Rottweiler or one that doesn’t?

Personally all you need to do is show me where to sign…

Recruitment Myth Buster Part 1 – The Wall Test…

Good morning people. I hope like me you have arrived to work fresh and eager for the day ahead. I know I may be alone in this but there is just something about working in the recruitment industry that makes me smile in a morning and the obligatory leap from the bed to meet the day ahead fills me with excitement and glee.

But putting the smoked salmon bagels and Kopi Luwak latte aside for a moment I want to explain why I was so eager to get into work this morning. Over the last few days everywhere I have looked on LinkedIn there are people who have never worked in recruitment extolling the secret to success in the industry. At first I thought to myself, it can’t be that easy. They don’t know what they are talking about. If it was that easy wouldn’t they be doing it? Why haven’t I come across this secret to financial and personal success after 20 years in the recruitment business? How come all the awesome people I have worked with didn’t know about this simple, easy and cost effective way of delivering recruitment solutions?

I’ll use a direct quote for effect here

“all recruiters do is throw loads of CV’s of candidates they have never met at the wall in the hope that some will stick..”

Brilliant. Even better was this quote along the same lines but with more detail

“how can you justify paying out £10k to a recruiter who doesn’t bother meeting any of the candidates in person, and who merely throws a few CV’s at an employer hoping that one of them will stick ?”

Now having just finished a particular recruitment assignment that from start to finish took 8 weeks to complete. Involved no less than 68 long distance telephone interviews with candidates in Chicago, Austin, Dallas, New York, Boston, San Jose, San Antonio and Detroit and Hong Kong. Often at absurd times of the night (or morning in some cases) speaking to people in depth about technology patents, strategic alliances and OEM’s in the world of analog digital semiconductors and similar the realisation that I could probably have made as much if not more money by simply throwing a load of random CV’s at the wall struck me as mind blowing.

So here I am at 7:30am in the morning with a whole bunch of CV’s. I’ve thought about this overnight and have come to a number of conclusions. Every body say’s it easy but nobody has actually gone into any detail about how it is done. So I have prepared a couple of different options. I have 3 piles of 100 CV’s on my desk. Pile 1 is held together by a bungee cord. Pile 2 is loosely stacked. Pile 3 has been carefully folded in various origami style paper darts. In front of me I have a client of mine in a helmet and safety glasses who has volunteered to take part in this experiment and a freshly cleaned wall……..

Who shot JR and the Recruitment Paradox

johnruskin“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay
too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you
bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The
common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a
lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well
to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will
have enough to pay for something better.”

John Ruskin – Common law of business balance 

Alternatively consider this sentiment,

There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person’s lawful prey.” also by John Ruskin.

If you work in recruitment or are the end user of recruitment services I’m certain that both of those statements will resonate accordingly. So they should. Together our collaborative selves have successfully managed to upset the Common law of business balance. Often with a little assistance from Procurement along the way, it appears as if almost the whole recruitment industry along with our clients have skipped merrily down the road of self or even mutual flagellation (that’s a sadistic form of flogging oneself with some harsh implement such as a stick wrapped in barbed wire for those who may not know so I’m told).

So what has prompted this observation and why am I writing a blog about something that should be patently obvious but which we have so adamantly ignored. Simple, because deep down there has been no winner from this collective compromise. There are many clients who think they have clawed back some hard fought no man’s land and won a loyal army in the form of their Preferred Supplier List working for meagre rations. Similarly there are many recruiters who just as during the Middle-Ages couldn’t desert their Liege Lord quickly enough when offered a scrap of land or a title, usually in the form of a 12mth service / supplier contract.

Unfortunately more probably feel like they have spent time under bombardment in the trenches, hemmed in on all sides and forever forced into a compromise between professional excellence and survival.

The truth is rather less awe inspiring. John Ruskin was right in every way. There has to be a balance of reward in business for both sides. Let us be very honest and consider the standard recruitment process which probably applies to the vast majority of client requirements and agency placements today:

  1. Client fires out requirement through automated recruitment system to PSL. In this instance let us say the vacancy is for a Sales Rep and let us assume that they send it to 7 recruiters.
  2. Recruiters all open the requirement brief. Usually a link to a concise description of the job and basic details such as salary. The only thing which separates these 7 recruiters at this stage is their level of motivation and tenacity. The race has begun.
  3. 7 recruiters then post it to all of their respective job boards. 7 recruiters post the same job to 5 job boards each = 35 job postings for one job – pity the poor job seekers) and usually they are all using the same job boards.
  4. Recruiters search their databases and CV libraries for matches of candidates that meet the parameters of the job description. Many of the candidates will be on multiple databases and CV Libraries. The duplication begins.
  5. Recruiters then begin the race to call their database matches and check availability and suitability of the job, the package and the location. Note that they rarely interview the candidate against the job, they simply don’t have time in this mad metrics driven world. Besides they need to secure as many potential candidates as possible as quickly as possible before their competitors on the same PSL call them first. Quality approach don’t you think?
  6. Recruiters, all 7 of them begin firing across to the client all the CV matches. No surprises here that some duplication occurs. No surprises here that many of the candidates don’t even know who the actual client company as recruiters try and protect their business.
  7. Candidates begin applying for the advertised position, many will apply to the same job multiple times often oblivious to the fact that they have already been submitted following a couple of brief calls to ascertain if they are still available. More duplication.

Need I go through the entire process? Thus far there has been virtually no communication, collaboration or consultation between anyone. It generally doesn’t improve as the process proceeds. There isn’t time for quality of delivery and consultative recruitment in this kind of process, and besides everyone knows precisely what is expected of them. Not very much in reality.

So where exactly is the professionalism in this process? There isn’t any. At fees of circa 15%  hard working recruiters have an expectation of filling 1 in 3 or 3 out 10 vacancies and they are targeted on volume placements. This is all about churn and burn. This isn’t about consultative recruitment, focused delivery and exceptional service. Expectations are low as is quality and delivery.

I don’t know who said “You get what you pay for.” In actual fact it is heatedly debated as to whether John Ruskin wrote about the common law of business balance by scholars from Oxford to Harvard. Hence my opening title about who shot JR, for all those wondering when and where I would introduce Dallas and JR Ewing into this post. But seriously someone shot someone in the foot when we all joined hands and followed the Pied Piper down the road to mediocre service and the demise of professional and consultative recruitment.

The Alternatives

If you are a client why not try engaging with a recruiter and giving them some real motivation. Giving them a requirement exclusively is a good start. Agree some hard and fast timelines with them, ask for an update on progress every 2-3 days and tell them what you want and how you want it. Tell them what would really blow your mind and exceed your expectations. I have no doubt that you will be pleasantly surprised, you may win over a major ally who as a result gives you a whole raft of added value services such as market and competitor intelligence.

Corned Beef or Horsemeat?

Corned Beef or Horsemeat?

I don’t know about you, but I would rather pay a little more and be treated like the most important customer in the world. To know that there was a recruiter out there fighting my corner, promoting my company, working weekends and burning the candle at both ends to get me the result I need when I need it. PSLs are great for constant volume recruitment such as warehousing and call-centre recruitment. But when it comes to key positions that are vital to your business and the capability of teams and departments shouldn’t you treat these requirements as opportunities to add definition, value, capability and prowess to the business. If you went shopping to find a brilliant Business Analyst for your Finance Director would you expect to find one in the ‘value range’ at Asda? No, you would probably look at the ‘Taste the Difference Range’. I know I would. I want exactly what it says on the tin and I want the very best Business Analyst my budget will buy.

If you are a recruiter, try asking for specific vacancies on an exclusive basis. Be even bolder, begin with a request for a retainer and negotiate from there if you have to. Put your money where your mouth is and offer some real consultative, client focused and exclusive expectation exceeding service. Try (and I know that many of you do. I certainly do) and offer a true taste experience. Give them gourmet cuisine and a Michelin * service and trust me, they will come back drooling for more.

Disclaimer

This post comes from the heart. I’ve spent almost 20yrs in the recruitment industry and sadly watched much of it deteriorate as a result of lower fees = lower expectations. I know many hard working, committed recruiters who wear their hearts on their sleeve and really do give everything they have to their clients regardless. I live in hope that one day the recruiter / client relationship built on trust, understanding and mutual gain and commitment will return.

The Recruitment Industry – Do we need an Ombudsman?

Anyone that knows me or follows me on Linkedin is probably aware of how passionately I defend the recruitment industry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that blind and naïve fool who thinks everything in the garden is rosy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Let’s face it those do exist in all industry sectors and walks of life.

I do however believe that the recruitment industry is unduly maligned, vilified and chastised as the Pantomime Villain of the job market and the world of employment. Surprisingly more often than not it is by the people who work in it. I am absolutely not one of them. But I’m not wearing rose tinted glasses. There are issues, there are rogue elements and there are undoubtedly the unscrupulous and the exploitative. In all walks of life, in every profession there are those who cause problems, have a different set of ethics and morals, narcissists and commercial sociopaths who thrive on doing things the wrong way, who think that financial gain and acquisition of a fast buck is the testament to success. Unfortunately in recruitment because of who we are and what we do a little bad news can travel very fast, especially in the social media world we now live in where a single incident which had no original malicious or unscrupulous intent can be rapidly exaggerated as catch all testament to the industry as whole

Earlier this year a debate raged on the Institute of Recruiters (IOR), Linkedin Group. I spent a week or so defending criticism of my industry from a certain quarter. These people (one individual in particular) were suggesting that the recruitment industry needs licensing. It was quite a lively debate, and in all fairness I suspect the real context was lost due to the misleading opening point of the discussion where it was implied that virtually all recruitment businesses are worthless, because they don’t have a license. Suffice to say that this angle was robustly defended by many and some including myself rather took offence at the insinuation. But maybe in hindsight I should consider eating some humble pie.

I was recently asked for advice from a former client on a serious recruitment issue they were trying to deal with. Basically they use a number of recruitment firms to recruit highly skilled and pretty rare technical engineering staff. Much of this is on an ongoing contract basis which is very lucrative for the recruitment firms involved. Some however is permanent recruitment, which of course from a one off fee perspective is particularly rewarding.

My client has discovered that one of their suppliers has been responsible for some rather unethical activity within their organisation. Basically the recruiter has been placing candidates on a perm basis and then soliciting the same candidates immediately they are out of their probationary period or to clarify, once the rebate period on the fee has transpired. This hasn’t happened just once either. My client has undertaken a solid investigation and it appears that this activity has taken place on at least 5 occasions in the last 12mths across their various business areas and departments.

Worse still! Yes it can get worse. The same recruitment firm provides a lot of contractors, but what they have been doing is poaching other recruitment agencies contractors out of the company and its projects and placing them with competitors and visa versa. What makes it worse still is that they have been paying referral fees to their own contractors for names and phone numbers of competitor’s contractors, effectively undermining their own client’s projects by extracting their skilled agency contractors!

Now, if you work in recruitment and have ethics and morals you are probably squirming in your seat at the sheer audacity of this. If you don’t work in recruitment or don’t understand how this market works you may not really appreciate how bad this scenario is, let me explain.

The recruiter gets paid a fee for a perm placement of for example £8,000 for placing Bill Smith in a job with Oxygen Power Services. 3mths later when there is no rebate clause period remaining so the recruitment fee is banked and safe. The same recruiter goes back to Bill Smith and offers him some more money to move to another firm down the road. He gets another £8’000, but at the same time he gets to fill Bills job at Oxygen again with a candidate he previously placed at another firm and gets another £8’000. In reality there is no limit to how many times he can do this, well until he runs out of companies and candidates. If he moves 5 candidates through 5 companies and they all work in the same place once, then over a period of 12 – 18mths he can replicate the same fee up to 25 times! Unlikely but it is mathematically possible.

The same kind of formula can be applied to the contractor side. He is basically shuffling contractors from one recruiter to another project and has created a merry go round type scenario, which is also pushing up pay rates or reducing everyone’s margins. This is basically ‘Sharp Pracitice’ and was traditionally the holy grail of a few firms of cowboys and charlatans in the Sales Recruitment sector in the 80’s and 90’s who oddly always had a tendency to emulate Gordon Gekko. Image

My client has asked me who they can escalate this unprofessional conduct to in terms of a serious complaint. The problem is he can’t really! Okay if the recruitment firm in question were part of the REC or the IOR or similar then he could complain to those industry bodies. But they aren’t a member and to be honest, industry bodies don’t usually have much bite, although the recently formed Institute of Recruiters has promised to be robust. He can complain to the governments Employment Agency Standards office, but technically what this recruiter is doing is not illegal and they are not really responsible for commercial disputes. The EAS is really about enforcing protection, fair play and rights for workers.

What this recruiter is doing may be unethical, it may be considered bad practice by 99.9% of an industry worth an estimated £20billion+ a year to the economy, and it may even be in contravention of the terms and conditions of business of supply. But as far as I know it is not illegal. It should be but it probably never will be.

So maybe there is an argument, a case or at least a point worthy of consideration in regards to licensing the recruitment industry. Maybe there should be a government ombudsman who can rule on customer complaints with an iron glove, there is in just about every other people business. The healthcare, utilities, financial services, legal and accountancy and others all have some kind of Ombudsman set up, who is responsible for handling complaints and hold an entirely objective and impartial stance.

Maybe this could even be a more practical solution to the candidate ownership and fee debates and incidents that invariably turn legal. Yes, there would of course be a cost to set up and run an Ombudsman but if the end result is a cleaner, more robust and business conducive environment that engenders trust and thus increases positive perception could it be a win win for everyone?

What do you think?

On a final note, in reality the true scale of issues, bad practice and or intentional malpractice in the recruitment industry is actually very small. Genuine complaints, by this I mean those that are found to have grounds and be reasonable as opposed to being merely a matter of perception are relatively rare. I have worked in this industry for nearly 20yrs and the vast majority of people I have worked with or have been acquainted with are immensely passionate and ethical about what they do. But it only takes a couple of bad apples to spoil a barrel. No industry is perfect and every industry can be improved of course, but genuinely I think the industry has never been better.

So is a real licensing strategy based upon protecting hiring companies, candidates and the industry actually a good idea, it has been debated for years and historically did exist, should we bring it back? If we did, who would police it and how would it work? Would an Ombudsman suffice?

Would You Pay Someone To Find You Your Next Job?

In the UK and Europe you can buy expertise, counselling, advice or assistance for just about anything, legally. If you want to buy a house but can’t be bothered looking, hire a house hunter. If you want to invest all your ill-gotten appearance fees (Tony Blair) hire an investment banker. If you want to book a holiday hire a Concierge service. But if you want to find your next job, guess what. You can’t hire a professional job finder! Why not?

If you were recommended by a trusted associate or family member to someone who had a track record of successfully finding people their next job including the coaching, advising, training and positioning of your skills and experience would you pay for those services?

What if they provided their services on an initial retainer fee which for example covered your initial consultation, all CV / Resume reviews and preparation costs, interview coaching, career counselling, job search advice and the development of job search strategy personally devised for you. Then you paid a further fee based upon success only if the individual actually introduced you to your next employer?

There are of course a multitude of organisations and individuals who provide all of the above specified services. But none of them can legally charge you for actually finding you a job. They can charge the employer / hiring company, but they are legally restricted from charging you.

Now I don’t know about you, but I think this is ridiculous. As an adult you can buy anything and everything on credit, you can enter into lifelong financial commitments, you can risk your home and your family’s well being to some fancy talking investment advisor authorised by the FSA who still turns out to be a Madoff style Ponzi scheme, you can buy dreadful cosmetic implants from authorised and approved surgeons and even a wife from overseas. But you can’t pay someone to increase your chances of finding you a job!

Okay, I understand that the law is this way to stop people being exploited. In many ways it is to stop vulnerable or often disoriented people (and unexpected redundancy can and often does really knock people sideways) from being taken advantage of by less ethical unscrupulous con men and fraudsters. But consider this for a moment. If you lose your job and struggle to find a new one, there is very unfortunately a massive potential disaster looming. Having a job is probably the most important thing in your life after your partner (okay, this may debatable) and your family. For many people it underlines their status, their personality and their standing in their community or even their social circle.

How many of us have met people who lost their job first only for it to escalate into a full-blown personal crisis. It begins with a slight tightening of the belt, the kids can’t go on that school trip, the gym membership gets cancelled, the credit cards get cut up, one of the cars has to go, the holiday to Tenerife gets held over for a year, the new kitchen goes on hold. The pressure, the personal stress and the anxiety build with every passing day.

The financial implications are only the beginning. Personal relationships begin to suffer, you have to swallow your pride and ask friends and family for help in finding work. You walk into your local and people begin to avoid you, or offer what can be hollow comfort. Family issues kick in as one partner feels they are taking all the strain, you aren’t doing enough or are not doing it right. Personally you begin to feel frustrated and angry and fear that you are falling into a rut.

How many people reading this post have either experienced these things personally first hand or know someone who has?

So we are agreed then that a job is immensely important to us. It often makes us who we are, it provides purpose and it provides the means and the financial stability to school our children the way we want and it enables us to socialise the way we like and to live where we want.

So why can’t you seek and pay for professional help? This Government has spent literally millions of £’s on Career Counsellors, Back to Work Advisors and Skills Teaching to help people find work more effectively. Yet none of it actually works. The vast majority of assistance provided by the public sector and welfare or related services is time locked or has restrictions on it. You have to meet certain age criteria, fall into a certain demographic or have specific issues before anyone can speak to you. When people joke about preferential treatment for ex-offenders, drug addicts or the systematically unemployed, it isn’t funny. It’s true. Try being a normal everyday citizen of the UK who loses their job after 7yrs with the same employer. The Job Centre+ people are primarily focused on making sure that you don’t get any benefits until you have exhausted all your resources, are on the verge of defaulting on your mortgage and facing a custodial sentence for non-payment of council tax.

So why don’t they issue a licence scheme for recruiters and enable them to work directly with Job Seekers in a whole new way?

Imagine if you had your very own recruitment consultant, one who focused on you first and foremost, who explored every single opportunity to find you a potential job vacancy and then made every possible effort to ensure that you nailed it at interview. Imagine a recruiter who was paid by you the job seeker and not the hiring company. You pull the strings, you lay out your demands, you work collaboratively to maximise every resource. The Recruiter reports into you daily or weekly, they provide a working document of activity undertaken. They do all the research, the networking, the cold calling and the emailing for you. Effectively their job is to find you a new job first and foremost.

How much would you be willing to pay and on what terms? Would you for example pay an initial up-front retainer of £2,500 to buy exclusive time, to buy the search strategy, the coaching and resume re-writing and everything? If the recruiter then successfully sourced and secured you a position would you agree to pay a remaining balance for example 3 – 6 months later of £7,500? If you earn £50,000 per annum, for every month you are out of work you are losing c£4,000+.

I’m just throwing ideas around here. There is a huge disconnect at the moment between Job Seekers and Recruiters. Much of this is simply because Recruiters are pressured by their actual employer and their clients the hiring companies. They simply don’t have the time to work one on one with Job Seekers or to work with them in a collaborative manner. Many do try to assist and help as many people as they can, many spend much of their free time writing up CV’s  / Resume’s / Covering Letters for their friends and family. Many spend time coaching or counselling people about interview technique. But this is all on an ad-hoc basis and 99% of the time is done pro-bono.

It would have to be heavily weighted towards successful placement. There would have to be a Licence element to ensure that only respectable, legally operating and experienced recruiters were allowed to engage in the activity. But could it work? Would it offer a different or alternative means to those Job Seekers who maybe don’t have the time, don’t have the knowledge or simply don’t want to take a chance of not finding another job quickly?

What are your thoughts? How could it be made to work? Would you participate?

Social Media – A Cautionary Tale Featuring The 3 Bears, Humpty Dumpty and Gerald Ratner

“The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed–would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper–the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.”
– George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 1

A Gentle Introduction – like a walk in the woods before the wolves come out to play

George Orwell was possibly not the most entertaining writer I have had the good fortune to read, Robert Rankin and his musings about Hugo Rune and the Brentford area is far more amusing. Whilst of course a real piece of escapism for when the infernal imbecile sat next to you on the train spends 2 hours shouting down their phone to their obviously paranoid and untrusting wife that he is on his way home is Jasper Ffordes, Nursery Crimes Divsion stories, I can particularly recommend The Big Over Easy, Humpty Dumpty is hilarious as a mixed up philandering gambler and delusional fraudster, as is the depiction of Reading. But back to less entertaining things, I remember reading Orwell’s, Keep the Aspidistra Flying and fighting right to the very end to keep my eyes open in the face of such absolute mediocrity and blandness, which was precisely the point of the book of course. But in many of his dark cynical observations and perceptions of life, politics and humanity such as Animal Farm and especially ‘1984’ he was indeed as many of us suspected a visionary.

Social Media – A Bright New World or a Disaster Waiting to Happen

Consider the quote from 1984 at the start of this post in light of the modern situation with our New Social Media World for a moment. Consider the frantic drafting and re-drafting of corporate social media policies to protect them against every imaginable, definable and perceivable scenario that their legal advisers can envisage, and this sort of envisaging does not come cheap of course. Review the constant media reports of amendments to public law, the perception and interpretation of acts likely to cause offence, a breach of the peace. How many media reports are there already of commercial suicide because they underestimated how disappointed a customer was, career suicide because they posted something offensive about their own employer or boss. Then consider the global concerns about elements related to privacy and marketing possibly even brainwashing. Remember the furore over subliminal imaging? How is that different from source amnesia? Except one is legal because we don’t really understand it yet and it is also big business, and the other was banned because we thought we understood it in the 60’s and 70’s when the World was in awe of such things. Governments and Judicial organisations around the World are trying to define what is acceptable, what is within the law, what you can say, who you can say it to and what the punishments are for breaches of these new first Social Media World laws and legislations. In my opinion they are rushing headlong into a mind field that will last for generations.

Can You Tweet Yourself to Death?

Professionally – YES! Incorrect utilisation of social media can ruin your business, your brand, your reputation, your career and possibly your life in literally minutes. I am a recruiter or a Head Hunter and I operate internationally across various markets, diverse cultures and religions. I only have to make one ill thought out post on twitter or Linkedin and I can easily offend someone somewhere amongst all the cultures, religions, belief factors and ethical perceptions. I may never actually know who I offended or why, but they can alienate me from hundreds of people who have never met me, but will judge me without even uttering a word to me. For recruiters in a World where our entire business is people related and based upon relationships and reputations social media is literally a dream opportunity or a potential disaster waiting to happen, as Gary Chaplin found out when he accidentally blind copied an insulting email to thousands of people. He intended the sentiment of the original email, he maybe thought it was funny, he was undoubtedly a little angry at the time. But he never imagined it would go as far and as fast as it did. Bad news has never travelled so fast and so persistently as it does today. Imagine if someone made the same gaffe as Gerald Ratner did in 1991 today? For those who don’t remember it here is a little sample:

He said: “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, because it’s total crap.”

He added that his stores’ earrings were “cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long”.

He wiped almost £500 million off his companies share value, that was in 1991! The damage was limited in many ways because bad news didn’t travel so fast. You could get PR Gurus and agents like Max Clifford (who has finally been dealt his cards) to disaster manage and spread counter claims almost as fast as bad news moved. Not today.

Personally and privately it can cost you your friends, your relationship, your family and even your liberty almost instantly. It isn’t just you as the individual who drive this by the initial insensitivity or stupidity or possibly even correct but unwarranted or illegal statement or thought. It is also the media who use the same tools to drive and create a social frenzy out of a little piece of social media because the more visits, the more hits, the more advertising they secure the more money the company earns. I have even heard of one guy whose own wife exposed him for buying and reading pornography, her tweets became a hit in Japan, he was ridiculed to the point of attempted suicide. It is that culture thing again, reputation and status are worth more than your life in Japan, yet Bill the Mechanic from Sheffield probably reads Playboy (I almost inserted a hyperlink here, but thought better of it. Who is interested in Sheffield after all) on the bus with his wife present.

The power is amazing. The sheer concept of literally millions of people reading within minutes, something that was intended for a small, private select audience of my friends or family is mind blowing. It used to take PR Companies weeks, months and maybe even years to get an advertising or political message out but now one carefully choreographed and stage managed strap line can do the same job as dozens of PR and Branding Execs in hours if not less.

I find it frightening on so many levels. Yet despite my fear of it and probably in spite of my naturally outspoken, passionately driven and often strongly opinionated personality I still play with it and experiment with it just like I am right now. Almost all of us, even the so called guru’s who charge to train and teach and maximise our use and a firms investment in it, are really like that first human who  played with fire out of curiosity, hypnotised by the mystical flickering flame. When he subsequently set fire to his enemies dwelling and realised its other potential they hadn’t invented the offence of arson. Nobody considered it a crime of passion, it was just one of those things.

We haven’t even educated one single generation yet about the benefits and the dangers of social media. As far as I am aware it isn’t part of the school curriculum, it isn’t discussed as part of the moral guidance delivered in churches. When I was a child there was a splendid Community Police Sergeant called Keith Ellis who used to come to my school. He brought people to talk to us about the dangers of railway lines, swimming in lakes, crossing roads, riding bicycles safely and later during our teenage years he warned us of the dangers of drugs, alcohol, glue sniffing, aerosol abuse and going off the rails. Who tells our children today about the dangers of social media? I know that we are quite rightly abundantly clear and aware of the dangers of strangers on the web, but how does a 17yr old know what Facebook can really do, how does a 40yr old know how to utilise his privacy settings? Who has told him? How does a job seeker know that he is actively alienating every recruiter and potentially lot’s of prospective employers due to his blogs success or his rants on discussions on Linkedin.

Make-Believe

We are basically making it up as we go along, changing the rules to suit public opinion, jumping to conclusions about what everyone thinks, responding en-masse in an almost hysterical manner. Forgetting that just because it is the majority choice doesn’t make it right. I may not like your sexual orientation it doesn’t make you wrong, it doesn’t make my opinion right either. Yet you can flaunt your sexual preferences, your likes in public, but I am legally prohibited from voicing mine ( this is just an example). Sexuality or Race is taboo as it should be, yet my political preference is fair game. You can slander their heritage and their culture because they come from a council estate in Yorkshire, but they can’t criticise your religious beliefs or cultural differences. The problem is if people don’t truly understand how it works, how can they be responsible. There are no written rules, we don’t have a moral or ethical guide or compass on Social Media, because it is still happening and it is too complex.

In recent months we have had examples of people imprisoned for making statements perceived to be inciting a riot. In a couple of cases individuals who appear to severely lack any kind of sound moral guidance or social responsibility claimed they were joking, they didn’t mean it, they were just having a laugh with their mates. How do we really know they were not, after all none of the ones convicted and jailed were actually caught in the act of public disorder or affray. In effect it was a ‘thoughtcrime’, it was a brain-fart, it was an outspoken moment of stupidity, but it was probably shared and understood by their desired audience, they just didn’t realise it wasn’t shared and understood by mine and yours. If they had known that a second of misguided humour could secure you 3-4yrs in prison do you really think they would have done it? Really!

Education and Prevention is Key

In the UK it is extremely difficult to obtain a gun, at least legally anyway. There is good reason for this, people don’t understand how to use them safely, can’t secure them properly and are often tempted to use them negligently or in moments of anger. The never ending images of brainless, moronic individuals who actually post photographs of themselves on facebook posing with pistols, sub-machine guns, machine pistols clearly demonstrate this. Get this, very often it is an illegal weapon. It is like giving a child a sushi knife. Similarly with cars (cars not cats okay), you have to be taught how to drive one safely so that you don’t kill someone or yourself. But even then there is massive investment in telling us the obvious, don’t drink and drive, don’t speed, cautionary signs on motorways for example.Despite the fact that we have all taken courses and passed a test.

Where are the public notices warning us about the consequences of social media? You can hit and run a 10yr old boy and escape with a suspended sentence, you can speed and kill a car full of passengers and get less than 12mths in prison. If you get burgled and your shotgun gets stolen the police provide you with an insurance claim number. Yet you post on Facebook “Let’s have a riot” and get 4yrs? You slander your boss to your friends on facebook and lose your job, become a national laughing stock and essentially become unemployable.

If you are Parents and your children are engaging with social media, tell them about how to use it properly while you are explaining about the birds and the bees and how not to communicate with strangers.

If you are an employer who encourages your employees to use social media then appoint a volunteer social media representative, encourage them to stay ahead of the game, to train, to issue advice. It isn’t enough to assume that everyone knows what they are doing, just because you have issued a Social Media Policy. You have an obligation to protect your employees just as you do to protect your revenues and your business.

If like me you are using social media but feel like you are often wearing a blindfold, then be cautious, never post in anger and always review, have reviewed by someone else or think twice before posting.

——————————————————————————————————————–Many of the examples used are for effect only and do not represent the views and opinions of the author / authors. Any tips, suggestions, legal advice, insight, education references are extremely welcomed on this subject matter. Please share, re-post and feel free to enlighten me, make constructive comments.