Category Archives: CEO

Recruitment Agencies…. They aren’t going anywhere

Those of you who know me will know my Recruiting background.  Started in a Recruitment Agency, well fell into it, as we all do.  Went to an in-house role for 8 years, somehow ended up back in Agency land again, and am now back in-house.

One of the things I learned whilst working in house was the utter despising of Recruiting Agencies by most people I came across, both from the business point of view and the candidates.  I had been blinkered maybe, “Did people dislike me that much when I was working for an agency?” Well I didn’t think it was me, but the function.  Really?  Sadly the answer was YES.

The reasons are not too hard to fathom.  So many cowboys and cowgirls out there, giving everyone a bad name.  It is the industry where a quick and hefty buck can be made, and I’m sure we all know a few or know of a few that have done that.  I knew a guy who placed the same person into a permanent role 3 times in a year! Twice in the same company, just asked her to go by her maiden name the second time around so as to not arise suspicion.  He made a fee each time upwards of $20k (in the days of 3 month replacements), and would brag about it.  I’ve heard of agents blatantly using their sexuality to try to get work to the point of offering “the full service” for work. I had a boss, who actually tell a young “lady” that she’d better go to the ladies to fix her dress as the straps kept falling off, “it’s not accidentally happening” he was told.. (True story)  Worse, agents, who once in to a company try to pilfer people out once they’ve sniffed around a little and learned the lay of the land.  Heard of one agency, threaten to “empty your car park” if said company wouldn’t use their services!

These type of stories, along with what can and has been perceived as the exorbitant pricing has started a shift away from the model, with more and more in-house teams popping up (bragging about their lack of need for agencies), LinkedIn’s Recruiter tools and “Social Recruiting, have left some doomsayers predicting the death of agencies as we know them.

In past lives as an in-house recruiter it was inconceivable that I would use Agencies, roles I couldn’t fill would remain unfilled and pressure would just build up on my team.  The amount of cold calls, warm calls and reverse marketing calls I would have to knock back probably didn’t do much for my popularity in the Recruitment world.  It was a directive from the people that paid my salary, an unbreakable rule, and we were able to deliver most of the time.  (* I remember telling one boss that he was notorious in the IT Recruitment industry for being a hard ass and putting people through the ringer.  I used to put his name deliberately on young Recruiters working for me who’d made too much money and were over confident, just to bring them down a peg so I could work with them once more!)  I have however recently broken out of that mould a little bit.  Of course there is a need and a place for this multi-billion dollar (Euro, Peso etc) industry.

I don’t see a need to use them in my day to day “normal” hiring, you know those role types that I will need to fill 80-90% of the time.  That is for me to build a successful, engaged and prepared talent pool of people who are already through our process, who just need the final tick to get started.  That is my core business, that’s where we should be spending most of our time and money.  If I used Agencies for this, then why would my company pay my salary?

However, for those “different” roles, for sectors of the market where I/we don’t have expertise, don’t have the network, where there is a speed to fill urgency, why wouldn’t I use an Agency?  Take on a Contracting resource makes a hell of a lot of sense to me.  I did come up with some raised eyebrows from the powers that be, until that is I reminded them of one thing… I got to set the rules!  I can choose who I deal with and who I don’t, it’s based on my relationships.  If a company calls me up, at a time when I have a need, promise the world and then don’t deliver, that’ll leave a bad taste, and I get to choose if I deal with them again or not.  If a company is perceived to be acting unscrupulously, then… I get to choose whether to work with them again or not.  If I see them advertising on a job board for my role, guess what? I get to choose whether to work with them again or nor.  I get to set the buy rate (I honestly don’t care what margin the agency makes, it’s none of my business, as long as everyone is happy), to ensure that the arrangement is still profitable for us.  It’s a no lose situation.

If you’re smart you can also get a fair bit of industry knowledge of your Recruiter (if they are any good), I have in the past felt a little insular, a little blinkered to the wider market when sitting in an in-house role, my focus (rightly or wrongly) being on my company alone.  Recruiters should have a great deal of industry knowledge in their mind, they are talking to companies, people and yes competitors on a daily basis.  Why not get an industry overview from?

This model has been a paradigm shift for my company, and so far it seems to be working well.  We’ve formed some strong working relationships, we’ve hired some great contractors in a very timely fashion and solved both our and our clients problems in the process.  I am yet to feel or perceive the “stereo-typical” Recruiter push or sleaze (for lack of a better term).  I’m using Recruitment agencies as another channel to market, you cannot know everything and everyone.  You know what? It hasn’t diminished the value in what the Recruiting team provides in my company, it’s actually allowed us to solve more problems.

With most businesses, Recruitment Agencies should exist to solve a businesses problems.  Do that, agency land, and you will be here to stay (nobody say like cockroaches!)

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#atcsyd Day 2.. The Awesomeness Returned!

Man what a day…. sorry, it’s late I’m writing this, but I just arrived at home. (took a few more days, went back to work, and now finished this)

But back to the start of my day…

Great start… woke up without the sound of crying (I have young children… this is a perfect start of a day!)

Then… awesome breakfast provided by the #atcsyd guys (the food at this event was magnificent!)

Rebecca Houghton was the emcee today, and for a lady who was introduced as someone who is self confessed as unfunny, she had the room giggling and laughing and well, eating out of the palm of her hand.. Even if she did crowdsource her 10,000 steps for the day. (I won’t tell anyone though)

Then Rebecca did something that has the potential to change my professional life.  She introduced Glen Cathey who presented  “Moneyball Approach to Recruitment” Big Data – Big Changes… aka The art of winning an Unfair game…

It’s fair to say that “Big Data” was the term for the day!

Changing of mindsets and questioning what Real Data you need to make GREAT decisions….. and can you validate your currently held assumptions and ensure you don’t hold any biases of any type.  He shocked (and worried) the majority of the people in the room, with some stats about the relative success of tall people (over 6 foot 2) versus not so tall people. (Glen stated that 3.9% of American males over 6’2, however 30% of CEOs are over 6’2, a disproportionate number you’d think… interpret as you will!)  Sadly I qualify for the latter.  On a personal note, I could hear my Dad in my head, throughout this presentation with the idea of the “Assumption” doctorate.  ie Don’t assume things, get backing from your ideas with statistical data.

Questions raised in my head were, what data do I have to challenge? What do I want to challenge?  As far as I know the majority of Recruiting is subjective, you like the person, they perform OK in interviews, their chances of getting hired are greater than those who don’t interview well, but may have other core skills.

With Moneyball Recruiting, Glenn, suggests we “Move away from subjective means of assessing talent and make hiring decisions more objective, fact and empirical data based means”  The idea that Google have a specific “People Analytics” team, gives us something to think about, apparently all “people decisions” at Google are based on Data and Analytics.

Imagine if as an employee you carry your statistics across your career like sports people do? Raw numbers out there for everyone to see and assess! How would you feel? Would it change the way you work?

Glenn then raised the idea that “Intelligence” is a core predictor of performance.  Statistics given stated that if you use “intelligence” as a core predictor of performance, you’ll be right 65% of the time.  That’s not a bad score  I wouldn’t think.  The question raised was “What is intelligence?” “Are we talking Emotional Intelligence? Street smarts or your IQ?”

Another question was raised, which realistically hit right at the heart of a core belief of what we do as Recruiters or Sourcers.  “Why do you want to hire an industry re-tread?” Someone over looked by someone else, or already working at another place.  Why do that or could you identify people outside your core beliefs and ideals who could do the job as effectively, if just viewed a little differently?  Looked at through more objective eyes, through the identification of core “Traits” or “signals of success”.  These questions had a huge impact on the crowd, you could almost hear all the cogs turning in the collective brains of the attendees… How can we re-look at what we do?  The big question was then posed “If you had to start all over again… what would you do differently?”

In case you were thinking the age of information was taking over, and Recruiters we fast becoming an endangered species, Glenn concluded that “Great strategies… without great people, are not worth a damn!”  So, we’re still hanging in there people.. room for us all yet!

Adding to the days geekfest was Simon Cariss talking about “Global intelligence leverages HCM Decision making”.   Essentially Simon took us on a magical tour of numbers.  (I saw in some circles it described as #dataporn!) Just having some fun with them, showing us how data can tell us a story.  He illustrated this story with the global launch of the virtual launch of the iPad 5 (it’s invisible folks!) and how everything connects.  This dude seriously had his geek on… (it was great). (Another highlight was Simon’s Australianising the infamous “Purple squirrel” with a “Red Possum” LOVED IT!)

He then asked a question, based around the idea that “the door of the CEO is always open, for the right information”.  What is the right information your CEO requires to make decisions? Can you simplify it down to one number? In the age of mobile information and smaller screens, maybe this is something you need to think about! (Apparently for those “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” fans, 42 is not the number!)

Howard Kotzen was up next “Building a case for intuitive Technology and integrated Talent management”, more talk of Big Data and continuing on the theme of “asking the right questions” a perfect follow up for Simon.  He spoke about talent ownership and the responsibilities for success.  How Recruitment should be seen as an Enterprise Resource Planning idea, where each silo of the process understands and appreciates the fact of their dependency on one another, striving for the same goal of company success.

Howard’s talk was followed by a person I was really looking forward to hearing, and meeting, Master Burnett.  He gave a talk on “Lean Recruitment Marketing” – I loved this talk, fast paced, thought provoking and practical.  Just what we (OK I’m speaking for myself) wanted in a conference like this.  It was tough to take notes, as my mind was going flat out trying to keep up with everything.  I took pics of the slides, which I’ll share if I get the permission of Trevor and his team.

Bottom lines (yes plural, as he made some great points which stuck with me and may have changed the way I look at Recruitment… again!)

Master asked us to think about our Marketing, and question “What’s changed in 10 years?”  Think about the channels you used, how many of them are obsolete now?

He spoke about the polarisation of our audience now across our multiple SPOPs (Social Points of Presence) cool term huh! and the fact that now the audience will talk back and readily question

Are we forcing our old stuff into new markets?

These Lean philosophies will test market, and see if our assumptions are accurate.  Try many things, in small doses across many mediums.  Measure, iterate, try again! (wash, rinse repeat!) Trust data over opinions, build and derive that data yourself!  And allow yourself the flexibility to move with the times.  Who would have thought about marketing/recruiting in Pinterest a year ago?  Be dictated to by the conversation and get to a stage where you are leading it!

He spoke about how in this age speed and flexibility are the new drivers of competitive advantage, process slows us down! (For those that know me, it was music to my ears)  Apparently, Life happens when you’re stuck in the middle of process!

Master was not talking about throwing “process” out the window, but get rid of in the aim of trying things, in small stages to reach an outcome (or not).  He encouraged us to think about outcomes versus output.  Don’t talk stats of interviews achieved, page views, eyeball minutes, etc.  Talk about outcomes, be specific, make it measurable, attainable, relevant and of course bound by strict time constraints.

The game changer?  This really resonated with me.  The outcome of successful Recruitment is great performance and success of the business!  What do you think about that? Not talking “bums on seats” in a timely manner, not talking time to hire or quality of hire, not talking longevity of hire, but business success.  BAM

(Makes sense doesn’t it, but haven’t really ever taken it to that extreme!)

Sadly, due to travel plans I had to miss the unconference sessions, but I have no doubt they would have continued down the stream of thought provocation.  I look forward to reading more posts as they filter out about this great conference.  Hat tip to all the organisers, speakers and attendees.  I just love the conversations! Can’t wait until the next one!

Jerry Maguire changed my life


A sad statement I know. This movie turned up on late night television the other night and it reminded me of a situation I was in a bit over a year ago.

Now this isn’t a Show me the money take off, but I still love that scene and needed the photo, for my own amusement. I digress
I was sitting at home, after a hellish day in the office, an occurrence which was happening not as rarely as it once had, and found myself writing. Lucky for the blogosphere I hadn’t joined its ranks yet. I voiced all my opinions about the company, my role, the management, the different personalities etc.. put it all out there. I was writing an email to my CEO and MD at the time. Man it felt good, so cathartic, and I believed it made a hell of a lot of sense.. I was about to change my world. I was pumped, maybe it was the caffeine I’d had to ingest to get through it all, who cares? I was excited. Now in Jerry Maguire, he acts out, passionately, straight to the copy mart and goes a little crazy, luckily enough for me (as Jerry gets fired.. remember) I remembered a little advice I’d received as a young professional. Never send an email on emotion, anger or happiness, save it in drafts, read it in the morning, and if you still believe it, then all means, GO FOR IT.

All I can say is thank god. I re-read in the morning and WOW, what a lot of nonsensical, emotional, jingoistic, egotistical crap it was. Don’t get me wrong, I believed in the underlying message, and still do, but wow the message was lost in lots and lots of words. Here’s the kicker.. I still wanted to send the message, but not in that format, not to those guys.

I was lucky, I had someone I could talk to, someone who understood my company, my role and my feelings and the players I was talking about. I sent this person my email, and held my breathe for the response… was I talking from a part of my body polar opposite to my mouth or not.

Luckily enough this person agreed with the message and the sentiment, and was nice enough to let me know.. they also agreed with the fact that the format would not get the message across. Think about your audience, how do they think? what would grab their attention?

Great thought… now remember I was writing to my CEO and MD, not sure if this is true of all people of this rank, however, my audience had to have their attention grabbed in seconds, or less to keep them reading, it had to be succinct enough to let them know what I was thinking and the benefits it held, and it should not be emotional at all (as that would stop reading, or at least reading with an objective viewpoint ASAP). I re-wrote a few times, and could not find a way to change too much. I tend to sometimes get attached to my work, and find it hard to change.

At 3am, it hit me.. (unfortunately this happens a bit to me) I had to start thinking like a recruiter, writing my ads for a particular person. Very effective I found.

I wrote a catchy title to the email, which I new they would read. Something like “A great way to improve profits”. I wrote a short sweet intro. Then dot points I needed them to know, and of course what they would get out of it. Finally, there was a call to action! “We should do this, or with your support I would like to discuss more.”

End result.. an emailed response from my CEO, with a phone call 20 minutes afterwards, some changes immediately, (I feel) an increased standing in the company, and a few more initiatives which changed the way the company operated.

Now this may seem like bragging, and maybe you are right, however, I thought it was an example of a way to use passion and communications to C level executives and get away with it. It’s like your ads.. Grab attention, use the what’s in it for them theory and finish with a call to action.

It continues to work.. hope this helps someone.