7 awesome ways of improving the reputation of recruiters

7 ways improving reputation recruiters

Last weekend I was out with friends, and there was another guy as well who, after asking me what I do for a living, started a rant about how much he hates recruiters.

The chances are that you’re very well aware of it; recruiters have a bad reputation. But it’s not only your gut feeling or the random candidate or client who gives you this impression; it’s a proven fact. Just have a look at Google’s autocomplete function to see what people think of recruiters:

recruiters reputation

In Roy Morgan’s annual Image of Professions Survey, car salesmen had the lowest reputation of all professions that were surveyed for the past 35 years. The profession ‘recruiter’ wasn’t part of the survey but Google’s autocomplete makes you think that recruiters will not be much higher regarded as car salesmen. Let’s have a look at the autocomplete of a car salesman:

car salesmen reputation vs recruiters

It looks quite similar to the autocomplete of recruiters, doesn’t it? Now you might say that all Google autocompletes turn out bad. Let’s pick Accountants, who are with 51% (up 6% this year) right in the middle of Roy Morgan’s survey and have a look:

accountants reputation vs recruiters

Flattering? Not necessarily – but it still looks a lot better than recruiters or car salesmen. And if you want flattering you can have a look at nurses. So no, it’s not normal that the autocomplete of a profession is that negative.

Why do recruiters have a bad reputation and what can you do about it?

Disclaimer: the following points are not true for every recruiter and of course most certainly not for you :-). Still both you and I know: those recruiters do exist.

  1. People think that recruiters don’t add value. They believe that recruiters get a high fee for some admin work and flick around CVs till they get a lucky hit. This impression is also another reason why clients try to bring down the margins: Often they aren’t aware of what we actually do for them, and they, therefore, don’t know how hard we work for them. They also don’t understand that lower margin means lower quality. How could they: We often don’t educate them. And as they already work with another recruiter for x% already (just imagine an unsustainable low percentage) we give in too often and end up working for the same amount. The solution: communicate better. Send weekly updates. Let our clients and candidates know what is happening. Be margin proud and walk away from business where the margins are so low that you would need to sacrifice quality. And explain your clients very nicely that unfortunately, you can’t work for that low margin as you don’t want to sacrifice quality.
  2. Recruiters don’t get back to candidates. Candidates that are not successful have to chase Recruiters. Now I understand that this is often not the fault of the recruiter: Hiring managers are not better than recruiters: too often it’s the recruiter who is waiting for the feedback from the client; and it’s the recruiter who is chasing them. And as the middle-man, the recruiter gets the blame. What can we do about it: Set the rules of engagement when taking the job brief. Explain to the hiring managers that you’ll get back to them within x amount of time and ask them within what time frame they can commit to getting back to you. If it’s too long, explain to them that it reflects badly on the company if they don’t provide timely feedback. Oh, and then of course actually get back to the candidates, even if they aren’t successful. Give them meaningful feedback that will help them to improve. They will appreciate that and come back to you.
  3. Activity for the sake of KPIs. Now this one is never good as this is bound to lower the quality of your work. What you can do about it: (usually) KPIs are there for a reason. Make sure that you calculate your KPIs backwards, starting from the goal (x amount of annual billings) back to the weekly activity that you’ll have to do to achieve that goal. If the KPIs that are in place don’t reflect that, speak with your manager about it. If your manager is decent they’ll understand and you’ll be able to work with your manager on KPIs that make sense for your market. Actual live data from your market (average deal value, number of candidate/client interviews per placement, etc) will be very helpful for this conversation. And then, of course, it’s up to you to find strong candidates that are worth submitting to your clients.
  4. Recruiters don’t have enough technical knowledge. This makes it difficult for them to understand what they are searching for and impossible to have a meaningful conversation with candidates and clients alike. And when speaking with candidates: how shall recruiters be able to judge if their candidates are good in their job and if they have the technical knowledge that is required to be successful in this job? If recruiters don’t have enough technical knowledge of their sector, then it will also be difficult for them to ask the right questions when taking the brief which will lead to them not having enough details about the job. What to do if you feel that you could require more technical knowledge of your sector? Start with doing some research. Google and YouTube are a good place to start. Listen to candidates. They have a wealth of knowledge to share, and if you listen carefully enough, you will learn a lot about the sector that you are recruiting for. Attend industry conferences. This is not only a great place to learn first hand about your sector but also to connect with candidates and clients.
  5. Recruiters lie about jobs they have. Does this job that you see in the job ad really exist or is it just a way of fishing CVs? If you’re a candidate and apply for a job that turns out not to exist: it’s not a pleasant experience, and it makes the candidate feel like he has been lied to. What to do instead: just don’t do it. Rather focus on getting to know your active candidates better and use that knowledge to reverse market them out to clients.
  6. Recruiters don’t listen and don’t understand what the candidates really want. They just get the bare minimum of information that they need to submit the candidate for the job and then run to the next candidate. What to do instead: This is a tricky one as recruiters have their targets to hit and time is precious. Recruiters can’t spend hours on candidates that they can’t help. I’d, therefore, suggest explaining to candidates that you can’t help why you can’t assist them and give them a couple of tips on the road. Then move on and spend time on the candidates that you can help.
  7. A structural problem is candidate ownership in contingency recruitment: speed is key which often leads to a lower quality. Lower quality translates into a worse reputation. Contingency recruitment can also be problematic, especially if one client uses a larger number of agencies. This leads to several recruiters calling the same candidate about the same job. One thing is for sure: those candidates won’t be impressed if 10 recruiters call them for the same job. And what happens to the client who thought he’d be smart using a large number or agencies? The same amount of recruiters plus other recruiters that would like the job are chasing the hiring manager for the same position. Who wouldn’t get annoyed! What can you do about it? Walk away from jobs that are not attractive. If there are too many recruiters involved, don’t bother. A) Too many recruiters working on the same job lower the probability that you will get paid for the work you do and B) Do you really want to be part of this mud fight? C) Rather focus on the good clients that commit to you.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for saving the reputation of recruiters – also because of the nature of recruitment. As Quintin Ford puts it: only one person will get the job, and you’ll have to shatter the dreams of many others – and you just were selling this very dream to the same people just days ago.

Still, there are plenty of things that you can do to improve the reputation of recruiters and most importantly: the reputation of your brand as a recruiter.

Did I forget any reason why recruiters have a bad reputation and what you can do about it – or do you disagree? Don’t forget to comment!

About Claudius Reinert

Claudius has 8 years of recruitment experience and placed candidates in Australia, APAC, Europe and the USA. He is the director of Open Sky Recruitment, a recruitment to recruitment agency. His passion is to help recruiters to achieve their goals.

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