Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My Case Against Recruiting And Staffing Agencies

Perhaps I just don't get it.

Let me start off by stating that I this blog is a reaction to the culmination of the past 10 months in which I remained unemployed (until recently, thank the universe) as well as the year we lived in Miami.  I've been noticing a trend during that almost-2-year period that I truly feel hindered my job search efforts and, I suspect, the efforts of millions of others.  And that trend is this:  it seems these days that one cannot get a job interview without first going through a recruiter in a staffing agency - a 3rd party person who does not work for the company, but is tasked with finding candidates for open positions. Let me be clear here, I'm not talking about corporate recruiters who actually hire for the companies at which they work.  They are a completely different sub-sect.  I'm talking about those people, recruiters, who work for staffing agencies - agencies like Ajilon and Manpower and Robert Half.

Make no mistakes, my job-seeking friends, despite what they tell you, these recruiters are not on your side. Most recruiters are neither educated in HR disciplines nor do they have the breadth of experience of an HR professional.  They know nothing about employee relations, engagement, or even diversity and inclusion; they do not handle performance issues, coach managers or tackle the many other day-to-day nightmare matters surrounding workplace regulations like the ACA, FMLA, ADA and FLSA.  Recruiting and staffing are inherently not functions of human resources.  However, in many companies, the job of talent acquisition falls to the HR department because it seems to make sense.

Ultimately, recruiting talent is a sales job, not an HR function.  Recruiters are motivated by the sale; the first person to make the sale wins.  Recruiters spend six seconds evaluating online resumes/CV's.  That's it: 6 SECONDS.  They report that they spend approximately 4 to 5 minutes, but reality has disproved that statement with eye-tracking techniques.  So to sum up so far, your future is being decided upon in a 6-second timeframe by someone who most likely has no experience or background in human resources.

So what are they looking for on your resume (and very quickly, I might add)?  Boxes to check in order to put you in front of the actual hiring team.  They serve their client - the one who is paying.  And despite their reassurances to the job-seeker that you have great experience and are a marketable candidate, you may never hear from them again after your initial (and most times, only) visit with them to get started.  They might like you, but will you make them guaranteed bank?

To combat this, recruiters request that job-seekers take control of their own destiny by being a "pro-active partner" to the recruiter in their endeavor.  This means, recruiters have created a double language, RecruiterSpeak if you will, so that they can say what they want while still telling you what you want to hear.  Example:
"Visit our website often and let us know about the jobs that interest you.  And also, let us know about any other jobs out there that you might be interested in. You never know, we might have a relationship there"
 which in RecruiterSpeak means
 "Stay in touch with me to remind me that you still exist and tell me about other jobs that are listed because I don't have time to just sit and scour job boards all day long like you do."
Until recently, I spent 10 months constantly job-searching and speaking to at least 50 recruiters along the way.  At the end of that time, I was at a loss as to what I was supposed to do to strengthen those "partnerships":

  • I'd redesigned my resume at least 7 times based on their different requests. 
  • I'd registered with 11 recruiting and staffing agencies - 2 of which I heard from now and then; the other 9 I'd never heard from beyond our initial meeting. 
  • They'd tell me to go through them first before applying for jobs I'd find because they might have an "inside connection" to help me out.  I'd see jobs that interest me and send emails to the recruiters, most of which were neither acknowledged nor answered.  The few times my communication was acknowledged (no less that 5 DAYS LATER), I learned that the recruiter didn't know anyone at that company.  So then I ended up applying for the job 5 days after everyone else.  I'm sure my resume wasn't even seen. 

I realized that the 10 jobs I might see on LinkedIn or Indeed were most likely the same job registered with as many staffing agencies.  So what might have looked like a booming job market was actually just a few jobs multiplied by however many staffing agencies were working on it.  That is, IF the job exists at all.  Many agencies list bogus jobs just to build their "stable" of eligible talent.  So that job that sounds perfect that you found online?  Might not even be real.

What REALLY baffles me is that recruiters aren't bending over backwards to help any HR professional in his/her job search.  The HR connection in any company will be the one who reaches back out to the recruiters in order to help find future staff.  So why the recruiting agencies have not picked up on the "You scratch my back/I'll scratch yours" mantra, I can guarantee that job-seeking HR professionals are remembering the recruiting and staffing agencies who have helped them along the way.

I've already talked about how recruiters are extremely poor at communicating and building relationships ... at least with job hunters ... at least in my experience.  My overall concern is the trend of relying on someone we most often don't even know to help us with the biggest decision of our lives.  And research has shows that recruiters are disinterested and mostly uneducated when it comes to the actual world of human resources.  If companies continue to go the route of 3rd party acquisition, they will run the risk of missing out on candidates who have more to offer than a few buzzwords in their resumes that may or may not capture the attention of the software that's scanning it.