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14 April 2009 6:40am

Recruiters make mistakes in any market, but six in particular are significantly more costly during a downturn, according to recruitment trainer Ross Clennett.

Clennett says that during the downturns in 1991/92 and 2001/02 he made mistakes but they fortunately didn’t cost him his job.

“As I work with and talk to numerous recruitment company owners and recruiters across the country, I see many of the same mistakes that I made, being repeated by people recruiting in their first down market.”

Here is his list of the top six mistakes:

Chasing jobs outside your niche – this happens when desperate recruiters see their job flow drop and panic, Clennett says. To drive up their ‘jobs-in’ statistic, “they chase any old job they can bring in”.

Instead, he says, recruiters should consider whether they have truly called every single prospect in their current niche. “What message about your expertise are you sending to your current clients and candidates? Even if you can fill the job, how long will it take to fill? What if you invest a lot of time and don’t fill the job? Could you readily place elsewhere, any of the candidates you spent many hours interviewing? Would you be motivated to even start such an activity? Could you easily fill the job again if your placement bombed out?”

Being lax with terms of business and credit checks – recruiters who are overjoyed at bringing in a job often think that “paperwork” will just slow things down and soak up critical time that might be used by their competitors to fill the job ahead of them, Clennett says.

But recruiters who have read any business media recently should be particularly wary about cash flow problems, credit clamp-downs, big-name companies going broke and spending drying up.

“In other words, many organisations – big and small – won’t be able to pay their bills. In desperation, they will use anything to dispute a due and proper payment. Not having your terms of business properly signed and returned (before starting work on any assignment) is such a basic error that, frankly, you deserve what’s coming to you if it turns out pear-shaped.”

Not qualifying jobs – this can happen when a recruiter, sick of telephone prospecting all day, gets so excited about a new job to work on that they start the assignment without properly qualifying the job.

Clennett points out that if you think not having jobs to work on is demoralising, “imagine how it feels to invest hours or days on an assignment and then find out that the client isn’t ready to hire now; hasn’t gained proper hiring authorisation; or refuses to be at all flexible on the remuneration offered to your A1 candidate?”

Interviewing too many candidates – there is now a reasonable flow of very good candidates seeking new positions but this doesn’t mean recruiters should over-compensate for the times of drought and interview all of them, Clennett says.

“The shortage is now in jobs, not candidates, so time allocated to candidate interviews needs to be carefully rationed. Interviewing masses of candidates each week will not bring in more jobs.

My advice is to find new job-hunting tactics rather than soak up precious time interviewing a candidate you have no short-term hope of finding a job for.”

Giving clients more control – with fewer jobs to fill, recruiters feel more vulnerable to the impact of a client’s commercial decision to give or not to give them an assignment to fill, Clennett says. They have “now is not the time to push back on client demands” running through their heads.

But the changed market hasn’t made any recruiter less of an expert than they were before, he says. “In fact it’s the opposite – our expertise is even more valuable and important in securing optimum recruitment outcomes. A poor hiring decision, in the current climate, could be even more costly for a client than in rosier times.

“Now is exactly the time to assert your expertise and provide your client with (potentially) unpopular, but accurate, advice about market salaries, quality candidate supply and the like. Who knows more about tax: a tax accountant or their client? Who knows more about architecture: an architect or their client? Who knows more about recruitment: a recruiter or their client?”

Wishing, hoping or thinking things will get easier – recruiters are as likely as anyone else to experience denial, Clennett says. “We would like to believe that things are not as they are and we act in accordance with our dream-world rather than the real world.”

But, he says, “spending time thinking or talking about something you have no control over is about as useful as hair gel for Peter Garrett.

“Results are caused by actions. If your current results are not to your liking, your choices are clear – get better at what you are currently doing, do more of what you are currently doing, or do something different.”


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