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13 July 2009 6:46am

A lobbyist for better standards in the recruitment industry has launched research to quantify the extent to which its bad reputation is deserved, and highlight areas of the recruitment process that need better regulation.

The two surveys – one to measure the experience of jobseekers who apply directly to employers and the other for jobseekers that go through agencies – will hopefully provide some much-needed hard data on the Australian recruitment experience, says Diane Lee, the director of Even It Up!.

“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there saying that both direct employers and recruitment companies treat jobseekers in a less than satisfactory way,” she says, so the survey aims to ascertain whether in fact this is true.

“If it is, we then have hard evidence to take to recruitment companies and direct employers – and government – to lobby for a better jobseeker experience.”

The data will also be used as a benchmark against which to measure the industry’s progress towards better recruitment, selection and interview practices in future years, she says. Lee says that while legislation protects jobseekers from overt discrimination during the recruitment process, “anecdotal evidence suggests that discrimination has now gone underground” and is much more difficult to prove.

Calling for regulation
Lee says she is aiming for change “at a macro level, to create awareness amongst organisations and recruiters” and ideally wants recruitment to be regulated in a similar way to the real estate industry.

“If [government] can regulate the real estate industry then they should be able to do something with recruitment. It’s such a high-stakes environment and generally, from feedback, the experience is not pleasant.”

Although the vast majority of content on the Even It Up! site doesn’t reflect well on the recruitment industry (about nine in 10 reviews are negative) Lee believes this is a fairly accurate reflection of jobseekers’ experience.

“I’d love to promote people who do it fabulously,” she says. “I want to get some balance but unfortunately it doesn’t seem I’m able to do that at this particular time.”

She points out that she makes no money from the initiative and views it purely as a community service.

Based on common complaints to the site, Lee recently posted on YouTube a video titled “10 things we hate about recruitment companies”. She says she’s received a positive response from some recruiters who say they want “open conversations about where we can all improve so we can weed out the cowboys and make sure that the good people are represented”.

“[Recruiters] say ‘we actually need to take this on board. Yes, it’s negative but if we want to improve what we actually deliver for our clients and our jobseekers then we need to sit up and take notice’.”

(Among the top 10 criticisms are “baiting” – the video warns jobseekers to beware of comments such as “we had a position come in yesterday that you would have been perfect for”, which it says is a “psychological technique that consultants use to build your hopes and leave you hanging” – and using jobseekers’ references for business development purposes, which Lee says annoys referees and harms candidates’ job prospects.)

Jobseeker charter
Lee has also developed a charter that she hopes to trial with employers and recruitment companies that would make specific promises to jobseekers about recruitment processes and communication.

While still in draft form and open to change pending the results of the surveys, the charter would bind recruiters to:
include as much information as possible in job ads;

keep selection criteria questions to a minimum;

require that applications contain only a CV and/or cover letter ;

exclude from the selection process any tasks that could be verified via a portfolio, track record and/or qualifications;

include on interview panels at least one person with expertise relevant to the job being filled;

reimburse a candidate at an agreed rate for time they spend on a presentation or task during the recruitment process;

not ask any “trick” or irrelevant questions during interviews;

conduct interviews in as informal a manner as possible;

not check references until the employer has made a decision to hire the person; and

always advise by telephone a candidate who has attended an interview and not been selected for the role.


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