• Sam Greenfield

Turning the tables: a candidate's view of recruitment

I’m fast approaching the seventeenth year of my working life, and one way or another I’ve spent a lot of that time dealing with recruitment agencies. From searching for the right job, progressing through assessment stages, to landing the role I was after.

I’m now self-employed and looking back on those many conversations has me reflecting about the recruitment industry as a whole. It’s a highly pressurised environment in a number of directions, the pressure the recruitment consultant is under to find great candidates, the pressure on the candidates to perform, and the pressure on the client trying to fill their vacancy.

In today’s blog, I’m going to talk about my own experiences as a candidate over the years. What I think worked well for me and what I learnt. About how those differing pressures affected me, my behaviour throughout the process and ultimately the outcomes.

In my early twenties, as I first emerged into the world of work, I saw a recruiter as someone I needed to instantly impress - that first phone call always felt like a job interview in itself! But I also believed the recruiter was genuinely interested in me and cared about my career and my welfare.

Having been in my first job for nearly two years, I began to look for my next move and managed to get a couple of first interviews, but struggled to get beyond that point. At the time, I was in a secure role so it wasn’t a huge problem, but as time passed I really wanted and needed to move on, and so I tried to drill down on what I could do differently.

I began to realise that my previous approach of ‘do whatever the recruiter tells me’ wasn’t necessarily the right way. I realised that of course, the recruiter’s priority isn’t solely me and my career, but more about finding possible matches for their clients. It was down to me to prioritise my needs, and to work out how best to achieve them.

I made a decision that I needed the recruiter to really get to know me, so I started to request face-to-face meetings with them. Not always practical I know(!), but at the time I managed to get one arranged. We met for coffee and got on well. And while I was keen for him to really see my personality and get to know me, I didn’t want it to only be about me. I realised that if I let him see that I understood his position as well, it was an opportunity to make a true connection and to start building trust.

Over the next 12 months I made the effort to keep regularly in touch and so did he. I think it was really important that we spoke often. He’d run a few suitable roles past me, we’d have a chat, then maybe we’d both decide they weren’t quite right. I distinctly remember him telling me on one occasion that a particular role was involved with a lot of internal politics in a potentially challenging office environment. That is the kind of honest feedback that is so valuable to decision making.

And then, one day the perfect role appeared and he guided me brilliantly through the following three months' process, until success! I was offered the job. He knew me and I knew him. Trusted collaboration in action.

Looking back, it would have been interesting to understand more about his relationship with the client. Had he taken the same approach with the client and mirrored the relationship he built with me? That theme of collaboration is surely the ideal way to work, with honesty, with integrity and with a clear understanding of the wants and needs of both parties. In theory, at least, it should create harmony all-round and solidify both the recruiter’s reputation, and a long-term relationship.

Back however, to that thought about the pressurised recruitment industry. I wonder in reality, if all parties allow themselves to work like this, or if the pressures of delivering quick wins gets in the way. Collaboration is a long game. It’s like investing for the future – but done well, it’s worth it every time.