Candidates – maybe less is actually more….

By Sinead Hourigan (FRCSA)

I have to admit that I’m suffering a bit of ennui with the volume of articles relating to our learnings from COVID but when I spoke to the RCSA team last month about some of the issues that remain front and centre for our industry and the discussion turned to candidate engagement, I knew that this was something that was important, not just in a post-COVID world, but genuinely speaks to the relevance of our industry far into the future.


I’m in the lucky position of currently training a few new hires into our business and, as with most recruiters, the very first topics on our training program relate to candidates. An essential element of that early-stage training is teaching consultants how to assess whether or not a candidate has the right skills and experience for our client base and, therefore, whether or not it is of value to the candidate to include their details on our system.


I have always worked on the belief that we would be much better served as an industry if we treated our databases with far more respect and we had to exercise far more discretion before we introduced a candidate to our database. There is a somewhat misguided view that there is value to a candidate in adding them to an overgrown behemoth of a system where they will reside for all eternity (or until the largescale data cleansing exercise before the implementation of a new CRM!) with minimal contact and false hope that they have a recruiter in their corner working to support them in finding that elusive next job.


I have very distinct memories of being unsuccessful for a PSA pitch for a client many years ago and the feedback we were provided was that we didn’t demonstrate the same ‘volume’ of candidates on our database as some of the other recruitment firms. I asked the poor unsuspecting procurement person to explain to me what ‘volume’ meant to them and why having 200,000 people who you never speak to on a database was better than having 2,000 people who you have regular and systematic contact with. He mumbled a fairly bland response which didn’t demonstrate to me that he truly understood what a database is actually for, nor did it demonstrate to me that our clients really gave much consideration to how we managed the talent that we were supposedly providing them access to.


So…. that begs the question – what is a database for?


I truly believe that our candidates deserve more than a vacant file on an underutilized CRM. I also believe that if we make a decision to include a candidate in our portfolio, then we have a duty and an obligation to treat them with respect and offer them more than free rent on a system that will not offer them anything in return.


We all know that one of the greatest challenges we face in our industry is the fairly regular feedback from candidates about never hearing back from a recruiter once they have ‘registered’ their details. I absolutely believe that this lack of continuity from any recruiter is never intentional but occurs because it is far too easy in a highly systemised world to click a button and add a candidate profile without giving due consideration to what that relationship is really about.


The age-old adage of ‘treating others as you would like to be treated yourself’ is an excellent concept to consider when it comes to candidate engagement. Candidate relationships are critical to our industry and we need to accept that there is finite time in our days and therefore make some well-considered decisions about how many people we can actually build a relationship with in order to assist them in furthering their careers.


The best relationships take time to nurture and an automated email every six months is not a sustainable way to form a relationship so maybe we need to focus in 2021 on breaking up with people we can’t help and focusing more energy on building relationships with those we can!


Sinead Hourigan (FRCSA) is the Queensland Managing Director for Robert Walters and has been recruiting in the Brisbane market since 2001. Recruiting across both the public and private sector, Sinead has assisted clients with a wide range of senior assignments ranging from executive management through to C-suite level roles.


Sinead sits on the QLD Council for the Australian Business Chamber of Commerce, the QUT Business School Business Advisory Working Group, is a board member of the Infrastructure Association of Queensland and the Diversity in Infrastructure Steering Committee and is also a former President and Board member of the RCSA (Recruitment Consulting Staffing Association), the peak body for the recruitment and staffing sector across ANZ.


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