How To Get Ahead In Marketing

How to use your recruitment consultant 101 – The Screening Interview

How do you go about finding a new job these days?

meeting-room-1213007There’s the old-fashioned way – nepotism or who you know – and there’s the new-fangled way – online and social networking.

Then there is the recruiter. That eternal go-between, stuck between the demands of the client and the desires of the candidates. One minute they’re defending the slow response of the client, the next they are apologising for the capricious behaviour of their candidates. It’s what we do and what we’re used to doing so we don’t complain. (Well, we do, but we try not to let you know).

There are some interesting statistics around the likelihood of recruitment consultants filling a role:

  • It is estimated that a recruiter will fill approximately 1 in 8 to 1 in 10 of all the roles they are briefed on.
  • For every role a recruiter is briefed on it is estimated that they receive around 300 CVs.
  • As a broader picture, it is estimated that only 15% of all roles in the market are filled by recruitment consultants.

Those statistics are quite revealing and should highlight to candidates some key issues. First and foremost for candidates, that you are far more likely to find a job by NOT using a recruiter. Secondly if you are going to use a recruiter, make sure that your CV is relevant for the role that you are applying for otherwise you become one of the rejected 100s. And thirdly, if you are going to use a recruitment consultant, use them in the right way. This starts with the CV, runs through the interview process and ends with how you challenge and communicate with the recruiter after you have met them.

I’ll address these issues over a number of blogs, but initially I want to address the approach a candidate should take to the screening interview.

A candidate I met the other day told me that she felt that it made no difference whether you met a consultant face to face rather than having a brief chat over the phone. She felt equally likely to secure a role either way and had come to the conclusion that recruiters meet candidates to ‘fill a quota’ or ‘look busy’ – though I’m yet to find a recruiter who feels the need to pretend to be busy.

She then went on to tell me that she had met a recruiter and he had briefed her on a role in the fashion world. She had displayed total ignorance of the fashion world and the recruiter (quite rightly) had not sent her to the client. Later on that week, she had been briefed on the same role over the phone by a different recruiter. That recruiter’s interview had consisted of ‘this is the job, do you fancy it?’ She had agreed and ultimately secured the job. She took this as proof that meeting recruiters face to face doesn’t work.

For me it highlighted a perpetual issue for the recruiter: candidates don’t view recruiter interviews as important. They will often turn up entirely unprepared, unable to discuss even their own CV and career. Many will appear shocked that we are daring to ask what their background is, or make any attempt to understand their personality. They seem to expect us to simply send out their CV willy-nilly to our clients.

A recruiter worth his salt will ask these questions and you should be prepared. If the recruiter wants to earn the respect of their clients they will act as an unofficial 1st interview. If they are sharp and insightful they will be looking to send a maximum of 3 or 4 CVs for any role. (If the recruiter’s best 4 CVs aren’t right for the role, why would the 5th best be?)

Competition in a tough market like this starts early. From the moment you start writing your CV through to securing that offer. And importantly, if you are going to meet a recruiter, give that interview the respect you would give any interview with a client. Your recruiter is a representative of the client – and not just one client but possibly 100 clients that recruiter is representing.

So in short let’s try and put this in perspective. Think of it like this: when you are interviewing with a recruiter you are actually interviewing for dozens of roles in dozens of clients at the same time.

Now isn’t that worth preparing for just a little bit?

Can I be a wild-card?

playing-cards-1425506A few days ago a candidate approached me about a role we were blind advertising. It was a senior role in the retail PR world. He had a strong CV in lots of ways – some retail experience in his dim and distant past, but most recently a range of roles in companies entirely unrelated to retail and only vaguely related to PR.

After reviewing his CV I (with regret) responded, letting him know that I didn’t feel his experience was quite as appropriate as some of the other candidates and that I would not be considering him for the role. His response was similar to many I receive: “Can’t I be your ‘wildcard’ candidate? I know sometimes companies like a wildcard. Someone who might be slightly different to the norm.”

The answer, sadly, is no. Most of the time, that is. There may have been a time when clients openly welcomed candidates whose background widely diverted from their stated preferences, however if there was, I don’t remember it. The effect of Autumn 2008 is still being felt acutely within the recruitment world. When we lost that dependable old uncle that was Woolworths and latest funky incarnation of the relative whipper snapper that was Our Price / Virgin, Zavvi, went AWOL, and even Tesco (the enormously profitable Tesco) found it necessary to make a significant middle management cuts to improve profitability, those clients who still had vacancies realised that is was distinctly a buyers’ market.

Must have U.K. marketing experience? No problem at all. You want someone with hot drinks experience? Here you go. Someone with luxury skincare background? Certainly, sir. Theatrical film release product management skills? No problem. Green eyes, freckles and a Phil Oakley fringe? We’ll see what we can do…

But even before late 2008 I had never once been approached by a client saying “Can you just find me someone ‘different’… You know, it doesn’t really matter whether they’ve done a job like this, understand this industry or can speak fluent English… Just a breath of fresh air will do. Find me a bit of a wildcard…”

That said, I do wish we could push the boundaries more. We meet candidates and fall in love with them, we know they’re great, and so what if they haven’t specifically worked for your competitor, TRUST US! We know what we are doing.

And with some clients you can do it. The clients you have built relationships with over a number or years where hopefully the HR contact has not moved on or moved up. But they can only be pushed so far. We will occasionally throw a joker into the mix, but a joker that at least belongs in the same pack.