Recruiters are the modern day Slave Traders…

So anyway… I was at a party recently. I found myself talking to an Accountant… I’m not going to prejudice this blog by applying sweeping generalisations like… ummm… Accountants aren’t boring people… they just get excited about boring things.

Let’s just say the conversation was about as interesting as a sightseeing bus on the Nullabor. So interesting in fact, my wife had flitted away from us very very early on..

‘I’ll go and get you another drink and find us something to nibble on.’ She smiled. But her eyes were saying something very different. ‘You’re on your own  – sucker!’

The Accountant and I – let’s call him… ummm… Eugene… continued to make small talk for the next few minutes… weather… he didn’t care much for the sun… sport… he didn’t care much for sport… wine… he didn’t care much for alcohol… a few prolonged moments of silence ensued… then…

‘So Craig,’ he pontificated. ‘What do you do for a living?’

‘Oh, I’m in recruitment.’ I replied. My eyes scanning the party for my wife, hoping – no praying – I was going to be saved… or at least she had secured a plate of arancini balls and a fresh beer for me…

slave1Ohhhh recruitment, I see.’ Do you? Do you really see? I doubt it very much – oh, and here comes the, confirmation. ‘It is a disgusting industry. Recruiters are the modern day Slave Traders.’

Excuse me? I thought. ‘Excuse me?’ I said… with maybe a slight hint of confusion – or unbridled anger – in my voice.

‘Don’t get me wrong,’ he preached. Don’t worry buddy,I won’t get you wrong. I’m not even going to get you a beer, or an arancini ball. By the way – where’s my wife?

‘I just don’t see the difference.’ He continued. Dismissively waving his hands in the air.

‘Well Eugene,’ I countered… in a very measured tone. ‘I’m not sure who you speak with when you are looking for a new role, but I’ve been in the industry for 20 years now, and I’m fairly sure I have a pretty good grasp of how it works. In my experience I’ve never come across any recruitment consultant who travels to a far away country to kidnap a bunch of candidates, then sails to the new world (or if there’s no wind has his new candidates whip out the oars and row), and then auctions off these candidates to the highest bidder with no regard for their welfare. So to be quite honest Eugene… and don’t get me wrong… I’m pretty, bloody offended by what you just said!’

slave2And with that I dramatically turned on my heel and strode away… over to my wife, who – by the way – had found that plate of aracini balls and assured me she was just making her way back with my beer.

Point is this. It is easy, very easy to make generalisations about industries, people and situations. Eugene clearly had had a bad experience with a recruitment consultant – maybe more than one bad experience. And now he has formed an opinion – a very negative one – based on his experience. It’s dangerous, and it’s wrong.

In the recruitment game we have all had a bad experience with a candidate who’s let us down, or a client who has stuffed us around. It has happened and it will continue to happen. We are dealing with humans and everyone is different…

My advice though is don’t make generalisations, don’t expect every candidate to be dodgy, or every client to be dishonest… most aren’t.

You will enjoy your time in the recruitment industry much more if you are positive in your relationships, believe what you are being told and work with a strong code of ethics. Sure you will be disappointed from time to time – even surprised with some behaviour. But the unpredictability of what we do is a major part of its charm…

And, if you want an uneventful, predictable… dare I say it… boring career… go work in a library… or… maybe… as an Accountant.

Craig Watson

19 thoughts on “Recruiters are the modern day Slave Traders…”

  1. Brilliant post! Not only did you make me hearty laugh but I also couldn’t agree more. I have fantastic relationships with recruitment advisers and given recruitment is the backbone of an HR strategy they are invaluable partners (lets face it if you getting the hiring decision wrong everything is hard from there). And as you say I’ve also had ordinary experiences. But I’ve also had ordinary accounting advise, and fabulous accounting advise. Making generalizations based on unfounded assumptions is the root cause of so many problems on our planet, not just in business. For example not every drug addict is a criminal, not every criminal is a born loser – sometimes hard hard lives drive people to become less than who they truly are. We can all sit in judgement and write them off or we can look past the behavior with a measure of compassion and try and help people up and out of the ditch they find themselves in. Thanks again – love your blogs!!

  2. My guess is that he called recruiters “slave traders” because the relationship between supply and demand of workers eventually achieves an equilibrium, and in achieving that equilibrium salaries get to the bare minimum.

    On a different note, it could’ve been that recruiters behave like slave traders in that MOST do not care about who they are placing. This is the product of the economic incentives not being aligned properly. A recruiter makes money when they place a worker, and when you look at the size of commissions, playing a volume game yields more benefits to the recruiter than actually taking the time to read a resume. Research shows that recruiters spend 6 seconds on average reading a resume. Would you call this in the best interest of the candidate, the firm, or the recruiter?

    Candidates have to bear the burden of figuring out creative ways to see if the recruiter, who’s job is to READ THE RESUME, actually bothers reading the whole thing.
    Firms ask recruiters to do the search, but often they get the easiest candidate to place.

    Recruiters tend to ask for resumes in word format. Why? two reasons:
    1) hide the candidate’s name so the firm doesn’t contact him directly (okay i guess)
    2) to modify the resume at will to match the job description as much as possible, and then blast it to as many firms as possible.

    Best part of all is when they ask questions without even knowing what they are talking about:

    q1) do you know MySQL? – yes
    q2) do you know PHP? – yes
    q3) Do you know Linux? – yes
    q4) do you know apache? – yes
    q5) do you know LAMP? – really?

    Yes I know, generalization, but generalizations tend to exist for a reason. Congratulations if you are in the minority that doesn’t do this, but if your advice is not to make generalizations and then end it implying that working at a library or as an accountant is boring, I guess that just applies to you, there are many people investing thousands of dollars going to college to learn accounting, and in my scale, when you compare the skills of a recruiter who reads a resume matching word by word, or an accountant who knows about laws and can work out pricing transfer issues, let’s just say that I found recruiters to be shallow and pedantic.

    So yeah, as with any industry, there are unprofessional recruiters, but that doesn’t mean that one sour interaction with an accountant gives you the undeserved sense of entitlement to talk shit about other professions. To me recruiters do not add any value.

    1. Hi There RecruiterLover,
      You’ve certainly got a lot going on in this comment. I’ll give you a little free advice.
      Yes, you are right that the resume is on average scanned for 6 seconds by most recruiters. Recruiters are given clearly defined criteria to recruit to by their clients. You will find those in the job ad. It is your job (as an applicant) to make sure you display where you match that criteria clearly in your resume, so the recruiter will see it. If you think you have been overlooked for a role you are definitely qualified for, call the recruiter to follow up – and point out where you match with the role criteria…
      Finally, my generalisation of the library/accountant as being boring… ummm… it was ‘tongue in cheek’. Unfortunately (or fortunately) most of my posts are an attempt (clearly a failed one in this instance) at humour… sorry I made you so angry. PS. To me… recruiters add immense value…

      1. A great article Craig .. luuuuv your tongue-in-cheek style !!
        You didn’t fail, I had a really good laugh .. and then a think .. and . no .. I don’t agree with you .. so .. in the same spirit I post my reply:

        The Slave Trade is an apposite model for IT Recruitment!

        ~ Recruiters don’t sail to far-away places & kidnap bodies any more, they simply go to LinkedIn
        ~ Raw Material: Successful industry knows its requirements – this Recruiter doesn’t appear to know his .. Slaves like Eugene !
        ~ Once found the Eugenes ARE sailed off to the New World – the Sales pitch!
        ~ Welfare: Oh scant regard here, Rudeness, Excuses & lack of Time Mgt are a Recruiters’ tools-of-trade .. Ph. nos for exceptions such as William Coleman, are kept close !!

        No .. I don’t think Eugene had just ONE bad experience .. I’ve had 15 just in March .. but remember to keep smiling .. In The New World the Slaves do have their day !

      2. Great response Craig and a great post. Yes – I initially scan resumes but usually blow ‘the researched figures’ out to 10 seconds. Why? Because I am looking for specific details in it to either move it to the next stage or not. It is then that greater detail is sought (yes spend more time now on the resume) and then a phone call to find out about this detail occurs. Then the relevant details are extracted, compiled and placed into the word formatted resume that the applicant has sent through. All the other items are taken out such as hobbies like under water left handed ping pong and the like. Why? Because this is what I am paid for, to present resumes in a similar format which eliminates bias to those that don’t have the ‘creative skills’ as others when it comes to stating fact in work history. Yes bad recruiters are out there, but they don’t last long, nor have the ability to last long term in a client relationship. It is still apparent to some that Recruiters just read resumes and this is it. No we don’t go to college/university (but most niche recruiters have degrees in chosen fields) but……we need to understand Employment Law, Privacy Legislation, Contract Law, Psychology, Pricing, Market Analysis, Counselling, Human Resources, Mind Reading…..and these is just the main ones. Great Work,

  3. If recruiters weren’t adding value then they wouldn’t be used by clients or candidates. Nobody is FORCED to use a recruiter. We all have choices and at the moment plenty of candidates and clients are exercising their choice to use an external recruiter.

  4. Most recruiters are complete noobs. They are below Used Car Salesmen and Real Estate Agents. Atleast you can see the used car or property for sale. Most jobs advertised by criminal recruiters don’t actually even exist. Most recruiters are inexperienced and don’t actually know what they are recruiting for. Most don’t even bother to get back in contact with you. Recently I accepted a role, then took a better option 2 weeks later. Stiff shit recruiter, don’t count the $ before it actally happens. You guys can crap on all you like, the majority of recruiters in Melbourne anyway are completely shite.

    1. Robert, you seem to have a bit of an axe to grind with the recruitment industry? That’s unfortunate. Let me assure you that the majority of recruiters are ethical and fantastic communicators. Let me ask you a question… if you entered into a… ummm… let’s say romantic relationship, and then ‘took a better option 2 weeks later’ what kind of a person does that make you?

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  6. I’m not sure about slave traders, but recruiters are almost uniformly clueless when it comes to hiring for highly skilled roles.

  7. As a Recruiter for over 6 years I wish candidates and clients who pass judgment would hold themselves accountable to the moral standards they expect from recruiters. Anyone who has been in recruitment for over a year has been deceived (probably multiple times) from the clients and candidates who pass judgement. I have lose track in just a week for people who assured me they would call me back. Yet if you forget to call them back your the evil one. I challenge anyone to spend a week or tow in a recruiters shoe and then form an a opinion.

  8. Used Car Salesman, Real Estate Agents, even Recruitment Consultants play an important role in society. Prinicpally being, ‘their role’. Sweeping generalisations are at best harsh but more and more apparent, Particularly now in the times of such fervent use of social media. I spent almost a decade in the Recruitment Industry. It is, what can only be described as a uniquely challenging evnvironment for a number of reasons. On the whole I greatly enjoyed my interacations with my collegues, clients and candidates and have become friends with many of them, post leaving the industry. One day you might receive a call that will change your life forever, more than likely for the better, by a recruitment consultant that is genuinely excited to see and match the perfect fit between client and candiate aspirations. Don’t write them all off as an industry. They are working in a role, as you are and are no less important. It’s a bit like saying everyone called Robert is a tosser when this is clearly not the case. I know some really nice people called Robert.

  9. Great Blog!

    Quite a few people on here clearly don’t like recruiters, fine don’t use us….We can’t add true value without the commitment and honestly of the candidate…Just try finding your own role…it works better for us if the relationship is positive….Most people in the UK understand that!

  10. Craig, at the BBQ you both got it wrong! I am an Accountant (albeit unqualified) and have been doing this type of work for over 40 years and I have had quite a lot to do with Recruiters over that time. You must admit that your post started with the usual skewed view of accounting type bods, and I must admit I have a similar view of recruiters. There is nothing more frustrating than to have a recruiter call you about the possibility of a role that would suit my experience and locale. Then they waffle on about the business they are acting for (without names of course), ask for an updated copy of my resume, if there is an updated copy (now remember that they already have my mobile number) and then proceed to inform me that my details will be sent to the business immediately and contact will be made by them to me within a couple of days (3-5 generally). Please bear in mind that these “recruiters” are from some very well-known agencies. Obviously NO contact was ever made again. I am not put out by not getting a role, however, I am VERY put out by these people not doing what they have promised to do. That is what is known as being unprofessional and they tar each and every recruiter with the same brush with their cavalier attitude. To be fair, I have known some accounting people to be complete pains in the backside with a ‘bugger you’ attitude. The moral is this : do not make assumptions like both you and your adversary did at the BBQ and everyone should actually follow up with what was said was going to be done

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