Guest Comment: If your job hunt's in a slump, take a look at yourself before you blame your recruiter

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There's sometimes criticism from candidates on this site and others about the quality of service you'll receive from recruitment consultants. Much of this criticism is justified. Recruitment is a sales-based industry which works on behalf of clients, not job seekers. We manage candidates who are at particularly vulnerable stages of their lives when they are looking for jobs.

That's potentially a recipe for a strained relationship. But there needs to be balance here.

There are many things that candidates do that are not particularly professional as well. So I'd like to dedicate this post to how candidates can work more productively with recruitment consultants, particularly in these unstable economic times.

The short-term market is turbulent. Business confidence is fluctuating. Even expert economists cannot say for sure how Australia will be affected by disturbing developments in Europe. Alongside all of this is the impact of globalisation and long-term structural changes within the Australian economy. This means we now have a job market that is increasingly dominated by contract, part-time and temporary roles, plus people at all levels who sell their "services" as sole traders with an ABN number.

Sometimes candidates don't appear to care about their careers

Put simply, the notion of having a job for life is dead and has been for a long time. Yet candidates' thinking about the way they actually work has not really evolved. If you're a candidate in this market, you had better start thinking about the new working paradigm. And if you do, you'll be three steps ahead of others.

I'm amazed at how little people think about: 1) themselves; 2) their careers; and 3) marketing themselves as capable professionals.

I often see resumes from even the most senior people that are badly formatted, listing their last three jobs in three different fonts. We see C-level executives who describe themselves as "strong team players", rather than leaders of executives. When we ask people where they see themselves in a few years time, we get the vaguest of answers. We also find very few candidates who can actually tell us the impact they've had in their roles.

Whatever you do, research your recruiter

Typically people are professional in their business careers, but much less professional about the business of their careers. Think about that statement when you select a recruitment agency. If you were tasked with finding a marketing agency for your employer, you would thoroughly research which firm to approach to represent your business. It should be the same with your job hunt.

These days there is so much easily-accessible information out there about recruitment agencies. I'd suggest you start with looking at which agencies are advertising, what they're advertising, how well the advertisement is written, and whether they are readvertising the same position. You can then approach people with a demonstrated track record.

Then I'd look at social and professional networks. Most recruiters are using them. In effect they are resumes of recruiters. Five years ago you would not have access to this quality of information about the person managing the marketing of you. Now you can get a real sense of the depth of the consultant's industry experience, tenure within the firm and communication skills. This might in turn give you a clue to the quality of the person you are dealing with and whether you would like him or her to market you.

Take responsibility

I'd also encourage candidates to start taking some responsibility for their own career assessment and development. It's amazing what you'll find out if you consult an external professional. It's so refreshing to talk to people who know what they're good at and what they're not so good at.

This is particularly important if you are encountering the same problems in a role time and time again and cannot put your finger on why this might be occurring. I am always surprised at how much people will spend on a holiday, and how little they will spend on their own professional development, particularly if they, not their company, have to pay for it.

And finally, I'd suggest that you put a recruiter's consulting skills under the spotlight. After all, a decision about a job is a decision about your life. So ask about the firms he or she represents, the opportunity on offer, the reason it came about, the recruiter's success so far in filling the role, and why the employer has chosen to work with that particular agency.

You have a quality career and deserve quality representation. I strongly recommend that you pick one or two good recruitment consultants to represent you.

Liza Garrido, director, Enigma HR

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