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These days it is hard to imagine how little information was available about recruitment practices and competitors back in the early to mid 1990s.


There was only one source of industry-specific public recruitment training available in Australia, and that was Rosemary Scott’s   business in its original 1992 form as a training business.


The NAPC   (forerunner to the RCSA) held an annual conference and the state-based special interest groups ran irregular networking and speaking events.


There was not a single book, newsletter or magazine specifically written for, or about, agency recruiters, available in this country in the early to mid 1990s.


Information about recruitment practices and competitors was scarce and hard-won. Scanning the Positions Vacant section of the local newspaper and pumping your candidates about their experiences with other agencies, were about the only in-office tactics available.


If you wanted to invest time and money (and leave your office) then attendance at the NAPC conference and the Scott workshops gave a recruiter at least something to go on in benchmarking their own skills and their own agency’s marketing.


The last resort was the pseudo-industrial espionage tactic of walking into the office of a competitor and asking for a brochure or, more boldly, ‘mystery shopping’ your competitor by pretending to be a candidate and talking yourself into an interview with one of their consultants (yes, it did happen and, no, I didn’t do it).


Without doubt, the most significant event in terms of access to competitor information of an Australian recruitment company, occurred in early 1994 when Geoff Morgan   and Andrew Banks   decided to float their company, Morgan & Banks   on the Australian Stock Exchange.


By issuing a prospectus and having to produce an annual report, anyone could read exactly how profitable M&B were, how they made their money and what the management team’s strategies and forecasts were for the forthcoming year.


How different it is these days.


You only have to spend a mere 5 minutes online, using your favourite search engine, to find out a plethora of information about who your competitors are, how they are marketing themselves and what’s being said about them – good and bad. (As an example of how much people are prepared to share just check out this blog post from Melbourne recruiter LAUNCHTWO People)


You can subscribe to or access (mostly for free) any number of recruitment-specific blogs and newsletters. The number of independent recruitment trainers is now in double figures and the options of conferences, workshops, webinars and networking events are numerous and frequent.


The practice of agencies undertaking market research on themselves and their competitors, was not unknown in the 1990s but compared to 2010 it was very expensive and time consuming.


The evolution in the availability of, access to and cost of, information about recruitment practices and competitors should mean that out-dated recruitment practices or acting and sounding like competitors, is the exception rather than the rule in the recruitment industry.


However the reality is that far from sounding or acting differently, the vast majority of recruitment agencies sound and act the same, and even worse, persist with many long-past-their-use-by-date recruitment techniques and practices.


Here are some of my pet hates that I would love to banish to Pluto, never to return:


1.       Candidate interview ice breakers:  ‘Did you find us ok?’, ‘How’s your day?’ and ‘How’s the weather outside? Is it still sunny/rainy/windy/cold/cloudy etc?’ are the three excruciating ice-breakers that burst from the lips of every unprepared or lazy recruitment consultant. Is that the best that you can do? Really? How about reading the candidate’s resume and coming up with something much more personal? It’s not that hard, surely?  


2.       Agency website ‘about us’ section:   ‘We are a boutique recruitment agency’, ‘We are committed to providing the highest standard of service to both candidates and clients’. Yawn, Yawn. Next you’ll be telling me you have an extensive database with access to the very best candidates.  


3.       Recruitment ads:   ‘This is a dynamic organisation’, ‘This is an exciting opportunity’, ‘Seeking a motivated and enthusiastic person….’. Gawd, after a century of ad writing, are we still reverting to such mindless clichés?  

4.       Interview questions:   ‘Tell me about yourself?’, ‘What are your greatest  strengths? What are  your greatest weaknesses?’. Shoot me now if you are still using these useless, completely predictable questions. (If you need convincing why these sorts of questions should be as dead and buried, like Stephanie McIntosh’s singing career, then refer to my InSight article from May 2008 Interview Questions to Avoid and What to Ask Instead  ).  

5.       Client visit ice breakers:   ‘How’s business?’, ‘Are you busy?’, ‘Tell me about your business?’. Amazing! And such perceptive, riveting questions. Did you think these up all by yourself? I can’t wait to spend the next 30 minutes of my life with you if this is a taste of what’s ahead.  

6.       Candidates registering:   You still have candidates filling out manual forms with a pen, pressed against their knees, while sitting out at reception, stooped over that clipboard? Wow, I’m bursting to hear what jobs you have to talk to me about. No doubt it will be an ‘exciting opportunity’ at Ansett, HIH Insurance, OneTel, or Arthur Andersen.  


Recognise any of these?


Yep, sure you do. But you’re not alone.


PLEASE … how about lifting your game for 2011? It’s not that hard and you can be assured that a vast majority of your competitors will still be stuck in the recruitment dark ages.

You know you can do better than that, don’t you?

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Nathan Reese

Ross, Id love for you to have a look at the copy in our About us section, Its not up yet but can I send it to you?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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