It’s hard to overstate how disappointed, frustrated, angry and I felt when I read ABC journalist David Taylor’s article Former recruiters tell of their industry’s dark side, as more Australians are likely to need their help on the ABC news website last Thursday.
I thought hit-jobs on our industry from ill-informed journalists were a relic of the past.
The last one that captured my attention was then-news.com.au business editor (now Europe Correspondent) Victoria Craw whose article Former recruitment agent spills details on what really goes on in the industry, published in November 2013, was a train wreck of ignorance, bias, and ethical lapses, causing Ms. Craw to score a spectacular own-goal that I detailed in my blog Business Editor botches recruitment industry exposé: trashes personal brand instead.
Unfortunately, for him, Taylor has scored a similar own-goal with a truly appalling effort.
The (somewhat) mitigating factor for Craw’s was the fact that she was a mere baby in journalistic terms, having graduated just over a year previously and was in her seventh month at news.com.au.
Mr. Taylor has no such excuse. His ABC bio states he has been “….an ABC reporter since 2011…” and that “You can hear David on afternoon Drive programmes, or see him explaining business and finance on the ABC’s News Channel. He also writes regular financial analysis pieces for ABC Online.”
A search of LinkedIn tells me that Taylor has been employed in journalism since December 2004 and he has provided services to Yahoo Finance, locally, and worked for ITN in the UK.
It seems barely believable that a journalist with Taylor’s depth and breadth of experience would be prepared to write, and put his name to, such a low-standard ‘news’ item.
The standards under which Taylor is bound to operate under are the ABC Editorial policies. Having consulted the section Differentiation between factual reporting, analysis and opinion, I can’t work out whether Taylor’s piece is defined as factual reporting, analysis, or opinion as it seems to satisfy none of the ABC policies for any of these three categories
To save you giving the article more clicks I’ll quote a couple of early paragraphs to give you a flavour of Taylor’s piece.
“Several former recruitment agents though have now spoken out about what they say is the industry’s dark underbelly.
They say they’re speaking out because many more Australians are likely to seek the help of a recruiter in coming months, and they need to be more aware of some of industry’s less-well-known practices.”
And later on;
“In terms of consultants, I’ve seen all manner of lies and skulduggery. You know, changing CVs, telling candidates that the job is something completely different than what it is, falsifying information to the hiring managers, changing contracts after they’ve been signed,” he says. “I’ve seen it all really.
You need to hit a certain number of calls each day, otherwise you’re seen to not being able to make the revenue. I saw someone tape a phone to someone’s head once.”
Those last two quotes were attributed to a Toby Hemming who “worked in several recruitment agencies for more than a decade. He’s since left the industry and is now an independent public relations consultant for media and technology businesses.”
I am unsure how much background checking Taylor completed on Mr. Hemming. There are two people by that name based in Australia who are listed on LinkedIn. Neither profile lists any recruitment agency experience.
Given what was reported about the current occupation of Hemming, I suspect the quoted Mr. Hemming is this Toby Hemming, currently a “Communications Specialist”, who, co-incidentally, lists himself as a “Freelance Journalist” (2002 – 2020) in both London and Sydney, locations where Taylor had worked and is now based.
It appears the options are: Taylor has invented Toby Hemming (unlikely); the Toby Hemming quoted does not have a LinkedIn profile (highly unlikely for an “independent public relations consultant”); Hemming is lying about having recruitment agency experience (possible) or, most likely, he has omitted his employment “…in several recruitment agencies for more than a decade” on his LinkedIn profile (ooh, that’s rather naughty of Hemmings given he is quoted as accusing recruiters of “changing CVs”).
The only other person quoted in the story is Lee-Martin Seymour, the CEO and co-founder of cloud-based reference checking company, Xref.
Taylor appeared to misquote some of Seymour’s comments given this LinkedIn post by Design & Build Managing Director, Andrew McGregor, in which Seymour shares a screenshot of a terse text message exchange with Taylor about misattribution of a quote in the article.
At least Seymour is legitimately a former agency recruiter (nearly 13 years at Hays), and proud of it, although he has been out of agency recruitment for nearly a decade.
Taylor’s original post contained no counter-balancing comments from anybody although subsequently I learned that highly respected people2people (Vic) Managing Director, and 2017 RCSA Recruiter of the Year, Erin Devlin, was interviewed for the article.
When I viewed Taylor’s article yesterday I noticed the inclusion on Erin’s comments with the most recent article update noted as Monday 4 October, 2.03 pm. I suspect this came about as a result of representations made to Taylor by the RCSA.
The most infuriating part of the article was the conclusion. Under the subheading of “Where are the recruitment police?” Mr Taylor writes;
While many recruitment companies — large and small — provide an ethical service to businesses and job seekers, whistleblowers say the industry’s problems have become too big for the association to manage effectively.
“The salespeople are led by salespeople, and they’re not going to police themselves in that way,” Mr Hemming says.
“All they care is about how many calls you make, how many placements you make … [they] have big charts on the wall, showing how much money people are making.
“There are industry associations and you know a lot of people choose not to join them, but for those who do it’s just lip service, because no one’s ever going to police it.”
Again, the mysterious Mr Hemming has a go at the recruitment industry with a truly astounding grab bag of generalisations and untruths.
Who, and where, are these “whistleblowers” asserting that “the industry’s problems have become too big for the association (I assume he means the RCSA) to manage?
Come on, Taylor, if all these recruitment industry whistleblowers exist why aren’t you interviewing them on the record? Why can’t you find and interview a couple of upset clients or a handful outraged candidates?
Surely you have a huge choice of such people given our industry’s problems are allegedly so enormous and pervasive? Instead you interview two people, neither of whom has worked an agency recruitment desk since Barack Obama was first elected US President.
A reminder that every occupation and profession, including the most respected ones, has its share of ethically-challenged practitioners was provided yesterday with the start of the trial of a Sydney-based doctor, accused of indecently assaulting a patient.
Unlike Taylor I can speak with authority about this issue as I have been a member of the RCSA Professional Practise Council since 2019 and at our quarterly meetings the Council is advised on all the ethical issues under investigation by the RCSA.
I am happy to advise that rarely is there more than half dozen issues under investigation. The number of investigations that uncover behaviour contrary to the association’s Code of Professional Conduct is typically less than a handful every year.
RCSA members are responsible for handling hundreds of tens of thousands of recruitment assignments each year yet the proportion of recruiters who engage in unacceptable behaviour is minuscule.
No industry is perfect, including ours, however we do have a committed and competent industry association led by a highly respected and deeply knowledgeable CEO whose operations are directed by a national board comprised of the recruitment industry’s most respected leaders.
We aren’t asking the media for puff pieces on our industry but we are asking for appropriate editorial standards to be applied, especially when a journalist who doesn’t know or understand our industry alleges we have “big problems”.