Category: Brand (page 2 of 2)

Why no one likes recruiters (…yet)

Although recruiters help millions of people to get jobs world wide they still have a negative brand. There are many reasons to dislike recruiters.  Interviewing with several as a recent graduate gave me some insight into why the industry has the reputation it does.

My first group interview was with about eighty other recent grads in a conference centre in London.  Out of the eighty, about sixty were guys.  Of those sixty, fifty-nine wore suits and ties.  One chap sitting in the second row was the odd one out.  Forgot your tie for a recruitment interview?  Big mistake.  Between 0800 and the 1230 lunch break the main interviewer, an overweight middle aged man with a sweaty face and pinkie ring, a sergeant major / banker type, bullied him incessantly.  Needless to say that at 1300, once back in interview-mode, Mr. Sans Tie was nowhere to be seen.  The interviewer couldn’t have been happier with himself!  “Survival of the fittest” he said.  Obviously he didn’t have what it took to be a recruiter.

After lunch we watched video clips from Boiler Room, Wall Street, Saving Private Ryan and Braveheart framed as “motivational” in preparation for the group activities that we would undertake shortly.

The activity part descended into all sorts of absurd.  The interviewers and supervisors took notes of the people shouting the loudest.  This was a good thing apparently.  Heads nodded as the room got louder and louder, although not a single activity was completed properly.

For the final hurdle, at 1730 we presented and pitched ourselves to a panel of interviewers.  By this time I knew the job wasn’t for me and my heart wasn’t in it.


But much to my own amazement this wasn’t the last time I would interview for a recruitment job.  At another group interview we were asked what interested us about going into recruitment.

One girl piped up, “I’d like to help people get a job.”
Silence…  And then a roar of laughter.
“Hey Marisa get a load of this – she wants to get into recruitment to help people get a job!  Ha!  If you want to help people get jobs you want to apply to the Job Centre.  Recruitment is about making money.”


Once in recruitment I loved it.  I still do.  Even though I don’t recruit today I’ve remained dedicated to the industry.

What kept me keen through the raft of poor interviews was the fact that I had been offered a job by a guy who, in my mind, sums up what recruitment should be.  He took a chance on a guy fresh out of university, treated him with respect, gave him advice and helped him to get on the career ladder.  He was diligent, cared about my prospects and managed my expectations.

I was lucky enough to have this guy as my boss in recruitment.  He taught me so much that I continue to use daily.  The job was about being tenacious, respectful, smart, having integrity, working hard and having fun.  His recommendation to always manage expectations has stuck with me.  The experience of being a recruiter – for me at least – was nowhere near as horrific as those interviews.  To this day I am thankful to have met Chris Birley so early on in my career.

Maybe I fell into the right crowd, or maybe I was part of the new generation of recruiters who were moving away from the wannabe bankers of the ‘90s.  It would seem I had just missed the era of tie-cutting (if you wore an ugly or flashy tie in one well known agency it was cut off) and the pocket tearing (another agency was well famed for ripping pockets from shirts because they looked cheap).

Tie cutting

For me, being in the recruitment industry, these tales of the “old days” make me laugh.  Those horrible interviews were just something that I went through – kissing the proverbial frog – before I found where I really wanted to do and where I wanted to do it.  We joke about what recruitment was like and we can laugh guilt-free because for the most part it isn’t like that anymore.  And for the record I have meet with thousands of recruiters across the UK and Europe and very rarely do I see a throwback to the naughty ‘90s.  Today the boiler-room offices, drill sergeants, tie-cutters are a thing of yesteryear.

The problem today is that the damage was already done.  We have put a lot of people off recruitment.

If I was one of eighty people interviewing with that one agency every two weeks, then they probably saw 2,080 people in a year.  I would assume they would probably only go to hire five to ten of those people per session.  Of those hires 60% of those would leave in the first year.  So they would hire 208 and keep 83 after the first year.  2,000 people would have gone through that experience to be rejected, fired or quit.  Alarm bells start to sound.

The interviewees were selected because they were graduates with average to good grades and certain characteristics which meant they would likely go into a professional working environment.

What are those 2,000 people doing today?  What is their view of recruitment agencies? What did they take away from that episode?  Scale this out – how many other recruitment agencies were there doing the same thing, giving that same message, creating this same image in all of those peoples’ minds?


Today recruiters complain that their clients don’t treat them like partners.  What a surprise.  They don’t like you!  Not liking someone means that the last thing you want to do is give them your hard earned cash.

So many recruiters tell me that their unique selling proposition to new clients is that they are different.  Different from all the rest of the recruiters.  All the other agencies that people dislike.

When they explain how they are different it tends to go along the lines of “we listen to our clients’ needs”, “we are diligent”, “we are tenacious”, “we are respectful”, “we work smart”, “we have integrity”, “we work hard and are fun”.  Shouldn’t that be a given?  That is the stuff I learnt in my first job out of university.  Why are we selling on that?  I guess because the expectation is that it won’t happen.

The recruitment industry has a brand issue.


How could we make the recruitment industry less loathed?  It is time to reconnect with the people we work with: our candidates and clients.  They need to trust us.  The industry needs to show that it cares.

Listening to clients’ and candidates’, being diligent, tenacious, respectful, intelligent, having integrity, working hard and being fun has to be a given.  In addition to that; what are we doing?  As we move to a world where everything is global and faceless (just picture the 30,000 McDonalds around the world) the idea that a business cares about you as an individual seems alien.  It shouldn’t be.  It is time to demonstrate that recruitment truly is a people business.  We should care about the individual, the place they are from, the industry that they are in.

How many recruiters give back to the community that they work in?  How many technical or engineering recruiters support local schools and universities to promote STEM skills?  How many IT recruiters ensure that local underprivileged schools have computers?  How many recruiters do pro-bono work for charities?  Which recruiters spend time with the long term unemployed trying to get them back to work?

For the last half a decade we have been in a recession and many recruiters have certainly struggled.  Thousands of businesses went bust.  I appreciate that it may have been tough to do extra-curricular activities alongside the day to day job then, but as we move into a time where the economy is turning and recruiters start to make more money, we have time and resources to change that.

Once the overwhelming majority of recruiters reach a minimum standard of practice, then Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) could well be the answer to the recruitment industry’s bad brand.  Recruitment agencies can find ways of giving back, and demonstrate that there is more to the industry than the bad press shows.  If we can show that our clients’ recruitment fees aren’t going straight to the nearest Porsche garage and instead a portion of it is being reinvested into society that is a start.

Many recruitment agencies already do charitable work, but often this isn’t publicised and shared widely.


Working with Tangent International has shown me the true value of implementing a CSR policy.  Simon Dear, the CEO of Tangent, shared his experience in this space.  In addition to talking about their CSR they also publish their activities online and have a standalone website dedicated to their charitable work.

Simon Dear

Having a Corporate Social Responsibility policy for the past four years has been a wholly positive experience for Simon, and the business.

“We wanted to bring together a few elements; our support of charities, environmental awareness, responsibility to our staff – and CSR was the perfect route to achieve this.

“I think we have always been a decent, flexible, caring, company.  Because we are a decent, flexible, caring, company naturally.  But we also understood that side of us had intrinsic value in terms of developing and retaining business.  As one customer said, ‘I know you are nice, make sure the rest of my company does too.’”

Being nice doesn’t work on its own.  Tangent do the basics and they them well, so with this extra dimension they have something more than most of the other recruitment businesses.  Today a number of Tangent’s largest clients expect CSR commitments and demand to see proof of socially conscious actions as part of their tender process.“On one occasion we wouldn’t have won the client’s business.  That is how significant CSR has become.”

When a multi-national, multi-billion dollar business showed their major shareholders the Tangent CSR website at their main AGM the true magnitude of what they had created sunk in.

Tangent International's CSR site

“We appreciate that our CSR policy has business benefits but really we do enjoy helping the communities in which we work and helping our staff get involved.

“We have tried to direct our fundraising initiatives towards sporting and outdoor activities which promotes healthy pastimes in and out of work.  As a result our staff have embraced this entering Tough Guy challenges, the London Marathon, the Mulburry Mud Run [Tangent is actually a main sponsor for the event], among other sporting events around the globe.  Our team is even healthier as a result!”

As an international recruitment business it isn’t only local initiatives that Tangent have been involved in.  They have gone further afield looking to disadvantaged communities in the countries in which they operate.  Tangent sponsor a football team in Malawi and a cricket team in the Middle East.  Charity work that they undertake makes a difference and is incredibly relevant to the target audience of their candidates, clients and consultants.

But Tangent’s main charity is closer to home: Little Havens Children’s Hospice.  “We have had talks at our company day from representatives of the hospice and from a parent who had a child at the hospice – this was incredibly moving.”  Additionally, with many of the company’s employees having visited the hospice it has made them more determined to make a positive impact.

Tangent Havens Hospice

Seeing the impact that CSR has had at Tangent from a client perspective demonstrates the value of implementing a policy.  I am sure candidates will be equally as positive about their charitable work.

But CSR goes further than just giving a recruitment firm the opportunity to win more business and make more placements.  It can also be used to help drive your employee value proposition, increase the number of prospective applicants to the business and help to retain staff.  Everyone wants to work for an organisation that they feel proud of, and what better way to achieve this than by working as a collective towards a shared vision and positively impacting local causes through charitable work.  Talking about your CSR policy as part of your recruitment process certainly helps to demonstrate the fact that there is more to your business than just making placements and making money.


If we can change the brand of recruitment by doing the basics right every time, we have a foundation to build on.  Working with the communities, people and regions that we support as recruiters through charitable efforts could change the face of recruitment for the better and for good.

 

1 billion reasons you don’t know about Post

Who knows about Post?

No one I’ve ever spoken to knows about Post.  They are a packaged foods business which started in 1895, and at the turn of the century they were the biggest business of their kind in North America.  Eleven years after their launch, along came a more familiar brand: Kellogg’s.

There is a reason we know Kellogg’s and yet are oblivious to the once omnipresent juggernaut Post.  That reason is advertising, and the $1 billion that Kellogg’s spend every year.

Several recessions ago back in 1929 during the original Great Depression, Post followed the same path as many other consumer goods businesses and stopped advertising.  It seemed logical to them at the time – less revenue means less money to advertise with.

Like the salmon of the advertising world, Kellogg’s swam against the current.  Their decision was to double down on publicity.  The reluctance for businesses to advertise and an uncertain economy meant that advertising costs dropped.  Kellogg’s could double their ad spend in print and out of home marketing whilst still moving in to something completely new and exciting; radio advertising.

By 1933 Kellogg’s had seen profits rise 30%.  Not bad work for a recession.

But it wasn’t until the recession ended that the true benefit of the advertising was felt.  The chasm between Post and Kellogg’s widened – only this time Kellogg’s was on the winning side.

“The trouble is they taste too good.”  Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut strapline from the 1980s which was recently revived.

Building a brand isn’t like turning on a tap.  You don’t see the full potential of your brand instantly.  Building a brand is more like owning a glacier.  The amount of water in a glacier is far greater than any tap, but it has stored potential that you will see trickle through over time.

In the 1950’s when the television became commonplace in most homes, Kellogg’s started to market through this too.  Today nearly 60p from every advertising £1 goes into television.  In 1956 Kellogg’s launched Special K – to date one of their most advertised brands.
A time-line of the television
The problem with television is that it doesn’t give you the option to specifically target your audience.  You can make generalisations over what type of demographic watch what shows or channels.  For example the adverts on a sports channel would be substantially different from those on MTV and different again from a terrestrial channel and so on.
Television ad spend
But Kellogg’s have spent a lot developing a brand that is targeted at a very specific segment of the population.  Not all 7 billion people on earth would have Special K for breakfast.  Their target audience looks a lot like this:

Target Audience of Special K

In the centre of the circle is Special K’s absolute ideal consumer.  As you move outwards the audience becomes broader and broader until outside of that circle you have everyone.

Hitting just that inner circle is close to impossible with television, radio and print advertising.  Social media, however, makes it much easier.  With social media you can build awareness of your brand with people in the bull’s-eye, the people you have specifically built your brand for.

The volume of information we offer up on places like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Gmail and LinkedIn mean that we are likely to be served targeted and relevant content.  The question marketers ask is which platform provides the right context for your advert.  Where are your target audience most likely to see it, and where are they most likely to interact with it?

Advertising today isn’t the same as it was in 1930s.  Today we have more information, more choice and over 70 years of advertising experience which enables us to make our decisions.

Taking all of this into account, I’m still surprised to see so many Post-esque companies.   Sadly for those companies, we won’t remember them for much longer.


A special thank you to Marlene – my colleague, an expert in employer branding – who initially introduced me to this story.

Steal the Process – Not the Logo

“I like what they’ve done.  It really means something to me.  Why don’t we do the same thing?”  Yes!  Fantastic.  If you are inspired by something you should steal it.  Not the outcome, but the process.

“Imitation is the sincerest of flattery”
Charles Caleb, 1820

The outcome – the brand, the logo, the strapline, the website, the office layout, the business idea or whatever – might be incredible.  But it won’t work for you.  Or at least it won’t entirely work for you.

If something means something to you that probably means that the other party have thought long and hard about how to make it resonate.  The outcome wasn’t predetermined… but their process probably was.

Cops and RobbersIn recruitment; look at a business like Hays or Michael Page.  Each of these businesses has a clear message to market.  You know what to expect if you go to an interview or if you appoint them to fill one of your roles.  They are run by people with visions and direction.  You can’t set up a Pays or a Michael Hage tomorrow in a bid to do exactly what they do in exactly the same way.  It doesn’t work because you aren’t the same.  You don’t have the same people, history, culture, vision or direction.

The brand of a business is about the way it looks, but it also goes much further and deeper.  The brand affects the way you respond to a business, how people feel about an organisation and how employees act in their jobs.

Don’t spend your time copying other brands or businesses – but take the time to do what they have gone through.

The 5 Steps to Steal:
Research
What do you want to achieve?  Who are you?  What is your big idea?  What is your purpose?  How are you different?  What are your values?

Create the message
How do you explain your purpose?  What is your vision?  How do you show that you are different?  How can your people live your culture?

Create the identity
How do you sound?  How do you look?  What is the experience you are delivering?

Build it
Create.  Design.  Write.  Paint.

Ship it
Get your message out to the world.  Make sure that whichever channel you use there is a clear and consistent message that outlines your purpose, your vision, and how you are different.

And guess what: if you are lucky enough to have people trying to copy your brand it means you are doing something right.  Imitation is flattery.  The truth is that they aren’t the same as you and be able to pull it off with authority.  People can smell a fake a mile off.

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