Tell them what you want and how to get it – Candidates take charge!


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I was recently doing some online reading when I came across a question asking, how and if Job Boards and Recruitment Agencies support the goals and meet the expectations of candidates.

We could very easily fall into the trap of generalising, and say “of course they don’t!” But is that fair? Can we, or in fact can they, presume to know what the aspirations and expectations of every candidate are? No of course not. We all agree, I’m sure, that some of the basic expectations of anyone using their services need to be met.

Job Boards offer a range of services to job seekers, primary and fundamentally common to all of them is the access to jobs supposedly current and available advertised by employers and agencies. Job Boards to their best to promote their services to all parties to ensure that they get sufficient traffic from all concerned to generate interest for all parties.

There are so many Job Boards available for a candidate to choose from, where would they start? Do they go for a generalist boards such as Monster or Total Jobs etc., or for the niche Job Boards that focus on particular types of vacancies or market sector? Candidate expectations will vary depending on the choice made. But why limit the choices. The vast majority of Job Boards do not charge candidates to register and make use of their services, so what expectation might one have. When I have been a candidate looking for work I have never had any expectations of a job board; if I can’t find a suitable position I had the choice of coming back tomorrow, refining my search or going elsewhere.

If on the other hand I have paid to register then my expectations leap to another level. I would never pay and never would, unless it is the only route, so not sure what the value proposition of a company like The Ladders.

Agencies on the other hand are different. We talk about agencies as the entity we deal with, but they are staffed by people and we all know it is the person with whom we deal that makes a difference to our perception of value and quality in a service model. The one advantage Agencies have in their ability to meet expectations is that the vast majority of experienced job seekers don’t have too much respect of them, thus have reasonably low expectations in the first place. Much the same as with Job Boards there are some basic and fundamental expectations that a candidate should rightly have; a polite and ethical service and ability to deliver against promises. Sadly neither is all that common. But should candidates be surprised and expect anything any different.

Most agencies have only one focus – their fee and don’t tend concern themselves with what the candidates want or need or really what the long term customer requirements are. Candidates tend to be treated as potential fee-earning commodities. What is wrong with this? Nothing and everything, but it does depend on your perspective. Where most agencies go wrong is in their assertion that they are professional, ethical and can represent the candidate. This is where they set the expectations that cannot be delivered upon. (I know that there are some fantastic people who work for or run their own agencies, people that I would recommend without hesitation, however I know from first hand experience that sadly they are counted as the few). Most experienced job seekers don’t believe them anyway, but still most experienced job seekers don’t mange their own job hunting project effectively and thus set false goals of themselves and false expectations of an agency.

Talking to a number of candidates over the years and to colleagues running in-house recruiting teams in large and small companies, as well as to some agencies, all seem to agree that the role of the job seeker in the process is far too passive, which is converse to what it should be.

The candidate needs to take some responsibility in the process. Let’s face it; the candidate NEEDS to make the process about themselves! And so it should be. As a candidate you are the most important link, from your perspective, in this chain. It is all about you and your career. Make it so. How you choose with whom to work, whether Job Board or Agency should be an educated decision, one that your future could depend on!

As a Recruitment Manager I have a duty to evaluate suppliers; Job Board or Agency based on research, feedback, references taken and reputation and many other attributes. If we then choose to deal with an agency I must spend the time to equip that company and its representatives with sufficient information and understanding of our needs in order that they can represent the values and vacancies of my company to the best of MY ability.

Why then, can we not, as candidates apply the similar principals of evaluation to select the right Job Board or Agency to deal with? Job Boards are somewhat easier as there is no real harm in registering with all of the likely relevant ones, but you must learn how to get the best out of them. I know it’ll take time and effort to do the research but surely a career is important enough to make that investment? Making an educated informed decision about who is authorised to take your professional lives into their care and represent you to prospective employers could be the difference between a pay cheque job and a successful rewarding career.

Candidates can take control! – be assertive, be clear on what you want from a job, a career and an employer. I ask every candidate that I speak to what their goals and aspirations are, sadly I very rarely get a decent well thought out and planned answer. Set out your goals and be able to communicate them to the agency in much the same way you would to a prospective employer.

Spend time researching the market and get some feedback and comments about the performance of the agencies in your target market. If you want anything other than an impersonal service, where you are just a fee on the churning production line, you will need to insist that the person you deal with takes the time to learn about you. As a candidate you need to give clear instruction, with a clear direction and offer a clear value proposition. Think about and give the agency the reason why they should work on your behalf and why a company would employ you – tell them where and how they will earn their fee (help them; they aren’t that bright, generally). To do this you must meet with them. No excuses, insist on it and don’t deal with them if they won’t meet with you – how can they represent you if they don’t know you?

Granted Job Boards and Agencies are businesses set up to make money for their owners and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Yes they do this by providing different services. If you want them, whoever they maybe, to meet your own personal goals and expectations then you must help them help you. Why have expectations of them if you don’t know what you want, that is unrealistic.

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