Recruitment: Too Cool for (Old) School?

God knows how I “fell in to recruitment”. For an introvert that went bright red and barely squeaked when meeting people I somehow accepted a job (career?) that demanded exactly that; an awful lot of squeaking.

Well, to be truthful, I do know why; I had zero confidence, was desperately unhappy and I told myself I was not good enough to be a writer. It does not make sense at all, I know. On the upside the office was near my home and I had a knack of being a “nice guy” and that got me the job.

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Source: http://www.pricenomics.com

It is only now as I sit back with my pipe and slippers with 2GB playing on the wireless that I contemplate how Recruitment for me at least has changed dramatically.

I made it to be a writer, a freelance one at that with two unpublished books (that even my wife has not read), so that is something. It is a bonus that I can have a day-job too.

But that day-job is back in recruitment. We’ve got big, realistic and fluid plans to move into other industries. And they are firmly on track and moving fast. But for now, the recruitment pays the bills and funds the future.

The difference now is, I, we, are having fun doing it. We are in a fortunate position to choose to work with good people, candidates or clients, whatever label they may have. And they are the sum-total of far less than 1% of our network.

But what has changed most is the style. The recruitment I knew from 2007 in the UK was a different beast. We were trained to within an inch of our life in military-style fashion with modules on everything from your tone of voice on the phone to how to “overcome objections”.

I will never talk overtly negative of this method because it taught me incredible discipline that served me well later. Especially when I turned up in Australia. (Note: my first recruitment employer has recently smashed a poll of top firms in the UK to work for).

Upon starting Down-Under I was pointed towards the yellow or blue pages (or whatever it’s called here) and told to build a medical desk with no knowledge of the country, the industry and zero clients or candidates on the database. I even got a funny look when I announced that I was going to lunch as if to say, “You’re not at school mate”.

But there were targets and guidelines and some old-school recruitment psychology and methods. And despite how well we may have been performing, meeting targets become pointless if quality was thrown out the window.

After 5 years of recruitment in Australia I took some time out. I was a veteran. But I returned when I was tempted by some simple words after a few beers, “Come and work with me, we will have a laugh, do what you enjoy, how you want to do it. You can make some money and we will see where it goes, no strings attached”.

Except this fling has already turned into a whirlwind romance and me devoting myself wholly to the relationship. I’m almost ready for business-marriage. But that’s another story.

After my colleagues’ and my past recruitment experiences I couldn’t help but laugh when we recently bought stand-up desks for the office. I honestly thought it would be a hipster-fad but for at least half the day I am now standing. You feel far more alert and hopefully it will do wonders for my back long-term.

The ironic thing being in a previous recruitment role our chairs were physically taken away from us to encourage “stand-up marketing” and we could not have them back until we had made 20 new client calls.

Which leads me onto the quality of these calls. When the month end was approaching everyone nervously looked at their target whiteboards covered in numbers to reach for client calls, candidate calls, candidate registrations, jobs on, jobs filled, average margin increase target, how many times you could say “touch base” etc.

These client calls were called MKY’s, as they appeared as this recorded on our CRM system (Customer Relationship Management). The idea being you logged these calls and some meaningful notes after you made a client call.

However, even the most ethical and honest Consultants would baulk when they had “only” made 450 MKY’s that month when their target was 650. This is where “MK-Lies” came in.

Hilariously we would all high-five each other when we performed Moses-like “parting of the Red Sea” feats by making 200 MKY’s in the remaining two days of the month. I will also add this was despite us already smashing revenue targets regularly. We truthfully had a great team regardless.

Nowadays, I will be happy if I make 5 to 10 quality calls a day; chats with no agenda, almost forgetting I am about to place a Doctor in a contract or have a some fairly urgent assignments to fill for a Client.

These calls are now made using space-age headsets that can come mightily in handy for an unnamed colleague when he needs to rush to the men’s room mid-call. He does however get some curious looks from the blokes from the office next door.

While we are on appearances, one of the most prevalent old-school theories, not just in recruitment, was that you had to wear a suit and tie every single day. We also had to wet-shave, no matter your ability to sprout facial hair. I can remember on occasions management somehow spotting guys miss just one day of shaving. I was honestly impressed.

Meanwhile you will be lucky to catch me wearing a suit once a week. Or shaving for that matter. One beard trim a week maximum is enough. My whole previous dogmatic view has changed completely. If you are comfortable and by all means presentable, you can be creative, you can think outside the box.

There was certainly little room for creative thinking in old-school recruitment for many of my colleagues. And what happened when you had the balls to ask why? “Because that’s how it is”, or, “that’s how we have always done it”, or in other words, “Get back on that phone, hassle people to death and be thankful you have a chair to sit on (occasionally).”

But at least you could escape in the old days to lunch? Think again. 15 minutes strictly to Olympic power-walk to Greggs (if you are from the UK you know what I am talking about) for a soggy sausage roll, a pasty and a coke and clutch that greasy bag like your life depended on it as you dived back into the office to simultaneously pick up your phone to listen to a half-hour of abuse from a candidate that forgot to submit their timesheet on time to be paid that week (the abuse part can happen in any industry I guess).

Cold soggy sausage rolls always taste better anyway. But at least you had “Subway Fridays” to look forward to which was the true highlight of our week. Footlongs of pure joy.

Fast-forward to present day and it’s criminal if we do not get out of the office for a minimum of 30 minutes to actually see sunlight, walk, feel the air and sun on your face, run some errands if necessary and all the while if anything is urgent you have your phone on with emails and internet which is effectively a mini-version of your laptop.

And the food? Smashed avocado salads, spinach wraps, green tea and for some reason even “Paleo” almond spread that found it’s way into our fridge from an unnamed person. Although I’m fairly sure cavemen didn’t eat Pad Thai or Mexican and knock back a couple of pints of pale ale on Fridays (and Thursdays, Wednesdays if we have had a good week. Or bad week for that matter). Boxing on Friday more than makes up for this.

Setting can also be key to your productivity. My business partner knows I love coffee shops. It comes with the territory of being a semi-writer. So I’m lucky enough to work from them when I need a different setting. Wi-Fi and iPhone personal hotspots are a wonderful thing.

And sure enough I “work” more hours than the regimented 8am to 6pm of the old days, but they might be at 5am in the morning or 11pm at night or 9am on Saturday morning when an idea appears, like it does it the real human world.

For the whole team we support flexible working. Real, flexible working. We currently employ two mums that were previously discarded by the system. These are women that had extremely successful careers before children, better than most people I know but were told not to bother because they were raising children and had not “worked” for 4 years.

Which seems strange to me as if you have witnessed mothers with young children and babies I would say it’s a whole new category of superhuman work; multi tasking, prioritising, negotiation and strong mental, and at times physical determination. Watching a colleague juggle and lift two, twin two year-olds on each arm as well as answer the phone and lift multiple items is a feat in itself.

So while in the old days we sat in “pods”, basically long rows like a sweat-shop where extra desks were squeezed into spots that may have as well been in the toilet, we now sit where we feel like in our small office. The desks are spaced out against the wall so we have room to wander, stretch, and pace.

Music is important too. The radio hums in the background playing anything from Elton John to Drum and Bass and it is not uncommon to see and hear puppies and dogs on a Friday wandering in our office from next-door looking to cause some mayhem.

However one of the most momentous shifts has been in marketing and PR. No longer is it about begging for a budget for an advert for Seek or a mass trade publication or a commercial Conference sponsored by Pharmaceutical companies that costs a minimum of $10,000.

The way the world engages has changed dramatically. With social media and smart phones you can combine soft marketing to reach people instantly. It helps to show your company’s character and personality. Hence why we shunned traditional methods and just bought a customised Blugibbon racing-bike (pictures coming soon).

Personal development has also shifted, at least for the forward thinking. Some time ago I witnessed on-masse senior figures asking for a small investment in training. The response was “read a book”. Inspirational stuff. I indeed did do this independently and in all seriousness it helped me. I read multiple books, but not everyone is a reader, we learn differently.

In my current role I’ve expanded reading to networking. Attending a mixture or inexpensive and occasionally expensive seminars, workshops and think tanks. Some of the best I found on social media and paid $5 to charity to attend. My business partner took me along to his leadership group and this was equally a revelation.

Ultimately there is nothing wrong with being in “recruitment” in any industry. It of course gets a bad wrap. That will never change. And some industries are more restrictive than others. In addition these musings may result from more of a culture change of Australia versus the UK or large versus small or corporate versus boutique. There are a lot of variables and factors to consider.

But in any industry and organisation there is nothing stopping you being a good, open, honest person that you enjoy talking to. And with a good degree of emotional intelligence. And if that is you naturally then just be yourself! You are bloody lucky.

There is time for serious business, just not 100% of your working week in the pretence that it is real work. We called Blugibbon exactly that for a reason. We build relationships for the long-term. And have fun doing it.

We want to hear if you have had a bad day or your kids just won the egg and spoon race at school or you are going to get married in Vegas dressed as Elvis (I kid you not we were sent these photos just this week).

In recruitment we cannot, and should not, always come up with a magical solution or pretend always will. But surely there is something in a new way of thinking and doing business. Being a human and allowing your colleagues, team and management the trust and respect of being more than just a job-filler.

This is purely my opinion based on my experiences. There are right ways, wrong ways and a whole lot of grey and multi-coloured ways that will also get the same results, good and bad. And yes right now as I am finishing this blog we have just decided that come spring and summer we are wearing boardies to the office and will sit in the courtyard with our laptops.

By Terry Cornick

Writer – www.terrythetourist.com / @telthetourist

Business Consultant – Healthcare / GP Recruitment – BLUGIBBON – www.blugibbon.com / @blugibbon

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