Into the lion’s den*

Back in the 1980’s when English football was still about standing on the terraces, chanting and hooliganism, I had a life defining moment.

To say Millwall fans were tough back then is a bit of an understatement. Millwall (the Lions) were the worst. Their old ground (I hesitate to say stadium) was not called the Den for nothing. It was a run down shit heap of intimidation in one of the toughest areas of London. Even the name of the street, Cold Blow Lane, was inhospitable. One cold dark winters night I went there as a Chelsea fan and survived (we had something of a reputation as well back then so it was guaranteed to kick off – and I’m not talking about the game). That was my life defining moment. I hadn’t expected to get home in one piece.

WRMU1 I felt a similar sense of trepidation as I stepped into another lion’s den this week. It was time for the Wellington Recruitment Meetup and I had offered to talk to a room full of recruiters about why HR hate them. Recruiters can be a tough crowd at the best of times, and most of them had beer bottles in their hands which appears to be standard after 5.00pm.

So I trotted out all the recruitment clichés about high fees, low quality, those never-ending coffee meeting requests, the never returned phone calls, lack of candidate care etc  – 20 reasons in total why HR people like me don’t like them. They booed, they heckled, they tweeted, but more than anything they laughed. A lot. Thank God they laughed! And they were generous afterwards.

I won them over because the problem with recruitment as I went on to explain is not them, it’s often us in HR. You see, we can be equally crap at our jobs. Many of us don’t think very strategically about recruitment, we don’t clearly define roles, we don’t use the tools that guarantee a great candidate experience, we don’t equip our managers with the skills and knowledge to make great hiring decisions. We often don’t value recruitment as a skill and rarely are we really sure what we need long-term beyond filling the latest vacancy.

WRMU3 Recruitment to my mind is that most strategic of HR’s many and varied responsibilities, a lesson I have learned many times over the years. That means we are all in this together. And I am proud of the fact I have always championed the role of specialized recruiters in HR teams. It’s a real skill and there are many amazing recruitment professionals out there but you have to know your stuff to win my respect.
It’s not about putting bums on seats it’s about so many other things – branding, attraction, testing, assessment, graduates, sourcing, campaign and event management, induction, workforce planning and much more. But more than anything, effective recruitment needs a) to be driven as part of a strategy and b) to have the candidate experience first and foremost. And I don’t differentiate between agency and in-house here.

My parting message to those in the room was to:

  • Be brave and different. Offer me something as a customer I can’t do for myself. Very hard to do in the rapidly changing and increasingly open world of business
  • Be human at all times. We deal with real people not robots
  • Collaborate not compete. Always think about the greater good, where can you leverage others skills, knowledge and services
  • Be transparent and honest. Share the cool stuff you do. Nothing is a secret anymore so embrace the openness
  • Stay ahead of the game. Staying current isn’t good enough.

The world is changing so fast that both the HR and recruitment professions will be irrelevant in the next few years if we aren’t careful.  There is more innovation in recruitment than HR but we need to keep working together to raise the bar on both sides of the equation.


*With thanks to Hannah Mundell for inspiring the above title with one of her tweets and to Troy Hammond for allowing me to put my arse on the line. I think I’ve earned that t-shirt!

One thought on “Into the lion’s den*

  1. beanyrecruiter says:

    Great blog Rich – and one very close to my heart as a career recruiter who has spent 15 years trying to convince HR folk that not all of us are totally useless. I also grew up watching football in the 80’s and although I wasn’t allowed to go to The Den by my parents – I gather it was a pretty bloody dismal away trip where you were lucky to come home without some sort of war story or injury. Love your work.

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