Growing apart... Can ICT recruiters and candidates go the same way?
Love them or hate them – it seems the information and communications technology sector has a love and hate relationship with recruiters.
Our story on job candidates grievances towards ICT recruiters touched a nerve last week, with dozens of readers contacting IT Pro to share tales of malpractice and incompetence, starring the hiring profession.
But it seems the irritation's not all one way. Dealing with the foibles of high-tech candidates leaves recruiters gritting their teeth on a regular basis too. Although they concede sharp practice is not unknown in the hiring game, recruiters say that, more often than not, they are the meat in the sandwich; with the difficult task of keeping both clients and candidates happy.
"We are seen as salespeople but we are the only industry that sells a product than can change its mind and has a voice," points out one Melbourne head hunter. "In fact, it's considered by many to be the hardest sales job of all."
So what are the things that bug recruiters most about the ICT talent they scratch a living out of selling?
1. A dog's breakfast
Marketing yourself effectively begins with a crisp, polished CV. Commonsense perhaps – but it's far from the norm in the land of the ICT job seeker. Instead, recruiters have to plough through irrelevant personal manifestos about hobbies and aspirations, while vital technical details, like the programming languages an applicant is au fait with, are buried somewhere on page six. Presentation can also be underwhelming. "Considering people work in IT, it's amazing how bad some CVs are," Balance Recruitment boss Greg Pankhurst says. "Some look like it's the fourth or fifth time someone's used a PC. There can be five different fonts or the format's gone to hell."
2. Treat us as you wish to be treated
In the words of soul diva Aretha Franklin, it's all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Something recruiters say they get precious little of, from the high-handed, high-tech folk who lean on them for a new berth. "People treat us dismissively as a pain in the arse speedbump," Pankhurst says. "We have to take a lot of flak because 95 per cent of the time we're telling people 'no'." Many candidates take rejection personally and should be more objective about their own experience and abilities, he says, rather than treating the agent delivering the knockback to a tirade of abuse.
Understanding who's actually paying for recruiters' services would also help, adds Ambition Technology chief Andrew Cross. "People treat it as a free service then complain when they don't get the level of service they expect. Candidates need to understand what our role is."
3. Shocking and awful
Cluster bombing the bejesus out of a target may seem like a good idea when you're trying to maximise your chances – but it's less than effective when you're looking for a new gig. But that doesn't stop unemployed techie types firing off applications for every position that has the letters ICT somewhere in the blurb, however unsuited to their own qualifications and experience the role may be.
Less would definitely be more, say agents, as they fight their way out from under the electronic mound of CVs that hits their inboxes each day.
"We would rather have fewer high quality candidates we can work with, rather than being inundated," Cross says. "Candidates need to be more specific and committed."
4. Talk to my agents...
Double representation. It's awkward, it's embarrassing, it can degenerate into an unseemly scrap over commissions – and it happens every week, agents say, thanks to ICT candidates being dishonest with recruiters, or not keeping track of what roles they've already been put forward for. It's not double or triple the chance of getting the gig if three different agents send in your CV. In fact, it can mean you're bypassed entirely if the employer can't be bothered adjudicating the dogfight over who got in first, says Lookahead Search director Steve Gilles.
"Candidates should really keep track of where their CV is going," he says. "'Really good candidates are quite careful about where they send their resume and some avoid job boards altogether. They don't send it out indiscriminately to everyone that will read it."
5. Relocation, relocation...reconsidering
ICT's the ultimate mobile profession and recruiters say they're always happy to help candidates move cities – provided, that is, they actually want to go. Trouble is, lots decide they don't, but not before they've wasted plenty of the agent's and employer's time interviewing for an interstate or overseas role, them umming and ah-ing at length before knocking it back at the last minute. Or demanding the employer foots the bill for the move, after they've stated up front that they're happy to wear the relocation costs themselves.
"For every successful interstate or overseas move, three or four fall by the wayside," Pankhurst says. 'There's lots more risk and moving parts to someone relocating." It's risk that would be mitigated, he adds, if candidates did a little research on their destination city first and perhaps checked their family was willing to upsticks, before firing off their CV all over the countryside.
More sinned against than sinning? Are ICT professionals too hard on the recruitment industry?