Top 5 IT recruiter gripes
IT candidates have many gripes when it comes to recruiters. Photo: Michele Mossop
Highly skilled professionals who can marry perfect candidates with perfect jobs – or used car salesmen shopping CVs willy-nilly around their corporate contacts and posting bogus job ads to swell their databases of resumes?
Recruitment agents. Love them or hate them, it's hard to avoid them. If you're an information and communications technology (ICT) professional chasing a new post, it's more than likely your search will involve them. Whether you're pursuing a role on a website, leaning on the random headhunters who've befriended you on LinkedIn or touching base with an agent who's seen you right in the past, recruiters are very often the conduit to the next role.
There are around 850 of them working full-time in Australia and collectively they generate revenue of $271 million, on 100,000 placements a year, according to the Information Technology Contract and Recruitment Association's (ITCRA) 2011 estimates.
So what are the things that bug ICT professionals most about their brethren in the high tech hiring game?
1. Anybody there?
They're advertising a role that has your name written all over it, so you email and you call – and you don't hear anything back. Par for the course, say IT professionals who've been through the process a few times. "Often I've left voice mails as they've not been able to take my call," one long-term contractor said. "In almost every case, the recruiters have not returned calls, responded to email follow-ups, et cetera. One realises they are often flooded with enquiries but simple professionalism and decency should mean they at least try to call candidates back."
In defence of the sector, Peoplebank CEO Peter Acheson says this is just not possible. With the average job ad attracting around 200 responses, 50 of which will be by phone, recruiters could spend all day shooting the breeze with hopefuls if they didn't screen their calls.
2. Dumb and dumber
Cloud computing, SAP, VPNs... Nobody does acronyms and jargon better than the ICT industry. Having a quick whizz through the for Dummies series may arm agents with a bit of the requisite lingo but it doesn't necessarily teach them to winnow out the top three systems architects from a batch of 150 wannabes.
"Often they'll quote buzzwords, such as cloud and virtualisation, and they clearly don't understand what they mean," one senior networking contractor told IT Pro. "I've been called for a few roles that are completely outside of my expertise due to recruiters misunderstanding basic job requirements and not understanding the technologies they're hiring for."
Some don't bother to pretend they have a clue. "I've had more than one recruiter admit they have zero technical knowledge and any technical discussion, well, would be pointless," another contractor added.
Associate director at Robert Half Technology Jonathan Chapman says working with a large, specialised agency should circumvent this problem. "Firms that specialise in the technology field are better able to understand a client's needs and a candidate's specific skills set in order to make the best match," he said.
3. Claytons positions
AKA the great CV trawl - it's the job you apply for when there isn't really one to be had. Recruiters deny the practice goes on. ICT professionals say it happens all the time and looks something like this: an agent posts a job on one of the major sites, applications pour in but particulars of the role are slow to eventuate. "When quizzed about it, they say the employer hasn't sent them any real details as yet," one contractor claimed. "So candidates are often sending applications in when the jobs are really non-existent. This wastes everyone's time and deflates those looking even further." It also nets the offending agent a stash of CVs to add to the database for the next time a real job needs filling, or to reverse-market to clients.
Acheson points out that this behavior is against the ITCRA code of practice and says in today's flat market, finding positions for the candidates they already have is top of mind for most agents, not vice versa.
"We only post positions that are available through a client firm," Chapman adds.
4. You're not from round here
Not living in the city where a job is based can put the kybosh on your chances of an interview, no matter how long and strong your CV, or how glowing your references, ICT types believe. They say interstate, or worse, overseas applicants are ignored or shoved to the bottom of the pile, despite their stated willingness to relocate at their own expense.
Acheson believes this gripe is more about perception than reality. Around 20 per cent of Peoplebank's placements in a typical year would come from ICT workers moving interstate, he said. Contractors in particular have traditionally been highly mobile, with hundreds of peripatetic types shuffling between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, or more recently following the mining dollars to Perth, he added.
5. Panel beating
Recruitment panels, whereby organisations agree to hire from a handful of suppliers, can provide agents with a steady income stream, while for their part, employers expect to receive superior service at a volume discount.
Some of those hiring though are less than enamoured with the deals they've been locked into by their senior management. "I now have to hire exclusively through a 'panel contract'," complains one industry veteran. "All I get from suppliers are incompetents, with lengthy resumes that are so obviously false it sometimes makes me cringe they don't get caught.
"For a database administrator or a software consultant I cannot pay less than $1500 a day; yet I do know from direct knowledge that out there contractors in those two areas are not paid more than $400 to $500 a day. There is a huge amount of profit and money being circulated through these hiring companies and those responsible for maintaining these panel contracts. This is the problem with any monopoly and it won't go away easily; too many vested interests."
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