Understanding the Recruitment Game

March 27, 2017  |   Career Coaching Blog   |     |   0 Comment

As a job seeker it’s important for you to understand the mind sets and motivations of the key players in the recruitment game. This enables you to significantly improve your chances of success. It also reduce some of the frustrations that many job seekers express about the recruitment and selection process.

So who are the key players? In most cases there might be 3 main players, although this can vary slightly dependent on the size of the company or organisation.

Recruitment Consultant

Companies will often use the services of a recruitment agency to help fill a vacancy. Agencies employ consultants who can fulfil a number of roles but most often they will sift through candidates and present the company with a shortlist for interview. They might trawl the database of CVs, advertise the vacancy, or even approach potential candidates directly. The service offered by the consultant will be totally dependant on the money the company is prepared to pay to fill the job. So what’s important for job seekers to know?

  • a recruitment consultant/advisor/manager (titles vary by agency, here we’ll use the term consultant) will have one clear focus. Filling the vacancies on their list. The remuneration of most consultants is made up with a large commission payment for each candidate hired. This means they won’t want to spend a lot of time meeting people who do not have the skills to fill the vacancies on their current list. So don’t be concerned if you are finding it hard to get a meeting with a consultant. They may just not be looking for someone with your skill set.
  • consultants know they may be looking for someone with your skills at some point in the future, so they may well ask you to send in your CV, or to complete their online CV. This will be added to their CV database and when a vacancy comes in they will search the database for suitable candidates. After all they can charge a company for a database trawl! The lesson for job seekers here is not to feel too aggrieved if they send in a CV and hear nothing. It’s probably sitting on a database until a suitable vacancy comes up.
  • If you send in a CV or complete an online CV make sure it contains the important keywords for the job you want. A database search will be done by a computer looking for key words – make sure your CV includes them.
  • the consultant will want to put forward candidates that really match the job requirements well. That’s what they are being paid to do. This means they are unlikely to put you forward if you are a low match to the job – even though you might have relevant transferable skills.
  • although they would never admit it some consultants make sure there is a ‘weak’ candidate on the shortlist. This makes ‘average’ candidates look strong.
  • the consultant will generally be working to tight deadlines and will want to meet them in order to retain the business of the client company. This means you need to make sure you can get to a meeting if you are invited by a consultant. They won’t wait for you unless you really are an exceptional candidate.

HR Manager

This is the person that handles recruitment for the company. They may have a variety of titles – HR Officer, Recruitment Manager etc. Here we’ll use HR Manager. The HR Manager will be acting on behalf of the line manager that has the vacancy. Not every company has an HR Manager. This is particularly the case with smaller organisations.

  • the HR Manager will want to ensure that the line manager gets a high quality shortlist to interview within the agreed timescale. If they fail to do this the HR Manager will start to lose credibilty with line managers and this is not good for their career! So if applying to a company make sure you have a good strong CV that clearly shows what you have to offer and your achievements.
  • if a job has been placed with a recruitment consultant the HR Manager may well have agreed to only interview candidates from the consultant. If you are interested in a role this is worth bearing in mind and in most cases the company will tell you.
  • if you fill out an online application form it is likely the company will have an automated online screening process. This means you will be sected for interview by a computer which has had a clear set of criteria given to it. So fill out such forms in line with any instructions and make sure you clearly show how you meet the required criteria.
  • if you send in a CV and hear nothing it may well be that there is no current vacancy that suits you. However in reality that’s no excuse for not letting you know that.
  • if you are networking effectively it is worth meeting HR Managers and generally they will make some time in their diary to meet people who might be good candidates for jobs that come up in the future. It can mean they don’t have to pay an agency or advertising costs to fill a vacancy. Plus they don’t have to spend a lot of time doing 1st and sometimes 2nd interviews.

Line Manager

This is the person that’s looking to fill a vacancy in their area of responsibility.

  • they will probably have to have waited a while to get interviews arranged and so will be under some pressure to get the job filled, particularly if the person filling the job has already left several weeks ago.
  • a good line manager will only fill the vacancy with the right quality of candidate. But some will be feeling the pressure of the vacancy and may well be willing to take a bit of a risk on a candidate to get the job filled. This can provide an opportunity for you if you are someone that is not quite the right fit but has the ability to grow into the role.
  • line managers tend to want candidates with the right skills and no suspicious gaps on the CV. It’s the HR Manager that tends to be more interested in whether or not you have the right personailty traits to fill a job. This is worth remembering in your interview preparation. The job description and/or person specification details the technical skills and personality attributes that are required by the job.
  • many line managers are not great interviewers (even though they think they are). They can tend to ask a lot of closed questions and spend chunks of the interview telling you things. This makes it important that when you are asked a question you give good concise answers showing how you fit the job.

What Does This All Mean For You?

It is actually quite easy to beat your competition to get the job that you want. This is because most of your competition (and maybe you?) don’t bother to prepare properly. As a Career Coach and ex-HR Director I can tell you that lack of preparation is the most common downfall for most candidates for a job. This means that you must read the job specification for any vacancy. Your CV must be tailored to meet the requirements in the Job specification. In this way you will get to the interview stage. The majority of candidates just send the same CV for every job – this doesn’t work well!

Prior to attending interview make sure you prepare for the likely questions. If you know the technical and behavioural competencies for the job this may take a bit of time, but is not hard to do. You should be ready to run through your CV in a ‘punchy’ fashion taking no longer than 5 minutes maximum. Of course also prepare for the other obvious questions like ‘what are your strengths or weaknesses?’.

By following this advice you will get the interviews that you want and will be successful in being selected for the job.


Tony Goddard

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