Gambling with Murdoch

Take a look at yesterday’s Sunday Times appointments section….or rather, the appointments page, gone are the days when it had its own section. It now struggles to even fill a whole page. And yet, there is still approaching £100,000 worth of advertising contained within that one page, with each advert costing £10-15,000.

Amongst them only one quotes a salary, and that is a ‘Chair’ role paying £16k pa, withGary Chaplin Sunday Times no mention of time required. Irrespective, it’s paying well below market rate (but then, they have an advertisement AND recruitment fee to pay…!)

Trying to read between the lines of these 7 advertisements, (which one has to, as most don’t give any real specific information) each of these roles is seeking to attract highly qualified, professional, upper-quartile individuals that will lead 7 leading/large/critically important organisations into a more prosperous future. Yet all 7 adverts are doing nothing to attract anything other than very active jobseekers, pro-actively trawling job pages, rooting out the Appointments sections, hidden in the back of one of the other sections, applying for roles that *might* be a fit based on Job Title, location or probably, their own ‘eagerness’ to find a new role.

ESP aside, such advertisements will do nothing to attract those Executives who are not actively seeking new opportunities. From my experience, majority of businesses recruiting at C-Level/Exec Grade want the best, and most consider that the best will typically be fully engaged, spending their time in their businesses, not trawling advertisements in hidden sections in the Sunday Papers.

All but two of today’s adverts have been placed by Executive Search firms, usually either indulging their own egos/PR through high-profile paper-based adverts, or fulfilling pre-agreed quotas with paper-based media. Either way, not the best use of client money.

…but others are organisations being ‘smarter’ and advertising direct, typically in ignorant faith that they can do just as good a job as a professional (one wonders if the same Procurement Strategy will see different HR middle-management don a wig and enter court rather than engaging an experienced legal professional?) .

The nature of such a method, state of the advertisements and criminal waste of organisations’ money and time with no guarantee of response, let alone a successful conclusion being proof about how un-commercial and misguided in-house recruitment departments often are.

Such an approach is dire, and tells a huge amount about how these organisations value their staff. When people are the key resource behind any organisation, and C-Level/Board Level/Execs are arguably top the list, the attraction of this prime resource should be given prime focus – not subject to a half-cocked approach.

Many of these 7 advertisements have been, or will be subject of heavily discounted, or even free reruns, as recruitment managers seek to mitigate a poor response by blaming the outdated process and media that they have foolishly chosen, and paid c£15,000 for the privilege. But it won’t be the fault of the in-house recruitment function protected with a Teflon coating that would make an Income Tax minimising Government minister proud.

The really tragic thing is, for the same cost that these eight organisations have incurred in placing a poorly written advertisement in dying media, I could have undertaken and concluded a full search process, committed [in most cases] to a 8 week turnaround and guaranteed the result with a 100% cash refund promise.

Even more tragic….by it’s very nature, a full Head-Hunting exercise will elicit those executives NOT (pro)actively job seeking, and NOT applying for any job advert vaguely appropriate – the quality of such individuals is typically significantly different.

But rather than ensuring that every penny is spent on a process with a guaranteed result, these organisations have adopted a *smart approach* that sees them incur the same costs but in blind hope that they will get a response in the first place (despite the advert’s shortcomings and lack of information)…..and that such a response will be of reasonable quality….and that they will be able to engage such a response into a recruitment process….and through a recruitment process….and to the point of a job offer to an executive that fulfils the roles criteria….and to that Exec’s acceptance of the offer.

Such a DIY approach is akin to an enthusiastic amateur tackling the construction of a complex house-extension; except a failed recruitment process has the potential for far wider reaching problems and opportunity cost.

A recent search process we undertook was for an organisation that insisted on advertising the opportunity publicly. The HR Director wanted a broad-sheet newspaper advertisement carrying a £13,800 rate card. We advised, via the CEO, to opt for a “premium” internet advertisement to cover the same criteria of external advertisement. The advert was a success. It elicited 1,029 responses. Of those responses, 4 were worthy of interviewing and none made the ultimate short-list. From our search, we had 24 contenders, 18 were good enough to interview, 5 were shortlisted and 3 were deemed worth offering the job to.

……the real irony is, the individual that secured the role admitted that she got the daily email alert from the site in question, she just didn’t read as she wasn’t actively looking….and assumed that most were fictitious roles used by “agencies’ to fill their database.

In-house recruitment functions DO have a significant place in recruitment and have revolutionised mass recruitment (usually through BPO), as well as the introduction of junior colleagues and future talent. Many without question add value by acting as a qualified, selfless intermediary between head-hunter and the business.  The time and cost saving in those areas can be immense – but most businesses undo such savings through the misguided belief that they can undertake executive recruitment using the same capabilities, competencies and processes that are effective at the opposite end of the corporate structure. Twice this year, I have had processes almost derailed by the time delays caused through the introduction of needless processes into executive search, introducing screening process used to hire graduates or ‘ground-level’ hires that in-turn, dissuade exec and senior managerial candidates.

Most forward-looking businesses are catching up on the realisation that advertising and passive strategies just don’t work any more. There is little surprise that all of yesterday’s advertisements are from either the Public Sector, or the Third Sector. Last FullSizeRender week’s appointment section did have two of the three lonely advertisements from the Private Sector. One was actually a Franchise Partners advert, the other, ironically, looking for HR Directors.

There is still a long way to go however. In the quest for ever more skilled talent, in ever more competitive market, passive approaches to find that the ‘unicorn’ candidate are a risky approach.

Gambling on the attraction of Executives and business leaders is akin to putting your company profits on the roulette wheel. Put your faith in a HeadHunter…not Rupert Murdoch.

Contact me to understand how to get a guaranteed successful conclusion to your recruitment process.

Gary Chaplin HeadShot Logo

11 Comments on “Gambling with Murdoch”

  1. Great blog and some very valid points. Having been chastised by many an HR Director for trying to use a professional recruitment business when we have an internal function, then having months of my time wasted before having to go to a recruitment business after all, I can assure you the frustration is not just on the side of the recruiter.
    I had no idea the cost of advertising was the same as using a recruiter. Interesting points to use next time my HR Director dig her heels in.

  2. I am responsible for senior recruitment for a major organisation and your assumptions are quite misguided.

    I have used a variety of national newspapers to recruit and have very good response. I will typically get over 100 applications and easy manage to find 10 worth interviewing. I have filled 4 out of 6 roles through traditional adverts since I started with the business and can therefore estimate saving my company over £50,000 in recruitment fees, and have usually been able to turn the recruitment process round in 3 to 4 months.

    Your sector has had it too good for too long. Recruitment is not complex. We are only looking for people, of which there are over 2 million out of work and increasing. We would rather spend resource in areas where it is needed, not on paying for needless recruitment fees.


    • Hello Monica.
      My point is that for around the cost of an advert I could do a full search.
      Put bluntly: your £10-15,000 can buy you either:
      1) An advert in the Sunday Times or similar, which best case scenario gets you some response to then process, but with zero guarantee of finding anyone suitable let alone getting them to offer/acceptance stage.
      2) A full, concluded search/head-hunt process, with a guarantee of finding the perfect candidate or your money back (cash refund).
      Your experience is that you have failed to fill a third of your roles, but have still incurred the full cost to get to that failure. If you had come to me, the role would be filled. In the highly unlikely event that it wasn’t filled then you would get all fees refunded, thus it would have cost you nothing.

      As to your final comments. ‘Only looking for people’ is a poor position to speak from for a recruitment professional. People are the prime resource in ANY business, there is no resource more worthy of expenditure/investment. To treat them as a two-a-penny commodity is shameful.

    • With respect Ms Taylor, if you have only filled 4 out of 6 roles (66%), and typically taken 3 to 4 months to do so, it is not really an argument against a guy that guarantees 100% fill and 6 week timescales.

      Add to that your time spent trawling 100 CVs and only getting a 10% hit rate, its a waste of time and proof that your attraction tool is flawed.

      I’m also curious, how much did you spent on advertising 6 roles to fill your 4 positions.

      If the GBR15,000 is correct for an advertisement, you have laid out GBR90,000 to save GBR50,000. I’m not the world greatest on math, but I’m pretty sure in saying you’ve cost your organisation, not saved it.

      Ms Taylor, you have just proven the author’s point.

      Mr Chaplin, good luck sir.

      • 66% success rate is better than most agencies can do and I would rather give money to a Newspaper than a agency who does nothing for their fee other than fire over a load of poor CVs. At least newspapers have ethics.

        • Monica
          66% will never be as good as 100%
          £90k will never be cheaper than £50k
          Guarantees will never be as good as chance
          Using a Murdoch paper will never be an ethical choice over anyone.
          I stopped my HR team getting too involved in recruitment when it became apparent that they did not have the same objectives as I did. My objectives being finding the best people for my business. HR have a big place in business, but leave senior recruitment to the professionals.

  3. In fairness, not all all agencies fill 100% and very few give an 8 week turnaround guarantee, if any in reality.
    Most of the named, large agencies simply send over half their database, seldom containing any really relevant candidates.

  4. Is Monica actually for real or someone trying to wind up Mr Chaplin?

    “66% success rate is better than most agencies can do”
    Correct if the agency is none retained, in the case of no success ( often down to unrealistic salary brackets or person specifications from the employer), you’ve saved the £15k advert spend…

    “and I would rather give money to a Newspaper than a agency who does nothing for their fee other than fire over a load of poor CVs”.
    Indeed, the newspaper does lots of work, sitting on a newsagents shelf hoping that li ideal candidate will first buy it, then read it. Which let’s be honest here is far from guaranteed.

    “At least newspapers have ethics”.
    Bizarre statement. Of course, some recruiters are unethical (and should be avoided at all costs!) but many decent people out there work extremely hard on their clients instructions and succeed in successfully filling complex roles with great candidates, creating win win win, often for fee on success.

    Filling jobs with the right talent is challenging, whichever method you use, but as a fellow Senior Recruiter, I empathise with Mr Chaplin’s original comment that an awful lot of advertising spend represents significant wasted revenue, often from organisations that really haven’t got much of a profit pot to waste.

    Interesting that certain parties consider Recruit fees (paid on success) poor value for money and advertising (paid upfront) a better investment. Yes there could be some perceived branding benefits from over-priced printed advertising, but do poorly written adverts failing to give out the right message not do more harm than good?

    • I am very real and just see through the sham that is the recruitment industry. A collection of people, most of whom add no value, send dozens of irrelevant CVs to businesses then expect to be paid for it.
      At least with advertising you have control over what message is being sent out and make sure that you see the best of the response rather the best people being hidden by agencies for them to use with their favourite clients, leaving the rubbish sent to every one else.
      I always get good response from adverts, I’ve never had a case where I’ve not been happy with advert response. I can’t say the same for dealings with agencies.
      End of the day, I would rather waste money on an advert, knowing I had tried, that waste money on a agent who seemingly never does.

      • I’m in a very similar space to you, Monica, and whilst I empathise with your sentiment regarding “agencies”, I do think you are with being unfair, or have engaged with totally the wrong style of recruitment partner and/or adopted totally the wrong attitude with them. I’m afraid it is down to ‘pay peanuts, get monkeys’. If you are engaging with the stack-it-high/sell-it-cheap national agencies, expecting them to recruit at pitiful percentages, then you can’t be surprised at the poor service.
        The area of the recruitment market that Gary works in is a different industry, headhunting and tapping into a network of contacts built up over years or decades. You pay for that service but get a genuine recruitment partner that, according to Gary at least, delivers 100% of the time so there is no risk of wasting money, just the need to pay for better service.
        To just wildly dismiss the recruitment sector is a little churlish.

  5. Very good blog post. It is great to see an insight of recruitment and you have certainly caused debate. I have been on both sides of the application process and have no demonstrable preference either way.
    I have dealt with HR departments through applications and am left feeling very cold with standard responses, never getting feedback and only ever getting what appear to be standard responses that my CV doesn’t demonstrate what they are looking for, but with no qualification.
    My dealings with agencies is typically no better. Most don’t even come back at all, especially the large agencies dealing with large companies. Even after chasing I get little response. The head hunting type agencies tend to be better and they will often give a good account of the role, but these are few and far between.
    Picking up on your comments on advert content, that is an obvious difference. Advertisements written by head hunters do tend to be far more descriptive whereas those written durectly by businesses either had no flair or all flair and no substance. When trawling through websites etc, it is always more preferable to understand what the role is rather than just see a quirky advertisement.
    My current dealings with recruitment are on the other side of the desk, I have hired several people and have relied on my own HR function for some, and with recruiters for others. My HR team are very good (although I will check how much they spend on adverts!). Their selection of candidates is never as good but I only use them for non critical roles. For anything specialised I will go to a specialised recruiter, and always favour smaller businesses over corporates. I will always get a good service but then I am paying for it. I do accept there are big differences between the different recruitment consultancies though.
    I think business need to embrace both direct recruitment and recruitment through specialists. No one solution is perfect every time.


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