12 May 2016

Staying objective!

I’ve  had a few situations recently when candidates have been a bit ‘lukewarm’ when I’ve run certain agencies by them.   Whilst over the years, there have always been some agencies who have reputations for one thing or another, I’ve always felt there are horses for courses and there is somewhere for everyone.  I generally know which agencies are good for juniors where they’ll have to work hard but they can also play hard, I know which agencies have a good work-life balance, which are best for working mums and which are good when you’ve had enough of climbing the slippery career ladder and you just want to do a good job with no game playing.
So I’m not sure if it’s a bit reflective of a new generation coming through or something else.  Several candidates have recently  declined opportunities because they’ve; ‘had a friend who didn’t enjoy it there’, ‘heard it has a revolving door’,  ‘heard that it’s all churn and no creative’, ‘heard the boss is a bitch’, ‘heard they don’t leave before 10 at night on a regular basis’, ‘heard the boss is a randy old goat’, ‘heard if you don’t play football, you won’t get in’,  ‘heard it’s like the Hollyoaks set’, ‘heard they all do drugs’, ‘heard there is a dog’ (really).  I could go on.    I’ve been doing this job for over 10 years and I’d like to think I’m an ethical recruiter – if I truly thought that any client was a dreadful/unsafe place to work, I wouldn’t be dealing with that agency and they’d in turn be unlikely to see the value in paying someone like to me find them quality staff.

Rivalry between agencies over the years has been intense.  There are a lot of independent agencies in the North and people have moved around, split up, started new offshoots and with all of that comes rivalry, competition and a certain amount of gossip and rumour that can often result in Chinese whispers and plain untruths in the open market.  In a couple of the bigger agencies, I think there is active gossip which is intended to keep employees loyal – several candidates will say ‘I’ll go anywhere but there’.  Creative work of rival agencies is passed off as weak or with an insubstantial client roster – all of this can be quite powerful in altering the perceptions of a candidate as to where they would like to work.

Often when I’ve asked candidates who are negative about previous employers the reasons for their negativity, my feelings can be mixed. Often I can find myself siding with the client and feeling that perhaps the employee had unrealistic expectations or simply they weren’t very good at their job or had oversold themselves into too senior a role and it then became clear they weren’t up to the challenge. The natural reaction of any individual is a defensive strategy and they wouldn’t look to themselves to say perhaps it just hadn’t been the right environment for them at that stage in their lives.  Similarly, I can sometimes see exactly where a candidate is coming from – perhaps their boss is a bit too straight talking or blunt – but what wasn’t right for them, might be absolutely fine for someone else.  So in a long winded way, I’m saying each to their own.  Just because an agency wasn’t right for someone else, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not right for you.  Wouldn’t it be worth checking it out for yourself?

I always recommend that if there is an available role or opportunity in an agency where your skill-set matches that on demand and that it’s geographically do-able, on the right salary scale and on clients/campaigns you would like to work on then it’s worth going along for a chat and making your own mind up.  Going for a first interview is not selling your soul, you are under no obligation to sign up to anything. It’s a chance for you to find out about the company, the role and for the client to see if you’re the right fit for them.  Is there chemistry there?  What’s your gut feel?

I’ve also met most of my clients. I always ask for a face to face meeting when I take on a new client and I get a feel for myself as to the environment, the type of person who works there etc and then do my best to match make to ensure that the ‘fit’ is as close as possible.    Then, if you’re selected for an interview, that is the opportunity to sniff each other out and to go from there.    Whilst some companies do have ‘reputations’, it’s important to stay objective and not to rule anything out on what is essentially just hearsay.