Don’t blame it on the vendors…….blame it on the stooge*


ABOVE : Three Heads of Recruitment pictured on a recent conference call

*stooge (n) – One who allows oneself to be used for another’s profit or advantage; a puppet.

So far in my recruitment-specific blog series – Headhunters, recruitment agency firms, contingency providers, the world of RPO and MSP, the HR recruitment market, redundant recruitment technology, recruiters…these boys have taken one hell of a beating. Some fair, some not you told me, but throughout the series so far a name kept coming up again and again. How could this reactive, redundant, recruitment ecosystem exist without this flawed character ? How could so many external organisations get rich without this person in existence ? A character so flawed yet so comfortable I can barely say their name without a little bit of sick reaching my mouth.

Readers I give you the Head of Recruitment 1.0, an utter stooge who pimps out his company’s budget annually to perpetuate the world that has provided him with the pipe and slippers lifestyle he has become used to. How do you spot that the stooge still exists in your organisation ?

1. They have had the exact same contractual relationship with their RPO provider for a decade now. A decade that has brought peaks and troughs of economic turbulence but have a KPI deck that has remained unchanged for years and always looks green – and they are content with measuring the square root of sod all, as long as that drunken invite to the ‘RPO of the year’ event keeps coming up.

2. They believe that the major part of their job is hob knobbing with their fat agency PSL and the odd visit to the offices of the search firm with the shag pile carpet they helped fund. In return for the odd snippet of ‘he moved, she moved’ in the industry there is a ‘nod and a wink’ that for as long as this stooge is in charge the billings will look good. Thanks for visiting sucker !

3. Their approach to emerging technology is to treat everyone in the function to a £6,000 LinkedIn licence, even their underworked, job entitled Personal Assistant gets one. Like a corporate sex toy they read in a magazine they should get one but they don’t really know what it’s for. In fact I once worked with an organisation that appointed a head of sourcing who had no presence on LinkedIN. Jesus wept !

4. They are in charge of a recruitment process (and I say that loosely as it was last crafted using a Quill pen in the 20th century) that involves a looser form of assessment the higher the value of the job goes up. All assessment tests for the foot soldiers at the bottom yet happy to accept a ‘cough test’ for Jarlath’s ex-rugby playing buddy from the golf course at £1m of organisational investment. 

5. They believe that branding is something cowboys do to their cattle and that a candidate experience is something you get for your birthday along with a red letter.

The reason the stooges exists in large numbers is the symptomatic Matryoshka doll syndrome inside 20th century formed organisation. Layers upon layers of incompetent HR middle managers. Firstly, their boss is usually an imbecile from a ‘generalist’ HR background who doesn’t really get recruitment and leaves the stooge to his own devices. Secondly, nobody focuses on value so as long as you can provide the auditor with your interview paperwork twice a year then all’s cushty. And lastly, the head of recruitment gene pool would put the Amish community to shame. The current recruitment 1.0 leadership, with a few noble exceptions, are born and bred recruiters who’ve emerged through the ages living inside their narrow ecosystem, rubbing shoulders forever with like-minded luddites and keeping their head down as expectations have remained low. Whatever you do never let two heads of recruitment meet and copulate – the outcome is not worth thinking about. 🙂

Now here’s the crux of the matter. If a business had a voice it would be articulating a desperate need for more agile HR organisations where roles were bigger and more demanding at this level. The modern polar opposite of the stooge for an enlightened employer is potentially one of the most exciting and demanding roles on offer. In my opinion it would require a man or woman so talented that they would be in charge of a multifaceted business that  :

– Integrates an exciting recruitment technology roadmap of enormous proportions. A real expert, Andy Headworth talks in greater depth about this in this recommended article on the subject.

– Obsesses about talent outcomes rather than pure process.

– Embraces recruitment analytics to truly understand and reiterate what works and what doesn’t.

– Talks in investment and not cost and can redefine the entire talent landscape at a time of major professional disruption.

– Leads an organisation that attracts new skills and capabilities, redefines old ones and provides for exciting career paths that produce properly sized, more demanding roles.

– Develops strategies with a complex set of virtual partners to create true communities of talent that meet quicker and more successfully the skill demands for tomorrow.

– Can truly help a business redefine its vitally important first impressions with the market by dialling up a candidate experience mindset.

Or you could choose to have the Stooge, all fur coat and no knickers, pushing this vital function into the land of HR Service Delivery where counting heads and the ‘cost of everything, value of nothing’ is king.

The other external recruitment protagonists want the stooge to remain. He brings comfort and importantly revenue to an old dying model that forces nobody in the value chain to up their game. His impotence and inaction is their finest business development strategy and will remain so until someone in the HR stratosphere begins to seize the initiative and show this emperors new clothes for what it’s worth.

For all of us passionate about the opportunity that this provides to recruitment and HR in general, I firmly believe that our prize can be the laughter of our job hunting children…

Until next time…kick the bums out and let the whole rotten recruitment 1.0 system fall. Nyuk, nyuk nyuk stooges…


12 thoughts on “Don’t blame it on the vendors…….blame it on the stooge*

  1. And a true recruitment leader builds a team that works closely with their clients – understands what the organisation needs to recruit, rather than wants to recruit, and will fit their client tooth and nail to make sure the right hires happen – from OD, to role definition to assessment and on boarding. Don’t forget there are hiring managers 1.0 and certainly HRDs 1.0.

    One of my favourites is, when on assignment with a major telecoms company I think you know well, they had put someone in charge of CxO and one level down recruitment. I asked her what fee level she had negotiated with the HH. ‘Julia, you don’t negotiated with head-hunters’ was her very snooty reply. (I can supply names, she’s still there!)

    Finally, you forgot the obligatory stint in the army.

    • The HR space is unfortunately a massive 1.0 Ms Briggs but on the upside always seems to give me lots to write about 🙂

      Snooty people in Telecoms ? Shurely not as 007 would say..or tell me more, as Danny Zuko would say…..

      The obligatory army reference this time was implicit in the character Jarlath.

  2. You said you would get round to my fellows. You didn’t disappoint!

    Rings very true. Investment vs cost – indeed! As it happens I have been making the same point in my yet unpublished HRT blog.

    Have a great holiday.

    Sent from my iPad


  3. You forgot one key thing from your list of requirements – knowing actually what they are looking for and having a robust way of determining that, beyond “must have previous in telco” !

  4. or is point 2. “builds trusted relationships with sector specialists which leads to meaningful insights and market analysis”. I doubt it, but it’s an angle.

    and yes, “external recruitment protagonists want the stooge to remain” but only those who are inside the tent pissing out.

    the rest want a stooge who was their first agency boss and has now moved in-house to bestow the same benevolence on them. not a clever admission, but one I often dream of.

    plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose….pretentious, moi?

  5. Many of my mentors have taught me the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your business success comes from 20% of your business goals (e.g. revenue, sales, marketing, partners, etc). One of the issues why tech start-ups and investors typically avoid anything related to HR is HR’s inability to try something new, and allocate 20% of their budget and time to multiple experiments that can pay off in spades. As per your post, it’s the same RPOs, vendors, and behind the curve tactics that they “achieve” year in, year out. Without the 20%, Google would never have created big revenue products like Gmail, Adsense, to Google News. Granted, some of the 20% you allocate within your budget can go to waste, but the learning gives you an innate ability of a) your recruiting culture and b) a better sense to hone in on truly early tech companies that are poised to disrupt the industry. Those who were early adopters of technology companies have strong influence on the technology road map. Imagine getting the attention of such big players like Oracle and SAP (unless if you want to spend 150% of your budget on them). But what do I know? I’m just an opportunistic.

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