3 Things Recruiters Could Do to Deliver A More Valuable Service

Recently I have been looking for some paid work. Things are quiet on my own ventures, with my partners and previous clients and so, as part of my strategy, I hit my last resort – the open market.

And what I discovered scared me.

Before I carry on , this is where I’m coming from:

A recruiter has ONE job to do  – of all the things they think they are doing, only one really counts – building and nurturing relationships – all kinds of relationships but especially with hirers and with candidates. To help this relationship thrive they might specialise in a space and learn the lingo, join communities etc. But fundamentally when it comes to making the ‘sale’, it is the relationship above all else.

Anyway, the last time I had to resort to the open-market option was at least 5 years ago. So much has changed , and much of it for the worse.

I considered what the pain points of my experience were and I would like to share those in a positive way to help recruiters who care to improve. Also I want to help employers who use recruiters to get more value from the services they use.

Frankly the alternative would take me away from things I care more about – but if it didn’t I would build it and put every recruitment agency out of business, at least in the UK and at least in the tech sector.

FYI Employers –  you are possibly missing out on fantastic employees because the recruiters you engaged don’t know their ass from their elbows and don’t reply emails or pick up the phone to talk with them.

Rant over, here are the 3 top things recruiters could do differently.

#1 – Use Better Job Boards

Side rant:

I mean seriously, we have the internet and computing power that lets us unravel the secret of DNA and we have commercial space travel but we all mostly still find work via job boards? What the hell??

There are so many job boards out there. There are even job boards of job boards – that scrape or otherwise aggregate the jobs from other job boards into their platform.

It seems someone decided that blanketing the world with 3139 copies of each of the 9 jobs available was the way for reach. Really what it ends up doing is cluttering up the internet and increasing the amount of false positive emails recruiters get.

So, for goodness sake pick a job board that doesn’t scrape but has brilliant SEO so you can be found. Oh and pick one that shows how long the job ad has been active for – I wasted so much time on jobs that weren’t live anymore.

Whilst you are at it – don’t make me submit my CV and an application form through some weird site that I don’t really know who gets my details or makes me have to sign up to get to you. Simply show me your email and a phone number and lets get the relationship started.

#2 – Reply every email from an interested candidate within a day.Every one!

Remember the ONE job recruiters have to do? Well, imagine my horror when I emailed 5 recruiters in response to their job ads and not a single one replied me. Not a single one.

An email  – even a super short one – that said “I read your profile but …, sorry…” or “I read your profile, I think you’d be perfect, can we speak more between 3pm and 5pm tomorrow” – would suffice. No comms is bad comms.

Recruitment is a funny game. Recruiters are not paid for the search but for filling the roles. Recruiters are not paid by the person filling the role. So they essentially have two customers. The person who has the money and the person who has to be happy to take the role. In my experience of being the latter, the relationship is what swings it.

So if your customer sends you an email – do you simply refuse to acknowledge or respond to it – especially one that requests a reply or a phone call. What business runs like this? How might that work in a store? Would the store salesperson simply remain mute to every question you asked until you walked out of the store in exasperation? Hell no.

So every email that comes from a customer – you answer. In a timely and respectful way. If you are doing other things that prevent you from do this – do less.

#3 – Organise your day better so that you are available for a conversation

The number of recruiters that never seem to be at their desks to take a call is astounding – even at multiple times of the working day.

Again, actual communication is essential for the relationships on which recruitment is fundamentally based. Remember – you have ONE job to do.

If you won’t engage via email or take and return phone calls, how on earth are you building this relationship.

At least 3 recruiters seemed to be in meetings all day. If this were unavoidable, then return the calls later or pass the job on to a colleague to stop either the candidate of the employer from wasting their time.

It turns out lots of other people have the same frustrations with recruitment agents. At least in the UK and at least in the software sector.

I spoke with 18 people – both candidates and employers – who all have similar tales of their recent experiences. They have a lot more complaints including those that inspired the above.  Frustrations including very poor domain knowledge, misinformation, poor support in prepping for interviews, high commissions/fees, uncrupulous practices like luring people to submit CVs for phantom jobs.

Special Thanks

To Testing Circle, Aston Carter, Mortimer Spinks and MA Worldwide for inspiring the improvements in this post and for saving me and anyone I influence, the time of ever doing business with them.

Very special thanks to Thomas Walding at SquareOne for being the single black swan that saved the entire industry from being total crap.


If you are in the UK or use a UK based recruitment agency and you are not impressed with their conduct – you can request that they completely delete you from their systems so that no one can contact you or pimp your CV and they are obliged to comply under the Data Protection Act. Ask them to confirm they have done this.

I’d love to hear your tips for recruiters or even employers to improve how they recruit for their roles. It is time this whole experience was better. Help me.

Featured image By: aussiegallCC BY 2.0

Is Your Company Broken?


Many companies are broken – some deeply.

Yet, many remain profitable – thanks to the evil of ‘maximising shareholder value’ – profits roll in, souls and joy roll out. Others busy themselves with the structural preoccupations of ‘a real business’ – plush offices, sophisticated internal systems and fancy titles. All these add to the illusion that they are not broken.

What is a broken company?

By ‘broken’ I mean there is an abundance of stuff that needs fixing – from communication to the coffee machine and no one is fixing them because they are too busy or they don’t care or both.

Whilst many types of things might be broken, the most critical are the key foundations of human relationships – openness and trust. In broken companies there may be many  people who are disengaged from the wider organisation and feeling disempowered  – though they might excel at the function they were hired for. Broken companies often have processes and procedures that choke deep, meaningful human communication and become increasingly human-unfriendly places to be.

Getting things done in a broken company is like having teeth pulled – painful. People devise workarounds for getting stuff purchased, create defense mechanisms around power-hungry, psychopathic managers, play silly political games to get ahead because that is how the systems seems to work. Others might get by simply by keeping their heads down and hoping for the best.  For others still, there is so much BS that they simply give up and go some place else.

Another aspect of a broken company is the absence of a clear plan for how things get better. Some broken companies attempt to fix themselves by creating a role to be responsible for fixing things for everyone and surround themselves with even more process. This creates an illusion of doing something which is often as problematic as being broken in the first place.

Things will break – sales will sell something we don’t yet have and we will be late at delivering it, servers will fail, suppliers will let us down and colleague we work with will – at some point – not live up to the expectations we have of them. A broken company is not simply a place with things that don’t work. A broken company is a place that is incapable of openly acknowledging and fixing them.

How does a company get broken in the first place

I don’t believe anything starts off broken.

I’ve been involved with companies of all shapes and sizes and I love asking how they got started. If you go back far enough, almost every company was started by people who wanted to make things better – for themselves and others. They saw an opportunity and they provided something – a product or a service – to exploit it. Then they scaled by hiring more people and creating more layers without real thought of how it might evolve.

From my observations I think that as people join a group, they bring with them a culture – ideas, behaviours, experiences, and attitudes – that gets mixed in with the cultures of the people in the existing group and something new emerges. Similar biases are likely to get stronger and groupthink becomes more likely. Ultimately, depending on what the dominant biases are – being closed vs openness , choosing to blame and punish vs collaboratively learning from mistakes and seeking solutions together – certain behaviours will become dominant that that lead companies to or prevent them from being broken.

Incidentally, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a corporate culture. I think each person operates on their own culture – their own set of internal beliefs, ideas and behaviours – which may  all be hugely influenced by the widely held ideas and behaviours. But fundamentally people choose how they behave.

As things don’t work as expected – the dominant behaviours tend to be blame and finger-pointing that sets off a chain of events that results in everyone learning that failure is unacceptable and will be punished. Trust between people is usually the first casualty – at which point it really doesn’t matter what breaks, resolving it becomes very difficult to do. What most companies then do is get policies and grievance procedures in place – as though those will somehow magically restore trust and openness.

From this point on, things still break  – as they always do – but no one cares enough to fix them and the company becomes broken.

So, is your company broken?

Look around where you work and consider these questions to help you figure out if your company is broken.

  • What are the relationships based on? Contract or collaboration?
  • How healthy is the communication? Is it free, open and honest or narrow and defensive
  • To what extent do  you trust the people you work with and how much do they trust you – ask colleagues if you can (and if not, consider the previous point)
  • What is the general level of trust in the company – think of examples.
  • What are the dominant behaviours when stuff  – really important stuff – breaks?

I would love to hear from you – anonymously if necessary – about your experiences of working in companies that you consider broken. Please consider commenting on this post or we can chat about it over twitter.

Why I wrote this

I care that people find joy in their lives and work plays a huge part in most people’s lives.

I wrote this because without acknowledging that some companies are broken and represent an unhealthy places to work, we cannot get to the conversation about improving them and we cannot begin to open the invitation to the very people who can help improve them.

I wrote this because someone may have been silently suffering and enduring an experience that they have felt unable to share and this post gives them a voice. I know I have met people who have been scarred by working in broken companies and not been able to share their feeling.

@Morrisons Customer Service: Fluke or Designed to Delight?

As I was sifting through the data that Bizbuzz was providing about potential ServiceChat customers,  I came across Morrisons – a British grocery and supermarket business that has about 12% of the UK grocery market (source: Economics Help)

I was looking at their ‘apology’ buzz – a tracking of how many apologies they are making to customers and that would lead me to who they were apologising to – an unhappy customer with some feedback dressed as a complaint.

Morrisons Apology buzz page on Bizbuzz

The date was May 27th and as I scanned the apologies, I picked one at random to see the details of the apology – what triggered it and perhaps, any further conversations in the thread. The apology I picked related to Ian Golding’s tweet.

I read Ian’s profile and reached out to him to seek more context about the events that led to his experience. Learning more about Ian revealed that he is an active blogger and a passionate customer experience specialist, striving to help businesses delight their customers – my kind of guy!

Ian had written fairly extensively about his Morrisons’ experience and after I read it I wondered whether Morrisons’ level of engagement and the resolution they demonstrated in Ian’s experience was typical and part of a designed approach to delighting customers, or was it simply a fluke. After all, I knew from my data that on May 27th – the day of Ian’s experience – there were 12 other  customers who sent Morrisons  a variety of feedback via Twitter.

What were their experiences of Morrisons’ engagement with them about their feedback?
How many felt they got a satisfactory resolution from calling Morrisons’ attention to something they perceived needed improvement in a store, with pricing, product quality and/or staff behaviour?

Some Immediate Observations

Morrisons uses auto-responders

As I was looking through the content it became obvious that Morrisons’ responses are a template and most likely a template used by an auto-responder. They appear to be semi-customised templates where they try and get the first name of the account that sent the tweet they are responding to and use it to personalise the reply.
They clearly also have responses they either cycle through so they are no so obviously simply auto responding.

All responses are redirection

All the responses I saw for this date (May 27th) and the other 180 apologies in Morrisons’ buzz are all asking the other person to DM their phone number and email to the Morrison account. I imagine this is to put it on a queue for their customer service desk to deal with.

I did not observe any attempt to address the feedback directly online. The DM leads potentially to some further engagement offline – via a phone call or email. This was borne out in Ian’s case and caused me to wonder – What do Morrisons’ customer think of this lack of readiness to engage completely online.

Morrisons is not being social on social media

A quick snapshot of Morrisons’ activities on Twitter show an account that is not about engagement (contrast this with @Waitrose). It is almost exclusively about pushing offers, tips and other canned responses out there (pardon the pun!). There is no seeking engagement nor responding to any tweets coming back in. They are missing a great opportunity to build rapport with their customers and do the other canned stuff in a way that would improve their their brand perception.


@Morrisons vs @Waitrose – who is more engaging on Twitter?

What About the Other Customers?

I approached the other twelve customers to whom Morrisons had auto-apologised on May 27th on Twitter, asking for their input in answering the above questions.

The responses were mixed. Five of the 12 other customers responded to my invitation. Their experiences were sometimes quite starkly different. Some didn’t get any further contact despite sending a DM replying and others got a mixed resolution from the extended engagement.

@missySimps replied to the auto-apology as a DM. She didn’t have any further engagement from Morrisons nor any resolution to the situation.


@tracySmith2k, @jakimccarthy, @pauldavid28 and @captainratall got a reply to their DM and a call. But their experience were also fairly different:

@tracySmith2k was uncomfortable with the call she received from the store manager – she felt it was confrontational- and would have preferred it was handled by an objective intermediary.


@jakimccarthy got to speak with the store manager who explained the situation to her and apologised again. She doesn’t know if they did anything to rectify the dirty fridges she complained about, but she felt heard and the experience has not put her off from shopping at Morrisons.


@pauldavid28 – was pretty pleased with how it was handled, how Morrisons engaged with him and how his query was finally resolved. Awesome!


@captainrat – got a call, had the issue resolved and even got a token of their apology. Great outcome!


What Does It All Mean?

Let’s do the math. We now know how 6 of the apologies that Morrisons made on May 27th turned out.

75% were happy with the level of engagement

50% had a resolution they were satisfied with

10% had no further engagement beyond the auto-apology.

I think Morrisons do have a desire to engage with their customers on social media. I also think there is a strategy to genuinely engage and resolve customers queries that are received from social media platforms, in this case Twitter. From the interactions I have had with their customers, they seem to understand the value of engagement, even if currently it is mostly about handling it offline.

They may be being a little cautious online and currently don’t do anymore than auto-respond. For example, their activity on twitter smacks of auto-everything. There don’t seem to be any humans at home, which is very strange for a social platform.

Clearly, in the instances where they engage with customers, they try and get the ‘right’ person to engage with the customer. In the cases I explored, it was almost always the store manager.
This is good – let the person who can do something about the issue deal with it.  In only one instance did I find that this wasn’t satisfactory.

I must confess, I am disappointed with the whole auto-responding aspect of Morrisons’ social media operation – at least on Twitter (I didn’t do any Facebook exploration).
I am especially disappointed with their auto-apologising. An apology is supposed to be sincere and human. I think automating an apology – especially one in response to a complaint – cheapens it. Not such an issue if you almost immediately follow it with human engagement – like a phone call –  where you can have the conversation.
But if, as in the case of @missySimps, all that was experienced was a nondescript, auto-reply  – even one faked out with personalisation – it can feel insincere.

Making people think they got contacted by a human when it was just a program is pretty ‘Matrix’. Difference is ‘Matrix’ was cool and this isn’t.

Auto-responding communicates to me that they don’t really understand the power of social media or are being advised by people who don’t really understand the power of social media!

3 Things Morrisons Can Do To Improve

I’m all about improving and this post is primarily about giving Morrisons some feedback to sweeten its social media operation and let it complement the great work they are already designed to do with store manager calls etc.

So here goes, my top 3 things Morrisons can do better at:

  1. Lose the auto-responders and put humans on the social media desk. With the low volumes of social interaction you currently have, you might not even have to hire more people right now. You can get software to route tweets to your customer service folk.  But you must make sure they know how to use social media. Social is entirely about being human.
    Something you can do right now, Morrisons, might be to completely de-personalise the auto replies, make them authentically robotic. For example, ditch the first name thing and reply with  ‘We aren’t here right now, we auto followed you, so please DM us…’, then route them to the store manager and work your magic. First names are for humans to speak to humans.
  2. Get tools that promote and facilitate online engagement. People chose to engage with you online, redirecting them to some offline mechanism might suit you but it usually just frustrates them. Oh, and shun those tools that promise to help you deal with scale. The scaling problem comes later. Focus on getting great with online engagement then fix the scaling problem. From a quick search on Twitter, @Morrisons gets about 10 mentions a day, most are not about them per se. And their bizbuzz page shows they are apologising an average of 3 times a day. This is the time to get in and get good with this exciting world of social media.
  3. Be open about your journey in trying to delight your customers on social media. There is a growing generation that will love you for it. You might be thinking “we sell groceries, we don’t need social media”. Everyone is going to need social media. Your competitors are embracing it and once they are fully established in it, it will be almost impossible to wean customers off them.


I am deeply grateful to @missySimps, @tracysmith2k, @jakimmcarthy, @captainrat and @pauldavid28 for responding to my tweet and being so generous with their time to listen and engage with me on this topic. It helps to continually renew my faith that people want to be connected, be heard and to engage. Thank you.

This post is also guest posted on Ian Golding’s very informative blog. Go check it out.