The right recruiter makes all the difference

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Before job seekers invest a lot of time with recruiters, try evaluating them the way an employer would.

That's the message from Richard Gissing, chief technology at Gissing Software in Kent, who uses recruiters to find technologists for his financial IT company. What annoys him most are recruiters who don't take the trouble to understand what be wants and then inundate him with CVs.

"If you tell them you need a C++ programmers they send you any CV that has C++ on it, and we end up wasting time sifting through them," Gissing says. "If that doesn't change, we stop dealing with them."

What he does like is the recruiter who takes the time to understand his company, the types of skills he is looking for, and the type of people who will fit in well with the company's culture. "That means we don't waste time on people who are completely unsuitable. We are a small company, and people who want to work only for large companies probably wouldn't be interested in taking a job with us."

Robert Half International seeks to avoid the problem of recruiters who don't understand clients by hiring people with the skills it is placing. Dino Grigorakakis, regional vice president of consulting services, says, "We hire CPAs, MBAs, and IT people, so when our people are talking to clients, the clients are talking to recruiters who have been in the workforce and know far more than just the buzz words."

The company tests applicants and conducts reference checks, he says: "We don't just send resumes; we do the initial client meeting with the candidate where we bring the best person for the job, and our account person will go out with the candidate. Often that becomes the person's first day of work."

With its headquarters in Bromley, Gissing attracts city IT veterans who like the idea of getting away from the daily commute to London while retaining their ties to the finance industry.

"We have people who made quite good money working in the City as contractors but decided they would rather work somewhere more flexible and not so pressured," he says. Or they had children and wanted to be able to work from home, and a small company like ours can offer that, while a bank expects you to turn up at 8.00 and not leave until 6.00"

Gissing dislikes the aggressive stance some recruiters take on fees. His company typically pays 15% commissions, but finds some recruiters ask for 30% and then eventually agree to 15%.

Still, he finds recruiters do save him time. The company has tried advertising directly in the Evening Standard but found that only 5% of the applicants were even vaguely suitable.

His preference is people who come in through referrals by existing staff. Gissing pays employees a fee for candidates who come and stay, and he finds that people who come in through friends are generally a good fit, while the costs are lower than he pays recruiters. The downside, of course, is that the pool of applicants is smaller.

"Financial technology is a very, very big business with hundreds of thousand of people, but it does seem to be very incestuous," Gissing says.

Lessons for job seekers: If you are in a specialised area, find a recruiter who understands your expertise and the industry. And don't forget to tell friends you are looking. It could make them some money and land you in a good position.

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