People hacking: Why headhunters impede accountants' growth

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Philip Fisher
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Am I the only reader who misinterpreted last week’s headline “Protect your firm against the ‘people hackers’”?

Rather than an erudite article about identity theft, my immediate reaction was that someone had finally got to grips with the mischievous activities of headhunters, who have been the bane of my professional life for years.

To be a little more specific, I quite often have mixed feelings about the cold calls that so frequently interrupt my thought processes and the innocent questions and very quickly lead to offers of interviews for jobs to which I am totally unsuited.

On one hand, I hate being pestered by people trying to sell things, even jobs that I am capable of doing. On the other, if you receive no calls of this kind for too long, it is possible to reach the point where you begin to doubt your own value.

Time and time again, when accountants are asked about the biggest impediment to growing their businesses, they do not respond with the obvious “finding new clients” but, instead, moan about their inability to recruit and retain good members of staff.

One of the biggest problems is the incessant attempts of recruitment consultants, often inarticulate and badly trained cold callers, to poach our best members of staff away. This is most prevalent in the period immediately after our young stars pass their final exams and become highly valued newly qualified accountants.

However, with the tough market that we are seeing at present, people at all levels will be receiving calls of this type and frequently, either because they are not good at saying “no” or perhaps due to the element of flattery and being singled out, our colleagues are enticed into interviews, leading to career moves that are not always in their best interests.

This may sound cynical but from bitter personal experience, far too many of those in the recruitment industry are interested in feathering their own nests by placing people rather than ensuring that both firm and recruit are suited to each other.

Going a step further, the best outcome for most recruitment consultants is to place somebody who makes a complete hash of things over a six month period, thus guaranteeing that there will be no clawback on a very hefty fee, before requiring a second change of job which will conveniently lead to another very hefty fee for the consultant.

Please do not misunderstand the tenor of this article. I have a good friend who is a recruitment consultant and he has high ethical standards, works very hard to do the right thing by all parties and deserves every penny of the millions that he has probably made in his career to date.

I would imagine that he would not disagree with many of the comments above since, like accountants, he would wish to be associated with an industry that has a faultless reputation.

Sadly, like accountants, the way things are going at the moment, both he and we will probably currently be doing our level best to avoid revealing the industry in which we work, in case we get tarred with the same brush as our brethren who have just let Carillion go under without apparently doing anything material to protect the stakeholders who had every reason to rely on the company’s auditors and other advisers.

About Philip Fisher

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24th May 2018 11:50

What a dull piece from someone with a superior attitude. I stopped counting the number of things I disagreed with when I ran out of fingers.

What Mr Fisher seems to complain about is that, firstly, he is too weak to ignore cold callers or to tell them to get lost. Secondly, that the firm and the recruit are so daft that they can not determine themselves whether or not they are a good fit and instead trust the judgement of the 'inarticulate and badly trained'.

It seems to me you are making excuses for chronically lazy employers and at the same time you seek to restrict the opportunities of good employees whom you want to keep without paying them their worth or developing them at their speed.

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24th May 2018 17:15

To answer your opening question, probably yes.

I also have never heard of head hunters being the bane of someone's life before. You are either very very popular, or not very good at retaining staff, depending on which way the bane goes.

Presumably GDPR will stop all these cold callers from tomorrow, so problem solved!

Am I the only one who worries about the wider effects of GDPR? No longer will Glen Campbell be able to get "cards and letters from people I don't even know, and offers coming over the phone". Could be the bane of the lives for Rhinestone cowboys everywhere!

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25th May 2018 09:28

Complains about ability to recruit good staff, then complains about people whose job is to make recruiting good staff simpler.

Makes sweeping statement about recruitment consultants being terrible, then talks about not wanting people to take sweeping view of a profession from a few bad people.

This is possible the most self-contradicting article I have ever read. I'm surprised that the editorial staff let it get to publication.

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25th May 2018 11:22

While I see both sides of people's arguments here, what I most object to is the commission basis used by recruitment consultants.

Anyone working on a commission basis is a low-life sc*m in my book.

Estate agents, car sales people, door-to-door charity sales people and these "consultants". Just no. Work on an honest basis, please!

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to alan.rolfe
25th May 2018 12:24

alan.rolfe wrote:

Anyone working on a commission basis is a low-life sc*m in my book.

You need to rewrite the book. It wouldn't happen if buyers didn't want it to. The reason it does is that some buyers like to waste people's time for their own advantage while knowing that their use of the service is 'free'.

How often have you used an estate agent but not bought or sold through them, or used a recruitment agency that you didn't recruit from and paid nothing as a result? A commission basis enables you to do this.

So Alan, you be honest and pay people when you want to use their services.

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By mrme89
25th May 2018 11:23

'However, with the tough market that we are seeing at present, people at all levels will be receiving calls of this type and frequently, either because they are not good at saying “no” or perhaps due to the element of flattery and being singled out, our colleagues are enticed into interviews, leading to career moves that are not always in their best interests.'

Wow. Just wow.

So these people, that are educated professionals would rather say yes to a new job because they can't find it in them to say no? Pull the other one.

People move jobs because it a better position for them. Less hours, more money, more holidays, better pension scheme, closer to home etc etc.

'This may sound cynical but from bitter personal experience, far too many of those in the recruitment industry are interested in feathering their own nests by placing people rather than ensuring that both firm and recruit are suited to each other.'

The match a candidate to a prospective employer for interview. It is the duty of prospective employer and employee to see if the fit is right beyond the matching stage.
A responsible employer would ensure that they have a robust recruitment process that reduces the risk of hiring the 'wrong' candidate.
As for the prospective employee, it is their responsibility to ask the right questions at interview stage to ensure that the prospective employer and job role would be a good move for them.

I've not read this amount of drivel for some time, so I solute you!

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to mrme89
25th May 2018 11:34

mrme89 wrote:

I've not read this amount of drivel for some time, so I solute you!

I agree that the article is drivel, but is it not a bit much to dissolve him for it?

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to mrme89
27th May 2018 22:09

That's a bit harsh. if you've not read that amount of drivel for some time, may i respectfully suggest that you've not been keeping up to date with HMRC and their MTD project?

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25th May 2018 11:41

Yes indeed. And speaking on the other end of that is the problem of recruiters following individuals throughout their working lives as well as tempting employers onto their ‘free’ platform. As soon as the employee switches it’s a quick matter of checking to see if the employer is on the platform and if so, ‘kerching’ following a solicitor’s letter

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25th May 2018 12:17

Unfortunately if you don't pay the going rate and look after your team properly, then they are likely to be tempted away.
Equally unfortunately, both recruiters and agencies have their foibles and exclude people for non-relevant reasons (not that they'll ever admit it). This then reduces the field to those in a certain age range who have just completed their exams, who only know xxx software, and think they know everything. We can all anticipate the consequences.
We are all at fault for not considering recruitment of the right staff as the most important thing for success, and negotiating the right contract with the recruitment agency at the outset so we all meet our objectives.

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By ShayaG
25th May 2018 12:20

The consensus seems to be that to retain staff you have to treat them well.

That doesn't just mean dress down Fridays and a new coffee machine. It means paying staff well.

There is a market rate for NQs and they would be daft to accept any less.

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