Written by Shirin Fahri
I hear horror stories from candidates and clients about recruiters far too frequently and after getting on my soap box about ethics in the recruitment industry one lunch, I was talked into standing in front of a group of security professionals to offer my advice on how to find a good recruiter.
So here’s some excerpts from my brief talk, hopefully you’ll find them useful:
Dispelling The Myths
Don’t get me wrong, there are swindlers in every industry but if you find the right company or the right person you’ll see that the recruitment industry is slowly evolving. High Street recruiters are out, as are horrendous KPIs and hard-core sales. The candidate is king and knowledge is more valuable than the ability to persuade.
The myth that we are all driven by profit also needs to be addressed. Yes, we do have targets to hit and yes it is true, agencies get a fee for your successful hire and in turn the recruiter gets a commission based on that fee. However, something many applicants won’t know is that there is more often than not, a rebate period, meaning that if we’ve tried to coax you into a role we know you won’t be happy in and you leave in this time, we’re contracted to pay that fee back. So being dishonest or not paying attention to your needs isn’t beneficial in the long run. It’s reputation damaging and certainly not profitable.
How Do You Find a Good Recruiter?
Approach it in the same way you would if you were hiring someone. This is your career, if you are going to entrust its progress to someone, do your research.
Firstly, find someone who looks to genuinely specialise in the area you are seeking a role within and take a look at their career history. Where have they worked? I do not think that big brand names and large corporate agencies are necessarily a good indicator of ethics. Recruitment is very much about the individual and some of the best ones I know work out of their own small offices but whether they are a Ltd company or part of a wider group check them out.
There are governing bodies that you can look out for such as Ceris (approved by CREST) who list agencies and their specialist niches. There’s also ApsCo. and the REC who will verify that these people operate ethically and are compliant.
Secondly, check their recommendations, or better yet, can anyone you know recommend them? What is there LinkedIn activity like? Do they look like they are genuinely involved in the industry? There are a very small percentage of recruitment companies operating in the cyber security industry that are genuinely contributing to the space outside of the recruitment remit.
The truth is that if we are doing nothing to contribute by either raising security awareness or supporting to bridge the skills gap we complain about so frequently, then we are constantly moving the same top tier of skilled professionals around in order to make placements. That is in no way conducive to the values and promises that we are making either to clients or candidates.
If the recruiter you’ve found is actively immersing themselves in your world, chances are, they are actually passionate about it too.
Thirdly, meet them, even if it’s just for a coffee. There is no greater indicator of a person’s integrity than seeing the whites of their eyes. Ask them what they will do for you, how they work and then decide if you want to let them get to know you and ask yourself if this is someone that would represent you well. If not, tell them and move on. If so, give them as much information as they’ll need to truly understand you needs, wants and career aspirations and work with them to find the best possible move for you.
What Are The Benefits?
I’ve spoken before about our failure as recruiters to explain what the benefits a to you are of choosing to work with us. I’ll list a few here but it’s worth asking about this to ascertain how they work:
Good recruiters know their clients inside out: they’ll be able to give you plenty of extra information that is not in job descriptions or readily available to other applicants. I briefed a candidate this week that I was able to give loads of insight about the culture of the team, what the interviewer is like, what they can expect on the day etc. This gives you a great advantage over others.
We’ll often hear about roles before they are advertised, our clients know the difficulty in finding cyber security professionals so sometimes ask us to start having a chat with people in our network. If you’ve briefed your recruiter well on what a great opportunity looks like to you, you’ll be the first person to hear about it when this happens.
HR personnel admit to sifting through so many applications that they spend seconds skimming each one, and sometimes they aren’t au fait with the role you’ve applied for because Cyber Security is only a division of the wider business. In those instances, having a recruiter who can have your application shortlisted or sent straight to the hiring manager can prevent you being overlooked.
Whoever you chose to work with , make sure you set the parameters of working with them. If you’re looking for the best opportunity, make sure they know you don’t want your name banded about as someone who is actively looking, your search should protect your anonymity in the initial instance. If they are worth their weight, they’ll explain to you how they work so you can make sure it aligns with your expectations.
Above all make sure you find someone who will offer you great market knowledge, understands what you do and is frank and open with you. Because even if you have been given some negative feedback after an interview – you need to be aware of it so that you can ace the next one with a company that is a good fit for you and that values you. Any good recruiter will understand the importance of that!