COVID-19 the issues, part 1 - Greenwell Gleeson

COVID-19 The issues & advice to professionals around communication with agencies

The Issues Around Engagement Between Recruiters & Professionals Seeking New Opportunities …and Advice for Professionals in their Job Search

After a prolonged period of 4-6 weeks of inactivity in terms of any new instructions from clients, we have, in the last couple of weeks seen the recruitment tap turned on, and it has at least, in terms of finance and accountancy, become a trickle.

At the time of writing this, Greenwell Gleeson is highly confident the market will eventually become very dynamic, as multiple factors come in to play, but the timing of that is for now far, far from certain… we plan to expand and provide more insight on the likely dynamics to the recruitment market in a future article as we cement our views.

As Greenwell Gleeson started to handle various opportunities, it became quickly apparent, the challenges both we as recruiters and professinals who apply for the opportunity (or seek to engage with us on an on-going basis) will face. Similar to my very first article I penned for Linked-in a couple of week’s back, this article is typed in a conversational format …. That is to say the way I would discuss the issues over the phone with a stakeholder to our business.  So apologies in advance for any grammatical errors, and to a degree, its length. So here goes with our thoughts….

The limitations to what recruiters can do and the operational issues for them that stem from reduced internal staffing levels.

Many recruitment firms, including Greenwell Gleeson has, out of necessity, had to utilise the Government Furlough Scheme for members of our team. This is, as the government policy intended, been actioned by us with the sole objective to try and save jobs that may otherwise have been lost.  The direct impact for us is that we are significantly down on internal resource; just over 50% of our team are presently furloughed. I surmise this will be similar for most recruiters unless the sector they operate in has seen an increase in demand because of Covid-19. With reduced staffing levels, there is only so much activity a recruitment firm can undertake in any given time period. So, what are some of the difficulties / issues for recruitment agencies and what advice can we offer to professionals.

Firstly, professionals seeking engagement with agencies need to acknowledge that recruitment is at its heart primarily sales focused…winning new instructions, with the added twists of then sourcing and then the management of those new instructions. Whilst we all hope the economic shock in the UK and worldwide is short lived and some form of V-Shape recovery happens, the likely outcome of this wretched virus is sadly a deep recession. All recruitment businesses will be challenging their teams to allocate a significant proportion of their time to engage with their customer base. Without new instructions recruitment firms won’t survive.

Our comment to professionals is to try to be patient and understanding with agencies. Good agencies will return to their pre-Covid levels of interaction when feasible and will in the intervening time make operational decisions on the balance needed between sales activities and interaction with professionals. This will be fluid and as the number of instructions increase then they will divert more time to interaction with professionals.

The reduced teams that remain un-furloughed are severely stretched in managing and engaging with the retained active (contingent) database that, prior to the outbreak, would have normally been serviced by a significantly larger numbers of staff.

Good firms will be trying to call and engage with professionals but there are only so many calls that can be made in a day. In the short-term, it could well be the case you will only receive a call from the recruiter when you are deemed appropriate for a role. Recruiters are likely to utilise email more consistently in the short/medium term as a way of engaging with their active database and to seek an update on their status/availability. This is of course far from ideal; as it does not offer a personal touch and can make the recipient feel like they are just another number on a system. But the reality facing recruiters means this is a key way of engaging and it will help us recruiters if you could take the short time to respond to any correspondence. Can we take this opportunity to reach out to any of our retained active database reading this and ask them to trust us and bear with us, as we seek to engage with you all in the weeks ahead.

Our advice to professionals is if you enjoy a good relationship with an agency, don’t wait for them contact you. Either email your contact or call the switchboard number seeking an update call.
Why email? If the consultant is furloughed then the email will almost certainly be forwarded to an active consultant.
Why the switchboard and not mobile? If the consultant is on furlough they may not be able to receive your call / pick up your message.  In your call or message make clear you are known to XYZ consultant in the business in case they are furloughed and whomever is answering calls or listening to message will forward the message to an active consultant.

Early indications suggest the volume of applications to specific roles will be significantly above average.

I personally have had in excess of 100 applications for each of my two roles I have so far advertised, and my colleagues have also seen, not to the same extent, significantly higher numbers of applicants to their roles. This will continue to be the case if we experience a severe recession and the sector the recruiter operates in a job light, candidate rich market. Reviewing new unknown applicants is often a very time consuming activity and with significantly higher volumes it will be hard for recruiters to spend the time the applicant would expect thoroughly reviewing CV’s and covering letters. Frustratingly, for all stakeholders, relevant & appropriate applications could be missed during the review process due to the volume of applicants and time pressures. This is of course far from ideal.

Our advice … if you are active with an agency, yes apply to the role by responding to the advert but if having read the advert you genuinely feel it is a role you are interested in and you are a good match, don’t wait, contact them, and in either your call, email or advert response, make clear you are known to XYZ consultant in the business.
If you are not presently active but have engaged with the business before make clear in your application that fact, who you dealt with and briefly why you are applying.
We will say with certainty that CV presentation will never be as important as in the coming months and quarters. We have already drafted an article offering advice on CV presentation and will in due course share via a post. In short, for now, if you pen a covering letter make it very succinct and highlight why you are a good match and the only page that matters on your CV is the first page.

Recruiter’s own websites & job portal sites.

Good recruiters will only be advertising genuine roles; this may come as a shock to the reader to be informed some recruiters advertise roles just to capture talent. Given the resourcing issues and need to manage our time effectively, I can be clear we will only be advertising genuine live roles and Greenwell Gleeson has now updated our own website,  to show only the roles we presently have live. Sadly there are not many, but we cannot at present pretend otherwise. We are, going forward, committed to updating our site weekly. Job portal sites are of course integral to attracting talented professionals for live roles and key operationally to recruiters, but they can also be problematic. The length of time adverts are ‘run for’ can vary from site to site. Some are 7 days but they can stretch often to a month. We are not sure the impact of Covid-19 and the restrictions set by the Government will have to the length of recruitment campaigns (They could be shortened through the use of new technology (i.e. video conferencing) or hampered and elongated. Time will tell and we will offer further guidance in future correspondence, when we are able to form an opinion) but there is increasing probability the professional could be applying to roles that are no longer live. In addition, and accentuating this problem, is that outside of the control of the recruiter there are websites that pull adverts from other sources and advertise without the recruiter knowing they have been posted. These frequently can be out of date causing significant frustrations to recruiter and professional alike.

Our advice… Review trusted websites regularly, daily, and if you seek to apply, do so as soon as possible and ask the question in your covering letter… Is this role still live? Chase up after 48-72 hours on your application. It is far from ideal, but professionals are likely to have to accept there will be delays in hearing back from a recruiter following an application or not even hear back at all. I can confirm Greenwell Gleeson has set a policy going forward that everyone who applies will at some stage receive some correspondence back. This will be hard to achieve but we are committed to that, but professionals must accept it is unlikely to be instantaneous.

After very little traffic through March April and early May we are starting to see general applications increase.

By general applications, we mean professionals seeking to register with a recruiter for the first time (and not in response to a specific advert we have placed). Not by large amounts yet, but a trend is appearing. There has to be the expectation that this will only increase going forward exponentially as the fallout of the likely economic shock hits in terms of uncertainty and actual redundancies kick in. This is likely to be a real issue for professionals to get meaningful engagement if unknown previously to the agency as consultants are more than likely, depending on jobs flows, to prioritise their allocated time on candidate management to their existing database and applications to specific roles. This is a challenge for professionals with no obvious, or easy, solution.

Our advice … If you are not presently active but have engaged with the business prior, then make that clear in your initial correspondence. In that correspondence highlight who you dealt with and briefly why you are re-registering.

Whether that is the case or not, be clear and succinct in your cover letter why you are registering, what role you are looking for and your salary / rate expectations. Our opinion is maximum 4 lines. Treat the covering letter as your ’30 second’ elevator pitch that maybe stretches to 4-5 lines max. The idea of a covering letter is to grab the attention of the reader, in this case the recruiter. Too long a covering letter and it’s impact is likely to be lost.

Again we will say with certainty that CV presentation will never be as important as in the coming months and quarters.

Due to the sustained period of inactivity and resource restrictions recruiters will likely to have lost a degree of control of their contingent databases.

For recruiters that operate a contingent based approach, database control is business critical. We need the help to be able to match you effectively against new instructions.

Our advice…If you are active with a recruiter, check and ensure they have an up-to-date CV on their records. Again include in your correspondence a short covering note re-affirming your role criteria and the type of role you are looking for.

Utilise Linked-In more if needed.

Greenwell Gleeson will not be alone in using the power and reach of Linked-in to keep stakeholders informed on market conditions and new instructions. By ensuring you are connected with recruiters you are likely to see adverts for roles earlier than those not connected.

Our advice …. Connect with trusted relevant individual recruiters and follow their company pages.

Lack of feedback on applications and recruitment processes.

A common and valid complaint of recruiters by professionals is that they don’t hear back following an application. Even more frustrating and indefensible is the lack of feedback after being informed their CV has been put forward. No recruiter is perfect, it is impossible. Being frank in the current environment, and the reduced internal capacity recruiters have, this complaint will only increase in its frequency.

Our advice… Sadly and frustratingly, accept you may not hear back on applications from some recruiters. Try not to take it personally. Definitely chase up via email and a call after being informed your CV is going to be presented. A short email to the consultant asking specifically for an update is probably best in the first instance. Good recruiters will take the short time it takes to pen a response informing you on the status of the role and where your application sits in that process. 

Further Communication from Greenwell Gleeson going forward

I am conscious this is an already a lengthy article so we as a team will be penning further detailed thoughts and observations in the coming weeks around specifically market dynamics, recruitment processes, how they will look and the likely issues, and the best practical advice/tips on CV presentation. Until then we hope you found this article of relevance and please… stay safe !