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How HR robs us of good leaders

By Malcolm King - posted Friday, 19 August 2011

This story is a glimpse behind the scenes of recruitment firms.

While we all have had job knock backs, the sting is soothed knowing we gave it our best shot. Yet what if meritocracy is no longer the guiding star for recruitment agencies? What if the level playing field is an incline plane tilted towards subjectivity, politics and nepotism?

In the last couple of years I have conducted some 'on the job' research through my professional writing agency on mid level candidate's experience of applying for jobs. I have focused on the resume stage of recruitment, which is where most job applicants are short listed or rejected.


One would think that those with the best CV's and selection criteria answers (if applicable) would have a fair chance of getting short-listed. This was not always so. Here is why.

Direct applications to the employer

I advise clients where possible to apply direct to the employer. Employee recruiters are very helpful. They want the best candidates for the organization. One might think that the motivations of an agency recruiter and an employee recruiter are the same.

They are not. Agency recruiters do it for money and to meet targets. Good employee recruiters have a personal investment in selecting the right person. There's a big difference, as you will see.

Applications to an agency

So you've sent your CV and a cover letter to a recruitment agency. Hang on to your hat, as this is what five out 20 of my most recent clients found. No one acknowledged their application or got back to them. That doesn't instill much faith does it?


There has been a trend in recruitment agencies to cut communication down to a minimum to save time and money. Some agencies preface applications with comments such as 'if you don't hear back from us in three weeks, you were unsuccessful in the position.' Recruitment agencies could probably get ruder and less helpful but I don't see how.

Never, on any account, have anything to do with them again.

Golden rule #1: applicants have a better chance of getting a job interview if they don't go through a recruitment agency. Why? Recruitment agencies are a 'go between'. Not only do they stand between you and the job, they cull applications.

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About the Author

Malcolm King is a journalist and professional writer. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University in Adelaide. He runs a writing business called Republic.

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