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Recruitment Agencies: Which Traits Matter Most?

We asked you what traits are most important in your recruitment agency. Here’s what you told us.

Not long ago, we ran a LinkedIn poll where we asked our followers a simple question: what trait matters most in your recruiter? It was an anonymous poll, so we can’t be certain of the split between respondents who are looking to recruit and those looking to be recruited, but the result was so resounding that it really doesn’t matter…

61% of people believe recruitment agency honesty matters most

Almost two-thirds of respondents told us honesty mattered most. The second most popular response was ‘exceptional communication’ with 31% of the vote. The third most popular response (‘confidence’ with 4%) was such a distant third that it highlights just how important the issues of honesty and communication are. And it begs the question, why were those the top two options?

The honesty problem

You don’t have to dig very deep online to find some fairly grim accounts of client and candidate experiences at the hands of recruiters. None of the examples we share above is specifically retail-related, but let’s not kid ourselves—look hard enough and you’ll find examples from every sector.

In many ways, the issues of honesty and communication, the two most prominent responses in our survey, are interlinked. It’s easier to assume your recruitment agency is being dishonest when you never hear from them.

So why aren’t recruiters better at communicating?

The disappointment problem

Not so very long ago we ran a recruitment exercise for a global fitness brand. We were deluged by applications, with hundreds of responses per available post. To be clear, we communicated with every single candidate who made it past the initial sift, and we communicated with all candidates who asked to be kept informed.

But here’s a simple truth: we were recruiting for dozens of roles and we received many hundreds of applications. Of everyone who ultimately got the jobs, more than 90% didn’t because that’s the harsh reality of recruitment: we’re part of an industry that spends every day disappointing more people than it pleases. Which is a rather depressing way to think about what we do but it is true.

The problem with disappointment is that, in some cases, it can very quickly turn into something else. It’s easy for a feeling of discontent to creep in—a belief that your recruitment agency has been underhand in the way they’ve dealt with you, a feeling that gets amplified when you don’t hear from them.

Even the most transparent and proactive recruiters (like us) face a bit of an uphill PR task in such an environment. That challenge is made greater by the fact that some recruiters really don’t do the industry any favours.

Recruitment needs to do better

Sometimes it’s the pestering a client receives from agencies. Sometimes it’s the fact that too many recruiters adopt the ‘throw enough candidates at them and see what sticks’ approach. Perhaps it’s the fact that having spent so much time explaining to a recruiter exactly who you’re looking for and precisely what traits/skills/experience you’re looking for, you still get sent people who are plainly unsuitable. Perhaps it’s the fees.

For candidates, it can be the fact the recruiter promised to call back but never did. It’s the black hole your application enters, never to be heard of again. It’s the contingency recruitment approach, where recruiters waste your time getting you to sign up for jobs that don’t exist just in case a vacancy turns up.

It all happens. Frustratingly, it happens rather a lot with some recruiters.

Small wonder the industry has trust issues.

People trust people

Ours is a big, unwieldy industry and, like every big industry with far too much on its plate to reasonably manage, it often asks AI to carry the load. Unfortunately, that’s not helping the honesty issue because, as this old but still relevant post identifies, if there’s one thing people trust less than recruitment agencies, it’s algorithms.

We won’t pretend we don’t use technology. But technology doesn’t make decisions for us. It doesn’t sift candidates. Even the auto-responder you get when you send us a CV– although triggered by tech – will have been written by us.

We’ve always believed that people—within our client companies, our candidates and, yes, our recruitment agents—are what makes a good recruitment experience tick. So we use technology to enable people, not replace them.

It’s not the only way we do things differently.

What Zachary Daniels has always done differently

More than a decade ago, we launched Zachary Daniels because we’d worked in recruitment and weren’t comfortable with much of what was standard industry practice.

We’ve spent the intervening period building a retail recruitment agency that always keeps its promises, that keeps clients and candidates informed, doesn’t trust everything to an algorithm (hell, we even write ads from scratch), and doesn’t apply the recruitment ‘dark arts’ that have done so much to give the industry a questionable reputation.

We know we’ve achieved our aim because a) we’re still here and still growing, b) because our candidates and clients tell us they love what we do, and c) because so many recruiters have joined us over the past few years who spend their first few weeks with us marvelling at the way we work and saying something like: “This is so much better than the way we did it at my last place.”

We feel we’re doing our bit to up the perceptions of honesty and communication in the recruitment sector. So if you are one of the people who responded to our survey saying you feel trust or communication matters most to you, let’s have an honest conversation.

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