This is an excellent blog post written for me by a recruiter who I have known for nearly 20 years but who’d like to remain anonymous. With the vicious backlash previous commentators on the Vicki Brassington situation have received I don’t blame her!
The recruitment industry is in the direst of dire peril. Not a peril presented by a need to change business models, address economic variances, be supported by banks, chase cash flow, but by a self-imposed, self-perpetuating peril, the peril of being just, well, bad at what we do AND PROUD OF IT. But even then, people have always been bad at recruitment, in it for all the wrong reasons, treating people like commodities, but these days it is acceptable to promote quite how bad you are, to highlight it to anyone that will listen, to revel in the awfulness of your approach. It may even be verging into the territory of common business practice and this terrifies me more than anything else.
I know the best of recruitment; I know the worst of it. Or I thought I did. And then my attention was drawn to Wen Recruitment and their employee Vicki Brassington. I, like many of you, had caught the ‘viral’ storm in a teacup that she had created, and it intrigued me that she would go through such a set of events and emerge not only unscathed but jubilant, claiming an increase in business along with ‘celebrity’ status, as she did in her recent piece for UKRecruiter. Now I must be honest, I do not formally ‘follow’ her on Twitter (in truth, I am too scared) but I will admit to watching her feed closely. Some would say I am a little obsessed. I would say I am a little obsessed. I have pointed the young consultants I coach to her feed, to show them what it can be like ‘out there’ and to urge caution before leaving for pastures new. I have also been introduced to others in our field (it hurts to say ‘our’), through their interactions with @vickiwen. Notably, we have two charming fellows who roll under the names @internalbanter and @reccon_fuckyeah. Have a look at their feeds – they have minimal followers so their impact is diddly, but I want to use them as examples of the utter horror that is lurking within our recruitment firms. As I type, I have seen that my friend @internalbanter has contributed the view ‘to be a successful male recruiter you need blind ambition. To be a successful female one you need to be stunning or a slut’ along with ‘my resourcer asked to leave early yesterday cause he was having trouble at home. I sacked him on the spot’. I can cope with his misogyny, because he is just wrong, but what I DO take issue with is the fact that he is clearly deployed in some kind of management position and he tweets as a recruiter, not as an individual. That someone who spouts the bile that @internalbanter propagates is hiding away, possibly at the next desk to you, makes me feel a bit sick. As for @reccon_fuckyeah I simply want to beg the industry not to hire children like that…it is not fair on them or anyone else. That said, I would not have learnt that Vicki Brassington was paying for sex had it not been for his desire to ‘bash her back door in’ (I think I know what he really means there). To my surprise, she seemed keen.
Is this really who we want to be? Our industry has a shocking reputation, improved only by the downfall of the bankers making us look, maybe, not quite so bad. I can only assume that the management team at Wen Recruitment are happy to have their brand associated with a recruiter who seems steadfast in highlighting a questionable approach to her craft and displays occasional signs of psychological meltdown. The issue is twofold – firstly, the nature of the business has to be at question if they continue to support and employ someone who openly and repeatedly abuses her position as a rec to rec to release confidential, privy information. I certainly would not allow them to represent any of the businesses I work with, nor would I allow them to represent me. But that is their commercial risk and not of my concern. But what I DO worry about is the lack of corporate social responsibility – there have been occasions when watching Vicki’s twitter feed that I have been genuinely concerned about her. Yes, she is inflammatory, yes she is oh so wrong, but were she an employee of mine I would be working with her to help her, rather than allowing her to run amok ruining her own reputation and that of the business simultaneously. Her future is bleak.
So the conclusion I can draw is a) that they know all of this and do not care or b) they know it all, care but are ill equipped to deal with it or c) they have not quite managed to work it out yet. Are they shysters just chasing a buck or are they simply inept? In my darkest moments, I have a scenario where @vickiwen actually works for @internalbanter, and maybe their union produced @reccon_fuckyeah…..
For what it is worth, my recruiting world is one where 80% of business of repeat, and the additional 20% is word of mouth. We place people time and time again, as we understand what they need and want and they trust us to treat them with both respect as individuals and total confidentiality. We are respected by the biggest blue chip corporates to deliver compelling talent management strategies. It is an industry that has enabled me to live a life where my family and career can happily coexist. I love it and I always have. Of all the careers out there for women, this has to be one of the best, and we happen to be pretty good at it too. I have always known that I swim with sharks (and some piranhas), but now I know there was a joy in not knowing the reality of their dark minds. How can an industry that is so reliant on people, and which has such a huge impact on their life choices, have sunk to this new low?
Can we do anything about it? OF COURSE WE CAN. Do not allow them to represent you. It will not stop you finding the role you want. Ask to see your employees’ twitter feeds. Sack them for breaking the law/bragging about how much coke they have taken/prostitutes they have slept with. Imagine a team you trust and are proud of and work to that. There are so many classy recruiters that there is no need to plumb these depths.
And if it is you, if you are @internalbanter – please stop it. That is NOT recruitment.