Kathryn Kendall

Up Close and Personnel

Recruiters, Please Read This


In the two years and four months I’ve worked at Benefex, I’ve received almost 3,000 emails from recruiters. That’s not counting the emails I’ve deleted, face to face approaches, and multiple phone calls every hour. Broken down, that works out as around 5 emails coming into my inbox from recruiters every single working day. And, on average, I would say that 80% of those are unsolicited and are therefore unwanted.

Don’t get me wrong. The recruitment industry has a vital role to play when it comes to helping organisations around the UK meet their resourcing needs and highlight sources of key talent. Some of my very best hires have been made working collaboratively with recruitment partners. And I appreciate that every recruiter who looks to make contact with me ultimately has a job to do and a set of targets to meet.

But… so do I. I also have a job to do, and therefore you can forgive me for feeling more than a little frustrated when the persistent approaches from recruiters take up my time to the extent that it starts to impact on the things I really need to do to help move my organisation forwards.

Forming a partnership

I have, over my career had a small – very small – handful of recruitment partners where we’ve been able to form a truly productive partnership, to the benefit of both parties. The reason these partnerships have worked is that the recruiters in question have worked hard to truly understand what I, and my business, have needed from them.

And so, if you’re reading this and you happen to be a recruiter… perhaps I could gently suggest the things you can do (and not do!) to really make me want to work with you as a trusted strategic partner, as opposed to immediately consign your emails to the folder marked J for Junk.

Don’t spam me

Without a shadow of a doubt, my most hated recruiter practise is what can feel like a never-ending bombardment of unsolicited emails and phone calls, speculatively sending across hypothetical candidates for hypothetical jobs. I appreciate the theory of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, but equally, I need recruiters to trust me that, once they’ve introduced themselves, I will call on them as and when I need them. Sending a spate of emails describing candidates I don’t need for jobs I don’t have is not going to help to build that relationship.

Don’t circumnavigate me

At Benefex, we handle all recruitment centrally through our People team. This allows us to control the flow of candidates and apply consistent screening processes across the business. We make this absolutely transparent to all recruiters who contact us.

I therefore find it incredibly frustrating when a recruiter, having not heard back from myself or my colleagues, decides to adopt a “scattergun” approach and send out copies of the same email to every senior individual they can find contact details for within the business. If I’ve asked you to send all enquiries via the central HR team, please do just that, and don’t start bombarding everyone else because you don’t get the response that you want.

Understand my business

If we are going to be able to successfully work together, I need you to take the time to understand my business. And that doesn’t just mean the job role we’re recruiting into. Understand what’s important to us, what makes us “us”, what our strengths and weaknesses are, what our culture is, what our business objectives are. Learn about our people, our clients, our competitors, our positioning within the market. A recruiter who is truly adding value will know my business almost as well as I know it. And I appreciate that that’s no easy task, but it’s been those recruiters who have taken the time to really get to grips with who we are and what we need who have been successful in forming long lasting partnerships with us.

Demonstrate empathy

I know that I, and other HR professionals, will undoubtedly also have caused recruiters frustration at regular intervals. I may not always get back to you as quickly as you would like. I might not always be contactable when you call. And I understand that you are trying to meet targets, and trying to do your job and do the best by your candidates. But while recruitment is the primary focus of your job role, it makes up no more than a tiny fraction of mine. And, very often, filling one of my open vacancies is not going to be as critical as resolving a pressing ER issue. If you’re able to show a little empathy with some of the challenges I might be facing… that goes a long, long way.

Do your job

I would feel I was stating the obvious here, if it wasn’t for some of the experiences I have had over the year. If you are only going to search LinkedIn for candidates and send me their CVs… I can do that myself. A great recruiter, having understood our culture, will conduct preliminary candidate screening and will fully brief them on the role, the business, and what we are looking for. I have had candidates arrive for interview knowing nothing about the organisation they are interviewing for. I have had candidates believe they are being seen for a totally different role to the one we are recruiting for. I have had candidates who are so far removed from being able to demonstrate the cultural behaviours we are looking for that one wonders if the recruiter has ever spoken to them at all.

Recruitment costs are high, and rising. The war for talent is raging fiercer than ever. Recruiters can play a vital part in helping us to win that war, but in a competitive market, with multiple providers queuing up to want to work with us – it is going to be the ability to demonstrate true added value which will elevate a small minority into genuinely trusted strategic partners.


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  1. martine

    Brilliant well written article and the most poignant part is absolutely get to know your business and what makes it what it is !!! Brilliant to see that you have praise for your current agency partnership agreements but the flip of the coin is some organisations don’t really appreciate the benefits of partnership working and are cautious to let recruiters in to truly know their business hats off to you taking time to write what is honest to the point and extremely right…..

    • Kathryn Kendall

      Thanks Martine for your comment – agree completely that the organisation needs to be willing to share information if the partnership is going to work!

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