- "Where will I sit?"
- "How many people will I have around me?"
- "What's the level of noise like in the office?"
- "This role involves a lot of interaction with marketing – where's the marketing team in relation to me?"
- "What's the canteen like?"
- "The job says free parking, but how far is the car park from the office?"
These, and others like them, are questions that many people will have about a new role. Job hunting is a serious, personal matter. We've all been job seekers, and we've all had a lot of questions about a prospective employer. They are all important questions – there are no silly ones!
As someone who has been in the business of helping job seekers for quite a long time, I hope that I am able to take a balanced view of the advantages that communications technology has brought to the recruitment industry, whilst also being aware of some of the better practices that I learned in my formative years on the job, but which may be at risk in the digital age.
And one thing I will stand by for the rest of my career is the value and importance I place on being able to visit my clients in situ to learn more about their roles, culture, physical working environment, location and whatever else I can pick up. I believe that in the long run clients, candidates and recruiters all stand to benefit from knowledge like this that is best gained first-hand.
The decision a candidate makes about whether to take a job may be pivotal, even life-changing. As a recruiter, I like to be able to provide candidates with as much knowledge about a company as I possibly can up front and early in the hiring and assessment process. It can be of significant value to the hiring company if I am able to act as an extension of their HR and marketing departments by gaining a proper, deeper understanding of the business than phone calls or emails provide.
Recruiters should have a commitment to a client that is based on a strong relationship, not on throwing CVs over the fence. That commitment is rewarded with a good understanding of a business and the type of individuals it wants to hire. The reward then naturally extends to candidates who, hopefully, are only sent forward for the right roles.
When recruiters interview a candidate, there are a lot of things we need to understand, from their relevant hard skills and experience to soft skills, likes, dislikes and personality. Some of these can be articulated reasonably well on a CV. Others can be picked up over the phone. Some emerge only in a face to face meeting. And that works both ways: many things I pick up when I go and meet hirers – such as how people sit together in an office, the view from the window, the noise level in the office (if it is an office), what the canteen is like, what the traffic is really like at peak travel times and so on - adds value.
The Holy Grail for a good recruiter is to spend some time with a hiring line manager and team, see where their successful candidate will be sitting and visit the canteen - as well as to get a detailed brief of the job, benefits, company culture and so on. To meet the team and the manager in their own environment provides a recruiter with a priceless opportunity to accurately promote the role and ensure the best possible match.
This is all part of the attention to detail that I think a good recruiter should be able to provide. Just as they should know more about a candidate than merely the contents of their CV, they should make it their job to have an insight into the hiring organisation that extends beyond a job and person specification. And it's up to them to ensure they get this. In my experience, clients who take the time to provide this insight are quick to acknowledge the advantages.
Site visits help recruiters to sell a client. I once visited a training company whose state of the art facilities and huge investment into their staff was something I was able to represent to candidates much more effectively after I witnessed it first-hand. I was hugely impressed, and able to articulate to candidates just how much the company put into their new hires, and, in turn, what it means to work for that firm. Clients stand to gain when the agencies working with them really understand their competitive advantage as employers.
My colleagues who specialise in temporary recruitment have a specific professional and legal obligation to visit clients anyway (health and safety, service reviews etc.) and it is not only right and proper but necessary that they do so. If a client needs a temp tomorrow but doesn't have time to meet them, we can act as an extension to their business, able to quickly embed temporary workers when required because we have an ongoing and deep understanding of a client's working environment. But that same insight is just as valuable for all roles.
I appreciate that technology has changed our lives. But we're in danger of making the hiring process too hit and miss if we try to diminish the part that face to face interaction has to play in all of this – at all stages of an assignment. Recruitment is, after all, a people industry, about people, for people, and by people.
I'd be really interested to hear from hirers or candidates on this. If you're a hirer, do you feel you get more from a recruiter if they've visited you to see your site? Have any individuals got any experience of a culture or environment not being what they thought it would be - without mentioning names?! Do recruiters agree or disagree with me?
If you’d like to share your views, connect with me, Stephen Wincott, the author of this blog, here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/swincott/