Recruitment Consultants – The OHS Persons Friend or Foe?

Recruitment Consultants – The OHS Persons Friend or Foe?

Guest Post by the late George Robotham – see his other work here

Please note that in writing this I mean no disrespect to the many recruitment consultants who I am sure try very hard.

I am reasonably happy with my lot in life but still apply for OHS roles that appear interesting. I have varied and senior OHS experience in field, corporate, consultant and project roles in a variety of industries.

One of the things I notice is that experience in their industry is a security blanket for many employers. I would argue this may also bring a closed mind to avenues for improving safety that are used in other industries and an acceptance of the status quo. Sometimes in the effort of disguising the employer their industry is not mentioned in job advertisements. This makes it difficult for applicants to target particular industries.

Many recruitment consultants I have dealt with were quite young, had a poor understanding of OHS and a poor understanding of the world of work. They also get sucked in by what the employers tell them about how great a particular job is. A recruitment consultant sent me off to an interview with an employer and the feedback was that I appeared to show little enthusiasm for the role. This was true because the hype the recruitment consultant gave me about the job was not confirmed by my questions of the employer.

There is no doubt that between the employer and the recruitment consultant some roles are dressed up to appear to be much better than they really are. Recruitment consultants sometimes leave vital things the employer is looking for off the job advertisement.

I was interviewed by one recruitment consultant and had reservations, which I expressed, about whether I was the right fit for the job. The recruitment consultant was quite keen and organised for me to fly to Sydney for an interview with the employer. My reservations were reinforced by the employer. This said to me that the recruitment consultant did not read the brief from the employer closely enough.

A small number of recruitment consultants only ask you for your resume when you apply. I believe having the opportunity to respond to selection criteria as well, helps to target the process.

Recruitment consultants want to meet you prior to putting your name forward to the employer, I am sure there are good reasons for this. From the applicants perspective you can waste a lot of time on interviews with recruitment consultants. Most recruitment consultants are in the C.B.D. and it can be a time consuming and expensive process to get to them. Nowadays I ask for a detailed telephone interview first so I can assess whether it is worth meeting them. If I got with the times and installed Skype my life would be easier.

I have an impression some recruitments go on a fishing expedition and want to interview applicants some of whom they should have realised do not fit the employers specification.

A very small number of recruitment consultants specify that applicants must be a professional member of S.I.A. In some cases they do not recognise that other OHS professional bodies exist. My understanding is that S.I.A. has about 4,000 members of the approx. 25,000 practising OHS in Australia. There are a number of highly competent OHS people who are not members of an OHS professional body for a number of good reasons and tying to tie future employment to membership appears discriminatory. I do not accept the proffered argument that advanced standing in an OHS professional body is an indicator of competence.

I have put a lot of work into my resume and response to selection criteria and it is frustrating to have to respond to questions that indicate that not even a cursory look has been taken at what I sent in.

I have heard a number of OHS personnel express dissatisfaction in dealing with recruitment consultants. One bloke I know said recruitment consultants are basically just sales people. I never looked at it that way but now I think about it I think the argument has some validity.

Some recruitment consultants go to great lengths to have you believe they are acting in your best interests to get you the perfect job, initially such pronouncements gave me a warm feeling. Nowadays I take the view that the employer is paying the bill and that is where the recruitment consultants interest lie.

Some recruitment consultants convince employers of the need for psychological assessment and perform and charge the employer for them. We need to realise not all psychological test instruments are valid and reliable. From an applicant’s point of view it is annoying to be told you have to sit an assessment when you have not been forewarned and allocated the necessary time.

I suspect the reality is that some employers do not want highly skilled OHS personnel who will question the status quo. Sometimes independent thinkers are not welcomed.

I have heard some employers say getting the right employees is too important to leave to a third party.

The cynic in me says obtaining a position is really a bit of a game and the best person does not necessarily get the job.

A senior H.R. Manager in a major organisation commented to me that we have very sophisticated recruitment and selection procedures, I just cannot figure out how we end up with so many dickheads working for us.

George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below