Fast Track Recruitment

Something’s not adding up

Posted by Mitch on 25th February 2016


Recruitment agencies are often maligned as companies with unrealistic business drivers, questionable ethics and high staff turnover.

Then there’s the bad stuff like worshipping Jordan Belfort and torturing adorable kittens. OK, that last part may be made-up.

My point is, recruitment agencies, with a small number of exceptions, are not generally seen as bastions of enlightened people policies and work/life balance.

So how is it that nearly a third of all the companies in the Sunday Times Top 100 List are recruitment agencies?

I thought Google were supposed to be the best place to work and they didn’t make the list at all in 2015. Nor did Facebook.

But Phaidon International came in 2nd.

That’s right, Phaidon International, along with their various sub-brands like Selby Jennings and DSJ Global are, apparently, the 2nd best employer in the UK.

This despite their biggest and longest-serving brand; Selby Jennings, having a staff turnover high enough to induce vertigo along with a less than complimentary reputation amongst its candidate audience, if the forum discussions I saw are anything to go by.

If Phaidon International were being cited as the 2nd best recruitment agency to work for I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But the 2nd best company across all sectors?

Is money changing hands?

Are recruitment business owners more aggressive lobbyists than other business owners?

What’s going on?


By Matt Gilks on Friday, 26 February 2016

I looked into this briefly the other day and found the following -

There are too many flaws to mention but as an example: The top 25 big companies to work for are decided between a grand total of 31 self-nominated businesses. A selection of their own staff complete a survey and 30% of these results can be considered.

By Mitch on Friday, 26 February 2016

Thanks Matt.

So it’s mostly companies that aren’t actually great places to work, but want people to think they are.


By Francesca on Wednesday, 02 March 2016

I used to work for a company who are fairly high on the list. All employees were asked to fill out the survey which determines the position but HR and our managers encouraged us to give a good opinion of the company to ensure they stay in the Top 50.

By jez on Tuesday, 08 March 2016

Check this out Mitch:

Scroll down to the third update. Turns out the stars are aligning with your blogs!

By MStan on Tuesday, 08 March 2016

I worked for a recruiter that actually told us give only 4 or 5 in the survey - If we did we finished early on a Friday?

By badger on Tuesday, 08 March 2016

Hi all. Some interesting comments here and cannot help thinking - “why not enter?”

the companies you cite with what can best be described as a “raised eyebrow” have consistently advanced up the ratings of a vetting process they entered.

All firms have a choice to enter or not. Frankly to suggest money changes hands is a poor comment.

when the ST publishes you can see what the judgement criteria is. Personally I was delighted to see Ella’s Kitchen get up there for the first time- my baby loves their goo!

The point I am making is - like the lottery - you have to be in it to win it, and do not assume only 100 companies apply.

Peace and love

By Mitch on Tuesday, 08 March 2016

Thanks for your perspective Andrew McNeilis (aka ‘Badger’).

The bribery comment was tongue in cheek. I’m sure you didn’t have to pay The Times.  However, I’ve heard from other sources that agency employees are press-ganged into filling out the application forms and providing glowing testimonies. Some even say they were “incentivised”.

Do you not think it’s somewhat incongruous that recruitment agencies make-up 30% of the total?

What would you put that down to?

By Emma on Thursday, 10 March 2016

This made me laugh as when I worked in recruitment (and hated it) one of our rewards for hitting target was going to watch Jordan Belfort give a talk! What a pile of rubbish that was!

By Mitch on Thursday, 10 March 2016

Thanks for contributing, Emma.

BTW… you may like this:

By Fred on Thursday, 10 March 2016

I worked in a rec company that was in the best small companies to work for and it was a horrible place to work. They just had a culture and environment which did not allow you to voice any criticism at all and any form of negativity was a big no no. Therefore when we were asked to do a survey in office hours everyone gave it the best possible reviews. I think the fear was that it was not anonymous and they would find out and fire anyone who put anything bad.

They should really go on staff turnover that would quickly relegate any recruitment companies off these lists.

By James on Monday, 14 March 2016

I have experienced completing one of these while working for a recruiter and it does ring true.

While we were not ‘bribed’, we were encouraged of the benefits it would bring to us & the business. With the business being heavily sales focussed (90%+ of the business was made up of sales people) it was clear that doing well in the list would serve as a major benefit to us in our jobs.

It is a shame that some really excellent employers may feel the pain created by those employers that lack honesty and integrity.

By Kavi Kumar on Monday, 21 March 2016

Hi Mitch,

I have followed your blog for some time now, and do believe in almost all of what you say.

Recruitment should be about working qualified, retained mandates.

Don’t even get me started on Talent Evangelists.

But I was a bit gutted when I read this article. I have worked for SJ/Phaidon for almost 5 years now.

Unfortunately, a few Belfort-worshippers are occasionally hired, who seem to bring down the perception of the overall business. Bad feedback always travels further than good.

This has not stopped me from loving our culture. Yes, we have a high (graduate) turnover rate, and long working hours, but the atmosphere at work is positive, we have a great management team, and a lot of driven, honest people working for us. We are able to express ideas to people at all levels, and have a good support network internally.

On the candidate experience side, I believe that past consultants may have felt as though they did not have enough time to respond to unsuitable candidates, hence the poor reputation.

From the perspective of an experienced recruiter, no feedback, or no “thanks for your interest” email seems absurd.

I believe that this is down to a mixture of working mandates, which then receive little feedback from the hiring manager, or late changes in the job criteria.

This is purely down to experience, and is something that I believe has changed over the last few years.

In summary:
Great blog
Phaidon is also great
Some ex-employees are not great

By Mitch on Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Hi Kavi

Firstly, thanks for your balanced response to this.

When I first looked at the recruitment agencies on the Times 100 list, it seemed that all of them had at least one person I’m connected to, so it was inevitable I was probably going to piss someone off.

I chose Phaidon to make my point because they were placed the highest and because they’re big.

And my point was that the entire exercise has now become so gamed that it runs the risk of making everyone on the list look a bit dumb.  No recruitment agency, regardless of how people-centred it might be is ever going to be the 2nd best place to work in the country.

I just wish recruitment agencies invested the same amount of energy in producing some real marketing, rather than wasting their time with this bullshit. 

And make no mistake, it is bullshit.

Like I said, if Phaidon were being hailed as one of the best recruitment agencies to work for, I’d have accepted that.

What benefits do you think your employer gets from being on this list?  Is it really worth the effort of press-ganging employees to fill out the forms?

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