Bad Experience with Recruitment Agencies

Dan Marshall, CEO, Absolute Solutions Group

Tuesday 5th May, 2020

Have you ever eaten in a really bad restaurant?

Given that there are more than 26,000 restaurants across the country to choose from, not all of them are going to be good; so chances are, you have.

Forgive me for the rambling story that follows, but bear with me, because it does have a point…

I remember, several years ago, I was in New York for a long weekend with my wife, Jessica. After a three-hour delay at Manchester followed by an eight-hour flight, bedraggled and jetlagged, we arrived at our hotel. We had a light lunch of club sandwiches and fries in a café next to the hotel. It wasn’t the best; the fries had obviously been under the lights for a while and the chicken in the sandwich was drier than Gandhi’s flip-flop, but we were too tired to care.

To make up for it, we booked a table at an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village for our first night out (this was before the likes of Touch bistro and Trip advisor wasn’t then the reliable comparison site it is today, so we took our chances when booking). On arrival, it looked clean and cozy and, from the outside, looked popular with full tables aplenty.

As we approached the front desk, the Maître d’, (Clive, according to his name badge) whose slicked-back hair looked as if it had the kitchen’s entire stock of butter greased through it, smiled a snake-oil smile that didn’t reach his eyes. He stooped to greet us, wringing his hands together, and invited us to a table at the front of the restaurant, gesturing at it with a flourish, a little bow, and a strange little wink.

The table was by the front windows. Clearly, we were to join the other customers as window decoration as it turned out the rest of the restaurant was deserted.
“We have the finest European and domestics beers and wines in Greenwich,” he announced, “and our food is simply wonderful; you will not find a better Panzanella in the whole district.”
It was a statement of fact; not a matter of opinion.

He passed us two menus, winked again (what was it with the winking?!), and bowed away from the table, telling us our waiter would be with us momentarily to take our order.
My wife and I caught each other’s eye across the table. Jessica had one eyebrow raised and a doubtful look on her face.

“It’ll be fine,” I said, hopefully.

Just then, the waiter arrived. He looked thoroughly bored as he stared straight ahead and began his introduction.

“Hi-my-name’s-Cameron-and-I’ll-be-your-waiter-for-tonight-the-soup-of-the-day-is-Zuppa-di-Verze-e-Patate-which-is-cabbage-and-potato-and-the-specials-are-Sea-Bass-and -we’ve-got-the-best-pizza-in-Greenwich-Village.”

I ordered Polpette Alla Napoletana to start and Nonna’s Rustic Pepperoni Pizza, whilst Jessica went for soup and Sea Bass. But when our starters arrived, Jessica’s soup was fine, but my Polpette – usually served with a rich Italian tomato sauce – arrived dry and rolling around on the plate-like three little lost marbles.

“Excuse me,” I asked Cameron, “but isn’t this supposed to come with sauce?”
“Yeah,” he replied, “We ran out of tomatoes.”

And he walked away without another word of explanation.

I crunched through half of my dry meatballs, wondering how any Italian restaurant runs out of tomatoes, but confident that I would at least be satisfied by the rustic pizza to come.

When my pizza arrived, it was burnt but cold. And it had tuna on it. No pepperoni. And no tomato sauce, just cheese. Jessica’s Sea Bass was undercooked and as slimy as it would be if it had just been pulled out of the sea. This was not proving to be a great experience.

With no Cameron insight, I called Clive, the Maitre d’, over and explained the problems.

“But our chef is the best chef in Greenwich Village,” he said, clearly affronted, “He does not appreciate complaints about his food.”

“But this isn’t what I ordered,” I explained, “and my wife’s Sea Bass hasn’t been cooked through – surely your chef wouldn’t mind us pointing that out?”

“I can assure you, we have the best food in Greenwich Village – perhaps in the whole of the city!”, he insisted.

“Look,” said Jessica, “we came out for a nice meal, but the starter was wrong, the pizza is wrong and this Sea Bass could swim off my plate if I didn’t stick a fork in it…”

“Well, I’m sorry it’s not to your taste.” Replied Clive, clearly offended and not at all sorry, “But you still have to pay.”

“But why would we pay for something that we didn’t ask for and don’t want?” I said.

“Because we have served it to you.” came the reply.

We paid the bill and left, still hungry and still needing to eat. We ended up having a hot dog from a street stall and it was the best hotdog I have ever tasted.

The following night, we asked a couple in the hotel bar if they recommended any restaurants locally. They recommended we try a place they had eaten at the previous night in Chelsea.

By comparison, it was heaven. We felt welcomed. The waitress, Kimmy, was friendly and interested. She explained the menu well and smiled a genuine smile as she did so. The food, when it arrived, was exactly as we had ordered; it arrived promptly and was absolutely delicious. We paid our bill, tipping Kimmy well (good service is worth paying for!) and left completely satisfied.

We’ve been back to New York several times since and have always made a point of returning to that restaurant in Chelsea, and each time is as good as the last.

My point is, just because we had poor experiences at the hotel and at the first restaurant, our experience with the Chelsea restaurant showed us that great restaurants can be found if you looked for them.

So it is with Recruitment companies.

If you have had bad experience with recruitment agencies, don’t let it put you off. You may have been dealing with a Clive, who is either mistakenly convinced that his agency’s offering is the best available or is just a slimy salesman, over-promising and under-delivering. Or maybe your Consultant was a Cameron, who just doesn’t care enough about his Clients to give a good service. There are plenty of Clives out there, promising the world and delivering very little. And there’s plenty of Camerons who couldn’t care less; if they haven’t got the Candidate you have asked for, they’ll just give you whatever’s left.

When engaging and training Recruiters for our companies, I make sure that we find the Kimmys. I make sure that our Consultants care about their service, that the Candidates they offer actually are the best available and that when they fill vacancies, they fill them with exactly the type of person that their Clients have ordered.

Don’t put up with dried-up chicken. Get your pepperoni when you ask for it. And don’t let a bad recruitment encounter make you believe that there is no good Recruiter out there for your company.

Ask for recommendations if your agency isn’t up to the job. Tap up your contacts and find out who has had a good experience. Look for testimonials – but only reliable, referenced ones that prove that the company has done a good job for other companies.

When you find a good agency and have a good experience, you’ll go back time and again.