All recruiters are cockroaches…

Hey… don’t blame me… wasn’t my idea… seriously… you think I’d call my own industry a bunch of darkness dwelling, creepy crawly germ infested bugs? Again… not my description… you can thank Wikipedia for that!

So… back to cockroaches. I’m writing this post from one of the most beautiful places in the world (you can blame me for that quote!). Queenstown, New Zealand. I’m at the back end of the annual RCSA International Conference, and snuck out to write a post while some of the learnings are still fresh in my mind. It’s a barmy -1 degree Celsius (30 degrees Fahrenheit) but the view is magnificent… jealous? Should be.

Anyway, back to the conference. I’m not going to go through the speakers, and what they said… sufficed to say the overwhelming theme was that:

  1. We – as an industry – are perceived literally as cockroaches
  2. We are actually cockroaches

cockroach_1Let me explain a little further. One of the first speakers at the conference was Scott Wintrip. Scott has coached or educated more than 40,000 recruitment professionals and added more than $1.2 billion in positive economic impact for his clients… basically… he knows his shit. His presentation focused on Innovate Sensation. He told us that during his 8 days in Australia before the conference he asked over 100 strangers (not recruiters) to describe recruitment in 1 word. Unfortunately, the overriding theme of responses was not a positive one. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be… Words like Liars, Thieves & Cheats were fairly prominent. He then went on to tell us that there was a high proportion of animal references in the mix… and not noble or wise animals like Lions, Owls or Tigers… and not beautiful animals like Butterflies, Birds of Paradise or Mandarin Fish. No… nothing like that… we copped animals like Snakes, Sharks and of all things Cockroaches. That’s right Cockroaches. Anyone reading this believe that to be a positive description? Anyone? Didn’t think so.


‘Cockroaches are among the biggest contributors to global warming, since they break wind every fifteen minutes. Furthermore, they continue to release methane gas for eighteen hours after they die.’


So… cockroaches we are then… There were a number of speakers through the remainder of the first day of the conference and into the beginning of the second day… almost all… without exception at least made reference to the negative perception of recruiters in the wider market.

Yes there are some bad recruiters out there. God… there a re bad Doctors, Teachers and Cops, but on the whole these professions are respected and IMO (wow, that’s the first time I’ve used IMO instead of in my opinion… it feels liberating… just imagine actually being able to shorten the use of three words to three letters… I guess I’ve kind of spoilt it by using 56 words to describe my efficiency of reducing 3 words to 3 letters… but I digress).

IMO I think I know why we – as an industry – are so universally hated. It all comes down to the fact that we deal in rejection… and people don’t like that. Think about it… let’s say you get 10 applications for 1 job. That means you have to reject 90% of those that have approached you. Of course there are different ways to demonstrate rejection… and sure… some of those may go into a database for future roles, but on the whole you are telling 90% of people they are not good enough for the role they have reached out to you for… think about that when you go back to them to shatter their dreams…

But I have digressed again… so unlike me… must be the surroundings

On the morning of Day 2 Peter Williams digital innovation guru… and surprisingly… not a member of our highly esteemed recruitment fraternity had a wee chat with us.

Pete’s (hope he doesn’t mind me calling him Pete, but in the spirit of my new found skill of shortening things, perhaps he will allow me this one liberty)…

Pete’s presentation was on Digital Disruption, Social Media & Recruitment. It was insightful and very engaging… but he said something early on in his presentation that really… really resonated with me.

cockroach_2He reminded us of the prophecy of demise of our industry when job boards hit the market… and again with the advent of LinkedIn etc. He said that we were an industry of survivors… we are continually surprise with an ability to survive in challenging and detrimental environments…

I thought about this for quite a while… we are survivors you know… a species that is not always respected by others, with a nous for survival in uninviting terrain. An industry facing the prediction of obliteration with ever-moving technology taking over our role… but we have continually faced the apocalypse and survived… remind you of anything? Like… maybe… cockroaches?

I say be proud to be a cockroach… just be a nice one!

Craig Watson


7 thoughts on “All recruiters are cockroaches…

  1. Adele on Reply

    Craig, a typically funny and surprisingly insightful blog. Only you could turn this negative into a positive…..well done! Proud to be a cockroach…perhaps we can find a suitably shortened and cooler name then cockroach…how about c-roe or roachies?? suggestions?

  2. Paul Annis on Reply

    This is what love about this industry – its easy to stand out if you are credible in what you do! #PeterWilliams looking forward to cennecting loved to hear more on your digital views

  3. Lindsey Morgan - Managing Director of People Intelligence Recruitment, Sydney on Reply

    Since coming to Australia from London I have found that I just have to do my job well and nothing more and I am perceived as being a great recruiter. You talk in your blog about dealing with rejection but I think that is the problem because an awful lot of recruiters don’t even reject they just ignore. I am continually amazed at how many thank you letters I get from candidates because I have rejected them. They are just grateful that they at least got a response. I think the recruitment industry can get rid of some of the negative tags we have earned by being better at our jobs

  4. Mitch Sullivan on Reply

    That recruitment trainer certainly does know his shit.

    If he’s trained 40,000 recruiters (and there are many others who claim something similar), why is the industry still in the shit?

    BTW…where the hell does the “added more than $1.2 billion in positive economic impact for his clients” come from? Is that increased revenue that is directly attributable to his training, or simply turnover numbers that would have happened anyway?

    Probably the latter, eh?

  5. Pingback: Getting Bitten by the Recruitment Bug - Rice Consulting

  6. torin (@torinellis) on Reply

    Glad that I took the time to read through the entire piece.

    Perceptions around our industry are based largely on one thing: the way we interact with people. In the end, it is all about the people. The receptionist, the HR person who doesn’t want to add another vendor, the hiring manager let down by the first two recruiters, candidates that wait for feedback and never receive it, that same hiring manager who does’t know the candidate accepted another offer on Friday – etc, etc.

    We have a responsibility to deliver a high level of customer service – period. The same way we want entertainers to use their star power to be mentors, part of our on boarding should be around quality of service. Leaving technology out of the equation, we can do a better job. I for one take pride in the work done in this space and have NEVER feared the release of any job board or technology. Crawling from call to call – I focus on the process.

    Good post.

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