People are not “products”, no matter what you may think

By Six Degrees Executive

Published on 10-03-2017

Mike Dickson

I love people. As a recruiter, you’d hope that was a prerequisite, wouldn’t you? Yet, I’d never been so frustrated when, a month ago, a candidate I was interviewing, told me they’d been called a “product” by another specialist FMCG recruiter earlier that day. A product! Really? It was a person, a real person who was sitting in front of me, hoping I could help them navigate their way through one of the most stressful things in life. They wanted help, advice, and direction in making their next career decision that could fundamentally change their life, their family’s life. How naïve, cold, and ignorant can one recruiter be? Incredibly, it wasn’t just one recruiter, it happened again this week, twice. Two more candidates, and good candidates at that had been told they were products. Stunning. What is going on?

I have been recruiting and leading teams for over twenty years. The industry has treated me very well in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia, so I’m not naïve in knowing what the recruiters were meaning. Indeed, they may have been trying to appear professional in describing the process like any other sales cycle; we place people to make money.


How did the candidates feel? Offended, disappointed, debased. Recruiters interview people every day, it’s a big part of the job. Now, like in any profession, some will be very good at it and some hopeless. But, unless the recruiter is new to recruitment, they won’t be nervous, they’ll be approaching each interview hoping the candidate will be good, will perform well, will have the potential to be placed. But, the candidates, 98% of them, no matter how senior or confident they appear, will be nervous, feel vulnerable, anxious and be looking for direction. A good recruiter will guide them through the interview, will gather what they need to make an informed assessment.

The candidate should be challenged, and the experience should be robust, not a cruisy conversation.

But, almost all the candidates will need some help, advice, and pointers to improve their performance in an interview. I know am not alone in stopping most of my interviews, jumping out of interviewer mode, and putting on my coaching hat to give advice, before getting back into it. Candidates appreciate the feedback, it enables them to perform better and improves the chances we have of placing them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a warm and fuzzy hippy, running a career counselling company.

I lead a specialist, executive recruitment firm. But, we put people first. We care, and it works. We’re not any less commercial than other recruitment agencies but KPI driven activity does not interest us. Being smart, curious, connected with the world makes for a very different start point in recruitment. I know this sounds boastful, but it works; we bill about twice the industry average in Sydney, clients choose to retain us, industry bodies approach us to set up partnerships and we attract some of the brightest stars in the industry. None of that just happens. That said, neither I nor Six Degrees is perfect.  Like anyone, we’ll make bad decisions as well as good ones. To those people at the receiving end of a bad decision, I’m genuinely sorry, but I hope you never, ever felt like a product.