“The computer says no…” Battles with idiotic recruiters in the republic

I might be incurring the wrath of recruitment agents everywhere, but one of my biggest obstacles since moving back to South Africa has been with these sector of professionals in the country. Now, I don’t have extensive experience with recruitment agents apart from the one which got me my first job in London and she turned out to be quite a decent recruiter.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had good experiences with some recruiters here in South Africa, but they are a minority. But let’s start with the list of things that can be improved on:

Email? What is it? Can I eat it?

Some of these recruiters don’t seem to understand the phrase “Please confirm receipt of this application”. Over the last couple of months I have sent an endless amount of email applications, always asking for confirmation of receipt to ensure that my application  is actually received and considered.

I’d say that around 5% of my applications have received receipt confirmation. This is frustrating as it requires me to constantly phone recruiters to ask whether they received my application, and more often than not, they don’t even bother to answer calls or simply say “I’ll check and let you know”. Did they ever let me know? Hell no!

I had some instances, where certain recruiters simply failed to answer to all the communication forms possible (telephone, email, fax, telepathic messaging, linkedin). This was utterly frustrating as not only were the profile of the jobs perfect for me but in the end I also felt like dirty stalker sending constant emails, making phone calls to them and looking for other ways to contact these people who clearly did not want to be contacted.

The Computer says no… Effect

I like to use this phrase as it perfectly explains the brains behind the email addresses and telephone numbers. Check out the video in order to understand what I am talking about.

Below are several excerpts of conversations with recruiters

Recruit Idiot #1

Recruiter   :         How many years’ experience do you have?

Tonito         :         Five years.

Recruiter   :         Oh. Our client wants someone with six years’ experience.

Tonito         :         Okay… But keep in mind that some roles were very intensive, so I could argue that in Libya where I spent 1.3 years could be considered as more.

Recruiter   :         Yes, but our client wants someone with six years’ experience.

Tonito         :         Yes, I understand, but try sending the CV to them and see what they say.

Recruiter   :         But our I client wants someone with six years’ experience


Recruit Idiot #2

Recruiter   :         What position are you applying to?

Tonito         :         Contract Administrator/Manager

Recruiter   :         And do you have a Quantity Surveying qualification?

Tonito         :         No. I’m a civil engineer but I have been doing contract administration for most of my career.

Recruiter   :         Oh. Our client wants someone with a QS qualification.

Tonito         :         I understand, but I’ve done this type of job for most of my career, so surely another qualification can be considered if I’m an Engineer, if I have experience in the role?

Recruiter   :         But our client wants someone with a QS qualification

Punch phone in rage…

I was getting so used to the standard answer of “Our client wants…” that I started wondering whether there was any critical thinking going on in their grey matter, especially considering that their job is commission based, which should require them to make an extra effort in getting CV ‘s and names to clients so that can earn their salaries. I completely understand that recruiters do not want to flood their clients with useless CV’s but the few good recruiters I came across, would simply put in call to their client after chatting to me to check whether the CV was of some interest.

However, these recruiters were far and few between and the majority I had the displeasure of dealing with used very little critical thinking and mostly followed things to a T and then applied the ever popular “the computer says no” attitude made famous by Little Britain.

Trust no-one…

Another thing I picked was the incredulous and matter of fact way some recruiters simply state that they don’t believe your CV. I was on the phone with a recruiter and she came out and blatantly said “I’m not really sure you have the experience you mentioned”. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that there is the common of fabricating experience on CV’s in South Africa (like in many other countries), but that’s the reason for references, which is why coming out and simply stating that don’t believe the information provided is, well, unprofessional.

The constant suspicion that some recruiters display is quite disheartening and in some cases infuriating, as it once again displays a lack of professionalism and in the case below a clear indication that they clearly do not read emails.

Below are excerpts of an email exchange between myself and a recruiter. In the application form it asked for a current salary and a salary expectation to which I responded with the following below:


“I’ve just returned to South Africa after 5 years of expatriate work in the UK, UAE, Libya, Mozambique and Guinea, therefore my most recent salary is quite steep by local standards, however I am looking for a CTC package of about XX per annum.”

The recruiter responded with this gem…

Interesting that you indicated that you looking for XX  p/annum but you do not indicate how much you currently on or previously on?”

This sentence infuriated me as he was clearly indicating that I had something to hide, which I didn’t, I promptly replied giving my previous salary (including a payslip) and once again explaining that my previous salary was almost double what I was asking for. The recruiter then only replied with another standard reply of “Thank you. We will analyze your application and look for suitable roles”.

Once again this exchange reeks of unprofessionalism and this so called recruiter could have been so much tactful of his distrust towards my salary expectations, but this seems to be systematic in the recruitment industry here in South Africa.

Uh? What did you just ask me??

This is a contentious issue, but another that has cropped up all the time during interviews and discussion is a series of inappropriate (and possibly illegal) questions. What questions? Well, what does the fact that I’m married have to do with my ability to do the job? Or what does it matter what I think about my wife’s possible job?

These questions would be unthinkable in the UK as they make it possible that an employer does not hire you on professional ground but rather personal ground. I have a friend from the US who looked at a couple of CV’s from South Africans and was surprised by the amount of personal information on them.

I have heard the counter argument that some people with children miss quite a number of days off work as they are required to stay home with them when they are sick etc. However, that does not mean the person is a bad professional, and not everyone will take the same approach to that specific problem, which means you are rejecting possibly some great professionals not on professional grounds, but personal ones.

Supposedly you are not allowed to discriminate against anyone based on race, colour, gender, sexuality, but it seems like in South Africa you can discriminate against mothers, fathers, a married person as this will effect there job performance. This contradicts our constitution and as someone who works in the recruitment industry, this should be something you are aware of.

After five months of dealing with so much incompetence I was losing the will to carry on and started considering a plan B,C,D-Z with regards to my career and life with Raquel. Fortunately, in the moment I least expected it, an in house recruiter which contacted me in December for job interview I did not get, once again contacted me with another opportunity which fortunately ended with a job offer.

She was one of the few recruiters that actually seemed to read a CV and wanted to know more, and despite an initial failure, brought the CV back into play when another opportunity arose. However, there is a massive difference with this recruiter… She is not South African and seems to be another league when it comes to professionalism.

Despite a positive outcome to my ordeal with the crème de la crème of incompetence in this country. I am disheartened by the lack of professionalism in the industry and even more so when knowing this incompetence is endemic to the country in quite a few industries.

Only time will tell whether is a blip in the system and things will imptove, or whther

**I have to say there were some agents and recruiters who were fantastic, and certainly do fall into the category of those mentioned above**

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One Response to “The computer says no…” Battles with idiotic recruiters in the republic

  1. Pingback: Pursuit of Happiness… Everything falls into place! | Travelling Tonito's Adventures

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