Maniacs on the loose

Can a new approach crack the tough IT recruitment market? Laurel Gillan and Sarah Lee think so. The pair have just set up their own IT recruitment agency in Auckland: ITmaniacs.

Can a new approach crack the tough IT recruitment market?

Laurel Gillan and Sarah Lee think so. The pair have just set up their own IT recruitment agency in Auckland: ITmaniacs.

In a hugely crowded IT recruitment world they believe they will succeed with a difference of making the process more human and humorous.

While other agencies, as this column recently reported, tend to keep their tricks of the trade secret, Laurel and Sarah are happy to just about reveal all. Laurel is proud to admit that her career background includes dressing up as "Rosie the Spider" and "the mutilated fish" for a year in Christchurch, when she performed environmental plays for schoolchildren.

More seriously, she has spent seven years in IT mainly in the areas of business development, outsourcing, infrastructure management, change management, e-procurement and total cost of ownership assessments. The qualified psychologist and Gartner-certified TCO specialist claims previous employers such as a Christchurch-based recruitment consultancy, UK-based Gillette International (setting up its helpdesk), a major UK bank, six years with Unisys in Wellington, and Certus, on projects with companies like OneZone, where she met Lee.

UK-born Lee came to New Zealand three years ago and has worked on IT installation projects for Leeds/Bradford Airport, the Do It All DIY chain, a chain of duty free stores, clothing chains and the Tesco supermarket giant. Sarah began work on the shop floor, moving with the help of training through to IT auditing.

In New Zealand Lee has worked as a contractor for the Simpl Group and then Certus doing business analysis for IT projects for companies including Toys’R’Us and OneZone.

In February the pair decided to set up their own recruitment firm, and have spent six months or so researching the industry. Gillan says New Zealand has many professional IT recruiters but many companies find their processes “repetitive and boring” and don’t get a broad enough perspective of candidates. Firms also get too many CVs, want something “fun and different” and expect more service for what they see as high fees and commissions.

ITmaniacs presents CVs in the style of a humorous newspaper front page. The candidate first sends a "bog standard" CV. They then receive a questionnaire to fill in and a draft "newspaper" is produced, which is then finalised after a face-to-face interview. Clients receive the newspaper sheet about the candidates, which Lee says is a great ice-breaker at interviews. Gillan says the approach “puts the human element into the recruitment process”, to better place people into jobs, as “it’s not just [about] skills and experience”.

Lee says companies may ask for a "project manager" when the role is something different. Jobs may also evolve over time into something else. The pair say titles matter less as “they pigeonhole people”.

Staff at client firms are also interviewed to produce a similar newspaper, so candidates get a better idea about what a company is like to work for. The client newspapers go to the candidates with the best fit for a role, who may also receive a psychometric test. Their referees are then asked questions using findings uncovered by the test.

After three months ITmaniacs, which employs another three staff and is based in Auckland’s ASB Tower, surveys the job placements and the companies they work for to assess the performances of both parties. The information on the employer is also used towards a future edition of the newspaper representing that company.

Greenwood is Computerworld's human resources reporter. Send email to Darren Greenwood. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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