Posted on 29/07/2016 by Sacha Atherton
It's about 3 months since I officially launched Premier Parents Recruitment, 9 months since I had the idea and it's been a real rollercoaster ride.
On one hand I have achieved things I never thought I could and I have done it all on my own; I became a Director of my own company at 30, I raised £400 through crowdfunding, I generated PR, I attracted hundreds of fantastic candidates, I managed to get by financially (just) as an unemployed single Mum trying to get this thing off the ground, I got a website given to me free of charge for 6 months, I secured a startup business loan and the big one for me, I was able to do the school run for my Daughter's first year of school :)
Now, what you don't know is that whilst it seems like I am typing those achievements for your benefit, I'm actually doing it for mine. Right now, I am going through probably the most challenging period of this journey so far which often leaves me feeling extremely demotivated and feeling like I haven't achieved anything at all, not really.
The harsh reality of how parents are viewed as candidates and people in general really is a hard pill to swallow. Some of you will be thinking "That's not true, parents get the same chances as everyone". Well, if that's the case where you work, please drop me a message with the name of your boss because I would love to meet them :)
On a serious note though, I recently became horrified at the trend that started to occur when I told people what my company does. You know how it goes, you're at a networking event or you're sending a LinkedIn message to a prospective employer and you need to get that irresistible pitch in quick. The problem is, when I tell people that I own a recruitment agency specifically for parents, they all think it's a charity or an initiative!
I started asking myself, what is going on? I'm receiving responses from employers wanting to receive CVs and find out more about our services and then when they see a fee in there, I don't hear from them again. Now at first I thought this was just a pricing thing, maybe I was too expensive for a newcomer (I wasn't), maybe they just didn't like the look of the candidate, maybe they filled the vacancy already (although I wouldn't have to guess if they just replied and provided me with some feedback). Then a similar sort of thing happened at events, I tell them what I do, they all get that pleasantly surprised look on their faces after they hear the twist after "recruitment agency" and then they say "That's great, so are you a charity then?". The final straw was when an organisation I had been working in partnership with since April recently told me that they didn't realise that I charged employers so we couldn't continue with a joint offering. I was speechless! Where did they think I was supposed to get my revenue from then?! Especially as I'm not entitled to any funding as a Ltd company!
So I spoke with my mentor and we both agreed that we needed to shift the positioning and make it clear that Premier Parents, whilst the first of it's kind, is still a recruitment agency- even though I tried to stay away from it being seen as just another new recruitment agency.
Well, I tried to take the positives from it as I often do. At least we had identified the root cause, I just need to tell everyone we're a recruitment agency now and that our candidates are highly skilled parents that can improve the success and diversity of an employer's business. Unfortunately, the problem is much bigger than a bit of repositioning. The harsh reality is that right now, a lot of employers place little to no value on a parent as a potential employee for their business, they might be "willing to take them on" but they certainly won't pay for them.
So let me get this straight.... you will pay a standard recruitment agency that has a team full of sales people with a room full of targets and numbers, to give you a load of the people from the same pools that just seem to have what you have asked for on paper and can do full-time hours, but you won't pay a recruitment agency created by a single Mum that has a wealth of commercial experience and is trying to connect you with other skilled people that desperately need the job thus giving you 10000%, ones that the owner has met personally before recommending them to you and that presents you with candidates that can either successfully carry out the role on a flexible working basis or through 2 skilled people doing the role as a job share? (And breathe, yes that was an unapologetic rant).
Something is wrong here. Don't get me wrong, there are some fantastic recruitment agencies out there that do genuinely care, I work with a couple sometimes on a split fee basis to help each other out. But if you gave me 2 umbrellas that were both going to keep me dry but then mentioned that one of them had been made by a supermarket chain and was one of many and the other was handmade by a local Mum trying to raise money for her kid's school uniform, then I'm taking the Mum's umbrella- in fact, I'd probably buy 5!
We need to change the mindset of how we think of parents in the workplace. If we see a parent in an interview, remember that they have probably had to rush around trying to find childcare to be there, some might have had to borrow money for the bus fare or petrol to get there, some will feel embarrassed because they used to do your job before they had the kids but they came anyway because they need that job!
Employers, let us please take a more human approach to recruitment. I'm not saying choose Premier Parents simply because we are doing a good thing, I'm simply saying consider us because there is no genuine reason not to. Include us as an option, by all means if other recruiters give you a better candidate and PERSON for your role every single time, go with their candidates but don't send my email into the trash when you see 'parents'. I'm sure when you think of your own parents, you think of hard- working, caring, super-humans.
I'll finish on a positive because it's only 11.30am so too early to reach for a pina colada to drown my sorrows. To the handful of employers and people out there that get it and have approached me to help with their recruitment or recommended Premier Parents to others, thank you. If nothing else, I'm proud to be part of the minority on this occasion.
Sacha Atherton, Director, Premier Parents Recruitment