.co.uk in a timewarp

Yesterday El Reg ran a story about how UK companies can’t recruit IT talent, and lack the imagination to update their working practices to what people find acceptable this century. It attracted quite a few comments, showing a thoroughly predictable (to a geek) lack of sympathy with the poor companies. They are, and have been for as long as I’ve been in the business (over 20 years now) the authors of their own misfortunes.

At my venerable age, they no longer insult me by offering peanuts of the kind that dip below the statutory minimum wage once you factor it over all the unpaid extra hours. But even when they talk of really good money, they’re stuck in a dinosaur mindset.

Here’s my contribution to that article. I meant to post it anonymously, but forgot to check the box, so my name’s already attached to it.

[Ring Ring]

“Hello, [me] speaking”

“Hello, this is J. Random Recruiter. Is this a good time?”

“Yeah, fine. What can I do you for?”

“We’ve got a city financial company needs your skills, in particular [foo]”


“Would you be available to work in The City”?

“I work for clients around the world. The City is fine. Just so long as they don’t expect my bum physically in their seat on a regular basis. Happy to travel to London occasionally – say, up to once a month.”

“They’ll pay £150K for this. And that’s a permie salary”

“Great. And that’ll be based on working primarily from home?”

“No, clients won’t generally do that. But you don’t have to live in London, you can commute in from the country”.

“It’s a minimum of five hours from here to Paddington, one way. About monthly is OK; anything much more frequent isn’t. That’s why I work from home, for clients around the world”.

“You find clients who are happy with that?”

“Most of my income comes from America, which means it’s losing its value. I’d welcome work coming from London.”

“And you wouldn’t consider moving”?

“Yes, but not to anywhere in SouthEast England.”

“They might be flexible on the pay”.

“The money is fine, thank you. Southeast England isn’t. That’s what I’ve escaped from, and I’m not about to go back”.

“Oh. So you wouldn’t be interested?”

“As I said, I’m happy to go up there from time to time.”

… and it draws to a close. We haven’t even discussed the work itself, beyond the recruiter having taken an interest in my CV. He can use our telecoms infrastructure to do his job (contact prospective recruits) remotely, but won’t countenance the recruits themselves doing likewise.

Not all of them say £150k (the last one I recollect did). But the shape of the conversation is remarkably predictable. I expect hacks prepared to work in central London are in huge demand and commanding correspondingly inflated pay, while those of us who won’t do it will find my tale very familiar.

Posted on July 3, 2007, in recruitment, teleworking, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Yep, you’re right. The main problem is that many British managers don’t believe that you’re capable of working unless they can actually see you in front of them. Of course, you could be sitting there twiddling your thumbs and they’d probably be happy…

    Networking and direct human contact are important in some jobs, less so in others, but managers (and recruiters) don’t seem to be able to distinguish one job type from the other.

    Mind you, not all Americans are open minded on the subject either. I remember an incident not so many years ago when, in a former job with an international consultancy outfit, I was assigned to sort out some accounting problems with a US-owned company in north Devon. After a couple of days on site, I realised I was wasting my time going there every day, so I gave the local staff some tasks to do and returned to my own office (which was much closer to home) to get on with some other important work. The client’s local management were perfectly happy with this arrangement.

    Result: A US partner on the ‘phone asking “Why the hell aren’t you on site?” When I explained that there was nothing for me to do there, and the work was in hand anyway, I was told “I don’t care if we send them a monkey on a stick reading the newspaper: We must have someone on site or the client won’t want to pay our fees.” What a con. Mercifully I don’t work for that particular bunch of crooks anymore.

  1. Pingback: Headhunted! « niq’s soapbox

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