Atlassian Innovates Recruitment Process

imageLast month I ran into Joris Luijke at the AHRI conference where we briefly discussed about his new plans to work with recruitment firms. Atlassian revealed their new engagement process last week.

Atlassian, of course, is not new to innovating their HR/recruitment processes. When you are growing at great speed, there is little choice, but to innovate. Trial and error often rules the roost, but a key driving force for Joris is ‘not wasting time’. Running a team of three and servicing offices in three continents is no easy task. It’s easy to see why Atlassian frequently experiment. Standing still is not an option.

It may be recalled, a year ago Atlassian controversially embarked on a new way of working with recruiters (check out Ross Clennett’s blog for a complete lowdown). The subsequent outcry was somewhat puzzling given that most recruitment firms willingly subject themselves to PSAs with equal or more restrictive conditions.

Atlassian’s new effort is interesting. At first glance it looks like fair game – perform and receive more than average rewards; falter once and you are out. My main reservation is Rule 3. I think ‘one strike and you are out’ policy is probably too harsh. Even the best recruiters make mistakes.  Unless mediocrity is an endemic trait, a recruiter deserves another chance to redeem herself.

It will be interesting to see how recruitment firms approach the new initiative. Last time around the protests were loud and laced with vitriol partly, I suspect, because the state of the economy was dire and few employers were hiring. In times of plenty recruiters tend to behave very differently, as does their clients.

Two things are worth pondering.

Atlassian is not the first and will not be the last to innovate the client-recruiter relationship. Throughout our industry’s history, examples of employers trying to work a relationship to their benefit abounds – PSAs are created to control price, online procurement tools are used to screen suppliers, internal hiring team are rented and new engagement models concocted daily.

Today’s reality is employers have a lot more options at their disposal. Social media alone opens a whole new world of opportunities. However, it seems to me, attitude, more than anything else, is undergoing the fastest change. Small and nimble organisations like Atlassian are harbinger of things to come.

Secondly, it’s clear that Atlassian recognises the importance of recruiters. That one of the most visible employment brand in Australia feels the need to design an elaborate system to engage recruiters is a testament to the value of recruiters. Ironically, at a time when alternatives to recruiters seem to be most abundant, the value they can provide is gaining prominence and appreciated.

4 replies
  1. Bob
    Bob says:

    I’ve been through the Atlassian process, more than once. Its slow, invasive, shambolic and seemingly random with glowing feedback ending in dead ends, roles being switch out from under you mid-process and long delays for no apparent reason.

    There are other companies who do direct recruiting and they do it much better than Atlassian. They just don’t make so much noise about it.

  2. Mike Cannon-Brookes
    Mike Cannon-Brookes says:

    Hi Phillip – thanks for the great post. This new process is really just the same process we piloted during our 32 campaign last year.

    I do want to take issue and put on record that I disagree with the final paragraph!

    The process is put in place – not because “we see value in recruiters” but more because “we can potentially waste man years of time dealing with bad recruiters”. Call it a “fish or cut bait” strategy to help our overworked talent team have some sanity.

    As a result of our recent “32” campaign, we actually hired 69 people. Of those, 2 came from recruiters. 2. We had over 60 firms sign up and submit hundreds of candidates. If we’d “actively worked with” those 60 firms, the first people we’d need to hire would be 2 more HR staff! You can clearly see that – for us – recruiters don’t really deliver the value they promise.

    Note – this doesn’t mean there is _no_ value in recruiters, but rather that in aggregate they can take up a lot of time for an HR department – so they reduce their own value to zero by their very numbers.

    I hope that helps to understand our thinking. We’re merely putting in place a process that works for us, in our position (growth company) in our market (IT). I personally wouldn’t extrapolate any industry trends from one data point.


  3. Adam Seabrook
    Adam Seabrook says:

    The way the fee structure was set up under the original “32” campaign made it very unattractive from an effort vs fee perspective so the “Atlassian grade” agencies simply refused to work on the Atlassian roles and to nobodies surprise only two placements were made.

    As a recruiter with Real Time Australia I personally filled 13 positions with Atlassian and it was plenty of fun but also really hard work. if Atlassian was my only client I would have gone broke as the cost to fill each role was about 15% higher than the fee returned and that was at a fee structure well above that on offer to agencies who joined the “32” campaign. The only way I found to make money out of Atlassian was to use the Atlassian name as bait to draw out impossible to find candidates. Place the amazing ones with Atlassian and then recoup my losses placing Atlassian rejects with other clients who did not have the same high standards.

    There is only one way to rapidly fill every role Atlassian has and that is hard-core, time consuming, horrendously expensive, research based recruitment. Atlassian either need to build this research capability in-house (as Google occasionally do) or engage with external research based agencies on a fee of 30% or more. Social networking, employer branding and unattractive recruitment engagement policies can never compete with a methodical and persistent research based recruitment consultant.

    If Atlassian were to put a real challenge to the recruitment market of say “fill 5 roles in three months and we will give you $150k” the research based recruiters (many located off shore) would move heaven and earth to fill the roles.

    p.s. I still stumble across Australian based Atlassian grade candidates who have never been covered for Atlassian by a recruiter or thought to apply directly. They are so absorbed with working on complex coding challenges they simply don’t have time to look out for their next opportunity.

  4. Justin Babet
    Justin Babet says:

    Just wanted to reiterate a point I made to Mike about a year ago.

    Mike, I’m a big fan of you guys doing something different, props out to you. Your engagement with recruiters though, by your own admission, isn’t great. If you’re only getting 2 placements from recruiters, does that mean recruiters suck or does that mean that your engagement process is flawed? Well… maybe some do suck… but, like most things in life, this isn’t a black and white issue and maybe you need to look at how you engage with recruiters.

    Imagine a customer said to you, “Mike, I have a problem and I want you to go and spend your own money developing an app to solve it for me. But I’m not willing to talk you through what I really need because most developers suck, so instead I’m just going to give you a 1 page brief that I’m also going to give to 60 other developers. IF I like your app then I’ll pay you and by the way I want a big discount off your normal rate.”

    You’d tell me to get stuffed because:
    1. You’re good at what you do, let the desperate developers go after this kind of stuff
    2. You know that garbage in equals garbage out. You need a good brief to make good software so why waste your time shooting in the dark.
    3. You know you’re obviously dealing with someone who doesn’t “see value in” developers.

    Having spoken with you about this before, I know you’re thinking “but you’re not building anything I’m just buying a product, if you have a person on your shelf I buy if you don’t I won’t”. The fact is that if you have really specific requirements you can’t walk into your local recruitment shop and buy a person off the shelf. You need someone to go and find someone for you. That means you actually need to buy a bespoke service but you’ve been browsing every day products off the shelf. If you really want to get the best out of recruiters (and sooner or later you will need to), then you need to engage with them properly. If you don’t have time to sort the good from the bad then ask around and get some referrals.


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