I heard this phrase recently and it resonated strongly with me.  Not because I know much about IBM (I’m sure they are very capable and have many products worth buying), but because it highlights a common issue that we have in the recruitment industry.

It is no secret that the recruitment industry has a poor reputation for service and perceived value for money. High fees, poor communication and badly screened CVs are some of the common complaints.

These issues are predominately the result of the contingency recruitment model, where multiple agencies are engaged, but only one can be successful.

It seems straight forward that if we have multiple agencies all working on the same assignment that the focus will shift from quality of service (think candidate experience, proper assessment/selection etc) and will simply move to speed of response. 

When working to this model, the internal KPIs of a Recruitment Company are set up so that Consultants will take on a new role and cover it off as quickly as they can with any CVs they feel slightly relevant and will simply manage any response from that activity i.e. interview requests etc.  They are then targeted to get back on the BD trail and find their next vacancy to repeat this process.

If you do this enough in multi-agency land, then at some point you will do some deals. It’s purely a numbers game. As consultants get more experienced, they improve their odds through experience, but it’s still a numbers game at heart.

 If you are however recruiting for an important role within your team, this process is far from optimal when looking to find the best candidate for your position.

If you were briefing your Internal Recruiter, you are unlikely to say, “We need a new HR Manager, just send us the first 6 that apply, and we will crack on with it”.  This, however, is pretty much what you are saying when you engage your suppliers on this basis.

This is not new information, however it does not seem to be changing at any great pace. In order for Recruitment to improve, both sides need to have some skin in the game, which ultimately means some kind of exclusive/retained arrangement.

It, therefore, raises the question as to “Who is at fault for this?”

In reality, the responsibility for improvement lies with both recruiters and recruiting companies.  Recruiters need to get more creative and better at educating their customers on solutions that actually help them find the best person for their job whilst treating candidates with respect and protecting the employer brand. 

They also need to hire and train Consultants that can actually do this for you, and not just have people that are good on the phone. The skillset of consultants should mirror those of our internal colleagues and not of telephone-based sales professionals selling products such as double glazing, forex etc.  I don’t make this point flippantly, rather it’s a different skill set required, which sometimes is missed in the recruitment industry. I’m talking about stakeholder management, candidate assessment/selection etc rather than purely the ability to bang out 100 cold calls a day.

Recruiting companies need to be open to new ways of working, which brings us back to the opening quote.  Just because it is easy to go with what you’ve always done; it does not mean it is the most productive way of doing things.

It’s obvious that the current reliance on multi-agency arrangements are an extremely poor deal for everyone involved.  It’s also understandable that you might not want to be the one that promotes a new way of working with your external recruiters, in case for some reason it goes wrong. 

 If, however, you want to live by the “No one got fired for buying IBM” way of operating, then you can’t also go onto LinkedIn and aim all of the blame at external Recruiters, because whether you like it or not you are part of the problem.

Can’t have it both ways I’m afraid.

In the spirit of fairness, I am aware that many recruiters will not offer you an alternative.  Most bigger recruitment businesses are not set up to change their way of working.  Their management style is to play the numbers game and just hit their consultants with the volume KPI stick.

 It would be difficult for them to change their model to one of only exclusivity/retained business as they would worry about a short term drop in revenue whilst implementing this change and potentially would not have the depth of experience within their consultant ranks to actually manage these full life-cycle recruitment assignments effectively.

Unless they were forced to change by the market i.e. you, they are unlikely to want to do so.

There is however good news.

There are many smaller recruitment businesses, that not only have very experienced Recruiters working in them, but also have much more flexibility in terms of how they structure their terms of business.

I’ve been fortunate to work with some highly skilled Recruiters in my time.  Many of these now work outside of the big agency world.  I’m pretty confident, that they, like myself would always be willing to trade some fee percentage for an exclusive/retained way of working.

So, next time you are looking to engage an external Recruiter, why don’t you look outside of your existing model and at least consider some of these more modern approaches to recruitment.  There are plenty of options that allow you to work with highly experienced recruiters, at more favourable terms and most importantly give your candidates a much better experience.


Original post at The HR Guys