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​Getting the best from your Recruitment Agency

The Partnership

What do you value about the current relationship you have with your recruitment agencies? 

You are likely to use more than one (a multi-recruiter strategy) and you may consider this a necessary evil in today’s competitive candidate market place. 

We believe that working with a recruitment partner will make a noticeable difference in helping you to manage efficient, cost effective and ultimately successful recruitment.

If you already do this it will be, at the very least, evident from a great working relationship with a recruiter who really understands your business and the people in it.  When you brief them, you will be getting a small number of high quality and relevant candidates to shortlist and interview, as well as achieving significant time and resource savings compared to completing your own recruitment programme.  

In the long term this relationship will be saving you revenue and contributing to the growth of talent within your organisation. If there are any areas you feel your organisation could improve the way it recruits and works with recruiters, you may find the following article of interest.

There are also some fairly serious downsides to working with multiple recruiters that aren’t necessarily obvious, but that can have a huge effect on your ability to cost-effectively recruit high quality people.    

The Volume Game

And at this point, let’s be really clear, we are talking about exclusivity on a job-by-job basis.  Within your organisation you may have a range of talent needs that cannot possibly be catered for by a sole recruiter.  It makes sense to engage specific external experts who will make the biggest difference.

Unless we are talking about retained recruitment, which is probably out of the scope of this article, recruitment agencies only get paid on acceptance of a role:  There is no half-way house.  So it is not only in their interest, but crucial for their very survival that they deliver fantastic service and successfully place candidates.

In the competitive market place that we all work in, it is easy to see how recruiters can become more and more desperate, volume driven, and not think clearly about how they most effectively approach the work they do for their clients; this is not helped by undertaking a higher and higher volume of multi-recruiter roles.

Multi recruiter, or contingent recruitment as it is called, is the standard approach for finding candidates. As already implied, for the client it represents a low risk way of working. They only pay if a role is successfully filled, they can pick and choose what roles they release and they can enlist the support of multiple agencies on those terms.

Working this way is how the recruitment industry got the reputation of “throwing enough CVs until one sticks”.  This approach by clients means that speed becomes the most important factor in delivery.  They have to get to any half decent candidate first to ‘cover the client’ with the candidate, and then get the candidate name in front of the client to ‘cover the candidate’ with the client.  Whether the candidate is already on their database or one that they have attracted.

Under such time pressures, how can the recruiter get to know candidates, spend time talking about the client and the role, to ensure the absolute best match?

Because of the low quality and high volume that contingent recruitment produces, the knock on effect for clients is usually a large amount of admin, with hiring managers receiving a lot of CVs from each recruiter, often duplicates (we are all fishing in the same talent pool!); with a lot that don’t meet the brief. As well as expensive for the client in terms of time (how many companies have actually calculated this!?), it also makes for an inefficient and frustrating process for all involved.

Poor Recruitment

When working with a good recruitment partner you should be meeting a handful of potential employees, not screening CVs of, or even meeting, candidates who are clearly not right.

The Marketing and Creative industry requires candidates of the highest calibre, whatever the level or skill set. The industry can also be demanding and very reactive; as such, when a need for a high calibre new team member arises, that person is often needed ASAP!

The candidate brief is therefore both important and urgent. It is this premise that prompts many clients to consider a multi-recruiter approach to be the only way forward. ‘Surely, this is the quickest way to scour the marketplace and unearth the right individual?’. It seems like sensible thinking but it is this strategy that can start a less than perfect recruitment process.

The majority of poor recruitment that we encounter and hear candidate anecdotes of, seems to still be dominated by a rushed process and high volumes of CVs; where the focus is purely on skill and experience selection criteria, and then only those visible on a CV.

What does poor recruitment feel like? It feels messy! A long drawn out process that arises due to the wrong candidates being presented to clients in such volume that an unnecessary amount of time is invested by all parties involved – in an industry where time is very important indeed!

What appears suitable on paper manifests into a wasted hour (at least) of a client’s (and candidate’s) time, setting up and interviewing, when both parties knew in the first ten minutes that they weren’t right.

Another reason a client will decide to utilise multiple recruiters is that they believe this ‘competitive’ environment encourages speedier delivery, provides a higher level of service and ensures clients receive a wider and better mix of candidates.

This couldn’t be further from the truth and is in itself contradictory.  In recruitment, faster can’t possibly produce better service and a higher number of excellent candidates.  

The Multi-Recruiter Mentality and its Pitfalls

We strongly believe that a multi-recruiter approach drives the wrong behaviours in recruitment agencies and does not deliver quality or value to clients. 

With recruiters in our industry clambering over each other to work with great companies it is no wonder that the assumption is that they will work hard once on board. However, this is not always the case! And here’s why……

A recruiter considers there is a 50/50 chance of placing a role even if they are the sole agency; things can change, budgets get pulled, a re-structure occurs, candidate gets a counter offer, etc. There are many unforeseen scenarios that can change the need for the hire.

Add another recruiter into the mix and you could say there is a 25% chance of placement. Add more recruiters and entering the process starts to make very poor business sense. The recruiter will consider carefully the strategy they take, depending on the number of recruiters working the brief.

Also, it is very possible that the briefing will be less detailed and less clear; clients do not have the time for an in-depth briefing to multiple recruiters.

Recruiters will consider the worth of spending money on all available channels to attract candidates, as well as how much time to invest in meeting candidates.

A client may think they get more effort from a recruiter when the role is in competition, but what really happens is a short burst of activity from the recruiter, and then their enthusiasm fades as they realise that the client is not committed, and that time is more productively spent with companies who will partner with them.

Because of these factors, a client’s decision to go multi-recruiter will realistically lead to a 2nd tier level of effort from all of the recruiters.   This effort, as well as the number of separate recruiters involved, can lead a high volume of less than perfect candidates being presented and, more often than not, a long, frustrating and time wasting (i.e. costly!) process.

For all the reasons already explored, why risk average recruiter A getting to a candidate first and putting them off both your company and role, when fantastic recruiter B was 10 minutes away from engaging them. 

Representing Your Brand

A real consideration when working with any recruiter that advertises on your behalf, is how they represent your business and your brand.

The risk of dealing with multi agencies is that you have much less control over the consistency of how your roles, and you, are represented.  It can look unprofessional to have multiple and differing descriptions of the same role out in the market place.

Recruiters, and especially those who specialise, are all looking in the same places (no matter what they tell you!).  Those agencies will also be advertising on the same job boards and racing to engage with the same talent pool. This results in candidates being approached multiple times about the same job, creating a very poor experience and a lot of duplication.

Exclusivity on a particular role turns an uncontrolled approach into a collaborative process. This approach is developed in partnership with you, ensuring that your brand is represented faithfully and every candidate receives a great experience, which they will associate with your company.

If that candidate is out there, one good recruiter will find them. 

Moving To Exclusivity

You’re not just recruiting a set of skills and experience; it’s about attitude, values and, ultimately, cultural fit.  You can’t tell how someone thinks and behaves from a CV.

The solution to hiring great employees is to focus as much as possible on the person and truly understand the individual’s fit with your organisation.

A great recruiter who knows their market can use the full range of tools and strategies at their disposal to find the right person. But this is done most effectively when undertaken in realistic time-frames and, as discussed, without the negative impact of competing with other agencies to get there.

Working with one quality recruiter on a specific brief is in your best interest.

In the current employment market, great candidates are in high demand, and have options!  As well as from those who apply, the right candidate will just as likely come from existing networks and searching out those who are much more passive.  Multi-agency contingent recruitment does not allow for the time and effort needed to find and attract passive candidates.

As in any industry, working with a single external partner allows for a professional relationship and rapport to flourish. In recruitment, the more a recruiter understands their client’s culture, processes and ambitions, the easier the recruitment process becomes.

You are also getting full commitment to filling that role. The responsibility for success now sits firmly with them and they are totally responsible for the solution. If the job is given to one recruiter - they own the problem.  The client can focus on their important day to day tasks!

By making the brief non-competitive you are moving back to a focus on quality and not a mad dash for candidate ‘ownership’.

You are giving the recruiter permission to do a thorough job and allowing the recruiter time to do what they do best: Targeted advertising and a full talent search of their database and networks, as well as spend time in the often highly successful ‘passive’ candidate market.  Leading to fully engaging potential candidates; meeting them and shortlisting according to skills, experience, attitude and overall cultural fit.  As well as the basics such as package expectations, notice periods and geographic suitability.

You will have time to brief one recruiter thoroughly, answer their questions and thrash out any grey areas.

Your vision and goals can only be realised with the right people in your business.  Working in partnership with a focussed, experienced and knowledgeable recruiter will help you find these people. 

A Successful Partnership

Quality recruitment is only possible when client, recruitment agency and candidates all buy into a robust process and share the same values.  This is what makes the difference.

It should be a process that seeks to create a very short list of the right candidates, efficiently, and to ensure, for clients, that the ultimate placement is a happy and long term one.  

Firstly, set up an internal meeting with the key stakeholders and decision makers to carefully agree the right recruiter(s) and the most efficient strategy for the role(s). Once selected, get your recruiter on your side and appreciate their need to tailor their strategy according to your investment in them. Give them good reason to invest heavily in their time and money to find you fantastic people. It will actually save you time, and frustration, and will deliver what you need!

Start with the recruiter who knows you, your culture, your values, and who basically ‘gets you’. Give them a realistic deadline. If their thorough efforts have come to nothing (which really should not be the case with the right choice of niche recruiter and a thorough briefing process), arrange a review; is the brief right or do you need to stretch it?

Or, choose two recruiters for different reasons. For example, one recruiter attracts candidates from a particular geographic area, or another specialises in a particular skill area.

Then, spend more time up front, briefing them.  This will immediately help to manage expectations on realistic timescales, and enable both parties to really understand the type of person they are looking for. It needs to be more than a list of skills and experience: What are the most exciting reasons candidates would want to work for you? What is the opportunity? What are the attributes of your ‘stars’ within your business and how should we match them? What sort of person would love your business and your clients?

There are so many questions that can be asked to form a well-rounded brief, and accurately targeted recruitment campaign.  A genuinely honest and compelling proposition will excite and attract a manageable shortlist of the right candidates.

Lastly, be patient!  A quality recruitment process doesn’t magically happen overnight. It needs an initial investment of time but will save lots of time ultimately. Also, sometimes it just takes longer and is nothing to do with the recruiter you’ve chosen.

When both candidates and clients are repeating the same message and when a different approach could save significant time for the business, deliver better quality, and increase engagement between clients, candidates and the recruitment partner - why are we not talking more about exclusivity?

by Adam