Recruitment Agencies…. They aren’t going anywhere

Those of you who know me will know my Recruiting background.  Started in a Recruitment Agency, well fell into it, as we all do.  Went to an in-house role for 8 years, somehow ended up back in Agency land again, and am now back in-house.

One of the things I learned whilst working in house was the utter despising of Recruiting Agencies by most people I came across, both from the business point of view and the candidates.  I had been blinkered maybe, “Did people dislike me that much when I was working for an agency?” Well I didn’t think it was me, but the function.  Really?  Sadly the answer was YES.

The reasons are not too hard to fathom.  So many cowboys and cowgirls out there, giving everyone a bad name.  It is the industry where a quick and hefty buck can be made, and I’m sure we all know a few or know of a few that have done that.  I knew a guy who placed the same person into a permanent role 3 times in a year! Twice in the same company, just asked her to go by her maiden name the second time around so as to not arise suspicion.  He made a fee each time upwards of $20k (in the days of 3 month replacements), and would brag about it.  I’ve heard of agents blatantly using their sexuality to try to get work to the point of offering “the full service” for work. I had a boss, who actually tell a young “lady” that she’d better go to the ladies to fix her dress as the straps kept falling off, “it’s not accidentally happening” he was told.. (True story)  Worse, agents, who once in to a company try to pilfer people out once they’ve sniffed around a little and learned the lay of the land.  Heard of one agency, threaten to “empty your car park” if said company wouldn’t use their services!

These type of stories, along with what can and has been perceived as the exorbitant pricing has started a shift away from the model, with more and more in-house teams popping up (bragging about their lack of need for agencies), LinkedIn’s Recruiter tools and “Social Recruiting, have left some doomsayers predicting the death of agencies as we know them.

In past lives as an in-house recruiter it was inconceivable that I would use Agencies, roles I couldn’t fill would remain unfilled and pressure would just build up on my team.  The amount of cold calls, warm calls and reverse marketing calls I would have to knock back probably didn’t do much for my popularity in the Recruitment world.  It was a directive from the people that paid my salary, an unbreakable rule, and we were able to deliver most of the time.  (* I remember telling one boss that he was notorious in the IT Recruitment industry for being a hard ass and putting people through the ringer.  I used to put his name deliberately on young Recruiters working for me who’d made too much money and were over confident, just to bring them down a peg so I could work with them once more!)  I have however recently broken out of that mould a little bit.  Of course there is a need and a place for this multi-billion dollar (Euro, Peso etc) industry.

I don’t see a need to use them in my day to day “normal” hiring, you know those role types that I will need to fill 80-90% of the time.  That is for me to build a successful, engaged and prepared talent pool of people who are already through our process, who just need the final tick to get started.  That is my core business, that’s where we should be spending most of our time and money.  If I used Agencies for this, then why would my company pay my salary?

However, for those “different” roles, for sectors of the market where I/we don’t have expertise, don’t have the network, where there is a speed to fill urgency, why wouldn’t I use an Agency?  Take on a Contracting resource makes a hell of a lot of sense to me.  I did come up with some raised eyebrows from the powers that be, until that is I reminded them of one thing… I got to set the rules!  I can choose who I deal with and who I don’t, it’s based on my relationships.  If a company calls me up, at a time when I have a need, promise the world and then don’t deliver, that’ll leave a bad taste, and I get to choose if I deal with them again or not.  If a company is perceived to be acting unscrupulously, then… I get to choose whether to work with them again or not.  If I see them advertising on a job board for my role, guess what? I get to choose whether to work with them again or nor.  I get to set the buy rate (I honestly don’t care what margin the agency makes, it’s none of my business, as long as everyone is happy), to ensure that the arrangement is still profitable for us.  It’s a no lose situation.

If you’re smart you can also get a fair bit of industry knowledge of your Recruiter (if they are any good), I have in the past felt a little insular, a little blinkered to the wider market when sitting in an in-house role, my focus (rightly or wrongly) being on my company alone.  Recruiters should have a great deal of industry knowledge in their mind, they are talking to companies, people and yes competitors on a daily basis.  Why not get an industry overview from?

This model has been a paradigm shift for my company, and so far it seems to be working well.  We’ve formed some strong working relationships, we’ve hired some great contractors in a very timely fashion and solved both our and our clients problems in the process.  I am yet to feel or perceive the “stereo-typical” Recruiter push or sleaze (for lack of a better term).  I’m using Recruitment agencies as another channel to market, you cannot know everything and everyone.  You know what? It hasn’t diminished the value in what the Recruiting team provides in my company, it’s actually allowed us to solve more problems.

With most businesses, Recruitment Agencies should exist to solve a businesses problems.  Do that, agency land, and you will be here to stay (nobody say like cockroaches!)

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Posted on March 19, 2013, in action, Adding value, belief, CEO, decision making, hiring, internal, internal recruiting, management, recruiting, social media, third party and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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