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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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#SocialRecruiting, not the mesiah… just a very naughty boy!

Don’t get me wrong, you know I’m a fan of this genre of Recruiting.  That said, I am getting a bit sick and tired of reading blogs, tweets, opinion etc about how this is all completely changes the game and is the best thing that has ever happened to the Recruitment industry.

Is it a help or a hinderance? I’m comfortable sitting here on the fence, it’s a bit of both.

When I was a young lad (OK eye roll moment), we didn’t have the internet, resumes were posted in envelopes (yes people bought stamps) or faxed in (ask your parents) or occasionally hand delivered, printed on different coloured paper and cover letters were even sometimes hand written (no not in a cursive font.. with a pen!).  This bit here may rock your world.  Guess what? People still got hired, Recruiters still made their numbers.  Recruiters had their way of locating people, of knowing who’s who in everyone’s zoo.  However, our mediums of communicating with people were the phone, a letter, a fax or (heaven forbid) a face to face meeting.  We couldn’t poke, SMS, inMail, DM, Facebook or Tweet them.  It was a simpler life.

Now days, there are way more ways to skin a cat.  Social Media has muddied the waters a bit.  There are so many mediums now that you need to be across as a good Recruiter.  It takes focus, I mean it takes focus away… it can be a time suck, you find a rich vein of people in a certain medium and BANG… 3 hours have gone.

I met with a CEO a little while ago who was really excited by the fact that his new “Social Media experts” had made a Facebook page which had quite quickly passed 1000 likers.  They were pretty chuffed with themselves.  The nice guy in me should have let that pass and congratulate them and move on.  Sadly that nice guy must have been daydreaming about coffee or something, and that internal monologue came out loud… on its own. “Why? What are you doing with them? what’s the aim?”  That question really threw him.  There was no answer.  The answer was essentially, “well… we needed a Facebook page”   My point? Why bother?  If there isn’t a goal in mind, no rhyme or reason if you are not measuring something, how do you know it’s successful or not?

That said, it is very handy.  It helps locate, connect and even kind of engage, but it doesn’t change the historical idea that all the quality comes from the conversation.  It really does make our life a little easier, however it also makes it a whole lot busier. With more and more channels opening up which tell the world, they are THE new widget which will find you all the staff you need!  Where do you go? what do you do?  Which rabbit hole do you go down and follow, and when do you pull the pin and stop.  You’ve connected with so many people and you really need to respond to all the messages, tweets, DMs, RT’s, questions etc… Whilst this is all good from a marketing, and future placement/talent pooling point of view, how does it help you today?  I mean, after you’ve done that awesome search, found the perfect candidate, contacted them and hired them that is.

So, take it for what it is, it is another tool, another medium in your Recruitment strategy, don’t forget the others, trust me.  Take two maybe, and call me in the morning.