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Triangle of talent, or a Menage à Trois doomed to failure?

Posted on: 27.01.2014    15:19:10

With the advent of technology employers are potentially able to cut out the traditional recruitment agency, go direct and save large sums of money paid out in fees in the process, so when does it still make sense to use external recruitment services?
Chairs

Synopsis: This article takes a look at the common pitfalls and failings of recruitment agencies as perceived by internal recruitment departments and how they need to ‘adapt or die’; challenges some common assumptions about agencies and highlights when using the recruitment agency wins over the internal recruiter – yes, they have failings, too! Ultimately, though, what we learn here is that this is not about point scoring or ‘winning or losing’ but about, potentially, a strong, long-term partnership, for the benefit of all. At least, that’s how it should be.

What are we dealing with here?

Recruitment shouldn’t be ‘us and them’ but about partnership – a “Triangle of Talent” – that works for the mutual benefit of the client, the candidate and the recruitment agency, so why does it always seem to be a battleground between the internal resource and the external agency, with the candidate (who after is, is who it is all about) always seeming to come last in the priorities? If you give a poor service, you’ll get a bad result, no matter which side you’re on. Best results will be achieved by doing the best by the candidate and not thinking about the money. That’s probably easier to apply internally than with a recruiter, or at least you’d think so.

First of all, when is it best to use a recruiter then?

Using a recruiter makes sense if:

  • If you want to discreetly head-hunt from the competition
  • Senior management wants to recruit because it plans to dismiss or replace someone so needs to do it covertly
  • There is a group recruiting requirement and simply not the resource internally to handle it. (Using contract recruiters.)
  • There’s a skills gap and you cannot find the resource via your normal channels

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using either a recruitment company or your own internal resource? The diagram below highlights some of the most contentious issues. Use it to benchmark using an agency versus keeping it in-house.

Issue External Recruitment Agency Advantages Disadvantages Internal Recruiting Advantages Disadvantages
How much does the recruiter value the long-term relationship with their client? Do you suspect they are inclined to push candidate towards a specific vacancy? A recruiter can walk away afterwards; they don’t have to deal with the fall out anyway if it all goes horribly wrong What can cause this? Lack of candidates; Urgency against competition; Month end targets to meet; not inclined to tell a candidate that a competing offer would be better for them, even if it is Trust will overcome cynicism of any vested interest; external recruiter is a partner helping build the team and the candidate flourishes in the right environment  – it’s a win/win if approached like this Internal recruitment relies on quality and to ensure the cultural/skill fit; the right people move into the right roles – so can be tempting to recruit directly If it goes wrong you are the one left having to deal with all the fall out of poor performance e.g. disciplinary; and egg on face with bosses – potentially putting your own job at risk; can also be guilty of pushing an internal candidate who is inferior, to avoid fees and for job security reasons, possibly to justify their own existence.
Who’s best placed to advise on ‘best fit’? Recruiter can act as advocate for their candidates Promote candidates better than they appear on paper; candidate gets an interview with a company they are keen on that they might not have got into otherwise External recruiter is dependent on adequacy of briefing from internal recruitment; quality of Job Description will affect quality of outcome; laziness, sub-standard personnel and abrasive attitude on the part of internal recruiter can all affect agency’s ability to perform, yet they will get the blame if fail to hire Good recruiters listen to the views of the agencies they value May see a great candidate who would otherwise have been passed over. Can give the candidate a fuller perspective than an agency; may miss a good candidate as reject solely on view of CV that is presented Approach the candidate from their own company perspective; narrow, limited view of industry and trends; laziness, over-worked; generally poor attitude can bring the company down
Is it best to work through an agency recruiter as they can tell a candidate all the pros and cons of one company in an industry versus another? An agency has a broader view of the whole market Working as an independent gives a recruiter an unbiased , broader perspective Cannot really know the ins and outs of any company; may be influenced by larger commission rates so push a candidate into another job Motivated by building their Brand, source great candidates and build a solid pipeline for the future Technology allows internal recruiter to keep abreast of industry trends, and conduct regular SWOT analysis to maintain a broader view of the industry Can save money Specialist in own sector can result in biased view; long-term position results in entrenchment and narrowing of vision – see what they want to see; even with direct access can often fail to recruit when required
Should a recruiter work for any client? Targets are targets, particularly in a highly competitive market. Decide on appropriate-ness – if it’s contract hire on a piece rate that is different from head-hunting at high level which required in depth long term client liaison; word gets round the industry and no one wants to deal with them Working for abusive, unethical or sexually or racially inappropriate clients can never be justified. A leopard can’t change its spots This sort of endemic culture will vary from country to country too. Compliance can rein a lot of behaviour in. Often behaviours can remain unchallenged and culture perpetuates; ask yourself how an outsider views your company as reflected by the attitude of the HR department and internal recruiting functions.

How does a recruitment agency work? What is the process?

Generally speaking, recruitment companies operate a process that is called the ‘Recruitment Cycle’ which consists of.

  • Client Acquisition
  • Recruitment Strategy
  • Candidate Attraction
  • Candidate Management

As they continue ever round the cycle, they can get caught up in the numbers and monthly targets and this is where things can go badly wrong reinforcing companies’ opinions that they should take the function inhouse. Specialist recruitment agencies will probably always have a role as will those that provide a mix of recruitment and training. Companies still invest in training, sending their employees out to attend courses, so these hybrid agencies will continue to do well. From the candidate perspective, agencies that provide value added services in a similar vein – such as CV writing, interview tips and techniques and industry guidance will gain a reputation as being the ‘go to’ recruiter and endorsements will soon show up online strengthening their position further to enable them to stand out from the ‘me too’ type agency. While there will always be a place for a recruitment agency to work with small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), start-ups and for Executive Search and Head-Hunting, larger companies often employ their own HR departments and internal recruitment functions.

Why should a company consider using a recruitment agency then?   Summary of benefits of using a recruitment agency can be explained through:

  • Pre-screening means you get to see only the suitable candidates, saving management time on reading CVs and interviewing
  • Ongoing advice on the market, the industry and employment law
  • Advice on current salaries to enable you to attract the right candidates
  • Can cast a wider net (using databases and online tools)

But it works both ways.   Companies can also use technology and social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and job forums to extend their reach themselves.

The old ways of recruiting – placing ads in papers, networking and asking people to send in a CV and then attend for a face to face interview at the agency may be effective but people haven’t got time for this any more; candidates are further afield (recruiting is now cross border) rendering such techniques costly, out of date and inefficient.   Even though internal recruiters and HR departments can now have access directly to potential candidates, they probably can’t devote the consistency of time to keeping up with the connections and so they still won’t be able to access the right talent when it’s needed.  

So how can I get this model working well for maximum positive impact on the organisation?

Here’s our 4 x 4 model that’s robust and will take you wherever you want to go, whatever the conditions.

When the time comes to recruit, there are some simple items that are a ‘must do’ before approaching your preferred recruiter; these are to:

  1. Know what you want,
  2. Draw up a decent Job Description,
  3. Clearly document the Terms & Conditions and
  4. Include any other information such as incentives, bonuses, pension and perks, that you think relevant.

All this will help lay the foundations for recruiting your ideal candidate. Cultural fit is important too, so make sure you include clear messages about the company – its values, ethos and culture and what the Brand stands for in terms of Branding statements.

Lastly, HOW do you want to recruit? Ask yourself:

  1. What is the process?
  2. What are the timelines for responses?
  3. What is the procedure? Are you willing to conduct video interviews, for example?
  4. Make sure you get internal buy-in and sign-off before you pick up the phone to your recruiter.

While it may seem tedious to go through the process, it is rather like building a house, you don’t see the foundations but, if you lay them correctly, you’ll find the above ground edifice goes up surprisingly strongly and is smooth and straight. Fail to prepare properly and the final structure will never be sound. Poor preparation, entrenchment, vested interests, suspicion, and laziness on either side will doom the process to failure from the off. It may sound obvious but as we said at the outset, putting the candidate first and operating in true partnership will be rewarding all round and everyone will be a winner now and in the long-term.

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Author: Chris Slay

 

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