I was inspired and motivated into penning this post thanks to a super observational as well as amusingly written piece written by @recruitgal on her experiences with some of the John Wayne types from the agency side of recruitment. I've just subscribed to her blog and recommend anyone reading this does the same. You can see it here.
Before anyone thinks I'm writing this as a defensive response, forget it. There's not a single aspect I disagreed with that @recruitgal raised. On the contrary, I added my comments supporting the observations made.
If there could be any criticism of the post itself, it might be that recruiters are a soft target. That may perhaps be true. But come on, who's fault is that? Precisely!
Now, I don't want this post to be viewed as a "tit for for tat". Please don't. It's honestly not intended that way whatsoever.
I do though, feel that the issue of poor recruitment practices need to be looked at holistically. By which I mean, if the agency recruiters get their act together (that's people like me) then will the result be a world where recruitment best practice is fixed and we can all worry about something else?
Well, from where I'm sitting, unfortunately not. At least, I think not....
I'm very aware that for a multitude of reasons there is a decline in the use of clients engaging traditional recruiters to do their hiring. I do passionately believe though, there are HR and in-house professionals who could perhaps review certain aspects in the way they recruit to enhance the overall process when they utilise recruiters, from making the candidate experience a hugely positive one, to educating internal stake holders of the importance of the hiring process and how it can impact positively on them, personally as well as the wider organisation.
And it's because of that passion that I though I'd share some of my thoughts with the wider world. Not sure if I'll get heard or not as I'm hardly a prolific commentator on these issues and my on-line foot print is somewhat in it's infancy. But If I do gain any traction or response, I sense I might get a bit of a kicking from some. After all, I'm offering views that may be disagreeable to some, either to the people who hold the purse strings and make the decisions about whether they will work with us or not or my peers who are content with the status quo. But I'm not looking to offend, just to put out there some views (and experiences) that some others share but won't say it for fear of losing business.
But I've always been honest with my clients, the only difference here being I'm exposing myself to a wider audience to be criticised. That's fine, but I'd argue that if we accept the status quo then it's not much of a partnership. That's just being a supplier and that's not good enough when the "product" you are supplying are human beings. Some I sense, view people as purely a commodity in the process rather like in Roald Dahl's "Big Friendly Giant" or "BFG" where the scary giants just went about treating people as purely a commodity for their own benefit, as opposed to the BFG himself who demonstrated real compassion for HUMAN BEANS.
So here I share my thinking on how we all might look to enhance the recruitment offering and propose that those who use some of the practices I've highlighted below, perhaps look to work in alternative ways.
1. Tell me upfront if internal candidates are in the mix and If you are just hedging your bets or genuinely open to external talent. And if you do tell me, I can tell you honestly and objectively if I think you already have the best person versus what is out their in the market or in my network.
2. As much as possible, please try and avoid briefing me with just an email or portal without the opportunity of being able to talk to a real person. Be receptive to your recruiter offering their own thought and insight and truly getting under the skin of your brief, the team, your organisation.
3. Communicate and share with me any changes that impact during the process, such as if you have offers out or any other relevant info so I can manage my candidates expectations.
4. Don't insist on going through "standard process" when you've already met a candidate you just KNOW is anything but standard and is perfect for the role and your organisation. Be flexible, agile and receptive to working around "standard process" if there is a clear benefit in doing so.
5. Don't do the classic. " I need 5 cvs from each agency". You don't. You need one great candidate to be the "right one" based on the elements agreed in the brief. By all means agree some parameters and minimal requirements / expectations but please don't perpetuate the volume game some agencies ("purveyors of cvs") do so well already. Quality not quantity!
6. Don't brief a multitude of agencies believing you are "covering the market" or getting more time and effort. You're probably not. One of the best posts I read on this sometimes thorny subject, was by @greg_savage, where he spells out the issue far better than I ever could....but there is still a huge piece of education to be done on this, which when the penny drops will be to the benefit of most. Everyone involved in the recruiting world should read this.
7. If you avoid multiple briefings as above, then you'll also avoid those toe curling "catch all briefings" where competitive agencies sit around the same table and either ask dumb questions in an attempt to be visible or will refrain from asking any insightful questions for fear of giving away competitive advantage.
8. Avoid changing candidates interview times if possible, just because it's easier than pushing back on internal stake holders. The effort they sometimes make to see you can be journeys in their own right!
9. Don't let me or the candidate find out that the vacancy has been filled via an update on linkedin by the successful candidate - it's happened and does not look good, believe me!
10. If you are briefing out to recruiters because you've exhausted other chosen avenues then don't impose unrealistic deadlines that compromise a quality approach when there are only the most difficult and challenging stones left unturned. You have put it in the hands of a specialist. So let me take a specialist rather than bums on seat approach.
11. Don't Assume we are all on commission. I can tell you that I'm not. If we are, ask how much we have to gain. This will tell you a lot about who you are dealing with and how the agency treats it's consultants. And if consultants are not treated well, what are the chances of candidates getting respect and the right advice from them? If a large % of their income is reliant on sales rather than service, then there is a fair chance you know where the focus of their relationship with you will be. But if they give a focus on service then the placements and fees should follow.
12. Don't see giving feedback to candidates as a pain in the bum. It's probably one of THE most valuable parts of the process for candidates AND clients. And it can be notoriously tough to get real, quality feedback even from some of the most brilliant organisations.
13. Don't have PSL contracts that are toothless. When someone blatantly and dishonestly sends a CV without the permission of the candidate, (or breaches trust in a similarly terrible manner) please, PLEASE don't continue to use their services. Because by doing so you just assume we are all the same - and if you hire that candidate and pay the recruiter who rode rough shod over any principles or decency, the message sent out is that their methods work.
14. Don't grumble and groan about how generally crap recruiters are but knowingly continue to use crap recruiters.
15. Don't let line managers who don't appreciate or respect the fact that a candidate has prepped and invested time to get to interview bugger up all the hard work you and your recruitment partner have done to find and engage the right candidate. Insist that it's for their benefit as much as anyone that they should be involved and invest the time and effort in the process as a result.
16. Aim for a fair deal for you and your recruitment partner on fees. If you screw them to the floor and get something too cheap and it's too good to be true then the chances of expecting brilliant service probably is too! The likelihood is that in the longer term the recruiter will cut their cloth accordingly, offering minimal resources and sub standard service levels.
17. Finally, remove any obligation you may feel in taking cold sales calls by telling yourself and the perpetrators that you only ever select recruitment partners on a recommendation basis or at certain pre set windows for RFIs etc.
Thanks for listening! And if anyone is open to meet for a coffee in how we can further encourage best practice in the world of recruiting human beings rather than baked beans, irrespective of you being in-house, an RPO, competitor agency or anything else for that matter, then feel free to contact me at: