Fast Track Recruitment

Being A Recruiter - Part 3

Posted by Mitch on 26th June 2014

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Being a recruiter has changed so much over the past 20 years, which I tried to paraphrase in Part 1 and Part2.

In this last instalment, I’d like to focus on the future.

Recruitment has become more niche.

The emphasis has now shifted to the recruiter knowing their market rather than understanding the nuances of hiring – and it’s become more fractured in the sense that there are now many more ways for companies to source potential candidates.

It’s fascinating for old lags like me who’ve lived and worked through this evolution (and in some cases devolution) of the recruitment industry, but it must be a little bewildering for agency recruiters who are still only 3-6 years in and in their late 20s or early 30s.

It must be bewildering for them because they’re still relatively new to recruitment but are operating in a sector whose practice and behaviour norms are changing all the time – but are still receiving the type of training that was being administered 20 years ago.

The good news is that there are more options available to them – both in terms of where they recruit and how they can engage with candidates.

The bad news is that the way the market has evolved hasn’t necessarily prepared them for these new options.

And by far the most seismic market evolution has undoubtedly been inhouse recruitment.

The pain caused by the defectors

I’d been predicting the massive rise of inhouse recruitment for years before it finally took off.

That wasn’t a bold prediction because once the Internet had happened, bringing recruitment inhouse made sense on just about every level you can think of. That is, assuming the company hire real recruiters, which I admit, some aren’t.

But either way, the inhouse market has taken an enormous amount of food off the recruitment agency table. What that’s forced agencies to do is either become very niche specialists (quasi ‘headhunters’) or become PSL whores.

Both directions are caused, I think, by the recruitment agency sector desperately trying to cling-on to an association with big brand, well-known clients that can adorn their website (despite mostly only making a few ad-hoc placements with them) and making the selling of jobs to candidates a lot easier.

What these agencies forget is that this type of client has now become far more demanding.

The wizard’s curtain has finally been brought-down and the buyers in these large clients are now ex-agency recruiters themselves.

Add to this the number of blogs and articles out there that talk openly about agency practice and what we’re staring at is a future where everyone will know how recruitment agencies think and act.

And let’s be honest here – one of the reasons agency recruiters moved inhouse in the first place was to stop doing the same shit that many agencies still try to pull on them now.

Companies with their own inhouse teams demand a more robust service these days.

They want an agency to fill the jobs as well as if they did it themselves. As well even, as if they had access to that agencies candidate database themselves.

That’s the big middle ground that agencies aren’t currently trying to satisfy.

Instead most are flirting around the fringes trying to be too niche or by playing the numbers game via the PSL.

Go east

The other area that agencies aren’t going after is the vast hinterland that is the SME sector.

That is where there are literally tens of thousands of companies crying out for real recruitment expertise – but aren’t getting it because of the aforementioned splintering of agencies into either niche specialists or number-crunchers.

In other words, these SMEs are only being offered an agency service that can either only fill a small number of their jobs – or one that will just bombard them with poorly qualified CVs.

There are a small number of new and agile recruitment businesses starting to emerge such as Advanced Talent Strategies, PPS and Quarsh that are starting to offer a scaled-down RPO type of service to these SMEs. Because, like their big-brand brothers, these SMEs want something that most agencies can’t (or won’t) offer them.

That something is commitment

The big boys have acquired commitment by hiring their own recruiters. The SMEs want that commitment too, but are daunted by the prospect of trying to do it inhouse or trying to find recruitment agencies that are selling ‘definitely’ instead of ‘maybe’.

Unfortunately, much of what’s happened these past 10 years or so hasn’t prepared many agency recruiters with the skills and knowledge they need to adapt to this changing and more challenging client mindset. In the boom times they were too busy selling candidates to the highest bidders and in the recession they were too busy trying to survive – neither were scenarios that encouraged them to invest in becoming better recruiters.

Where next for the good recruiters?

As I mentioned at the start, there are more career options available for agency recruiters than there were in my day.

The traditional and obvious choices were to manage a team or set-up on your own.

Now there’s the inhouse option (either permanent or contract) or the various RPOs and MSPs.

Then there are the innumerable recruiting niches to choose from.

And not forgetting all the new training and supplier services that the newly fragmented recruiting landscape has thrown-up; like LinkedIn training, social media, ATS, technology, research, flat-fee agency and content marketing careers that some agency recruiters have turned their hands to.

The problem a lot of the successful agency recruiters have with those options is that they all represent a drop in earnings – at least for a few years.

Learning from the enemy

Agency recruiting is, and has always been, somewhat haphazard – and while it does have it’s attractions when you’re young and single, it tends to become a lot less attractive when you start to mature, buy a house, start a family – all things that scream out for a more consistent level of income and a more fulfilling way of earning that income.

It’s here that agency recruiters can learn so much from inhouse recruiters.

As it stands, an experienced and competent agency recruiter who wants to protect their income by staying in the agency sector, currently has to either spend too much of their time trading candidates (if they’re niche) or pumping CVs into a PSL. Both of those activities can become quite tedious once you start to acquire some battle-hardened work and life experience.

For me, the only way for a good agency recruiter to gain more job satisfaction and more recruitment knowledge whilst maintaining or increasing their fee levels, is to sell a type of inhouse recruitment service back to the client.

That ‘maybe/definitely’ thing again

What this really means is selling “Yes, I will definitely fill your job and I’ll do that by sourcing, attracting and assessing enough of the right types of candidates for you to be confident that you are hiring the best person currently available.”

Instead of…

“I will take a look Mr Client and get back to you with candidates if I can convince them to consider you off the back of your poorly written job spec and minimal job/company insight you’ve given me.”

OK that last part may be a bit harsh, but you get my drift.

Once you can convince a company to only use you to fill a certain type of job, you then have the freedom to actually recruit properly and to become better at all those things that sit in the vast middle between the two extremes of selling candidates to any company that might want them and pouring CVs into an online portal.

There are so many more activities in recruitment than the average contingency recruiter rarely gets exposed to. Here are just a small number of them:

Assessing/challenging the role description / Analysing and understanding the target candidate audiences / Advanced candidate researching / Building sales propositions to support the candidate attraction strategy / Ambient and Employer Branding advertising / Employee referrals / Interviewing and Assessment / Reference checking / Offer management / Social media marketing / Talent pooling

Once you start working with clients more intimately, you’ll have this freedom to do more and be better. Once that happens, you’ll start achieving job to placement ratios of 100%.

And when you start achieving that kind of success rate, the client is never going to talk to any of your competitors. Why would they?

Now you’re on the cusp of being able to take as much recruitment business from that client as you can handle. Cue no more cold-calling.

Do that with a dozen or so clients and now you’re being a real recruiter – and my definition of a ‘real recruiter’ here is someone who HAS TO fill jobs rather than someone who might sometimes fill jobs.

Because it’s only then that recruitment really starts to be interesting. Just ask any experienced inhouse recruiter.

The alternative is you can buy recruitment training that’s highest ambition is to make you slightly (and temporarily) better at what you already do – which an increasing number of clients don’t want anyway.

Being a recruiter today has never been a more potentially interesting and textured career than it is right now. You’re lucky.

I wish I were 20 years younger.


By Chris Downes on Thursday, 26 June 2014

Brilliant blog Mitch, I really enjoyed reading it and continue to be amazed at how you can articulate my thoughts into a written form.

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