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Why ‘agency recruitment’ is totally screwed

The recruitment agency business model is grotesquely dysfunctional.

It is broken.

Yes. It. Is.

Certainly for permanent recruitment.

We are just so used to it, have it so imbued in our psyche, that we don’t appreciated how farcical and damaging it is.

For everybody.

Multi-listed, contingent job-orders benefit no-one.

Clients, naively thinking they get a better service because they get agencies to compete, actually get a far worse service because they are actively encouraging recruiters to work on speed, instead of quality.

Recruiters suffer because even if we want to, we can’t really ‘partner’ or ‘consult’, or ‘value-add’, and in the end we only fill one out of five jobs, if we are lucky, destroying profit in many cases, and the careers of recruiters too, who simply burn out, chasing rainbows.

And, the often ignored fact, candidates suffer the most because they do not get service or due care from third party recruiters, who are too busy chasing mythical job orders in competition with five other recruiters, to actually focus on the candidates needs. That’s right. If recruitment worked like accountants, or lawyers, or doctors, or even real estate agents, where the service provider is not working on each case in competition… our recruiters would work on 20% of the orders they currently do, but fill 300% more! And who would benefit the most? Candidates! Yes candidates, who would no longer be treated like cattle, but rather like crucial partners, as they should.

No wonder candidates are increasingly avoiding job-boards, and recruiters, and transferring their job search energy to web-searching, social media, and other tactics.

Yes, that’s a screwed system all right.

But it is getting worse as recruitment evolves.

Have a look at my wizz-bang chart below (Yes, agreed, I am not a PowerPoint expert. But I did this at my desk at home, late at night after my third bottle of Boags, and trust me, it may not look pretty – but what it represents is uglier still.)

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 1.37.04 pm

Look at the left circle. It represents all the candidates available for recruiters to place in jobs. Look at the little segment on the right of that circle. That shows the tiny proportion of suitable candidates that recruiters actually access. To this day, most recruiters focus on so called ‘active’ candidates, those that come from job boards, or who are already on the database. There is nothing wrong with these candidates per se, except that they represent only a tiny percentage of the available people. What is more, because they are actively job-searching, they will in all likelihood be working with other recruiters already, or possibly well down another recruitment process.

Which means that you are not likely to place them. You understand that don’t you? It’s not only jobs that are ‘in competition’. It’s candidates too. And in a candidate tight market, a good talent that you have exclusively is a walk-in placement. Do you even think like that? Do you know who you have exclusively? Do you ask? Do you seek to find these people?

Look on my chart at the massive pool of candidates most recruiters do not access. There is your opportunity!

Now look at the right circle. This represents the majority of clients’ commitment to actually filling the job. We all know that most clients do not give their agency recruiter full commitment. That is what the shaded segment represents. Tiny commitment. In fact, many use third-party recruiters as an afterthought, or in competition. The vast majority of the commitment clients give to filling roles, goes somewhere else, such as the internal recruitment team, or using LinkedIn, or their own recruitment strategies.

So right there you have an incredibly dysfunctional situation.

The majority of recruiters access only a tiny percentage of the good candidates, and what’s more, secure only a fraction of the clients’ commitment to filling the job.

What other professional would deal with the customers on such a flimsy premise? Who else would invest the time and resources, that we recruiters do, on the tiny off-chance that a fee might be generated? But it gets a lot worse.

Not only do most recruiters run their businesses on the same basis as someone playing a lottery, they do it in competition with five other agencies. This is ridiculous. Some very significant recruitment companies with massive turnover, still can’t make any profit because such a huge percentage of their staff time is spent on fruitless work that results in no return. In fact many such businesses are now going bust. Their cost base is too high for their income generation ability. And this is why! Their business model is screwed.

And it’s a vicious cycle of discontent. Clients get increasingly irritated because they are dealing with low-level recruiters, who don’t do a thorough job. Ironically the fault for this lies with the client, who asks recruiters to compete on the same job, thereby dumbing down the process. Recruiters get disillusioned, desperate, burnt-out, and take shortcuts, which continues the cycle. And of course worst of all, candidates suffer.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In the chart above lies tremendous opportunity, if you look for it. The prize goes to the recruiter who can develop strategies to access those candidates in the segment of the circle that are not active. The skill of bringing top hidden talent, that clients can’t find themselves, to the hiring table. That is the Nirvana we should all be seeking.

That is where the fun and the money is. And of course those recruiters who can blend technology with the craft of recruitment, and who can secure a greater percentage of the clients commitment, via retainers, exclusivity, or other partnership arrangements, will differentiate right now, and into the future.

So, the winners will be those recruiters who recognise that the way we work now is terminally dysfunctional, and who act to access the parts of my circles that most recruiters do not.

Excellent! Got that off my chest. Time for another Boags…

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If you enjoy ‘The Savage Truth’, connect with Greg Savage on LinkedIn.

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Views: 2750

Tags: Agency Recruiting, Corporate Recruiting, Human Resources, Job Seekers, Recruiting Tools / Sourcing

Comment by Pamela Witzig on March 28, 2014 at 10:43am

Paul - though I agree his diatribes are overkill - was referring to Noel Cocca's post at Linkedin where he headed your article "Savage Takes on Agency Recruiting." 

Comment by Greg Savage on March 28, 2014 at 12:03pm

Ok, thanks Pamela, I am not aware of that article.. but that is written by someone else. I don't know what it says but I do know I did not say anything about "taking anyone on" or any other aggressive or overbearing comments and I don't appreciate Paul's tone, his threats, or his insufferable pomposity

Comment by Pamela Witzig on March 28, 2014 at 1:03pm

The article was not written by someone else. It's yours. Noel just reposted it at Linkedin. linkd.in/1i1CqtQ You can see how he titled it there along with other comments on the very same article that is here.

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on March 28, 2014 at 2:17pm

@ Everybody: First Rule of RBC Fight Club: "Don't talk about RBC Fight Club!"

Comment by PAUL FOREL on March 28, 2014 at 2:33pm

LOL

Innocent of all charges, Keith.

Comment by PAUL FOREL on March 28, 2014 at 2:35pm

Pamela,

"Overkill?"

Me?

What happened to my basic concept of installing Quality standards?

Comment by PAUL FOREL on March 28, 2014 at 5:31pm

Greg,

I see SWAT pulling into the parking lot- is that you in the flak jacket?

Oh, and you left out my killing Cock Robin and having started the 1906 San Francisco fire.

Comment by Greg Savage on March 28, 2014 at 6:08pm

Its a closed LinkedIn Group Pamela, but in any event someone else DID write the headline "Savage Takes on Agency Recruiting." and it was this that apparently promoted Paul's decision to make derogatory and threatening remarks against me here. Anyway..all have a look out for my next blog which I may post here. Its only 4 words long. Bet Paul's comments exceed that by many times over :)

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