Recruitment consultants make a pretty easy target for criticism. Poorly briefed,
lacking insight, superficial assessment of candidates, poor feedback, difficult
to get hold of, won't return calls etc. These are oft-repeated criticisms of
the industry and this list is neither new nor exhaustive. But is it always fair
to land all the blame at the feet of the consultant?
I don't want to defend the recruitment industry in general because there is genuinely much to
criticize out there. But I remember a former colleague from the publishing
industry telling me that customers get the service they deserve. This seems like
a pretty valid insight. Perhaps corporate recruiting clients get the service from their
agencies that they, too, deserve? And what are the consequences in the
Consider the following. On a number of occasions I have seen the
same job advertised by up to 5 different agencies on the same job board. I am
sure that this seemingly competitive scenario has the Procurement people purring with delight but what does the market think? How about this:
- Clients are invariably described as fit, lean, reputable, blue-chip,
well-managed or whatever phrase is used to project positive employer brand
values. Where does spray and pray fit into this self-image?
- The candidate is likely to think that there is a problem with the role if
that number of agencies are called on to help fill it.
- If the candidate applies for the role through a number of agencies, they are
always told the client name so that the recruiter can 'bag' the candidate. This
is confusing for the candidate and can create problems for the client if one
candidate's details are put forward by several agencies. The candidate is
also beginning to form an opinion of the ultimate client by this stage.
- These processes are almost invariably carried out on a contingency basis.
The emphasis for the recruiter is to get a CV in front of the client, rather
than taking some time to understand the candidate and making sure the
right candidate is being put forward. Candidates are unlikely to feel
that they are being effectively represented to the client.
- The client takes responsibility for assessing CVs, so there is no
requirement for the recruiter to exercise any judgement, so there is no real
value-add. The recruiter is still likely to charge a hefty fee for a successful
placement, even though the real contribution made might have been no more
than to filter CVs. Why spend a lot of money for so little service?
- The process creates confusion, as it always seems difficult to track
precisely where a CV is in this process. The recruiter may have difficulty in
getting feedback from the client, particularly when the client has rejected
candidates. Understandably, the recruiter will avoid contact with candidates
until advised by the client and that creates frustration all round.
Now clearly, the client will argue that the aim is to recruit a
successful candidate, and if a few eggs get broken on the way to making a great
omelette, so what? But employer brand values start with the recruitment process.
The brand is devalued if 20 people come away with a negative impression of the
company, even if a successful recruitment is made. Ask your marketing team.
Clearly this isn't the intention, but it is often the result. Unsuccessful
candidates may be disappointed, but they don't have to be hostile.
So what can corporate recruiters do?
- For many people, their first contact with your company could be through a
recruitment process. Make sure that whether you run a psl or an in-house team,
initial contact with candidates is professional, courteous, informed and
efficient. First impressions count.
- If you manage an agency psl, make sure that you are clear in your mind what
value you expect the agency to provide for the fees you are paying them, and
communicate this clearly. Reward them accordingly. Hold them accountable for the
service they provide against clearly stated performance indicators that
encompass qualitative as well as quantitative measures.
- Be aware that the best recruiters do not always work for the biggest firms.
- If you are going to pay recruiters a lot of money, let them do their job
properly. Encourage behaviours which will provide you with the best service, not
the least worst. Provide them with the tools to do the job. Take them in to
your confidence, keep them in the loop with regard to corporate performance and
developments; in short contribute something to the relationship. You
will find that good recruiters (yes, there really are some good operators out
there) will respond effectively to this.
- Take time to understand the process your chosen agency/agencies will
undertake for a campaign. Your input can avoid duplication and confusion
leading to a more streamlined process.
- Give regular feedback through the process. Explain the reason for any
- Audit your process from the candidate's perspective. Ask candidates (not
just the successful ones) how they found the process. Apply for a job on your
career page and gauge the candidate experience.
- Beware of the law of unintended consequences - see above!
The strength of the recruitment process is dictated by the client. If the process
is poor, it isn't always the recruiter's fault, and the reputation of both
client and recruiter suffers.