Having worked in recruitment for over twenty years I’ve noticed that most clients don’t like recruiters. To most, recruiters are at best a necessary evil, a worst a pestilence who either steal your best people or fill up your email and voicemail with candidate information you don’t want. Now given that there are apparently over 18,000 recruitment companies in the UK there are of course the very bad as well as hopefully the opposite. However there is a tendency for companies to make things worse by treating every recruiter the same, that is badly.
Step 1: Choose wisely
Don’t accept the first agency that calls or that you find online. Speak to them, get the best to come and meet you. Ask for examples of work they’ve done before in your sector. Ask for references. Consider if speciality and local knowledge will be beneficial to you. But most importantly use someone you get on with and you feel you can develop a rapport with. People will work better for people they like, and if you like them the chances are better that they will like you too.
Remember to not have too many. Some companies throw the door wide open, believing that this will bring in more candidates. It’s rarely true. Most recruiters use the same advertising sites and same online sources, whether they be LinkedIn, Indeed, Jobsite, Reed, CV Library etc. Adding more recruiters is only likely to decrease all of their interest in supporting you. If they know that there are maybe two other agencies looking for a role they’re likely to do a decent job, after all a little competition can be healthy, but if there are twenty agencies involved they’re unlikely to bother, or will give it to the newest, greenest recruiter who has nothing else to work on.
Step 2: Brief well
Recruiters aren’t mind readers. If your job spec is inexact or vague you’re more likely to get the wrong people. Write every job spec individually, considering technical skills, personality and culture fit, team fit, what a candidate will be doing, why they should be interested and what prospects there are with the position. Remember, it’s a sales document as well as a list of demands. It’s a candidates’ market out there, give the recruiter the tools to sell your company and the opportunity as well as possible to attract people to apply.
Then do allow them to get clarification, or best of all a proper briefing, either by phone or face to face. The half hour to an hour that you give will be returned in interest in the clear focus of the CVs you receive. You’ll need to review less and interview less. A good recruiter, properly briefed, will often deliver only 3-4 CVs, any of whom can easily do the job, then it’s simply a choice of which fits best. Surely that’s better than sifting through dozens who only vaguely fit the bill trying to sift the best.
Step 3: Communicate
Too many companies send over the job spec then don’t speak to the recruiter again unless there is an interview to arrange. If they’re missing the target help them to give you what you want by telling them where they’re missing the mark. Give feedback on the process, the CVs and interviews. Interview feedback is especially important. You may not like the candidate for the role, but if you give them good, constructive feedback they’re likely to think good things about your company. The impact of social media, Twitter, LinkedIn or Glassdoor, is substantial. A few good words about the positive experience they had can be a real boost to your employer brand, whereas negative comments because they heard nothing back can turn off others who might otherwise have been interested. Peer recommendation is now the most influential factor in candidates considering if a company is good or bad as a potential employer, most of which comes from social media. Giving the agency good feedback is key to giving that good impression.
Conversely a good recruiter should be communicating with you, with weekly updates on progress and any issues they’re having. If there is open two way communication you’re both far more likely to get what you want, and have a good working relationship into the bargain. If a recruiter isn’t open with you, you probably should be looking elsewhere.
Step 4: Be a partner
A lot of recruiters will admit to behaving badly because they’re treated badly. The opposite is also true. Treat them well and they will go out of their way to help. They will identify people you’d never otherwise have had access to. They will come up with solutions to hiring issues that otherwise would not get solved. They will prioritise your roles and needs and will place your interests and those of your company at the top of their list. Ask their advice and talk about your plans. If they know what you’re going to need in future and are confident in the relationship recruiters will proactively approach people in advance of you needing them, so they’re ready when you do. Proactive sourcing also means that they approach candidates who aren’t otherwise looking, which can be up to 95% of the potential candidate pool. That increased coverage has to be good for you, but recruiters will only invest the time to do that, which is considerable, if they feel that you’re as invested as they will need to be.
Step 5: Make good deals
Many companies see it as a badge of rank to beat agencies down on price. It’s actually just a sign that they don’t understand how agencies work. It’s a candidates’ market, there are many more roles than there are good people. If you’re beating the agency down on price you’re placing yourself at the bottom of the list for good people. If they have five clients all wanting the same person and you’re paying them 20% less fees why would they send them to you or encourage them to join if they did?
That doesn’t mean that you have to pay full fees, but make it a good deal, one both sides benefit from. Offer the agency something in return for a reduced fee, the role exclusively for them, or even a batch of similar exclusive roles as a project. Or offer them something up front as a commitment. Don’t get greedy, they have to live too, so if you get a reduction don’t screw them down too far, or the person you’ll hurt is yourself.
In situations where recruitment is large scale it makes sense to even consider putting all the recruitment through one agency, whether as a project or RPO (outsourced recruitment). That way you can negotiate the best deals, since they have the security of volume, you only have to deal with a minimum of CVs and interviews, yet you get the best of service from a partner who understands your business needs and has your interests at heart.
Recruitment agencies can be a great friend and ally in solving your talent issues, if you treat them right. If you treat them as the enemy or a pest they will invariably become it. If they behave badly just stop using them, but find one that will reciprocate and you’ll find a partner who can make your job, company and career immeasurably better.
Jason Collings is a founder and director of Quarsh Ltd, BlueQ Academy and BlueQ Recruitment. He has worked in the HR and Recruitment Consulting industry for 24 years. For over 20 years he has operated and run outsourced (RPO) recruitment solutions for client, in the course of which he has worked with hundreds of recruitment agency suppliers.