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Recruiters; what the heck do they know?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007   

Twenty years ago, virtually every recruitment advert published would have the statement 'No agencies' as a footnote.

Today it is more common for employers to overlook the PR opportunities of the media, with their hiring requirements going directly to agencies without ever being advertised. Have employers suddenly realised the value of developing good recruitment partners perhaps?

Let me say from the outset that I am no apologist for the private recruitment industry.  I've found employment through an agency, worked as head-hunter, run a successful hiring services business, used the services of recruiters as an employer, and today work with several hundred recruiting firms as suppliers to my clients.  Having experienced recruitment at every level, I fully understand this £25billion industry from inside and out, experiencing the very good, the pretty bad, and the downright ugly.

This experience has put me in good stead for the very interesting dialogue I've been having since the launch of For the want of a nail last week; both through email and the comments section on this site.   One recurring theme has been questioning the contribution of recruiters in the hiring process, some suggesting they remain little more than a necessary evil that have to be endured. 

I heard from the CEO of one company employing over four thousand people, who goes as far as to blame the recruitment industry for creating the perception of a global skills shortage; suggesting that the only reason his firm couldn't attract enough talent was because people these days prefer to have recruiters manage the process for them.  (What was wrong with the good old days of waiting three months for a 'regret' letter from the old-style personnel department, eh?)

I could easily head off down the well-trodden path of the recruiter debate here, but let's look at this 'necessary evil' tag.  Sorry, but I find this about as convincing as the baddies off Scooby Doo blaming 'those meddling kids' for getting in the way of some plot or other. 

For a start, what seems to sit behind such a sentiment is the thought that we're having to pay recruiters for something that we should be getting for free?   When we decimated training and apprenticeship schemes to save money we bought ourselves a skills shortage; locating skilled and willing workers today comes at a price.  Beyond that, (as alluded to above) if somehow recruiters weren't around to manage the process on behalf of the employer and the candidate, people would all of sudden be happy with the way things were; applying to advertisements, trying to cram the very essence of their employable being into a few lines on a CV, waiting for an age for some feedback and being lucky if they got anything at all.  (See post Unshrinking the Hiring Process if you're inclined to point to e-cruitment as a new-age improvement)

Caveat the poor levels of service offered by some providers, can I suggest that part of that resentment is due to looking at hiring costs purely as an overhead, as opposed to an investment?   Maybe if hiring practice was tied in to the operational needs of the business, and hiring budgets reflected the benefits of a successful hire, or the consequences of failure or delay, then the fees paid to the recruiter in locating those people could be taken in their proper context, rather than being stuck in the silo of HR's budget?

Closing on the title of this post, whatever your views , recruiters know a lot more about why people leave and join your company than you do.  Furthermore, they are the only group people having daily dialogue with the people you are desperately trying to recruit.  Considering that EVERYTHING that happens in an organisation relies on hiring and retaining the people who 'make, manage, or do', that's two very good reasons to get into positive dialogue with some good recruiters.

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OK, so choosing your recruiters can be a challenge

 

sooby doo recruitment1.png

"And I would have got away with it if it wasn't for those meddling recruiters!"

 

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