Why HR has the recruitment industry we deserve

Julia BriggsJulia Biggs is the founder of Interimity a HR and Recruiter community network on Linkedin and a regular contributor to the HR and Recruitment Buzz. Julia shared with us her thoughts on 'why HR has the recruitment industry we deserve'

I have spent a long time as a recruitment agency client, a shorter time as a head hunter and an even shorter time as a candidate. All of them very dispiriting experiences – even though I worked hard at being a good client. Shoddy shortlists to get the next invoice out, minimum candidate evaluation, care and diversity, and pushy recruiters focused on sales and not service with no idea of what the role is about.

Only this weekend I found out that a young white male of my acquaintance has become a ‘head-hunter’ straight from University after doing well on an unpaid internship that his wealthy and connected parents arranged for him. And that is his only work experience. Great. I really need him on my difficult assignment rooting out and attracting the talent. He’s not even stacked shelves in Tesco and he’s ready to understand complex requirements and impress candidates? That’s my company brand he’s trashing. But apparently, he could be a great salesperson.

So how has it become like this? It’s simple. It’s us in HR. In the way that The Sun says it prints what we want to read, recruitment companies have grown up around our lack of interest or pride in recruitment. The best shop window an HRD could ever have.

And we give it away to agencies, on a PSL decided by procurement, and even put a third party RPO in between, who maintains the estate agent model of no win no fee. One of the better agencies I know has seen their conversion rate go from 1 placement for 2.5 shortlists to a 1:10 ratio with the rise of the RPO. Are they really going to be focused on a quality shortlist when they have 30 candidates to find, motivate and keep warm for just one fee?

Most frustratingly, I can’t see any other part of the business working like this. When the CEO needs consulting expertise, they don’t say to McKinsey, Bain or BCG ‘come in, do the work and we will then pay one of you. Or none of you in fact, if we don’t like the outcome’. How did procurement do such a great number on us? Were they seduced by agencies who started to offer no win, no fee just to get our attention?

So if we in HR are to blame, how do we fix it?

Well, I notice the really smart HRDs (or CEOs) are bringing recruitment back into the fold and closer to their hearts, and giving procurement and the bean counters a wide berth. They see that, attractive as top line cost savings look in the proposal, they may not be happening in reality and they don’t take into account the hidden costs of not hiring the right people, and really hacking off 29 out of 30 potential customers, with a 1:10 contingency ratio.

They also see the need to get close to a limited top talent pool – limited by the very definition of the phrase ‘top talent’. Given it is now much easier to find that talent, it makes sense to own the beginning of the employee relationship. Who would care more about attracting and retaining the right people? Someone focused on hitting a monthly target or someone who sits next to the CEO and wants to be seen as a serious contributor to the success of the business?

So where does this leave the traditional agency? There will always be the less savvy clients who will fail to see the chance to change and the recruitment ‘consultant’ who will work on a no win, no fee basis. Let them. And let candidates know who they are, easily done with social media.

The ‘talent’ will gravitate toward a new breed of agency, those who have a real consulting relationship with their clients, and have enough experience, expertise and time to really get to know their candidates and coach and advise them as they focus not on numbers on their database, but on quality and understanding.

Given most of the volume recruitment can be done in-house pretty easily nowadays, these new agencies will have such depth of expertise in their niche and will drive hard on candidate quality and care it will make sense financially for the client to partner properly. And given the agencies are niche and highly specialised, there will be little competition and therefore they can establish exclusive (if not necessarily retained) relationships with clients. After all, it works for McKinsey, Bain and BCG.

And what about the new ‘head-hunter’ straight from University. Well, perhaps he can go and get a real job, learn a market in depth and come back to recruitment when he really does have something to offer. But keep him off my account until then.

Written by Julia Briggs | interimity.com

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