“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay
too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you
bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The
common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a
lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well
to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will
have enough to pay for something better.”
John Ruskin – Common law of business balance
Alternatively consider this sentiment,
“There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person’s lawful prey.” also by John Ruskin.
If you work in recruitment or are the end user of recruitment services I’m certain that both of those statements will resonate accordingly. So they should. Together our collaborative selves have successfully managed to upset the Common law of business balance. Often with a little assistance from Procurement along the way, it appears as if almost the whole recruitment industry along with our clients have skipped merrily down the road of self or even mutual flagellation (that’s a sadistic form of flogging oneself with some harsh implement such as a stick wrapped in barbed wire for those who may not know so I’m told).
So what has prompted this observation and why am I writing a blog about something that should be patently obvious but which we have so adamantly ignored. Simple, because deep down there has been no winner from this collective compromise. There are many clients who think they have clawed back some hard fought no man’s land and won a loyal army in the form of their Preferred Supplier List working for meagre rations. Similarly there are many recruiters who just as during the Middle-Ages couldn’t desert their Liege Lord quickly enough when offered a scrap of land or a title, usually in the form of a 12mth service / supplier contract.
Unfortunately more probably feel like they have spent time under bombardment in the trenches, hemmed in on all sides and forever forced into a compromise between professional excellence and survival.
The truth is rather less awe inspiring. John Ruskin was right in every way. There has to be a balance of reward in business for both sides. Let us be very honest and consider the standard recruitment process which probably applies to the vast majority of client requirements and agency placements today:
- Client fires out requirement through automated recruitment system to PSL. In this instance let us say the vacancy is for a Sales Rep and let us assume that they send it to 7 recruiters.
- Recruiters all open the requirement brief. Usually a link to a concise description of the job and basic details such as salary. The only thing which separates these 7 recruiters at this stage is their level of motivation and tenacity. The race has begun.
- 7 recruiters then post it to all of their respective job boards. 7 recruiters post the same job to 5 job boards each = 35 job postings for one job – pity the poor job seekers) and usually they are all using the same job boards.
- Recruiters search their databases and CV libraries for matches of candidates that meet the parameters of the job description. Many of the candidates will be on multiple databases and CV Libraries. The duplication begins.
- Recruiters then begin the race to call their database matches and check availability and suitability of the job, the package and the location. Note that they rarely interview the candidate against the job, they simply don’t have time in this mad metrics driven world. Besides they need to secure as many potential candidates as possible as quickly as possible before their competitors on the same PSL call them first. Quality approach don’t you think?
- Recruiters, all 7 of them begin firing across to the client all the CV matches. No surprises here that some duplication occurs. No surprises here that many of the candidates don’t even know who the actual client company as recruiters try and protect their business.
- Candidates begin applying for the advertised position, many will apply to the same job multiple times often oblivious to the fact that they have already been submitted following a couple of brief calls to ascertain if they are still available. More duplication.
Need I go through the entire process? Thus far there has been virtually no communication, collaboration or consultation between anyone. It generally doesn’t improve as the process proceeds. There isn’t time for quality of delivery and consultative recruitment in this kind of process, and besides everyone knows precisely what is expected of them. Not very much in reality.
So where exactly is the professionalism in this process? There isn’t any. At fees of circa 15% hard working recruiters have an expectation of filling 1 in 3 or 3 out 10 vacancies and they are targeted on volume placements. This is all about churn and burn. This isn’t about consultative recruitment, focused delivery and exceptional service. Expectations are low as is quality and delivery.
I don’t know who said “You get what you pay for.” In actual fact it is heatedly debated as to whether John Ruskin wrote about the common law of business balance by scholars from Oxford to Harvard. Hence my opening title about who shot JR, for all those wondering when and where I would introduce Dallas and JR Ewing into this post. But seriously someone shot someone in the foot when we all joined hands and followed the Pied Piper down the road to mediocre service and the demise of professional and consultative recruitment.
If you are a client why not try engaging with a recruiter and giving them some real motivation. Giving them a requirement exclusively is a good start. Agree some hard and fast timelines with them, ask for an update on progress every 2-3 days and tell them what you want and how you want it. Tell them what would really blow your mind and exceed your expectations. I have no doubt that you will be pleasantly surprised, you may win over a major ally who as a result gives you a whole raft of added value services such as market and competitor intelligence.
Corned Beef or Horsemeat?
I don’t know about you, but I would rather pay a little more and be treated like the most important customer in the world. To know that there was a recruiter out there fighting my corner, promoting my company, working weekends and burning the candle at both ends to get me the result I need when I need it. PSLs are great for constant volume recruitment such as warehousing and call-centre recruitment. But when it comes to key positions that are vital to your business and the capability of teams and departments shouldn’t you treat these requirements as opportunities to add definition, value, capability and prowess to the business. If you went shopping to find a brilliant Business Analyst for your Finance Director would you expect to find one in the ‘value range’ at Asda? No, you would probably look at the ‘Taste the Difference Range’. I know I would. I want exactly what it says on the tin and I want the very best Business Analyst my budget will buy.
If you are a recruiter, try asking for specific vacancies on an exclusive basis. Be even bolder, begin with a request for a retainer and negotiate from there if you have to. Put your money where your mouth is and offer some real consultative, client focused and exclusive expectation exceeding service. Try (and I know that many of you do. I certainly do) and offer a true taste experience. Give them gourmet cuisine and a Michelin * service and trust me, they will come back drooling for more.
This post comes from the heart. I’ve spent almost 20yrs in the recruitment industry and sadly watched much of it deteriorate as a result of lower fees = lower expectations. I know many hard working, committed recruiters who wear their hearts on their sleeve and really do give everything they have to their clients regardless. I live in hope that one day the recruiter / client relationship built on trust, understanding and mutual gain and commitment will return.