Category Archives: Preferred Supplier Lists

Pigeon Recruiters and the race to Game of Thrones, Flea Bottom

PigeonsFor many recruiters it’s tough out there despite the changing tides of the economy apparently. The pace of adaptation is rampant across the commercial sectors and there is undoubtedly a disconnect somewhere between the companies who use recruiters and recruiters themselves. In essence pro-active collaboration where a customer and a service provider work together to truly understand a need and then to establish a solution has fallen by the way side. In many areas chaos has ensued and the end result is almost a race to the bottom to see who can do the least for the least. Before long much of the recruitment industry will reside in Flea Bottom.

But this isn’t a new and shocking revelation. This has been blatantly obvious for over a decade. So what has been the recruitment sector’s answer to this decreasing lack of faith in its ability to provide value and to resolve the pain many companies feel in probably the most time consuming and costly activity many of them engage in, recruitment? A quick look around and the answer is clear. The vast majority of the industry decided to dumb down. No industry cohesion to improve quality, drive up service levels and to increase the capability and therefore the expectations. No, almost as one across the board the vast majority of the recruitment industry adopted the stance of those cute cuddly but often baffled lemmings and all held hands and walked off the cliff together.

As corporate buyers embraced lower levels of service with lower expectations and accompanied these with lower deliverables the move towards ever decreasing fees was inevitable. The recruitment industry unbelievably couldn’t wait to embrace this commercial virus with open arms, rather like a heroin addict stops complaining about the quality of their supply providing they have a supply, any kind of supply regardless of the consequences. All morals and ethics discarded to feed their habit.

When I first joined the recruitment industry I worked for an independent company in Leeds called Link-up. It was mandatory that within the first 6 months you attended 2 training days per month at Head Office. This was complimented by in branch training led by Managers or Regional Directors. You had to demonstrate in live situations such as client meetings, candidate interviews, issue resolution and role play scenarios that you had acquired and adopted these skills to a certain level. This was enhanced by external training and coaching on skills such as Public Speaking, Power Point Presentations, Interview Coaching, Spin / Solution Selling, Creative Writing and so on, skills which most recruitment firms today would scoff at. How many invest this amount of time and money into new recruiters today?

How many recruiters actually focus on providing a solution? When was the last time you invited a recruiter into your office and they explored your business, its processes and suggested an approach or a solution and gave you alternatives demonstrating the pro’s and con’s as to what the advantages and disadvantages of each were? When was the last time a recruitment consultant actually showed any inclination to consult? When was the last time a recruitment consultant told you that you didn’t need to use a recruiter, you needed to do something else instead or offered to drive internal recommendations or similar for free?

Or did they just agree to sign anywhere at any expense and grasp that job description and vacancy requirement as quickly and eagerly as possible like a pigeon scrambling for that last bit of corn?

Do your recruiters inhabit Flea Bottom or Kings Landing?

Advertisements

Who shot JR and the Recruitment Paradox

johnruskin“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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

The Alternatives

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?

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.

Disclaimer

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.