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What Drives Me Nuts About Staffing Agencies (and How They Can Work as a Better Partner)

by Aug 2, 2012, 5:26 am ET

(Editor’s note: With so many new ERE members coming on all the time, we thought that each week we’d republish one popular classic post. Here’s one, below.)

Over the last several years I’ve sat through no less than 100 staffing agency “pitches” in person or over the phone. At this point these meetings have begun to all sound very similar, so I’ll bucket agency sales pitches in to these three areas.

“We’re Different.” Almost every agency says they have a special/unique process for reviewing resumes, sourcing candidates, and access to candidates that sets them apart from their competitors. From my experience I’ve not really seen the impact of their “unique” process in the candidates they’ve submitted. Additionally, most agencies don’t appear to have a thorough understanding of their competition. At some point in almost every vendor meeting someone says that they don’t push paper like “everyone else.” I would encourage vendors to have a much more in-depth understanding of the competitive landscape before they make such broad sweeping indictments of their competitors.

“We Build Relationships.” Every vendor I’ve ever sat down with has said they build meaningful relationships with managers and they “get” our business unlike any other vendor in town. As a result they tell me they have the ability to make a cultural fit for our organization. To this statement I like to ask: “Give me an example as to how you screen for cultural fit.” I’ve been underwhelmed by all responses to this point.

“We Have a Proprietary Database.” I’ve heard this one a million times. Vendor ABC has a database of millions of qualified/ interested candidates at their beck and call to fill contract needs. I don’t doubt they have a long list of former contractors they’ve placed, but in my experience most contractors don’t feel the same level of loyalty to their staffing agency. Most contractors are more interested in the type of work, the end client, and compensation. And before you rebuke, I will concede there are notable exceptions to this point, but overall, it’s correct.

Overall my experience is that candidate screening is indeed not that different; that staffing agencies do not have a special candidate database (why, then do I get the same candidate submitted by different vendors all the time?); and your partnership with me is not that strong. In fact, too many vendors treat me as someone to work around than to work with.

Here are my suggestions.

Talk about your recruiting process: In the end, aren’t we hiring a staffing partner to do something we aren’t/can’t do internally? It drives me nuts to see agencies post client requisitions on job boards. This is NOT a value-added partnership. I can purchase a Careerbuilder posting and screen the candidates who apply. More recently I’ve really pushed vendors to talk in depth about their recruiting process. The responses are truly varied. I will absolutely select a staffing vendor based on the depth of their recruiting process.

What actually makes you different? In 15 seconds tell me why you are a truly different partner (without emphasizing any of the three items I mentioned above) and why I would be insane NOT to work with you as a staffing partner. Give me a truly compelling case. If you can’t, then you aren’t any different than the other 10 agencies that will be calling me this week.

Don’t over-promise: Not a lot more to add to this, but on my side of the fence, this is a continually painful part of vendor interaction. If you can’t fill the role, or it’s not something you’ve worked on before, tell me. I’ll respect your honesty, and in the long run you’ll get more work.

Turnover: I want to deal with the same person each and every time I call. Additionally, I do not want to have to re-train my account rep every six months because you have retention issues. This leads to a second challenge: too many newbies. Most recruiting agencies fill most of their recruiting positions with new college grads and then do not support their development appropriately. In short, these new recruiters don’t know how to recruit OR maintain relationships (reference my previous challenges). As a result, I now ask to meet everyone who will be working with my team to fill external needs. I want to meet the manager, account rep, and recruiters that my managers will be talking with.

We do value relationships (on our terms). My last point, is that I truly do believe staffing agencies can add tremendous value to the talent acquisition landscape of organization. I value true experts who do real recruiting and respect my role in the process and organization.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Frank Risalvato

    What struck me about this article is “why is someone interviewing 100′s of ‘agencies’ in the first place?”

    Most of my clients have a discussion, then once IRES is selected from a small, select group of semi-finalists, the relationship lasts for 2-3 years on average until their “hiring spree” is taken care of.

    A number of our clients have worked with us for 10 and even 20 years filling tens of millions of positions responsible for billions of dollars of corporate revenue.

    They a) will not continuously talk to ‘agencies’ (would be a waste of their time b) make it clear to those that call they have a strong relationship in place c) won’t even consider, sit down with, or give the time of day to any competitor unless my search firm (IRES) screws up and fails to deliver or develops a pattern of missing deadlines.

    This served little than allow someone to vent who doesn’t have a good system in place for whatever reason. Great catchy title with viral appeal but little else to offer.

    When I choose any professional, A law firm, landscaper, housecleaner, graphic designer – I go through the “decision making” process ONCE then stick with the relationship for many years.

  • Karen Kerr

    I know I’m tardy to the party, but I have thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. I have worked 18 years on the agency side, and now 5 years on the HR side. Yes, I cringe when I receive a call from a staffing company, and yet I feel for them because of the commoditization of the industry. I miss the days when it was all about relationships and trust. Everything that Jeff, Suzanne, Darren, Morgan, Michael S., Sandra, Shawn, Michael R., K Diver, Daniel, and Lisa say is true. I worked for only three companies in my 18 years in staffing, and we had some outstanding people with relatively low turnover, but it became so frustrating because of the lowering margins. There was always some agency (nationals often) who chose to compete on price alone. I got sick of clients dictating mark-ups, trying to renegotiate fees after the deal was done, converting our people to another agency for a few more pennies per hour savings, etc. Yes, we did it to ourselves. Just know that when you ask your TPR to work on very low margins, you will not get the attention you desire. Everyone in the office will be overworked and frazzled because the company can’t afford more people. Now, when I call a company, I call a person, someone I know and trust, and I don’t shop around for fees. AND, I introduce them to the hiring manager and let them take it from there. I don’t ask about their markup and I don’t ask for a parade of interviews. I am upfront if we are also recruiting on our own. AND, if my manager wants to hire a temp full time, I agree that we should pay a fee. It’s the right thing to do. It’s amazing when you are an easy to work with client how much better it can be.

  • Shirley Zachman

    Being a veteran recruiter or “headhunter” I believe both parties are correct on these postings or should I call some venting(s). Recruiting is a high turnover burnout kind of business, the larger firms have one heck of a time keeping their desks filled. So why not try the independent recruiters, they do it all and if they are good – they survive a long time. A recruiter can only be as good as the client is at giving them the amount of information required to do a good job and the authority to work WITH hiring mgr. So if done right, the recruiter can make the HR professionals look even better.

  • COlin Faith

    This is one of the biggest problems in the staffing industry. A client wants an expert in a very specialist domain. Many, but not all,staffing agencies then run the DB and email every tom, dick and harry whose resume had some combination of words in it. Example, I did COBOL at university many years ago and never used it since – I used to get offered for COBOL gigs. Not these days as I removed this from my resume!

    Then they advertise on DICE, of run a search on LinkedIn etc.

    Then, and this is the killer, they ask the respondents what rate they want. If they have say 6 responders that want from $80 – $160 an hour and they have ‘budget’ from the client of say $180, guess whose resume is NOT sent to the client. So the client often does not get presented with the best person.

    Before all the good agencies, And I currently am engaged with one of them, responds this is common practice with a good number of agencies, including some very large household names.

    How to solve this problem!!
    Clients – ask the agency what their markup is and get a firm written commitment that this will be an open rate policy between the client, the staffing agency and the consultant. A percentage markup ensure the agency makes a fair living and the client gets exposure to the very best of consultants.

    As the agency makes more $ on the best consultants they will send the top candidates to the client. Strike a deal with the agency to reduce the margin for volume – if you have 50/100 consultants via the same agency then that is fair game.

    The client can then evaluate the resumes, interview and decide what level of rate they want to pay for the best fir to the needs of the business.

    Clients tell the agency that you will only accept their top 3 consultants and thus the agency will now do their job and filter out the spam. If the agency is going to send 30/40 resumes then save your money and check LinkedIN yourself!

    I’ve personally had experience of agencies marking up a rate by $90 an hour for a 6 month gig. Everyone has to earn a living, but this model is bad for the clients, and bad for the consultant who is now expected to ‘walk on water’ and can never meet the high expectations they set for the high cost involved.

  • http://www.careerconnectny.com Karen Vasconi-Milton

    I wonder how many businesses would disclose profits on every widget they sell. I, personally, have on problem doing this because most people have no idea just how expensive it is to employ someone. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, in New York State, that $90 per hour contractor would cost an additional $27 per hour for just the basic required insurances, Social Security match and Unemployment Insurance. Medical insurance would be an additional $600.00 per month. Add to that costs for my own staff, my rent, my own operating costs and payroll costs and we’re now up to a base cost of $90 per hour plus about 45%, just in basic costs, no profit, before corporate income taxes. At this point, we need to determine how much profit per hour I’m entitled to because like all of my clients, like all employees, we are doing this to make money.

  • COlin Faith

    I should have clarified that I refer to corp to corp, so most of these costs are at the risk of the consultant. In a corp to corp situation it is merely your added value costs. And yes you should make a living, of course, but staffing firms need to earn it like most others.

    However the costs are fixed, so add $60 a hour to the rate or whatever is a fair return for the EFFORT involved. The point is the cheaper consultants are often the one passed to the client to maximize margin.

    I’ve worked with 3 successful models in the past;
    A) for permie roles a small agency charged a fixed 10% of first years salary with a cap of $10k and was very successful with clients retained for many years.
    B) where an agency had 100+ consultants at a large bank and had a fixed markup of 15% (corp to corp), and
    C) where I have worked with the agency to agree a $50 an hour margin on my rate.

    I have excellent relationships with all of them.

    On a 6 month gig, $50 an hour equates to $52,000. Once set up the only costs directly involved with the gig is accounts and that should be automated these days based on approved time by the client. With good technology there is little ongoing work to do.

    So, is $52,000 a reasonable reward for what is often is a few days work? If a GOOD recruiter can place 3 consultants a month then there is an income stream of over $3.7 Million PA. What the agency does with this income is of course their business.

    And of course many gigs run for 12/18/24 months – so again little work for the recruiter.

    Thus to markup $90 a hour on a corp to corp is bad business for the client and the consultant. And I appreciate that I’m talking about the medium to top end of the market place.

    The point is what is a fair return for the effort involved.

    If the widget maker makes too much of a margin then the client will find anther widget maker eventually, but get burnt in the meantime.

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  • http://www.rockwood-search.com/job-blog Dan Ogden
  • Lisa Peterson

    Hello Matt, Hopeful your rant is helping you make decisions going forward with your recruiting relationships? Talking to 100′s of recruiters? If anything, please consider taking a vacation from your expressed stress!

    There is an abundance of great feedback on your topic. Very helpful to read/meet others of a similar mindset regarding quality recruiting and placement.

    After ‘smiling and dialing’ for 22 years and owning my own firm for 13 years I know well the experience from the search firm side. It takes me from 7-10 calls into HR to begin the ‘relationship process’ … Then going forward …the challenge to obtain all information to handle a search successfully can be tough. Then being phenomenally flexible with the multitude of changes in the process. However, I’m passionate about making great matches so I continue.

    Most importantly, there is a trickle down effect of how a person will be treated once they become an employee. It all begins with HR! Yes, you are the face of the Company!

    It is my pleasure to represent a variety of very successful laboratory and biotech companies in the US.

    If we may be of service to you, please let me know. Wishing you the best, Lisa Peterson

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  • http://community.ere.net/blogs/the-careerxroads-annex/ Gerry Crispin

    One of the more helpful, interesting and entertaining articles and threads I’ve read this year. Appreciate the input of all who participated…thanks to Matt for the well balanced article and the level rest for the level of discussion. I’m asking an online ERE panel I’m moderating later in November [17]- Third Party Placement VS Corporate Recruiting: Competitors or Partners? http://www.ere.net/webinars/third-party-placement-vs-corporate-recruiting-in-2020-competitors-or-partners/
    to read this column in prep for a lively discussion. Hope some of you will join in.

    One observation is that most of the discussion is in support of and addressed by ‘veterans’… who have all established their ‘bona fides’ (or else they would not be veterans). The credibility of someone who has 10year’s experience isn’t at issue. One problem not addressed is that the entry into 3rd party recruiting is so low that huge numbers of wannabes enter the business each year only to exit 6 months later- and yet they bombard nearly every firm vying for the time and chance to prove themselves.

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  • http://www.tradeforcestaffing.com BARRY MCILVAIN

    I spent years recruiting in the corporate world in jobs that also required physical labor.
    When my back went out in 2002, several clients suggested I either start my own agency or work for one. Long story short I applied at the supposed top 3 in the Portland market as if I wanted to be a worker for them. I found they treated everyone with at best guarded contempt and treated their staff even worse. I ended up going to work for a small “Mom & Pop” that was bought out 3 years ago, but I will say that they have always allowed me to treat all of my accounts as if they were my only account and my temporary and permanent placement recruits the same way!
    If you really want a clients business, never and I repeat never make them have a need to call anyone but you. If you tell your clients and recruits that your phone is on 7 days a week from 6:00am to 10:00pm, mean it, and answer it! This is how I get personal referrals and have every client that I do business with allow me to use them as a personal referral.

  • Andrew Diffenbaugh

    I respond, somewhat belatedly, only because Suzanne Sears succinctly highlighted some of the barriers that recruitment firms must overcome. Questions that firms should be asking during this discussion:

    1. why is the position open,
    2. how long have you been looking,
    3. has the position been approved and budgeted and
    4. what are the steps ( how many interviews/people that must approve) from the time a candidate is first interviewed to the time an offer is extended.

  • Andrew Diffenbaugh

    I respond, somewhat belatedly, only because Suzanne Sears succinctly highlighted some of the barriers that recruitment firms must overcome. Questions that firms should be asking during this discussion:

    1. why is the position open,
    2. how long have you been looking,
    3. has the position been approved,budgeted and added to the plan and
    4. what are the steps ( how many interviews/people that must
    approve) from the time a candidate is first interviewed to the
    time an offer is extended.

    I have been seated in both chairs, corporate and agency, and can see and understand that both sides will need, under certain circumstances, to need to work cooperatively to make all happy.

  • Nick Leyne

    Great, the weekly I hate working with agencies rant from a “talent acquisition director” who couldn’t handle it in the big leagues. We value you on our terms. Translation, you see our profession as order takers. I don’t and that’s why I avoid if at all possible dealing with the “talent acquisition” team. I see myself as a consultant who is helping and advising businesses on how to hire top talent. As soon as I hear the phrase “vendor list” I automatically make that prospective client a source. Why? Because you don’t value my service and I’m just another pain in the neck to you. Give me the client that will answer my phone calls, provide immediate feedback, allow me to speak with the hiring managers, keep me in the loop and only work with me and possibly one or two other recruiters, and I’ll make you and your company look great. Put up walls, don’t answer calls, don’t allow me to properly prepare the candidate by not providing me information and you’ll be frustrated. What are you doing to keep maintaining the relationship? As an agency, you can’t be afraid to fire clients. You are not the only client out there. I don’t need your business and with the attitude you portray in the article, I don’t want it.

  • http://recruitloop.com.au/ Paul Slezak

    This is a great article, and as another reader has written – Matt’s nailed it! Having been in the recruitment game myself for a long time, I have also sat opposite hundreds of clients selling a recruitment service. I always found that as long as the client was honest with me about why they were different, what their culture was really like, and what the turnover was genuinely like, then we would work very well together.

  • David Santacroce

    MY .02 cents. I have been Recruiting for 12 years and its really not as complicated as this article is making it . We are service not people , people are the bi product of our service. If companies feel that they are not getting the right results the reasons are either
    - You didnt bring on the right PARTNER to fill the role ..NOT the right Vendor
    - Your paying a LOW fee thinking you are going to get a deal–The desperate or new Recruiters will take that fee..a 10% -30% fee is still the same amount of work .
    - You have hired 10 recruiters to do this –Well if someone comes across my desk Ill send but you will not get the effort needed to fill this and if all 10 recruiters have the same attitude I do ..you wont fill it
    - You dont communicate or respond–RED FLAG I stop recruiting until I hear back

    I can go on and on but , the bottom line is the market is Red Hot and getting work is not the hard part so its really up to the Recruiter to decided where they want to dedicate their efforts on a C-B Job Order or an A. The challenge is finding the right candidate, this could take 100′s of calls but most companies think we just reach into our Database and pull out quality candidates who are waiting for our calls. Companies really dont understand what a REAL recruiter does all day .

    The article is well written but all of this is just a smoke cloud hiding the underling cause on why Client cant fill positions. I dont believe that your pitch is really going to make a big difference when you are the 6th recruiter to call, you BETTER bring something to the table other then your process and expertise…Something that will solve there problem..Your process dosent solve anything .

  • http://phlebotek.com Phillip Svehla

    Neither myself nor anyone on our behalf has ever picked up the phone to call any potential clients. 100% of our business has been inbound and after reading this, I’m going to keep it that way!
    Good read.
    Thank you,
    Phillip @ Phlebotek Phlebotomy Staffing.

  • Kannan Kasi

    Matt, Your Suggestions and my comments:

    1. Talk about your recruiting process: In a contingency search contract, how does it matter? You pay us only when we are successful, right? Or are you going to pay us for the process ?

    2.What actually makes you different: Though clients treat us & the candidates like commodity, we love what we do and put in sincere effort in screening each candidate we have or get. Ask our candidates about our relationship with them. It is a lot of hard work to keep our candidate relationship going strong.

    3.Don’t over-promise: I agree. But like what Suzanne has said above, please deal with only two or three vendor partners to have a mutually beneficial relationship. Don’t circulate your requirements to 100s of vendors so that you get a FREE PR job done. It would actually have the opposite effect, if you do.

    4.Turnover: I agree. With us, you deal with only me, the founder director of the company.

    My suggestions to you:

    1. Feedback: Please provide feedback on the CVs we submit, preferably within two days. We will not be able to hold on to the candidates beyond that time frame.

    2. You vacate the requirement: Meaning, you or your recruiters should not work on the requirements that you have given us. Else, it would be counter productive. In retained search, you appoint us for a cost upfront to work on your requirements. In contingency search you do not pay us until we are successful. In the model I am suggesting, you get best of both the worlds.

    3. Duplicacy of resumes: Please do not go to job boards and search for the names of the candidates we have provided and then tell us it is a duplicate. That is Unethical. We are not GOD to create candidates out of thin air and provide you UNIQUE candidates. Whatever headhunting we do, we finally find that those candidates have their profiles in Job Boards or in Linkedin for sure.

    4. Treat us with respect: That would motivate us.

    5. call us once in a while: Why is it that only we should call you and be behind you for everything? Is it not a mutually beneficial relationship ?

    6. Pay us for “Candidate Engagement” and not for “finding” candidates: I seriously hope that this happens sometime in the near future.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Kannan Kasi, Gyanagni Consulting, Bangalore, India

  • http://www.careerconnectny.com Karen Vasconi-Milton

    Because I love it, I am re-posting James Marcus’ post from last year. I feel it gets to the heart of both matters:

    James Marcus – September 2011

    As the Director of HR with a major metropolitan consumer goods company, I cannot believe what I’m reading. Would you buy a car from someone who says “we’re different?” Would you buy office supplies from a sales person who calls you multiple times in a week and promises you gifts if you purchase? Would you buy a computer from the store that has a new manager in place every two weeks? Do your homework! Shame on all of you. As with any other vendor, when used appropriately and after proper vetting, agencies are valuable resources. THEY have incentive to find the appropriate person, and quickly. For goodness sake, if you’re not hiring their person, you’re not paying them. If you’re using an unsatisfactory agency, it’s your own fault.

    Human resources departments are the customer service departments who serve the current and potential employee population. Have we forgotten this? Upon arrival at my current employer, I was brought in to overhaul the talent recruitment process, which functioned as follows:

    Step 1) online application
    Step 2) 60 minute online assessment
    Step 3) one 45 minute telephone interview
    Step 4) one 4 hour interview with a “committee” of managers (HR and non-HR)
    Step 5) upon 100% agreement committee members referred the candidate on to department manager
    Step 6) one 2 hour meeting with the hiring manager
    Step 7) one 3 hour meeting with the applicable departmental team
    Step 8) one final return to present a PowerPoint presentation to the original “committee” on why you deserve to work here

    This process was in place for temporary, contract and permanent employment, entry to v-level positions. I was brought in when every attorney approached for the CLC position declined when faced with this four month “hiring” process. And regional talent had gotten whiff of this ridiculous process and stopped applying. We had 245 open positions with no prospects of filling any of them even with the resources of our 32 person HR department. A more self involved and self important HR department NEVER existed. As this process is becoming more and more comment, frankly, it’s a credit to the agency members of this group that THEY aren’t posting comments about the ridiculous HR people they deal with on a daily basis.

    I interviewed six regional agencies, brought 3 in and hired 2. They filled all 245 positions within 4 months and we moved on with our lives. No one offered to buy me a present, no one hounded me, no one “sold” me anything.

    Sadly and while you all may think this is the anomaly, my peers tell me that this grand scale, long cycle recruitment is becoming the norm. I completely understand the need to validate ones existence in these times, but not to the degree where you implement self important procedural processes that cost your employer good candidates, time and money.

    Ask the next unemployed candidate you meet to tell you a story about a recent interface with an human resources professional. We need to look within our ranks and not blame our vendors.

  • http://www.careerconnectny.com Karen Vasconi-Milton

    I find it absolutely fascinating (and indicative of our current market) that people ares still posting commentary here one year after the original publication. Must be some kind of record. I would like to point out that Suzanne Sears, Darren Ledger, Shawn Smith and James Marcus all make valid points and I would urge everyone to read or reread their very insightful comments.

  • Tom Adam

    I see a lot of truth from both sides being posted here. Like a lot of recruiters, I started out on the agency side but went in-house after a while, the last 7 years as a contractor. Some of my observations:

    Like Matt, I’ve received calls from countless agencies over the years pitching their services, and after a while they all sound the same. Far too may talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. If you’re interested in building a relationship with my company, why can’t I get you to come meet in person? You say you’ve filled positions just like the one I’m working on, so why can’t you provide me a specific — and recent — example? If you thoroughly screen the candidates before submitting them, how come the one I like that you just submitted not only has never heard of you, we interviewed him ourselves just last week?

    Companies and hiring managers have their own eccentricities, too. They all say they want to hire “A” players, but fail to recognize that there are only so many to go around. If you want to hire “A” players then you have to provide them with A-level opportunities. That you have free snacks and a foosball table in the break room is NOT a big deal to most people.

    Technology has become too much a crutch and less of a tool, too. Keyword-driven search agents and bots used by agencies reduces recruiting contacts to mass-mailing and spam, a thousand e-mails automatically sent out based on the number of keyword hits in a resume database search in the hope that the odds will deliver a couple of actual prospects. It explains why I regularly get e-mails telling me they’ve reviewed my resume and think I’d be a great fit for the tax manager, QA analyst, marcom specialist, or other equally-irrelevant position.

  • Robert Lindsey

    good comments all around.

    Referrals people, referrals. As a seasoned recruiter you should not have to make cold calls, rarely even warm ones. The market is great, and as long as you do a good job….the GOOD clients do drop your name or give you referrals virtually without asking.

    If your on the client side setting up 10 firms to interview…shame on you. You should be able to narrow it down to a short list before picking up the phone unless your just trying to fill your schedule. That and MOST if not all of the top producing recruiters will not or just don’t have to go through that process. They have plenty of work…maybe even recruiting your people.

  • Richard Araujo

    The problem is the law of averages. All clients want A+ recruiters and A+ candidates. All recruiters claim they can deliver both, and have A+ strategies and A+ track records. The truth is few companies offer a package good enough to attract an A+ candidate, and what defines that differs on an individual basis. And, few recruiters have A+ strategies. Because most of us, and I’m not exempting myself, are NOT A+ people. There’s a bell curve for everything and most of us fall right in the middle of the thing. The compensation/benefit/opportunity package being offered isn’t good enough to get the people you want; the recruiter doesn’t have the perfect set of contacts and past candidates to draw on to deliver the people he wants to deliver.

    This is called life, or reality. Take your pick. What would do most companies and recruiting agencies a load of good is to do a reality check on themselves and align their goals with what they can actually achieve, and then look to improve results over time.

    One of my favorite examples of this is my current company’s past obsession with ‘passive’ candidates. I asked one simple question that put it to be, which was, “Can any of you show me one single study or piece of evidence that shows passive candidates are overall better performers and longer tenured than ‘active’ candidates?” No one could. No one who I have met in this industry can. But it’s the buzz word of the day. Which of course means corporate side recruiters like me get forced to try and ‘network’ (aka, take the path of most resistance) for positions that often never materialize, and when they do need to be filled three months ago, and don’t offer anything particularly special in terms of salary, benefits, or opportunities.

    Thankfully a few people in my company are more reality oriented and realized if we don’t have any planning in terms of future positions, then a blitz of both active AND passive efforts AFTER the job has been solidified is the best option and use of our resources. What’s more, we now have a reality based assessment of what we can offer and how it compares to the market and therefore what level of candidate we can expect to get.

    If both corporate side recruiters and agency recruiters would just be honest with each other instead of endlessly pitching BS back and forth, maybe they could serve each other better. I use two external agencies, and I’m brutally honest with them about everything in the company, and I don’t let them take REQs I know are going to evaporate or change ten times before they’re settled. I help them, they in turn offer me candidates that honestly have a good shot of thriving here where I work, and an honest layout of their strategy and how they’ll execute.

    You can’t build a relationship on lies, less ‘selling’ and more honesty from both sides on this issue would go a long way. If the hiring manager the agency is going to work with is a flake, they need to know this. If the job description is an amalgamation of positions that will be hard if not impossible to fill, they need to know, AND they need to know what the priorities are. Likewise if you’re on the agency side and you’re going to advertise and don’t have the passive pipeline for the position I’m presenting, I need to know. If you’re account rep changes very three months, I need to know, AND I need to know why. If you do have a different process, lay it out and give an honest assessment of the advantages it confers.

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  • Shannon Erdell

    Fun response Jenni ~ you made my day.

    We really ARE all in this together and we have it right our relationship is a partnership instead purely a vendor-client one.

  • http://www.twentyrecruitment.com Adrian Kinnersley

    An interesting post and I agree that many staffing agencies still don’t get what truly makes a good recruitment partner. As a UK staffing company now operating in the US we’re succeeding where others have failed because we absolutely do ‘get it’.

    Our recruitment process is simple – our recruiters are specialists not only within an industry – but also a vertical market within that industry – so they really know their stuff. We also have 360 degree consultants so that the person who the client interacts with also sources the candidates, manages the process and closes the deal. We don’t and won’t work with everybody – which means we can often source talent that our competitors can’t – how can you genuinely source talent for a client if you are also on the PSL for three of their competitors? If you ask any (good) recruitment consultant what value they can add to a hiring organisation, the answer should be their network, their knowledge of your sector and business and their ability to come up with solutions. Good recruiters – those with a truly consultative approach spend a long time building networks – and that means developing relationships, not databases. It also means that they are delivery and solutions driven – not sales people looking to put bums on seats before moving onto the next job order.

    Proprietary databases are irrelevant – and you’re right they just don’t exist. What we believe you should be looking for is a consultancy that has a network of talent that they have tracked over a number of years – that’s how we source talent that you can’t find yourself.

    We have never recruited a graduate trainee and are different in that we only ever hire experienced recruiters. We also pay salaries and have packages with holidays and benefits rather than draws which provides more job security and everyone becomes a share option holder on the first anniversary of their tenure which encourages a long term view and loyalty. We also invest in continuous training and have a strong culture embedded through core company values. Consequently we have a very low staff attrition rate compared with the industry norm.

    We also focus on repeat business and 64% of our annual revenue comes from our top 20 clients. Finally – the proof – we have a 185% compound annual growth rate on an international level – so what we are doing works.
    Perhaps we should be talking ;)

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  • Lane DiBlasi

    I liked this article. I’ve been selling contingency/retained/contract staffing for many years now and what Matt says is true.

    I disagree with one thing though. Even if you are the best recruiter on the planet, you’re not going to prove it in 15 seconds.

    I think the real issue here is that the recruiting agents don’t have much credibility as a species. And why not? In my experience, there are some recruiters who have been trained by their bosses or trainers that they are only responsible for making placements, and not responsible for the integrity of their firm or the value of a fair exchange with their customer. Basically, they’ve been indoctrinated into being irresponsible, money-driven, liars. Sorry to sound harsh… but it’s those folks that ruin it for the rest of us. That’s why clients need longer and longer guarantees, and even after that, they automatically don’t believe you’ll honor the guarantee so they won’t pay you until the end of the guarantee period, and they don’t want to even check your references anymore, they want to see you do all the work of recruiting first before they sign even a contingency contract, etc.

    At the end of the day, the only way to cut through all the NOISE and have an honest conversation with a client, is to STOP SELLING and ACTUALLY LISTEN.

    There’s your differentiator right there. And the only way to prove it… is to do it.

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  • Claudia Samuelson

    Matt, after reading your post this morning, I came to this post and really LOVE WHAT YOU HAVE to say!
    I’ve always thought that the better sales people get the clients but the better recruiters keep the clients.
    As a one person company, I don’t even sell any of the points listed above. So this is validation that I’m doing the right thing.
    Thank you so much!

  • http://www.fasttrackrecruitment.com Mitch Sullivan

    I think the only way someone can truly differentiate themselves as a recruiter is to explain to the client why it’s in their best interests to only use them to fill that particular job. It’s the difference between selling ‘maybe’ and selling ‘definitely’.

    Once that’s done, all that’s left to do is negotiate the amount that the client pays upfront.

    The type of job or salary is immaterial.

    NB…I never buy stationery from people who tell me they might be able to deliver the products I need.

  • TampaYankee

    Perhaps the problem is in the eye of the beholder. If you don’t know questions to ask agency recruiters then you put yourself in a position to simply have them dictate the same old lines, etc to you. I own a staffing agency. I am different. I show specifically how we are different. But if you are ignorant of the right questions to ask me, you still may not believe.

  • USDfiatmony

    In over 20 years of contracting I can count the number of truly honest recruiters I have encountered on one hand. Most are fast talkers right off the used car lot with a list of resume search terms their “clients” are looking for and a collection of nebulous openings. For the most part I fail to see the value they add to the human resource equation and see a lot of people that couldn’t make it in their vocation or profession so they recruit for it. Many hiring decisions seem to be based on certifications instead of demonstrable successes, mainly for CYA in that HR people can always say: “well, he or she is certified.” It is time for corporations to look at the person again. Finally, I hear corporations complaining about not being able to find high quality, experienced people. Yet, most thirty-something hiring managers won’t consider people over 50 in the IT world. Besides the obvious legal issues associated with this unwritten policy they are screening out the most knowledgeable, experienced segment of our society.