Backward Logic

20.06.2012
Find a good recruiter with whom you can build a mutually respectful relationship and you’ll save money – even at a higher fee.

During either good or bad economic periods, an effective recruiter or recruitment agency is a good value; even a higher priced recruiter. When times are good, companies seem to have no worries about throwing money to employment agencies, in return for nothing more than re-posting their own generic job descriptions and a pile of unscreened CVs.

In the Czech market if someone is hired as a result, the standard fee seems to be two salaries. I have never understood how this is worth even one salary and fail to see much value considering the minimal effort. The fee is supposed to be based on the level of service provided and yet, I don’t see much service involved.

Sadly, recruiting services have devolved in the Internet age to where an agency boasts a large database of CVs, most of which are absolutely useless to any particular client, plus some online activity, resulting in a pile of CVs tossed into the lap of the client company to then deal with.

This description accounts for a large portion of recruitment agencies’ activities on behalf of their client companies. What I just described might be data resourcing but it is not recruiting. If expectations are low, then this methodology has a little bit of value I suppose. How much value is there in outsourcing the posting of job descriptions and collecting CVs?

So it is no wonder that, when times get tougher, many companies turn inward and institute policies discouraging the payment of fees to recruiters. Well, I frankly agree. Why should companies pay for the same activity their own HR staff should be doing in the first place. How much value is there in outsourcing the posting of job descriptions and collecting CVs?

However, they lose sight of the fact that there are recruiters who actually go out there and search for suitable professionals fitting specific criteria. The hunt is based on the qualification details of what a hiring official wants to see in a potential candidate. These recruiters are higher priced and with good reason. There is an uninformed perception that there are only two kinds of recruiters, agencies or retained direct search recruiters.

This is a shortsighted and lazy conclusion. Indeed, a majority of recruiters over the last few years have become more Internet based, choosing to take shortcuts wherein they rely on a volume of placements in exchange for lower fees. It is also true that on the other end of the scale there is the more elitist retained fee recruiting firms, who have more lengthy processes.

This service has more value although they focus on upper management and specialized positions although they usually won’t lift a finger unless they first receive some sort of up-front payment.

However, there is a vast middle space where traditional-style recruiters reside between the two extremes. For example, classifying a recruiter by the manner in which they are paid is silly, because it only refers to the payment arrangement, and has little or nothing to do with the services rendered. I work both contingency and success fee-based searches, determined by the circumstances and needs of the client company. The irony is that during tough economic times it makes more sense to utilize a good recruiter and even at a higher fee it is a better value.

How the fee is paid depends on the situation, but it doesn’t alter the amount of effort involved, with the exception that a company that pays something up front makes their need a higher priority on my list. They’ve actually invested something.

The irony is that during tough economic times it makes more sense to utilize a good recruiter and even at a higher fee it is a better value. Consider for a moment the most common method; an agency re-posts a company job description and, after a period of time, forwards a virtual stack of CVs to their client company. None of these have likely been screened, which I define as actually having spoken to any of the candidates whose CVs are being submitted. Then, it is up to HR to sift through all the garbage to find two or three suitable candidates, according to their CV. Then, the interviews commence but, with little prior screening, how many of those meetings will have been time wasted?

If I were a company manager, I wouldn’t want even a small amount of money thrown away in this manner, especially when there is already an HR function to do this work. Yet, in many companies, an HR manager will pat themselves on the back because they were able to give their boss a pile of paper, which they think demonstrates they actually accomplished something.

No, they haven’t, they’ve just made more busy work with the hopes that, somewhere in that pile of applicants, there are a couple of acceptable candidates for consideration. If they fail to get results, companies then complain about the cheap service they chose, and then, seek another cheap and discounted resource for Internet-sourced CVs. And to think there are actually people drawing a salary for applying this kind of logic.

Now, compare this with a recruiter, who not only collects the CVs, but screens and possibly meets the candidates he or she represents; shortly thereafter HR receives those top two or three prescreened candidates, actually saving a company time and money. I am referring to recruiters who actually work on behalf of their client companies; as an extension of HR and management, discriminating between candidates the company would like to meet, and removing those who would be only a waste of their client’s time.

In my mind, this defines a recruiter and what I’ve just described is what a recruiter is supposed to be doing on behalf of their clients. Anyone offering anything less is just a cheap source of CVs and, guess what, you get what you pay for. Find a good recruiter with whom you can build a mutually respectful relationship and you’ll save money– even at a higher fee.

Sadly, many companies use the fee level as the primary criteria for choosing a recruiter, thinking it more economical to go after the cheapest options available and failing to investigate the level of service they receive in exchange; this is what I mean when I refer to backward logic.

Let me provide a recent anecdote. I spoke with a company that was frustrated, looking for a certain type of qualified person for a critical role. Other agencies had already worked on it and, after a lengthy period of time, produced a lot of CVs but no results, I took on the project and did a lot of actual work contacting, speaking and meeting individuals. During a course of three weeks, I concluded that I had one good candidate who fit the specifications provided by the company. I didn’t send a pile of CVs in an attempt to show how much virtual work I had done nor did my activities require them to waste a lot of time. I sent one to get the job done, whose qualifications, attitude and interest level fit the position. Having prescreened the individual, I also saved the client one step in the process, which in turn saved precious time. The candidate was hired after two interviews.  

Does it always work out this way, no but three, two or even one thoroughly screened and qualified candidate is better than 10, 20 or 30 CVs you’ve got to deal with. Indeed my fee was higher, but the results were noticeably better and of value to the company. Only someone with their head buried in the sand or in denial would not recognize this kind of service, even with the accompanying higher fee, is a good value.

The best time to engage the services of a recruiter is after exercising internal resources and efforts, after posting the job description online and checking for internal company or client / customer referrals. Then, after that, engage a recruiter. Additionally, don’t wait until you have need for a good recruiter to look for one, by then it’s too late and you’re options will be limited. Be less concerned – within some obvious limits – of the fee level as a deciding factor of which services you choose. Focus instead on what the recruiter will do on your company’s behalf in exchange for the fee.

Isn’t that the whole point of paying a fee for services? Indeed, press them to explain the depth of their efforts on your company’s behalf and check references. So that when you do entrust a selectively screened recruiter, even during a slower economy and tightened budgets, when the fee is due you will have actually gotten something for the money.

Or, would you prefer instead to convince yourself the company is best served by a cheaper source of CVs, suggesting that will translate into better savings and results?