When you need to recruit, it can be difficult to know whether to manage the process entirely within the organisation, or whether to use a third party.
This article explores the various options, exposes some misleading notions, and helps identify the approach most likely to result in the best outcome for each specific recruitment assignment.
Internal or External?
For positions at the mid to low level it may be sensible and most cost-effective for an organisation to manage the recruitment process themselves. This is probably true but it does require significant time and capability to attract and assess possible candidates. For more critical or senior positions this approach will rarely be highly successful, and when the organisation does not have the necessary resources or expertise, then using an expert external resource to manage the process will usually deliver the best results.
The problem is, which one?
Retained vs. Contingent?
It is easy to be attracted to the idea of using a consultant who only charges a fee on a successful placement. However these types of engagements are often frustrating and fruitless, mainly because the consultant has no sense of responsibility or obligation, and is unlikely to invest the necessary time to ensure the best outcome. It may be appropriate to use this agency approach for lower level positions but not for the more critical ones.
It is important to first consider how important the position and the person will be to the company. What will be the difference between having someone who is average or good, and someone who is exceptional? If there is a difference (as there would be with most jobs), then it will make sense to ensure that a comprehensive process is employed to find the best there is.
By listing the position with one or more contingent based consultants, the only candidates likely to be considered will be those actively looking for a new job. In truth, the best candidates are probably not looking. From time to time there are good candidates who are genuinely looking for a new opportunity, but they are likely to apply anyway if a proper process is implemented.
The contingent recruiter will react as quickly as possible to get potential candidates in front of the hiring organisation, often without attention to detail or the necessary evaluation of the candidate’s personality, intellect or motivation. Their loyalty is to no one and they are not held accountable for any process. They only consider the candidate’s experience for a possible fit, when for key positions it is the culture fit that is critical. Usually, they have little feeling for the employing organisation and its culture, and will happily sell to the quickest/highest bidder. They would have you believe that their “candidates” are exclusive to them and thereby justify their placement fee.
In reality, if the candidate is appropriate and wants the job then a proper recruitment process is likely to attract him or her anyway. It is highly unlikely that anyone worthwhile looking for a new job would rely solely on one consultant to find them one. Accepting resumes from consultants who have not been retained could result in additional fees from the appointment of someone who would probably have applied or been found as part of a comprehensive search and selection assignment. Using contingent recruiters is usually a very hit and miss approach, and not worth the eliminated risk of paying fees without a successful placement.
For basically the same professional fees, a retained search and selection consultant will ensure that a proper process is put in place to attract, assess and select the best available candidates for consideration by the employer for the specific job, and they are fully accountable and responsible to the hiring organisation both during and after the assignment. In the same way that you might want to ensure expert assistance from the company’s legal or accounting providers by properly retaining their professional services, it might be sensible to adopt this approach to recruitment to ensure that the best people are hired.
The experienced search and selection consultants rarely fail to deliver a good result when professionally retained. Those who have been around for a while have achieved longevity for a reason and can usually boast extremely high success rates. The more difficult assignments may take a little longer than ideal, but engaging a professional consultant will ensure that no stone is left unturned.
Exclusive vs. Non-exclusive?
Why put all your eggs in one basket, right? Isn’t it true that by spreading the risk, the chances of getting a good result are enhanced? Not necessarily. The truth is that a consultant who receives a listed assignment on a non-exclusive basis is less likely to invest the necessary time to deliver a comprehensive process. They are effectively in a race and will simply present any current job seekers they know of who might be suitable. Often they will not even consult with the prospective candidates before sending their details to the employer.
Frequently, the same resume is received from more than one agency. All of this creates problems and frustrations for the hiring organisation, and time is wasted considering mediocre candidates. If the job is important enough then it makes sense to choose a firm to conduct the assignment exclusively so that they are accountable to the employer to provide a professional service.
Big vs. Small?
Many would think that the larger recruitment firms are better placed to find the best people. Bigger is better – right? Not necessarily, particularly when the best are not actively looking. Often the best way to find these potential candidates is through a targeted search campaign. However, a consultant cannot ethically approach employees of their firm’s client organisations. Clearly, this is a problem for the larger recruitment companies who by definition have a large number of clients and effectively knocks out a significant number of potential candidates.
The big firms market themselves as having massive databases and access to hundreds of consultants. In truth the databases are full of previous unsuccessful job applicants and active job seekers, and it is a falsehood to suggest that hundreds of consultants will be assisting with the assignment. It’s not as if any of them will invest their time to help another consultant earn fees and commission.
For many different reasons, the assignment sometimes needs to be conducted with a high level of discretion, and it is likely to be the smaller firm that is better able to achieve this. Also, many of the larger firms will dilute the assignment by often using other, often more junior employees of the recruitment firm to conduct particular aspects of the process, e.g. research, reviewing resumes, interviewing, and writing reports etc. all of which reduce the level of expertise applied to the process. Usually the most successful assignments are carried out from start to finish by one expert individual consultant, with the experience and network to conduct a comprehensive process incorporating all aspects of the assignment.
Specialised vs. Generalist?
On the face of it, it seems sensible that a recruitment firm specialising in an industry or role type will be best placed to find the right candidates. Much like the problem of larger firms, this is not necessarily so. By specialising in a particular industry or role type, a consultant will not be able to ethically approach those potential candidates who are currently employed by a client of the consultant’s firm. This may rule out a very large number of possible candidates for the specialised recruitment company.
A generalist firm, operating across most industry sectors and role types, is much less likely to have these conflicts of interest, and is more likely to attract the higher quality candidates, not those using specialist recruitment firms to help them move them from employer to employer within their industry.
Specialist recruitment consultants tend to focus on candidates who are on the move, and may ignore those potential candidates who are not looking and who they do not know.
Local vs. National or Global?
When faced with the need to recruit a key executive or high level position, it may often be considered that the likely candidate will come from interstate or overseas. Therefore it makes sense to utilise a national or global consulting firm, right? After all they are closer to where the candidate is likely to come from.
This is false logic. The difficulty is not so much in finding potential candidates but in attracting them. A consultant based near the client, rather than the candidate, has considerable advantages in this aspect of an assignment. Those based elsewhere do not have the necessary knowledge of the social and community aspects of the locale to be as effective in assisting people to value the local environment and opportunities.
With the technology available today, combined with strong national and global networks, a locally based consultant is much more likely to identify and attract the best possible candidates.
So, whilst a large, national or global recruitment organisation, or one that specialises in a specific industry or role type, or one which is prepared to conduct an assignment on a non-exclusive or contingent basis, may on the face of it seem like the best way to proceed, this may be farthest from the truth.
To find the best you need to ensure that a strategic process is carried out for the specific position in your organisation. This may be best implemented by a local, boutique, generalist, client focused consultancy which provides a professional recruitment service on an exclusive, retained basis.
By developing a professional partnership with such a business you will be more likely to attract, recruit and retain the finest available people for your organisation across a wide variety of positions.