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The Winning Ways of Working with Recruitment Agencies

The Winning Ways of Working with Recruitment Agencies

Robert WaltersKerry ConsultingChapman Consulting GroupMichael Page,Socius ConsultingCAP CG and Hay Group… the list goes on and on. Today, we have a wide array of recruitment partners who are able to support companies with their various recruitment needs.

Recruitment agencies are an integral part of the recruitment ecosystem. The relationship with consultants needs to be nurtured, mutual respecting and valued. Do not ever for once think that just because you’re in the client side, you could condescend recruitment partners and tower over them.

HR should be firm in communicating our requirements but when someone with over 15 years of agency experience meets you, we should respect them for what they have achieved and understand how they can help you succeed in filling recruitment needs. Too many a time, I’ve seen young, junior or immature HR professionals behaving the wrong way as a client when working with recruitment partners.  

So, what is my ideal ways of working with recruitment partners? Before I answer that, let's first set some context: 

Some companies work with agencies on an retained search basis (where recruitment fees are paid regardless if you eventually hire someone from the talent pool that they have researched and presented). 

Most companies work with agencies on a contingent search basis (where recruitment fees are paid only upon a successful identification of a candidate). 

And there are many companies who work with multiple agencies on a contingent search basis for their vacancies (where they appoint a few partners to work on a vacancy at any point in time). 

Personally, I choose to work with agencies on an exclusive contingent searchbasis (where I appoint an agency to work on a vacancy exclusively). You may ask- is this wise? You’re betting your hopes in one agency/consultant and what if she/he don’t deliver? Isn’t casting your net wider by appointing more agencies better? 

When you go into an Exclusive Contingent Search Arrangement (let's call this ECSA, because it's so long to type), you get a higher commitment from the consultant. They are willing to go the extra mile and make sure they close the role for you. 

I trust the consultants who I work with. These are consultants that I have come to know for almost a decade and relationships that are built over the years.They are senior, they know their stuff and they deserved to be respected. And this formula has worked well for me.

I’ve closed numerous roles in this manner over the years with incredible effectiveness, speed and the best part is I built a wonderful relationship with the consultants. Some of them may have for e.g. started with Hudson but has since moved on to another agency or setup a new agency on their own. But the networks they have established and the in-depth knowledge of the industry will always stay with them. 

Of course, there are challenges with ECSA. 

#1 – I have to convince my business stakeholders that it will work. To ensure that, I have to make sure I always work with the brightest and best recruitment partners to support their hiring needs. And this comes with experience,  investing the time to network, judgment call and nurture relationships. 

#2 – There might be times where your appointed ECSA can’t fill the role. So,when do you cut short the pain and review your sourcing approach?There was one single exception that I remembered till today: there was this one IT Digital Marketing & Front Office Business Partner role that took me 6 months to fill via an ECSA. It was a very senior and specialized role. The Global Business Lead & Hiring Manager had very high expectations and we interviewed many. But the appointed exclusive agency/consultant never gave up – because she knew she was on an exclusive contingent search arrangement with me. Eventually, we closed it successful with an excellent candidate found (and who is still with the company today). 

Some things are worth waiting for. You just need to have patience.

I don't work with a single agency for my hiring needs. I go with disciplines: For example, consultant A from Hudson may be strong in Finance while consultant B from Page Executive could be strong in IT. I don't go into an arrangement where I work only with Hudson for my Finance and IT vacancies. Instead, I will make sure I go with functional discipline based on the strategic functional value that the consultants can bring to the table. No one single agency dominates business with the company. And I think agencies would also agree with me saying that they can't possible be good at every field and know it all. Even the largest agencies may not be strong in a certain field as there is always another boutique expert consultant around. 

This article is not exhaustive as I have not spent time to also cover direct recruitment. However, I hope this article gets you thinking about the ways of working with recruitment partners. Build relationship, and if you can, build friendship with your recruitment partners. 

Remember, if you look good, they look good too (Just like the Vidal Saloon slogan). Strive for a winning ways of working with your recruitment partners. 

This article was first published in Linkedin

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