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Recruiters, Get Your Heads Out Of The Sand And Embrace The Future

By March 1, 20124 Comments

The squeeze is on.  Recruitment agencies are doing it tough right now.  The entire recruitment landscape post-recession has changed and for many it is a weird moonscape causing a great deal of displacement and discomfort.  January was a particularly sluggish month for recruitment with many key client decision-makers taking virtually the whole (rain-soaked) month off and business, as a result, slowed to a virtual halt.  February rebounded with a strained whimper and here we are in March, business confidence slowly returning, employment intentions ramping up at a gradient of 0.1% but cashflow remaining tighter than a Scotsman in Harrods.

Many recruiters are reporting a notable uptake in hiring intentions and client decisiveness.  This is a good thing for those recruiters out there who are adaptable enough to navigate the new recruitment landscape, but for many others, persisting with trying the same old thing is, not surprisingly, yielding scant reward.

Last week The Whiteboard relayed the semi-drunken truths offered up by internal recruiters at the SEEK bash, where agency spend is reducing but the amount spent with agencies regarded as true consulting partners to their businesses is in some cases increasing.  Those agencies seen to offer true consultative advice, and solutions to genuine hiring problems, with an innovative and pragmatic approach, are the ones getting the business.

So which side does your firm sit?  Or as a recruiter, which way are you going?  Are you open to the new way of things, or is your reaction to the scary new world of recruitment to put your head in the sand and keep plugging away the way you always did?

Are you working for a firm on the PSA panel of a large New Zealand corporate that we spoke with recently?  An iconic company with six recruitment suppliers on its panel and who only made ten hires through agencies in the whole of 2011, out of a total of 200 hires?  A company with such a flawed PSA system that their internal recruiters are denied a bonus if they use a recruitment agency outside of their PSA (way to go in promoting lateral thinking amongst your team).  Are you banking on making placements into this corporate client in 2012 just because you spent an entire week of your time filling in tender documents and responding to endless “Requests-For-Information”?

Or are you a recruiter whose immediate response to being briefed on a role is to chuck an ad on SEEK?  Twice this week we have spoken to two well-regarded New Zealand businesses looking for fresh HR or internal recruitment talent, and both had recently briefed their PSA recruitment supplier.  Looking at SEEK the next day you could see the agency’s ad sitting directly above the client’s own ad.  For the same role.  As a recruiter what are you going to do?  Get up really early to speak to the jobseekers that applied to both roles and persuade them to go through you instead of directly to the client?  Is that really what your clients are looking for in a recruitment partner these days?

No, of course not.  If you’re a recruiter reading this blog then you probably already have enough about you to consider that there are other ways of doing things.  As agency recruiters we can do things better.  We can add value.  We don’t need to reduce our fees to 10% because we no longer believe we can offer anything tangible that our clients couldn’t just do themselves.  In fact, if your only solution to a client’s talent shortage is to bung an identical ad on SEEK to the one they have already put up there, then you don’t even deserve 10%.  If you are an agency recruiter worth your salt, then use your networking skills, your commercial nous, your sixth sense and gut feel about people.  Embrace social recruiting, harness it, tame it, bend it to fit your style and approach, and tap into its vast potential for your clients’ benefit.  Stand proudly at the forefront of mobile recruiting technology.  Create tailored solutions for your clients that blow their socks off, and remind yourself why you are such a damn good recruiter in the first place.

March is certainly gaining some momentum and business is undoubtedly improving.  But the spoils will only be there for those of us in recruitment willing to accept that the game has changed once and for all, and it is time to start playing to a new set of rules.  To my mind there are at least two events coming up this month that forward thinking recruiters interested in navigating the new way of things should be getting involved with:

Many of you are already signed up for Ross Clennett’s visit here on 14th-15th March but a very limited number of seats still remain.  We at Rice Consulting are hosting Ross and looking forward to his incisive and forthright thoughts in his keynote presentation:  Thriving or Dying? Recruitment Agencies in the 21st Century.

A week later and Destination Talent is bringing the Recruiters’ Hub Conference to Sydney, complete with international speakers, how we agency recruiters can better communicate with HR, social recruiting with Greg Savage, understanding the behaviour of employers, the behaviour of candidates, migration trends, and the internal challenges faced by agencies from internal hires, contractor management, talent management, culture and yes, the handling of rec-to-rec!

Challenges lie ahead in 2012 but these are exciting times and some very cool things are going on in March.  The question is do you want to be part of the past, or part of the future?  Get your head out of the sand and get involved, and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Auckland and/or Sydney in the month ahead!

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • guest says:

    PSA’s are definitely a big topic of discussion at present and their worth seems to be diminishing all the time. I am increasingly speaking to senior hiring managers who are going outside their internal recruitment teams out of sheer frustration – the practices you mention above are sadly only too common.
    The “iconic” company you mention are a case in point but certainly not unique.

    • Craig says:

      Great blog, and certainly nothing new. If more recruitment companies placed more integrity around the ‘bid no bid’ process for what are clearly non sustainable PSA’s they’d leave well alone. In the end it comes down to delivering value. 10% has its place but it’s certainly not at the consultative end. Be clear about what your client will get for 10% and even clearer about the value they will achieve from 22% (or whatever you charge for ‘consulting’). What bugs me even more is when I see well known ‘search’ consultants placing ads on SEEK. And still they charge the higher fee.

  • Paul Heath says:

    Well said Jonathan

  • James Cozens says:

     A great blog Jonathan and takes me smiling into the weekend…