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“We don’t use agencies” and other lies

By November 27, 2020No Comments

Not all lies are created equal. Sometimes we lie to save our own skin. Sometimes we lie to be kind. And other times, we lie to ourselves. In the most part, recruiters have a reputation for the telling the kind of barefaced porkies we’d tell our parents when disappearing off to get drunk in a park as teenagers. It’s always a night at your most presentable friends house for a sleepover and yes “of course his parents are there mum“. As much fun as it is to portray agency recruiters as shiny-suited villains, in my experience, most lies told across our industry are either to avoid uncomfortable conversations, or are a method for us to convince ourselves that anything is possible if we just believe.  

It is not just those agency-side who are guilty of pulling a fast one. Every agency recruiter who has spent more than an hour making BD calls will have heard the classic “we don’t use agencies”  line delivered by a slightly grumpy internal recruiter or hiring manager. I put it to you dear reader, that this is almost always a lie, although often for quite different reasons.

Firstly, we all need to accept that sometimes we just lie. According to boffins, we all do it, and it doesn’t necessarily make us liars.  When my wife asks how many beers I’ve had at lunchtime, I say 3 and not 5. I don’t say this to protect her feelings, and I don’t believe it myself. I just blurt it out. It’s just quicker and easier and I don’t have to answer questions about my slightly high blood pressure. If we look at the at the internal recruiter claiming that they don’t use agencies, firstly, there is a fair chance that this is just a barefaced lie to get you off the phone. An internal recruiter, having received their fifth BD call of the morning, no longer has the patience to explain that you’re not on the PSA, they hate your agency, or they hate you. A lie is quick. Effective. The full-stop to your open ended Hays-trained questioning.

Sometimes a lie just avoids an awkward or unkind moment. When your partner asks you “does my bum look fat in this”, we just say “not at all” (unless you notice your partner doing continuous squats, in which case she means “phat” and the correct answer is “absolutely”). Truth and reality has very little bearing on the correct thing to say. A “white lie” just avoids a hairbrush being thrown at you. Commonly, an internal recruiter uses a “white lie” to save everyone’s time. Y’see, it’s easy for the fledgling agency recruiter to think that the internal recruiter on the other end of the line is the only thing standing between them and a mega placement. Sadly, in most cases, the $65k a year internal recruiter has no input on what agencies can be used. They don’t like this anymore than you do. The PSA was set long ago and based on who took the exec team out on the booziest lunches. Of course the internal recruiter could explain that, but what difference would it make? Everyone wastes time, and no one feels better about themselves. Nope, much kinder and less confronting  just to say “thanks but no thanks”.

Sometimes we just knowingly lie to ourselves. When you have half a pint left and you tell your beloved “yep, just finishing this then I’ll be on my way” you damn-well know that when Big Mike comes back from the bar with a 7% IPA for you, you’re not going anywhere just yet. Perhaps you had a superficial intention to leave, and you can kid yourself all you want, but there was always another drink on the cards. This phenomenon is more common than would be believed within the internal recruitment community. Many internal recruitment functions believe that their agency spend is zero. Many internal recruitment functions also don’t have a fucking clue where money is being spent. Or they do, but they’ve pushed it to the very back of their psyche as it raises too many confronting questions. There is a strange badge of honour in being “agency free” and I’m not convinced it’s either true or healthy. Many times an internal recruiter has told me that they don’t use agencies, only for me to have a beer with an IT recruiter that same week who has 6 contractors in said firm. What “we don’t use agencies” typically means is “we don’t use agencies for the roles that the internal recruitment team fill”. It is a sentence loaded with caveats. In the most part, it means we only use agencies for contractors. And temps. And exec search. Oh and if a role is really difficult. Before an internal recruiter gets their knickers in a twist and complains about me (again) I should add that there are some functions out there who don’t use agencies. Well done to those, as it’s a monumental task. I’d argue there’s only a Beadle-sized handful of businesses of scale who pull off this feat. I would also say that if you’re an internal recruitment function who doesn’t use agencies for at least some niche and hard-to-fill roles, then you’re doing the business a disservice. Agency recruiters can be annoying little fuckers, but good ones can be a fantastic sourcing channel for certain roles. And if an agency recruiter can find a candidate who is 20% more effective, then I’d question any function who aims for 100% directly filled roles. But I’m an agency recruiter, so I guess I would think that.

Have a good weekend folks.