Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Problem for Agencies Not Using Outside Recruiters

During this economic crisis, many agencies have been forbidden by either their CFO’s or their holding company to use recruiters for any level of hire.  It is a false economy.  And it makes both employees and clients angry and frustrated.

Every executive I know complains about the dearth of good candidates.  Recruiters, unlike their Human Resources counterparts, normally have any number of excellent candidates who will deal with them on an exclusive basis.  These candidates may not necessarily be “looking” but would be receptive to appropriate opportunities; and the recruiters know what is appropriate for them.
The bean counters believe that saving money on recruitment fees will help the bottom line.  Actually, it is just the opposite.  When jobs are open for long periods of time because agencies are not using recruiters, clients get antsy and often angry at the agency lack of staffing.  And agency internal staff becomes disheartened because they are overworked, tired and desperately need a break.  A client, whose account recently shifted agencies, told me that one of the catalysts to the change was the failure of the previous agency to keep her account staffed.

If an employee leaves and there is no one to replace him or her, why leave the agency and the account in a vulnerable position?  Some agencies simply leave the recruiting aspect of it up to their human resources department.  Some are just arrogant enough to think that they get enough résumés through the mail and through their own contacts to handle the issue based on who or what may be in the files. Every company always checks its own data base and applicant pool before hiring a recruiter.  And they should.  Why spend money on a recruiter if it can be done internally?  Most agencies offer incentives for employees to recommend friends.  The issue there is just that.  They often send friends who have no relevance to open positions.  But agencies should be doing this.

Some agencies resolve this problem by bringing in contract recruiters.   Many companies will hire contract recruiters (people who ostensibly know the market and get put on staff to develop candidates). I have nothing against contract recruiters.  Many of them are quite good.  But few, if any, come with a data base.  And more importantly, most are unfamiliar with the culture of their new agency.  So they join a firm and start making calls to try to find candidates – same as we do, but without the data base and without knowledge of agency or client cultures.  And, of course, they don’t know the nuances among account groups.  Some of these contract recruiters get lucky and can bring in people.  But most will quietly admit that it takes them a lot of time to get up to speed,

After twenty five plus years of recruiting, there is one thing I know: The issue in recruiting is always candidates.

I have thousands of candidates in my database.  The irony is that when I conduct a regression analysis (as all searches are) and it is filtered by background, title, interest, location, salary and, finally, availability, there are often only a limited number of candidates for any given job.   More often than not, I have to conduct a search to ferret out appropriate people.

Advertising is a service business.  Its first obligation is to its clients followed closely to  its own employees.  Hiring good people quickly and efficiently is very much part of that obligation. 


  1. Hi Paul,

    When it comes to finding the best talent for an agency, I of course agree with you that an outside recruiter is an excellent alternative to internal resources to place a position. A contingency recruiter is only paid when the client finds the right match. They can introduce talent that the agency may otherwise not see giving them, at the very least, good comparison to their own sources.

    As to your points of good internal recruiters, they have a strong disadvantage that good outside recruiters do not; they are working only for the company they are recruiting for. A candidate will more likely be uncomfortable speaking openly with them. While a professional recruiter, who is more like a career counselor, will have a much deeper dialog to make sure of the "right fit".

    Best Wishes,

  2. Barney: Really good point. Recruiters have a vested interest in filling jobs and having those jobs stay filled. Internal and contract recruiters are mostly interested in bodies - they will worry about the quality of the placement later. Outside recruiters care very much about repeat business - from their clients and, eventually, from their candidates (who, if they are happy, are a great source of referrals).

    In terms of comfort level, we have all heard the line, "I wouldn't say this on a real interview". Makes me nuts, but you find out a lot about what motivates a candidate and what makes them tick, which is often not disclosed by the candidate when they are on an actual job interview.

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