External recruiters are a crutch. I need to be careful with this one, lest I misrepresent my point, but hear me out.
What is “recruiting?” Visit different companies and you’ll find the definition (and philosophy) differs quite a bit. Having been a rather frequent jumper the last 6 years, I’ve experienced many of these differences first-hand, and depending upon where you fall on the “true” recruiting continuum, the skill set of the corporate recruiters varies quite a bit. Once you’ve identified your spot on that continuum, you can predict with great ease the reliance placed on external recruiting sources.
You may have worked for a company that refused to use any kind or external support, but that situation is becoming the exception, not the rule. When the recession of the late oughts hit companies in the pocketbook, internal recruiting resources were an easy target – no matter how critical the acquisition of talent is to the success of an organization, on the spread sheet we are still classified as “SG&A,” bud. Cut to the bare bones, recruiting departments were often shrunk to a 1 or 2-person operation.
Predictably, hiring needs started to increase post-2010, but now companies were more willing to pay for external support on an ad hoc arrangement, rather than be saddled with the risk of another round of layoffs. The result is that to some degree we’ve all become reliant on the contributions of external recruiters.
Where as in the past a recruiter may have come in with a network of companies with whom to “pull” successfully, now it seems recruiters have their favorite agency contacts. Where a recruiter may have formerly puffed out his chest for sourcing a a premium recruit with some fancy data mining, the same guy does the peacock walk for getting a premium candidate from an agency. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a shot at the agency, I’m just wondering where a salaried recruiter fits in that chain of events.
I want my recruiters to chop their own wood. The meaning?
When you chop your own wood, you warm yourself twice.
When you find your own candidates, you show your value to the organization twice.
It’s become too easy to farm out requisitions to agencies. I realize hiring managers are screaming “FASTER!” as you fill their respective requisition, but that’s an indicator that we’re looking at the wrong metric. So how do we reverse a trend that’s become an accepted business practice?
- Focus on the high-dollar positions yourself; if you’re going to farm something out, make it the transactional positions. End of the day, you need to bring in the sizzle.
- Market the right metric; “Quality of Hire” and “Cost of Hire” are the metrics you want to see promoted. Time-to-fill is a losing game; you know it, I know it, and your hiring managers should know it. But they won’t prioritize it until you show them why it’s the right thing to do.
- Get in front of the game; you know why hiring managers call agencies? Because they know the agency will already have a pipeline. If you aren’t spending at least 20 hours a week doing sourcing/networking/
relationship building in the hopes of building a pipeline, you can’t compete. How do you do that with 50 open req’s? See #1.
Make a stand; I can vividly recall asking myself “why do they need me if all I’m doing is calling their favorite agency?” If you have a manager dead set on using an agency, make an argument they can relate to…i.e., if you recruit for Finance, put a pencil to the cost of that contingency firm. Isn’t it worth giving me 2 weeks?
It’s a tough habit for some to break. Recruiting is a grind, and quite often there is little in the way of recognition or appreciation. But that’s what we signed up for. Keep in mind this fact – if you do learn how to operate without the assistance of an agency, you have a skill set needed by every company you can imagine.
Keep chopping wood.
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is Vice President of Talent Acquisition for DentalOne Partners and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.