Evolve to Succeed!
I've been working in IT-Recruitment for the past 20 years and I've stuck with it simply because I love working with and helping people. The constant challenges, never-ending learning curve and bringing brilliant companies together with brilliant talent fulfils and motivates me.
From my first day on the job, one of the key issues staring me in the face was the general relationship between hiring companies and IT-recruiters. Let's be honest, whilst there are some outstanding relationships out there in the market, working with an IT-recruiter is in many ways, viewed purely as working with the "necessary evil". It sounds harsh but it really hits the nail on the head!
When I deal with a potential client for the first time one of my first questions is "how do you currently work with IT-recruiters and how has the experience been? What then happens, I would describe as a negative "waterfall" of feedback. Over the years I've gathered a lot of feedback from very different companies working in diverse markets and, as different as all these companies are, the feedback is all frighteningly similar!
I don't just blame the hiring companies and I must admit that, in amongst all the great recruiters/recruitment companies, there are a lot of, well let's just say, "cowboys" out there.
After dealing with a large variety of clients large and small over the course of 20 years, it's very clear to me where the root of the problem lies.
This is the general client consensus on recruiters:
- Over promise under deliver
- Low understanding of relevant technologies
- Lack of communication (disappear off the face of the planet when things don't go well)
- Non-suitable CV's marketed as suitable
- High fluctuation of staff
- Low success rate
- Expensive (of course bad service would seem expensive!)
This is always so sad to hear because it can be done so differently and add so much more value to the recruitment process. It leads to clients being overly sceptical before you are even in the room with them. Once you are face to face it’s not seldom that the client spends the first 20 minutes talking about all the negative experiences he's had with IT-recruiters instead of focusing on the future and how much value a really good IT-recruitment partner can add.
I can fully understand where the client's frustrations are coming from. It's a fast-paced saturated market where clients and IT-recruiters don't invest enough time and effort in aligning their drivers and goals but instead, focus on KPI's and metrics. KPI's are not only present on the recruitment side of things, often clients will be predominantly focussed on the volume of CV's a recruiter is going to send them when they'd be better advised to focus on the quality of the recruitment process and the candidates that a recruiter can deliver.
All the above has created a bit of a "monster" where IT-recruiters are driven by very high KPI-targets, to produce activities for their employers as opposed to placing the core focus on client needs and candidate-experience. If a client and their IT-recruitment partner's drivers and objectives are not aligned, somewhere along the line luck has to happen in order to fill positions. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't invest time or money in the concept of luck!
It's time to talk about the issues and take account. Clients and recruitment companies alike, must realise that they are both responsible for the status quo and that only they together can end the negative cycle and rectify the problems.
In my opinion there are two core factors at the root of the problem:
1. Lack of commitment
Often a client's strategy will be to get multiple recruiters trying to fill the same jobs on a purely speculative basis. They'll be open about the fact that they've been doing this for years and that there are maybe 4 to 5 other recruiters trying to fill the roles too. The recruiter on the other hand sees the opportunity at face value, as a purely speculative prospect and will treat it accordingly. The recruiter will invest a certain level of commitment right at the beginning, but this will generally rapidly reduce as soon as the search proves to be tough because when you work speculatively, you are forced to follow the money and not necessarily the right path. In this case as a recruiter, you're faced with the fact that one of the 4 to 5 competitors who are also on the job may just burst your bubble at any given moment, even if you do put all the hard work in you only have at best a 1 in 4 chance of actually filling the position. It’s not sensible to work on this kind of assignment at all and it’s certainly not motivating! Both parties are at fault here for accepting the situation and not trying to create a new and more constructive path. Of course, this isn't going to work well most of the time. For both the client and the recruiter this set-up is what it is, purely speculative!
2. KPI-driven approach
Due to the generally speculative relationship between clients and recruiters, recruitment companies have evolved into high-performance machines focused on volume and KPI's. The drivers and goals of recruiters are seldom aligned with those of their clients. Speed and volume are two of the most common KPI metrics to be focused on because being fast and delivering a huge volume of CV's to a huge volume of clients will generate placements in an absolutely candidate driven market. It's the only real way to achieve enough revenue to survive in a speculative market. Look at it like a big fishing net where a lot of the fish escape through the wholes and a few big fish stay in the net. That just about sums it up! KPI-driven recruitment can also be a huge problem on the candidate side of things, where recruiters (and I have interviewed them in the past) are targeted by their employers to spend as little time as possible qualifying candidates so that a higher volume of candidates can be qualified daily. Some recruiters have told me that they are told to spend as little as a maximum of 15 minutes on the phone with a candidate before deciding whether the candidate is suitable for a client vacancy. Yes, the candidates are in the same boat as the clients, they're just the fish in the net and they feel it too. As I already put it, with no real commitment, recruiters are forced to follow the money and that doesn't drive the right behaviour or put them on the right path. It certainly doesn't create quality! As far as I'm concerned recruitment companies are at fault here, for accepting the situation, not focussing firmly on the quality of assignments they work on and not actively fighting to educate and change the market.
So, taking the above into account, what are the first key steps for change a client who is unhappy with their recruiting partners can undertake?
- Only work with real niche specialists with a consultative approach
- Visit them in their environment to experience their culture and meet their people
- Check their track-record by asking for client references (a good partner will let you speak to long-standing clients)
- Commit exclusively (per position) and contractually on a retained-search basis (a purely speculative arrangement is not going to constantly solve the very difficult recruitment problems you have)
- Engage fully with your partner and invest in building a strong relationship with them
- Brief your partner in depth regarding the position you are trying to fill, your company culture and vision
- Test your partner to make sure they really understand your company, your need and to get a feeling for the type of candidate experience they will deliver (candidate experience is a major success factor in any recruitment process)
- Set up a clear time frame in terms of best case and worst case but also understand that recruitment is a variable process that is dependent on people (Anyone who gives you a guaranteed time frame is just selling to you as opposed to consulting you)
- Shift your focus from wanting lots of CV's to wanting the right candidates (in this market anyone who promises to send you 10 CV's for specialist positions isn't going to be focused on quality)
- Fully utilise your partner's service and let them help to optimize your recruitment process and your internal candidate experience (you'd be amazed at the insight an experienced niche recruiter can offer your company)
- If a partner is successful, stick with them, continue to engage fully and constantly work on building the relationship further (know that your partner will get better and better if the level of integration and communication is right, the very best work is yet to come)
How can my colleagues in the IT-recruitment business help to effect a positive change in the market?
- Choose an employer who has the right set of values, invests in people, works with a non KPI-driven culture and allows you to spend time focussing on quality (otherwise you'll become quickly disillusioned with the industry and leave never to return)
- Build expert knowledge in your sector and constantly keep perfecting your craft
- Sell at the right times but understand that you are a consultant foremost
- Solely work on an exclusive retained search basis with companies that you really believe in as an employer
- Go really deep with your clients and realise that a "deal" is not the end goal and that your job is about understanding people and technologies and bringing them together (if you fully focus on the true essence of the job, success is inevitable)
- Make it an absolute priority to retain your clients long-term and see it as a failure if this doesn't happen
- Work with utmost integrity, put people at the forefront of what you do and go the extra mile to enable a first-class client and candidate experience
- Constantly ask clients and candidates for direct honest feedback on the job you are doing
The message here is that there really is nothing here that’s impossible or even difficult to change. We can’t keep following the same pattern and expect a different result. Together, we have a chance to solve the problem and achieve our recruitment goals. Many changes need to be made and this won't be possible overnight, but like all journeys it starts with a step in the right direction.
As the title of this blog post says, we must evolve to succeed!
Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope this has been helpful.