Recruitment Consultant - Friend or Foe?

By Tony Restell

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You've probably heard lots of conflicting advice. Should you use a recruitment consultant or not? Does it harm your career move prospects to work with one... or indeed to have taken the stance that you will not work with one?

I'm not a recruitment consultant myself, but I have worked in the recruiting industry for most of the last 15 years. So the purpose of this new series of articles is to give the candidates amongst you an unbiased picture of the role recruitment agencies still play in an employer's recruitment strategy.


Recruitment Consultant Friend Or Foe

In the next article I'll be explaining how a recruitment consultant earns their fees - because if you don't understand that you can't understand the motivation of recruitment agencies... and therefore you can't get the maximum benefit from working with them. For now, though, I want to share a few reasons why recruitment agencies still play an important role in the overall recruitment strategy.

Even with the rise of social media like Facebook and social networks like LinkedIn, there's still a decent portion of all hiring activity that is undertaken by recruitment agencies. If you aren't working with a recruitment consultant then you are effectively closing off this portion of the jobs market - which limits your prospects for making the upwards career move you aspire to.

Why Might An Employer Use Recruitment Agencies?

So here are a few reasons why a company might engage a recruitment consultant to fill some of their openings:

i) For political reasons or reasons of discretion. Imagine any situation where a company needs to make a hire with the minimum of fuss. A typical example of this would be when a company is making staff redundant - but is simultaneously hiring in other parts of the business. Often the recruitment strategy will involve making these hires as quietly as possible, which means advertising campaigns simply don't fit the bill.

Or maybe a key person has announced they are resigning and the company wants to reassure staff by announcing that person's replacement at the same time their resignation is made public. Or a company may be moving into new market sectors - or doing something else that it does not want to alert its competitors to. In such scenarios a company is loathe to be seen openly advertising for new recruits. Engaging a recruitment consultant allows these hires to be made discreetly. 

ii) A key part of the recruitment strategy may be to make the organisation's recruitment costs variable. When devising a recruitment strategy, employers will take a number of factors into consideration. Ensuring that the right talent is hired is a consideration. So is the average cost of each hire. But so too is how that cost is incurred. A lot of companies like to have variable recruitment costs. This means they only want to incur costs when the company actually makes a successful hire (as opposed to spending budget on recruiting activities in the hope that a successful hire will be made - which is what you're doing if you advertise vacancies or hire internal recruiters to try to make more hires).

We'll look at this in more detail in the next article, but suffice it to say that a lot of recruitment agencies work on a contingent fee basis - meaning that they only charge a fee when a successful hire is actually made. For many employers this is as important as the actual cost of a hire - leading to hires continuing to be made in this way.

iii) The employer acknowledges that candidates will need to be sold on joining them. Whichever market you are in in the world, there will be a portion of the candidate population who are already sold on wanting to join a particular company; and a far bigger proportion of the candidate population who are either not actively looking for a new job, or who haven't considered a particular employer as their next career move. Advertising campaigns, exhibiting at careers fairs and the like are fairly passive recruiting strategies. They rely on candidates being drawn to the employer.

By contrast, engaging a recruitment consultant allows candidates to be more proactively targeted - and gives the employer the opportunity to have candidates sold on their recruiting message. If you aren't Google or Apple then this can be an appealing prospect for an employer with tough hiring targets to achieve.

iv) The internal recruitment team is under-resourced. There may have been a recent change of recruitment strategy... or some key members of the internal recruiting team may just have left... or the business may have had a sudden surge in the number of hires they need to make. Whatever the reason, in any situation where a business finds it does not have enough internal recruiting resource to make the required number of hires, bringing in recruitment agencies to fill the void is often the fastest way of addressing the situation.

So we've seen above that there are many compelling reasons why businesses may choose to engage a recruitment consultant to help achieve their recruitment targets. Review them again and you'll see that job boards don't overcome these issues - which is why job boards did not spell the end of recruitment agencies. Review them again now with social media in mind and you'll see that the likes of LinkedIn and Facebook don't overcome these issues either. Which hopefully tells you that whatever else happens in the recruiting market, your career move prospects are broadened by working with recruitment agencies rather than by shutting them out. 

Image source: Victor1558


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