When did in-house recruitment get so boring?

By Andrew Mountney

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OK maybe a little harsh and I hope that if you’re reading this you contend that you’re not working in these conditions right now but I suspect you are.

So last week I was at #TruLondon and there was a familiar refrain…

“Where are the in-house recruiters?”

Similar sentiment from those following online and there seemed to be only a few in the room , to be fair we were clashing with Talent Connect that day. Sadly I think the answer was back at the office delivering on open requirements. It was a really creative day, one of those days where recruitment professionals and a fair few providers to the sector are throwing around lots of interesting ideas on what recruitment will look like and how it will be better most of which will probably not be implemented and will pass most organisations by.

Common themes? “Do the basics well” “get the candidate experience right by getting the fundamentals right” and to be fair a lot of nonsense as well!

In my day job here’s a very familiar refrain from senior recruitment professionals…

“I want to do something that’s not just transactional, I want strategy as well as delivery and I want the budget to back it.”

I know it’s a bit early for end of year look backs but here’s one I am pretty certain of… Barring a few fortunate people 2012 will go down for those in-house as one of the most boring years in recruitment. Why? Well here’s my tuppence worth and it affects why those really awesome strategic roles that senior recruiters, managers and heads of recruitment want are not out there at the moment.

Duh… It’s ALL about delivery

Dare I say it but in-house recruiting has become a victim of its own success. The reduction in agency spend and cost of hire along with often improved time to hire all backed by far better metrics means that recruitment and the spend is now highly visible to finance and procurement.

Where two years+ ago most could say to their employer or future employer “I’ve got an idea that is going to save you a fortune and give you back control” this is taken as a given, I’d say 80% direct hires is now standard in terms of delivery or expectation, just read this interview with Johnny Campbell of Social Talent if you’re not sure https://www.rec.uk.com/press/news/2234

So basically at the top level of most businesses (by that I mean finance and procurement not recruitment or HR) those savings are bagged and an ongoing a minimum expectation is set…

So what’s the problem?

Recruitment/HR is soft. Not in a bad way; in a measurable way. The metrics that define most recruitment i.e. those mentioned above cost and percentage direct are blunt and ignore two key factors; quality (of hire and process) and market conditions.

So when you look now at setting your recruitment strategy and budget for 2013 unless you are extremely lucky what’s happening? Well you start with the past not the present or the future and this is a big problem.

In 2009 and 2010 dare I say it but I think recruiting was a little boastful:

“Look MR/MRS/MS/SIR/DAME FD we have saved all this recruitment spend by recruiting directly, we shall do the same again… Oh you’d like me to do it for less… Well getting this far wasn’t so hard we’ll give it a go…”

2011 and 2012 have been different years, fewer available skilled and qualified candidates, all your competitors have the same (well OK not quite as good) processes and direct channels in place, hiring managers have higher expectations of the internal team because of what you’ve delivered, people are far more risk averse about a move and candidates are now used to seeing your brand in the market… Dare I say it, you’re not that special anymore… To you though this does not matter…

You have ideas and you know others with great ideas

If you are a compulsive learner and consumer of recruitment information you know the game has changed in 2011 and 2012, sourcing is critical (as a part of the process and not replacing it by the way), partners are critical, technology is critical, and you can be the best…

“So MR/MRS/MS/SIR/DAME FD I can still deliver great recruitment but I need a little money to do it and I need some time and headcount to implement ideas.”


And here is where we sit on the edge of another year where everything you read within the recruitment press tells you there’s something called a “war for talent” again, where the people who want to work for you are not good enough so you have to invest in time and money to source skills that only exist on a blog in China or twitter posting at Harvard but FD says no!

Recruitment is at a crossroads and for businesses in recruitment this year could be vital some will exit recession and grow aggressively others will disappear. If you believe what you read CEOs say that the second biggest threat to their organisations sustainability is recruiting and retaining talent so it’s time for recruitment particularly in established businesses to be bold at budget time. Why?

Well those smaller businesses who have not yet got direct sourcing will move there as hiring volumes require and then be better at it than those who went there in 2009 and 2010 (and in some cases before) because the tools they procure will be different, probably better and they will offer the recruiters they hire more strategic and more interesting roles in the short term. Potentially a brain drain from the established recruiting functions to start ups?

In-house recruitment boring?

Those who have the same budget and same goals will risk drifting along; failing to hit headcount targets in Q1, hiring junior recruiters and resourcers to source their way out of crisis in Q2 because it is all finance will afford them and then recruitment will spend the rest of the year looking over their shoulder as the function is reviewed by finance or the Head of HR.

We’ve not even touched on outsourcing here, I’ll leave that alone for now but finance and procurement may not be!

Sound familiar?

Well you’re not alone so if you are a recruiter craving strategic input and a bigger role and worry the industry is passing you by I suspect it’s not, I think the function is by and large standing still, if you want to know what to do well go back to the top…

If you can make a business case and demonstrate metrics that support it you can get things done in most businesses, the trick is to change the metric! This year has to be QUALITY time it’s the only way to make the right hires in the right volumes moving forward, the problem is convincing someone who has got something for less the last few years to give you more and that’s where demonstrating the benefit to the business of retention and great recruitment comes in. At #Tru last week I heard a great example of this, albeit from a small business where one recruiter could map everything in terms of hiring, retention, and given the nature of the business output but it is a real advantage because as a recruiter you can actually show ROI rather than just cost saving!

I’ve written enough so we’ll look at that another time! But where are the ideas? Well they’re out there, in the ether, a lot of them with the providers to the sector, a lot available online for free if you look and if you’re not using them someone else will so heads up, it’s time to be proud of being a recruitment professional and of what you are doing and can do for an organisation going into the next year.


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