The Recruitment Holy Grail…

A recent conversation with a client went something like this…..

‘Craig, I need someone now! We’ve just picked up a major PSA client with volume roles.  At the moment I’m working the desk and it’s taking me away from what I need to do…’ Note the tone of desperation in this Manager’s voice…..

‘Sure, John, we’ll get on it straight away.  It may take a while to find the right person.  Would you consider a Contractor to help you out in the meantime?’ There I said it… the dreaded ‘c’ word….

contract2‘Um…. No…. We don’t really do Contractors Craig.  I’ll muddle through until we find someone permanently.’

‘Are you sure John? I’ve got someone who can start on Monday and will be able to give you six months?  They have 18 months experience, but he’s committed to going to university in September…’

‘No….No… We really want someone permanently. Contractors leave whenever something better comes along, they will probably take our database with them, and it’s just not worth the effort…’  We ‘to and fro’ for a few more minutes,  I won’t bore you with the details – bottom line is the Recruitment Industry is……. Contractorist!

That’s right ‘Contractorist’ (Contractoristadj. Describing a person or institution who discriminates against Contractors.) – OK, I made that word up, but you get the general idea….

Let’s look at the main arguments against contracting in agency recruitment:

  1. Continuity and Tenure – Most contracts are 3-6 months. This doesn’t allow effective relationship building within accounts
  2. IP – The recruitment industry is a Sales industry where client and candidate data is the most important asset of any business.  Contractors may take this information to their next employer.
  3. Training Time – Teaching process, database etc. would take too long

Now…… Let’s look at the facts….

ContractFact 1 – The average tenure of a Consultant in an agency recruitment in Melbourne is……… wait for it…….. 13 months!!!!  That’s right 13 months.  I know many recruitment owners/managers may say their retention rates are much higher, but you can’t argue with the stats.  We randomly selected 82 resumes from our recruitment consultant database to put that data together.

Fact 2 – 17% of Contractors in the IT industry ‘go perm’ after accepting a 6 month contract. And a further 62% have their contracts extended for (at least) another 6 months. (IPro data 2011). Yes, I understand the IT Industry has little in common with agency recruitment, but this stat shows that at least 79% of all contractors within the IT industry remain with their employer for longer than 12 months… So, if we accept the premise that 79% of all contractors remain with their employer for over 12 months, and the average tenure of a full time ‘permanent’ Agency Recruitment Consultant in Melbourne is 13 months we begin to see the arguments against using contractors beginning to lose their allure…
Fact 3 – I don’t care who you are, or what you say – it can not be productive, efficient or cost effective to have a Manager sitting on a desk to the detriment of their other duties, (which may include running their own desk).
Fact 4 – Permanent Employees pose as great a risk to your IP as Contractors. They have the same access to sensitive data – and, as shown they will probably stay in your business for a similar length of time….

Contractors do have a place in Agency Recruitment. Whether they be on a project basis, or as a stop gap whilst you make your next strategic hire.
It really is time to practice what we preach to our own clients, and open up this important pool of talent to our industry.

And, just to leave you with my thought of the day…. The more I think about it, the more my twitter has become like my fridge… I know there’s nothing new in there… but I keep on checking it every 10 minutes just to make sure…

Craig Watson

3 thoughts on “The Recruitment Holy Grail…”

  1. It is an interesting, obvious and a depressing fact that the average recruitment tenure is 13 months.
    Our customers must look upon our industry where we claim to ‘specialise’ in recruitment with bemusement; that the recruitment industry is unable to do the basic things such as identify and retain talent would be hilarious if it were not true.
    The sad thing is it’s never going to change. Agencies will still hire poor consultants, not train them and then manage them out when they inevitably fail to deliver. Despite what they say Agencies will always hold KPI’s more important than customer satisfaction/retention and our industry is only headed one way – a slow and painful death. It’s only really when a consultant is working a desk for 5 years that they start to get good relationships with clients and candidates, industry expertise etc. Changing consultants every 13 months doesn’t offer any value whatsoever to anyone. Let’s face it; recruitment has become a very slight step up from working in a call centre.

    When I landed in Sydney a good few years back I must have interviewed with 50+ agencies trying to find one where the culture was aligned with me and who offered a real tangible point of difference. I found ONE agency who could actually boast this, all the rest were just the same as each other – the only difference was the name above the door.

  2. It’s an interesting article. It actually ties in with an article the Linkedin group I am associated with discussed recently.
    Going back to this article, my personal opinion the content outlines what the industry has known, but feared to openly discuss. The industry needs to build on its’ existing recognition. I believe there needs to be a higher level of entry. This is a beauty about our industry that it welcomes and accommodates for differing backgrounds, associations, etc. However, to build longevity of a Consultant within a firm the following is an example worth considering. The industry should look at following a similar pattern to what the CPA is to an Accountant, where they are not fully accredited until they have completed their CPA. Obtaining a form of certification, a Consultant will increase / gain higher recognition in the industry and more importantly with their clients. Also, it will improve both their company and personal brand.

    I appreciate there are forms of courses, certifications, etc. currently out there, but a greater effort from the industry bodies, more agencies and even clients pushing it back on the industry the need to either promote, encourage or maybe enforce action on this matter.

    1. Great idea Simon, I’ve always advocated this. Industry should be much more highly regulated. If a real estate agent can’t practise without a license, a recruitment consultant should be no different. Strict licensing and regulation of the industry would completely change many people’s opinion of us as professionally operating recruiters, and remove the awful cowboys in the game too.

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