Incentivising Tomorrow’s Recruiters – its Feedback, not Fees

Historically we have always seen 3rd party recruitment as a sales business. We employ recruiters who are rewarded for their ability to open doors and sell to clients and to place as many people as they can…irrespective of how they do it, and of what experience they deliver to their clients and candidates.  

Social media is beginning to change that…whether on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, recruiters now have a relationship with their candidates and clients which is both visible and transparent.

New articles and blogs appear on a daily basis foreseeing the end of traditional recruitment as we know it. Certain themes about the future landscape are showing through, with the clear messages that, post recession, there will be a need to develop deeper, more collaborative relationships with clients, and to pay more attention to building and engaging your candidate community, specifically the ‘Talent Puddle’, the top 10%, if you like, of that community.

Certainly the HR and Recruiting directors that I speak to (and as an HR recruiter I speak to a lot of them, as clients and candidates) are looking for something different from 3rd party recruiters in future.


How do you nurture your ’talent puddle’ if you’re only remunerated on placements?

Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I hate being sold to. If my career, and possibly the future income and stability of myself and my family, were at stake I know that I wouldn’t want to be sold to. Nor would I want think that the person who was advising and helping me was thinking of their bonus cheque and how I could add to it.

I would be much more comfortable, much more trusting, if I knew that their main motivation was in developing a long term relationship with me, and not how much they could make out of me.


Can you develop deep relationships with a bonus model based purely on rewarding sales?

And if I was a hiring manager, looking to build my team and fill some key positions, with a tight recruitment budget, and knowing that my neck was on the block if I screwed up in the hiring, well I wouldn’t want to be sold to either. Certainly I wouldn’t want to be relying on a recruiter who was only looking at how many fees they could get out of me.

I would certainly be much happier, much more trusting, if I knew that their main motivation, again, was in developing a long term relationship with me, and not how much they could make out of me.


How do you incentivise relationship building and service?

Difficult, isn’t it.

After spending many years as a 3rd party recruiter, including nearly 10 placing recruiters, I’m not sure that we’ve ever found a successful way of rewarding RELATIONSHIPS and SERVICE. We still look at volumes and values of placements, and usually still measure activity by volume. Great recruiters are defined by how much they bill, not by how valued their service is.


So how about using feedback as a measure?

Instead of paying your top recruiter by how many placements they make next quarter, try taking feedback from their candidates and clients on how they performed, and on what kind of service they provided? Did it meet or exceed expectation? And did they add real value to the process?

I think you may find surprising results.

Firstly from candidates and clients, who will now have some real input in what will become a true two way relationship, it will bring them closer and give them the opportunity to reflect and comment on your service in a transparent way.

And secondly from your recruiters, who will now be able to invest time and energy in really developing the service to their candidates and clients, taking time to nurture relationships, build their communities, find out what they really want, and create ways to deliver a real value added service. One that they can be proud of.

Who’s up for that challenge??

7 thoughts on “Incentivising Tomorrow’s Recruiters – its Feedback, not Fees

  1. Great first post Merv! You have outdone me on formatting too! I wonder what reaction you will get – It’s a massive shift to move towards feedback when most of the industry doesn’t seem to give a toss!

    Look forward to the follow up. T-Recs – love the name!

  2. I can tell you that as a hiring manager and HR professional on the other side of the equation….I absolutely agree that I am much more likely to utilize the service of a recruiter that truly cares about me, my company, and our needs, and who works to develop that relationship. Well written Merv!

  3. I was a recruiter 20 years ago, and I gave it another go round 10 years ago. And I have to say that the cutthroat nature of the business made it nearly impossible for me to provide customer service to my clients. Success is based on the numbers, and it seemed more like running with the bulls than building relationships.

    The tide seems to have turned, and there is more focus with recruiters building relationships – at least the one’s I’ve talked to.

    Great points, excellent first post.
    Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  4. You make some very valid points. A balance must be struck between finding people for jobs, and jobs for people. A recruiter, if s/he’s smart with nurture both connections as equally valuable. The candidate could just as easily be the next hiring manager who sends you an order to fill. What I like about you Mervyn is your ethics. You uphold the value of humanity. I applaud you.

    Your twitter pal,

    @HRMargo Margo Rose

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