When I first started working as an agency recruiter the candidate was most definitely king. Or queen. Without the best talent at your fingertips, and in your rolodex, you wouldn’t be able to get in front of clients on a regular basis. This helped to create a candidate driven mindset with importance placed on getting to know who was best, who had good training, who was open to something new and who was adaptable, and then the candidates that you helped would always recommend other friends and colleagues to you – they even invited recruiters to their leaving drinks (not always advisable if their bosses were there, as I found out on one occasion).
Clients would speak to you as an adviser, someone who knew what was going on in the market and would often confide future plans so that you could keep an eye open for specific skills. Some of your successful placements would invariably become clients too. The right candidate was often your value proposition. The only metric that seemed to matter was getting the right person.
Times changed and email, hiring boom, graduates needing to earn commission, LinkedIn, RPO, recession, direct sourcing models and now social have all helped to shape the service and change client, candidate and recruiter expectations. Many agencies that have prospered over the last fifteen years have followed a low cost blueprint involving (amongst other things) a transactional sales model, PSLs and volume job orders at a discounted rate.
The candidate has too often gone from king to cannon fodder, usually the last person to know what’s going on and considered needy or too demanding if they expect any more than a basic level of communication – effectively an email grunt of recognition. The individual candidate now seems of low value provided that time to hire and cost of hire metrics are met.
When I first started this blog over four years ago many posts were over the future of recruitment and what needed to change. The comment threads on posts about the transactional sales model, the telephone and relationship building indicate that as the recession began to really bite in the industry there was little consensus over how to move forward.
We’re now three years on from those posts and times have changed.
Starting with an overview of the market, we could see an improvement in vacancy and activity levels, even though they are still some way below the pre recession peak. However there was one rather concerning statistic that must have chilled perm recruiters – over the last year there has been a 12% increase in the volume of permanent placements, but only a 2.2% increase in fees. A lot more work for comparatively a lot less money. Average annual billings for perm recruiters are also running 13% below early 2008 levels.
The culprit was fingered as ‘procurement‘ but I think it goes a lot deeper than that. Attitudes have changed, budgets have changed and for many smaller businesses, agencies are becoming the talent supplier of last resort.
Kevin talked through what he sees as the three models of recruitment success now. Two interested me greatly as I have encountered them both already during my short time job hunting.
For me the focus on specialist knowledge, access to talent, strong relationships, consultancy and candidate centric behaviours kinda makes this The One Where We Go Back To Recruiting Principles As They Used To Be. The candidate, and market knowledge, is clearly part of the value proposition. To profitably operate this model you need to look after candidates and put them back on their throne! And, coincidentally, the type of agency mentioned in this post from Julia Briggs looking at recruitment from the HR angle.
Here I see the focus as being more operational, centred around process, scale and workforce management. The candidates are probably quite interchangeable and of similar skills, with the business value being in meeting cost/time metrics and managing budgets. I already have some experience of this approach and as the candidate you’re pretty much left to do the work. Light on detail, you fit in with set timeframes and do the chasing if you want any kind of feedback or perspective.
The third model was for smaller, multi-branch or regional generalists. Here the business focus was on SMEs and avoiding intermediaries, PSLs and public sector.
So, can the candidate be king again? Well, it will largely depend on which model you’re dealing with.
Certainly if you’re applying through a low cost operator, or multi branch group, then my personal experience combined with recruiter sixth sense tells me that canon fodder may well be the name of the game still.
However if you can get on the radar of a specialist recruiter who’s doing it right then maybe there’s a seat on the throne again.
Am I dreaming? Let me know what you think…
(Image via @godfather_90 and #IndiaHRChat)