One Source To Rule Them All?

I’ve sensed for some time that the game is changing for 3rd party recruiters. The industry has gorged for too long on easy fees and low value offerings and this has led to a lack of agility, an inability to invent, create and lead.

Ask any capable recruiter to name their main competition and they will reel off a number of companies who they battle against for the best briefs and candidates.

Rarely will they say LinkedIn. They see the platform as a tool that they may be able to use when they have the time, a source of candidates and vacancies, and a directory of soft headhunt targets.

Not sure how many see it as a primary resource for clients.

Clearly though, with each addition to functionality and capability being aimed solely at the corporate market, the platform has the ability marginalise any traditional transactional permanent recruiter.

On Tuesday I attended the Stepstone Solutions Summit 2010 on the Changing Face of Talent Management. I covered the event for UK Recruiter, and you can read my review of the event here

During the afternoon we had a presentation from LinkedIn. They shared some research findings which certainly captivated an audience of 200 HR and Talent professionals…the very people that most 3rd party recruiters spend their working life trying to connect and build relationships with.

The main points were:

1)      Most corporate recruiters worry that their competitors will learn to use social recruiting better than they do and build better talent pools

2)      Biggest focus for corporate recruiters at the moment is to reduce spend on 3rd party recruiters/staffing agencies. Second biggest focus is to boost referral programmes.

3)      Corporate development resources are now channelled on training in-house recruiters to find the best talent and on measuring quality of hire.

4)      What’s next for LinkedIn? To increase investment in tools THAT INCREASE VALUE TO CORPORATE CUSTOMERS.

They admitted that the outlook was bleak for 3rd party recruiters unless they could show clear differentiation and additional value. Key to this would be:

–          Insight over data

–          Understanding brand equity

–          Creating real depth to relationships

The point that left the most lasting impression was what was referred to as ‘the end of the walled garden’. No more proprietary databases, deconstruct the talent pools, and crowdsource what you need.

I’ve reported those points fairly factually, because that’s how the audience heard them.

An audience who, as I mentioned before, are probably currently dealing with, and certainly getting business development calls from, a number of 3rd parties.

Clearly LI are in selling mode, and I don’t doubt for one moment that their presentations are aimed very much at stimulating a compelling reason for corporates to use them.

Yet I don’t believe that any recruitment agency could have given that presentation. We no longer have the credibility or legitmacy. To address a talent management conference and present staffing sector findings, insights and future developments, in such a powerful way requires a commitment to innovation and a belief in the strength, ubiquity and robustness of your service that I am not sure recruiters can muster.

Change will come I’m sure, but as I wrote in a recent blog, we’re now playing catch up. I left the conference with another 200 potential hiring managers who now will wonder why they aren’t doing more themselves, how they can reduce agency spend and how well they need to ‘do’ social recruiting.

The ray of hope is that we will begin to offer insight, knowledge and value. Make the service less transactional and more about the quality of hire, less about the size of the fee.

Be a key resource, not part of the crowdsource.

At the moment though, there looks like could be one source to rule them all…and it’s LinkedIn not us.

Let me know what you think.

Money For Old Rope??

“How can recruiters find candidates that the corporates can’t find themselves?”

That tweet caught my eye yesterday. I think it emanated from a TruAmsterdam chat, I don’t know who said it or the context but it stood out and really got me thinking…Why ask that now??

Why haven’t recruiters been asking this kind of question for years?

Surely that’s what recruiters should always do…find talent that clients can’t find for themselves.

The flipside of this would be to say that recruiters are too used to offering clients a route to market that the client could use themselves. Which is of course mainly true.

Job board advertising, CV databases…all very well, but why?? Surely a client has always been able to utilise those for themselves?

Unfortunately it’s been too easy for too long for most 3rd party recruiters…take a brief, advertise the role, wait for response, blow the dust off a few database CVs…and charge a fee.

Money for old rope? Harsh, but looking at it from a client’s viewpoint you may ask where the value is.

Having said that, clients themselves have often been complicit in allowing this to happen, but the times they are a-changing…

Clients are doing it for themselves

Recruiters are now trying to use LinkedIn more, but guess what…they’ve missed the boat! Clients are already starting to use it…and LinkedIn themselves are offering functionality and capabilities that are ONLY for the corporate market. A corporate recruiter will now probably be able to find a much stronger shortlist than a third party using LinkedIn.

Barely a day passes without another blog or article criticising the attitudes and behaviours of 3rd party recruiters, and you can’t deny that we often give them an easy target.

In the last couple of days we’ve had ’12 Lies Recruiters Like to Tell’ by Christine Livingston and ‘I Strongly Dislike Recruiters’ by Veronica Ludwig. There was also had a long piece in Recruiter Magazine which further drove a wedge between agency and in-house recruiters, painting them as two tribes with different views, attitudes, aims and rewards. My colleague Andy Young responded to that with the excellent ‘It’s not WHERE you work, it’s HOW’

We seem to be here on a weekly basis. I wrote recently about the sales model and how it was responsible for so many of the behaviours that annoy clients and candidates and had the usual range of responses from believers and deniers.

In reality there seems to be a real ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ attitude and unfortunately the measure of ‘broke’ isn’t customer satisfaction but bank balances.

The belief seems that it makes money, and if it makes money it must be right. New offerings, which are invariably old offerings with new price models, are aimed at cost and speed, not really with providing a better or different experience or building long term relationships.

There seems little appetite for re-invention. We hear talk of communities, talent pools & puddles, social sourcing, but ultimately most 3rd party recruiters are remunerated and incentivised to place as many people as possible, whilst their employers look for the cheapest, quickest routes to market.

So what are we really doing that’s different?

What do most 3rd party recruiters offer clients that they couldn’t do for themselves?

How are we adding VALUE?

Let me know your thoughts.

Blogs mentioned above:

It’s not WHERE you work, it’s HOW

12 Lies Recruiters Like to Tell

I Strongly Dislike Recruiters

Making the Switch

Wide Awake at truNORA

There’s a rumour going around the Twitterverse that I dozed off during truNORA on Thursday. It’s complete nonsense I can assure you.

Flicking through the excellent set of images that Sara Headworth has produced you may see one of those photographic moments where a mixture of light, angle and shutter speed combine to give a false impression…proof that the camera can easily lie.

The offending picture was actually taken during a track that I was co-leading about the candidate experience…there was plenty of debate there to ensure that I didn’t doze off.

I’ll start my thoughts of the day with the candidate experience track as it’s the second candidate experience track that I have co-led at a tru event this year, and it’s a subject that has filled blogs, comments and numerous conversations, both online and offline.

This conversation was similar to the last, in that it featured a mix of representatives from job boards and seasoned (cough, experienced!) recruiters and my conclusions are the same.

Candidate experience is a state of mind not something you should have to think about doing. Automated acknowledgements, no matter how personally written, are not an experience. They should be an absolute minimum expectation as a matter of respect and service and should be followed up by a more personal interaction. Personally I think 3rd party recruiters get too involved in conversations around job board functionality. The experience that matters to the candidate is the one that happens after they have applied, and is most probably important to the candidate whose application is unsuccessful.

Interestingly the recruiters who talked most of the importance of personal contact in this process, of candidates becoming clients and ambassadors for your service, were the most experienced recruiters, those who have been around for 20 years or more…maybe the candidate experience really is just good recruiting habit. In which case shame on the industry for turning its back on it recent years.

I heard a lot about Linked In too, and have to say that each improvement and enhancement to functionality seems to signal another nail in the coffin of traditional 3rd party niche permanent recruiters. Just my opinion, I know, but the industry really does have to come up with a value proposition and offering that does not include something that a client can do for themselves. Posting on job boards and searching on LinkedIn are both routes to market that a well connected hiring director has available directly…we should be able to offer something more that justifies our fee. Most new LI tools are aimed at clients, not at recruiters, which I fear could well lead to a client being able to put together a stronger shortlist than a recruiter unless we look seriously at what we can offer.

With recruiters slow on the LI uptake, it was even more interesting to hear employKyle talk of his age group’s indifference to the platform. Recruiters should be ahead of the curve, not playing catch up…which is why we need to be on top of how the next generation workforce will communicate and engage.

I really enjoyed hearing about Hard Rock and what they do. Loved the Authenticity – Lifestyle – Purpose approach to engagement and believe it is something that all companies should aspire to. I have long thought that trusting your staff, and enabling them see a wider purpose to their role and your business, is key to getting the best out of them. Companies have nothing to fear from social media if they have an engaged, collaborative workforce. If you fear your people will use social media to portray a negative image for your business then your problem is not social media…its much closer to home.

All in all another interesting, thought provoking day offering the chance to chat and debate with old friends and new faces…

…and certainly no time for napping!






I Got a Headhunt Call…Lucky Me? Not!

I say a headhunt call, but maybe just saying I was approached would be a better description, mind you I daresay that the guy doing the approaching probably thought he was headhunting.

Not sure that any of what follows would be overly familiar to the track leaders at TruSource but unfortunately too much ‘sourcing’ goes like this….

It was a depressing experience. Switchboard had a call for me. Someone who would only give his first name and who claimed he knew me. They put him through…

…and he introduced himself and launched straight into a pitch, how he was recruiting for a client who was looking for an HR recruiter to join and grow their business at the senior end…he gave me a range of basic salaries (I commented that it didn’t sound a particularly attractive range and he DISAGREED with me, saying ‘from what I hear it’s good for the market’)..the commission scheme is really good (he said this twice) his client had recently merged with another group (so I kinda now knew who they were) and now had more clients to whom they could offer HR recruitment (but he also said that it would suit a strong sales person), apparently I could join as a solo recruiter or I could manage a small team it was up to me (hey they’ve really nailed their structure and talent development programme) and then he asked if he could take my mobile number so that he could ring me outside work and discuss it more. He never actually asked me if I was interested or if I actually WANTED to talk about it more, he just presumed…

The interesting part for me was that he said he found me on Linked In, thought I had a good profile and was the kind of person he was looking for, so I had 2 questions for him:

What made me so relevant?

What did he think of what I wrote on my blog and did this fit in with his client’s values?

He couldn’t really answer either. What made me relevant, apparently, was that I was an HR recruiter who had previously also worked in Recruitment to Recruitment (though he couldn’t explain the relevance of that) and as for the blog, well no he hadn’t read it…and where was it? Er, well it’s there, on my LI profile.

Had he bothered to properly read my profile and follow the link he would have seen that my most recent blogpost opened with ‘I really love working as part of the Stopgap Group, not least because…’ now you would have thought that if someone REALLY wanted to headhunt ME then they may find this fairly relevant.

Surely if you want to try and seriously approach someone who has just written publicly about how much he loves the company he works for, then I suspect you need a slightly different opening than the scattergun headrush of basics, commission, selling in to new clients etc.. For a start it may actually require a MATCH between me and what the client could offer.

A cursory read of some of my other blogposts would have further enlightened him to the fact that values, service, reward for feedback and a move away from the traditional sales model were all important to me…his time could probably have been more profitably used seeing if his client could offer these to me.

I blogged a couple of months ago about whether recruiters really get social media as most just seemed to think LinkedIn and Twitter were there to find more candidates to headhunt…and 2 months on I’m still wondering!

Now, I’m not looking for a headhunt approach and I’m very happy where I am, but had I been in a position where the call was more welcome then I would like to think that through Linked In, this blog, Twitter and participation in events like TruLondon, there was enough readily available information on me, my thoughts and my style, to enable a rather more intelligent, engaging and personal approach …

Maybe I’m expecting too much…

Do People Still Buy People First??

“People buy People first and everything else after…”

That was the very first piece of advice given to me on my first day in recruiting, also my first day in professional sales. The role was in a candidate driven sector, a niche market with about 100 potential major clients and a lot of potential candidates. Oh, and a lot of competitors too! Developing relationships with candidates, from the time they first make contact with you, through their first meeting with you and the process of arranging interviews, briefings and feedback, to the eventual decision, meant taking time to build up the relationship and trust. I quickly realised that in a specialist sector your candidates become clients and your clients become candidates.

Last week I interviewed 2 very strong, senior candidates, both had contacted me speculatively with their CVs, and at the end of each meeting they both thanked me for having called them and arranged to meet them. I found it strange, as I would have assumed that candidates of their calibre would be on the radar of most HR recruiters, but both told me that they had difficulty even getting their CVs acknowledged, let alone getting phone time with a recruiter. To get a face to face interview, without a specific role to discuss, was impossible… except for me. Now both these candidates have had recruitment as one of their functions, and both have hired many HR staff in the past, yet even recruiters who they have briefed before don’t seem to want to talk to them.

One of them then said….

“I’m not sure if recruiters realise that candidates want to interact with a person, not a website”

Which kind of takes me back to my starting point…people buy people first…and I’m wondering if, in this social media driven, job board oriented, brave new recruiting word of communities and networks, this is still true.

Maybe we need to personalise our processes more…our Candidate Care Team recently sent an e-mail to a candidate whom they couldn’t reach by phone to let him know why he wasn’t suitable for a role he had applied for…he replied…

Thank you for taking time to write to me, honestly this is the first time a recruitment company has spared time to personalize an e-mail, especially when this person will have no value for them.”

So what do you think??

Do we still buy people first?

Do we still trust the judgement and advice of people that we know well? Those we have a relationship with?

And if so how do we now establish that personal relationship?

If we swap messages on Linked In, or tweets (which we can now show on Linked In too), or comments on blog postings, are we establishing a relationship that will encourage dialogue and trust?

What will it take to get recruiters to interact face to face with candidates?

I’ll be co-hosting the ‘Who Cares What the Candidates Think?’ track at TruLondon and would love to be able to share your thoughts…..

Do Recruiters really get Social Media??

I had a great time at the Recruiting Unconference (trulondon) last Thursday…lots of interesting and thought-provoking debate and information. Over the next few blog posts I am going to write about some things that have had me thinking.

A key track for me was the one on Social Media…I have certainly tried to embrace LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogging over the last year or so and talk passionately to candidates about the need for them to get connected and get in the conversation. I was keen to learn more…

Track host Matt Alder started by asking each group member what social media they used and why…and four things immediately stood out for me:

Hardly any recruiters seemed to use any Social Media other than LinkedIn

Those that use LinkedIn seem to regard it as a database, a source of names to headhunt, and a medium to advertise jobs

Most recruitment companies seem to regard a consultant’s LinkedIn connections as owned by the company not the consultant

The only interest in Twitter seemed to be as a medium to advertise jobs

Clearly there are a lot of recruiters in the UK who haven’t yet got Social Media. There was little talk of developing networks or communities, of engaging candidates and clients in groups. It seemed depressingly familiar, just another medium for finding names to headhunt and for advertising roles. I’m not saying that there aren’t recruiters who provide a service doing just that, but why do we have this amazing new medium which opens up all sorts of possibilities, can really transform the way we work and interact, enables us to deliver some real value for candidates and clients…and then just try and find ways of using it to do the same old, same old…

I’m going to share some of my thoughts about LinkedIn here…Twitter will get its own post, hopefully soon!

On the question of ownership, I firmly believe that my contacts are mine…and I say that having been employee and employer within the industry. I appreciate that I have made contact with people whilst in employment, but it is how I have worked and interacted with that network that has provided fees and therefore revenue for the business. I know that there was a court case involving Hays last year which they won, but I believe in that case that the employee in question was sending invitations to clients that he hadn’t met or worked with, whilst at the same time setting up in competition. Sorry, but that’s unethical. Also when it was heard, use of Social Media as a business tool was still fairly embryonic.

I have met virtually all my contacts; those that I haven’t met I do have a working relationship with, and would have spoken to them at length on the phone (or social media). I have never invited (nor accepted an invitation from) anyone that I have not had interaction with. I can share information with them through status updates, and will call or send messages on a regular basis especially acknowledging when they have a relevant change to their status. Used properly it provides a great platform from which to start building a network/community (Twitter can help further develop this)

My LI network has delivered fees, not just for me but also for colleagues…and I am transparent with the network, giving them visibility of my Twitter feed, and this blog, on my LinkedIn profile.

Someone on the track, who owned a small IT recruitment business, legitimately raised the fear that a consultant leaving and taking his LI connections was taking business away…and Paul Harrison (Carve Consulting) who co-hosted the track made a great point when he said that the company may lose someone’s contacts, but then they would hire in someone who would bring with them a whole new set of contacts.

My personal view is that the attempt to protect is old, sales led recruitment thinking and does not take into account the possibilities opened up by social media.  Recruiters, in future, will be hired because of their network…not just who they know, but how they engage with the network, what information and knowledge they build, what business opportunities the network offers. There’s an onus on the recruiter to behave ethically and professionally if they want flexibility and trust from their employers…certainly not adding connections that are not technically part of their network, and with whom they have had no personal interaction, particularly if their intentions are to leave soon.

I did make the point on Thursday that in my opinion recruiters probably would not join a business that made them leave their contacts when they left…I certainly wouldn’t sign a contract that effectively said ‘we want you for your contacts, and when it’s time for you to leave, we’ll keep the contacts, thanks’

Social Media policy will soon be an extremely important criteria for candidates to consider when assessing a company (actually, why isn’t it now?)… and a legitimate question for the interviewee to ask. In fact as recruiters I think we should be finding out what the policy is when we take a brief.

I can certainly see a time soon when businesses will be rejected if their policies are not forward thinking, encouraging, empowering and trusting.