This is an opinion piece. If you’re interested in writing one, please get in touch. 

Ah yes, the Preferred Suppliers List. Challenge accepted. For many of us, the agency recruiter’s first introduction to the PSL is a mixture of trying to understand the futility of it and banging your head against a brick wall. When trying to win over new clients, there is nothing more annoying than being told “I’m sorry we have a PSL in place I’m afraid we cannot accept any CVs”.

Fight the good fight

Often, recruiters will shrug their careworn shoulders and decide it’s a battle that requires too much hard work for such little return. However, sometimes (and I mean only sometimes), perseverance is key, especially if you are working in a specialised market and the PSL consists of the usual high street suspects (you know the ones).

Your secret weapon

What you have (that they don’t) is specialised, expert industry knowledge. Knowing your industry inside out can be invaluable in your quest for getting onto that fabled PSL, because when your client is desperately searching for a Senior Widget Firtler in Great Eccleston, it’s only a matter of time before you become the only missing piece to their puzzle.

Get creative

If your point of contact is in either HR or an in-house recruiter, then you’re most likely on to a hiding to nothing. The only way in? Yes, it’s the hiring manager; the person who has resigned themselves to the fact that Widget Firtlers of any persuasion do not exist in Great Eccleston. Once you have their name, then Bingo! You can then carefully cultivate your way in. The hiring manager doesn’t care if you are on the PSL or not… they care about the fact you have Dave Grinthorpe’s CV who lives near Great Eccleston and has been Widget Firtling for over 10 years. The hiring manager has just become your greatest ally.

Your new ally

Said new ally will try to make sure HR acknowledges the fact you have given him the perfect CV… they’ll likely pass on that he wants to interview Dave immediately. You see, the hiring manager just wants to fill the void left by Frank, who was poached by their rival company down the road in Hambleton. This hiring manager will speak to their boss, and tell them about you and how you have the perfect candidate for them! The chain reaction will be that dave finally gets an interview, and HR gets the hump with you. 

Burning bridges… or building them?

The in-house recruiter and HR will be overjoyed that you spoke directly to the manager (cough, cough). NOT… and they’ll call you to let you know. Your new ally, aka hiring manager won’t really care that you’ve ruffled some feathers; they only care about the fact that you’ve given them Dave. Now, you might be thinking about burnt bridges with HR etc, but the fact of the matter is that you have found a way in! Most of the time, even if your candidate gets the role, you will be told it’s a ‘one off’ and the PSL still stands. However, you have already started a long process of breaking down barriers. Congratulations!

Proof is in your pudding

The hiring manager (not to mention HR) now knows you can deliver and they will likely let other managers know too and pretty soon, when the PSL is up for review, you will be recommended! Of course, this isn’t always the case and sometimes after the initial first placement is made, HR will make it their sole purpose to keep you from ever dealing with them ever again because of your disregard for their policies, but the more specialist you are, the less likely it is they’ll be able to afford ignoring you. The high street big boys will still get the first crack of the whip, but eventually you will be asked “can you help, we need a Noodler in Poulton le Fylde… could you send some CV’s please?”

Risky and rewarding business

In summary, your patience and specialist knowledge is your way in, the hiring manager knows Widget Firtlers don’t grow on trees and certainly don’t reply to random generic adverts on social media. They also don’t care if you are not on the PSL (90% of the time) they only care about the fact you know what you are talking about and that people is the key to success.

*Great Eccleston is a small village in Lancashire where I once fell a sleep in a Chippy’s outside toilet. I was quite the talk of the village.

*Firtling is still better in Lancashire than Yorkshire

If you work in HR or in house recruiting, we all love you really. 

About the author: Paul Murphy has been working for SER Limited in Engineering Recruitment for over 11 years specialising in the intelligent buildings sector – especially BMS (Building Management Systems). He is also it seems a part time keyboard warrior on behalf of recruiters everywhere.

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