Talent Acquisition

Is Recruitment Stuck with Old-School Thinking?

This blog has been inspired by two sources that I’ve encountered in the last two weeks…

The first is that I’ve recently seen a few online discussions and blogs questioning the need for commission structures in recruitment and the impact they may have on encouraging consultants to focus more on achieving a profitable “sale” and less on accomplishing a successful “hire” for a client.

Quite a few commentators suggested the problem wasn’t the commission per se but the application of the KPIs and targets by the line managers; being driven to focus on high call levels, targeting how many CVs have been sent out that week, measurement of numbers of interviews achieved and other such indicators causes recruiters to ditch ideas of quality or customer service and play a numbers game that can let down candidates and clients and thus creates a poor perception of the industry.

My second source of inspiration for this blog was a discussion with Andy Headworth of Sirona Consulting. Andy consults on the use of social media in the recruitment industry and advises how it can be a great source for finding candidates, building reputation and brand, interacting with clients and numerous other positive outcomes. He was bemoaning the fact that he was still encountering recruitment companies who failed to see even the basic benefits of social media (i.e. that it was in essence a large and navigable candidate database) – let alone using it to engage and communicate with a wider audience. Instead they were more inclined to stick with a more “traditional” method of business development and candidate sourcing which emphasised squeezing the company database, rinsing the job boards of CVs and “banging” the phones.

Both of these discussions seemed to imply, in my mind, that the agency recruitment sector continues to suffer from a dominance of old-school thinking in how they manage and motivate their staff and how they deliver their services.

Now of course, naturally I understand that not all recruiters are going to be alike. I’m sure there are quite a few that are innovative in their methodologies and sophisticated in their performance and I hope in response to this post there will be some who jump into the comments section and show me this is the case.

However, I do genuinely feel that the largest share of the industry continues to adopt a “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” attitude towards how they run their desks and how they manage their businesses.

Is the problem the natural life cycle of a recruitment leader? You start as a trainee, get some success, become a manager because you’re a good biller, train more staff in your own image as it worked for you and then eventually become a director of the company or break off and start your own. Typically it’s the consultants who bill the most who become the leaders regardless of whether they have the aptitude to manage or the creativity to innovate within their industry.

If a brand new trainee consultant joined you tomorrow and you sat them down to show them how to do their job and how their success will be measured would your speech be any different to what you would have delivered five, ten, fifteen or even twenty years ago?

Can an industry that fails to innovate really stay relevant to its market?

I guess many recruiters will answer this post with a perfectly valid response that they are continuing to handle assignments for clients, they are still filling jobs and still making good fees – so why change how we deliver those services or how we manage our staff?

The proverb goes that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”. Until recruiters start to see an impact on their bottom line and it becomes a necessity to change they won’t. But I would say that the impact is coming (it might already have hit you) whether you like it or not. The rise of social media channels, the continuing development of technology, the growth and maturation of the internal recruitment partner model, the change in employment patterns such as portfolio careers and freelancing are just some of the challenges facing the “traditional” third-party agency market and they’re not going to go away.

The question is: Can recruitment leaders respond and innovate in how they lead their staff and how they deliver to clients?

RELATED: Are You an Old School or New Skool Recruiter?

By Robert Wright

Robert Wright is a Man of Kent now living in York with two kids and with another in the oven. He lives in a bombsite and is working the NHS Leadership Academy to support Trusts recruiting at board level. You can find him on Linkedin, Twitter - @robmwright or in the kitchen at parties.