WARNING: This post is edgy and controversial. On purpose. I’m going to upset a lot of people in the recruitment industry saying what I say below. But right or wrong, this is stuff that needs to be said and people need to hear the truth.
Not my words.
I was chatting to a friend of mine, Sally, who’s the European HR Director for a major brand of coffee shops.
She’s probably in the top three in Europe at what she does. A category beyond World Class.
Her HR career has spanned for nearly 20 years, and recruitment comes squarely under her remit.
In her current role she’s got a team of 12 people whose sole task is to attract and recruit new staff for the business.
For as long as I’ve known her, she’s always moaned about “bloody recruitment agencies”.
As many people do.
Possibly you included.
And even after all these years, the complaints she makes and problems she encounters are still the same.
“We’re still really over-reliant on recruitment agencies,” she told me.
“We spend a f***ing fortune on them. Way too much.
Every year I’m having the same conversations and I’m desperately trying to reduce how much we spend on recruitment, but it’s an impossible task.”
For years, Sally has tried to get her team and stakeholders to adopt a different position, to get off the recruitment agency hamster wheel, and to be more effective at recruiting directly and less reliant on agencies.
And save a fortune in the process.
However, the moment any recruitment assignment gets remotely difficult, and the team struggle to get anyone half-decent applying to their roles, every single one of them defaults back to using their go-to recruitment agencies.
“They’re like a disgusting comfort blanket, a bad smell that you just can’t shake,” she told me.
The internal pressure from hiring managers to quickly fill vacancies trumped the desire to adopt a new position, and as a result, nothing had changed in years.
In turn, that caused problems for Sally because she had pressure from above to enact that change, but was also measured on how many roles her team filled.
She was in an impossible position.
Which is kinda sad.
And slightly horrifying at the same time.
I’ve got another friend, Kevin, who’s the FD of a small tech firm trying to break into the ‘internet-of-things’ market with smart valves for your radiators.
It’s a tough market but their product is good.
Being a smaller company, their challenges are different.
Their available resources are different too – yet they still default to using recruitment agencies when they’re recruiting.
“Whenever we try to do it ourselves, we just don’t seem able to get anyone applying to our roles. It just feels like a complete waste of time,” he told me.
“And the people that do apply are total sh*t in honesty. When that happens I just go back to using an agency, because basically, I have no choice.”
A necessary evil.
That’s how I’ve heard recruitment agencies been described (many times in fact).
I mean, who really wants to use a recruitment agency?
From my experience, very few people like or trust them, let alone want to pay them money.
Do a casual search online and you’ll see many people questioning the real value that the recruitment agency industry offers.
The industry has got a very bad reputation. Deservedly in some cases.
Yet, such is the pull of our natural bias towards quick and easy shortcuts and “fill in the blank” solutions, that even though we know that using a recruitment agency is really expensive, and we could probably do it ourselves if we were bothered, we resort to the easy option.
We basically pay a very high premium for convenience.
I’m no one special.
As someone who’s owned several recruitment agencies since 2002, I’ve heard these complaints and worked against them a lot of times.
I’ve done a few things right (and a lot wrong), so I’ve seen a whole lot of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The evolution of nearly 20 years in recruitment.
I’ve seen the industry move from advertising your jobs in the local newspaper every Thursday afternoon, to the always-on option of advertising online.
In truth, the ability to instantly attract some really good people to your roles has never been easier.
Yet very few people outside of the recruitment industry take the time to learn how to do it properly.
What I’ve learned in my career is that as humans we’re hard-wired with traits and behaviors baked-in by a million years of primal human nature.
Live or die.
Eat or be eaten.
And as a result, we naturally gravitate towards a bit of easy over anything resembling a hard slog.
The pull towards the promise of easy and fast over the hard and slow.
It’s our primal survival “safety switch” kicking in to save our ass.
Yet the crazy thing is that our asses don’t need saving.
Recruitment agencies fundamentally understand this principle of ‘convenience’, and the good ones leverage these flaws and biases to their advantage.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with that – that’s the art of selling:
Identifying a need and being able to fulfil it with value.
But in time, you’ll almost certainly reach a point where you question the value a recruitment agency really provides you.
So many people hate (and I mean truly hate) recruitment agencies and wish that they didn’t have to use them.
Sure, they might put some good people in front of you, but what else do they really do?
I’ve heard the phrase “all you do is send us a few CVs” many, many times over the years, and whilst that’s a very unfair summary of what a good recruitment agency does, it’s a wide-held belief.
You might think it too.
Yet despite that, these same companies still keep going back to those same recruitment agencies, time and time again.
Essentially the fear around being able to get brilliant people applying for their jobs stops them from embracing change.
That fear is normally is based on some kind of negative experience.
Something that went badly wrong.
When that killer role you were working on should have zigged, it zagged.
You (or your team) had someone screaming at you for CVs, like yesterday, and your feeble online job advert was bombing.
That happens to everyone.
Advertising jobs online isn’t easy.
I’d go as far as to say that effective online job advertising is the one key advantage that recruitment agencies have over other companies out there, (and I’ll tell you in a little bit specifically how that advantage directly impacts you…)
But to beat the agencies at their own game – and to save a huge amount of money in the process – the only workaround is to adapt and to change.
This same change is starting to play out with some larger businesses, like the one Sally works for.
After years of over-reliance on recruitment agencies, there’s been a root-and-branch review of what goes wrong when they try to recruit themselves, with the objective of wiping off millions in ‘wasted’ recruitment spend.
The status quo use of recruitment agencies has, in the past, been the only way to quickly recruit the best people.
Most companies have their favoured recruitment agencies who they trust and rely on.
Because it’s easy.
Because it doesn’t normally require a lot of work on their behalf.
And because historically it’s produced results.
But recruitment agencies can be insanely expensive (I should know!), not to mention what happens if your new recruit leaves your company outside of the ‘rebate window’.
I’ve seen some exploitative practices over the years (none from my businesses I hasten to say!) and I think it’s time it got called out, so here it is:
The single, biggest advantage they’ve got over you and every other company out there, is that they know how to manipulate job boards to get the best people applying for their roles.
They know all the tricks that you need to employ to get their job adverts ranking highly on job boards.
And they know how to write job adverts which entice the reader to click the apply button.
That’s why they will always beat you to the best candidates.
Over the next few pages, I’m going to show you exactly what they do and how they do it, step by step, so that you can copy it and do it for yourself.