Five Reasons Why You Should Partner With Recruiting Firms

Marilyn Weinstein
May 10, 2011 — 2,579 views  
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One of the challenges inherent in running a search and placement practice involves forging the right relationship with the client's internal recruiting team. The truth is, recruiting firms - contingency and retained alike - are a necessary evil, particularly in the technology world. Recruiting firms have a database of high-quality candidates, network exclusively with the types of candidates that their clients seek, and surround themselves with subject matter experts. When it comes to filling technical and professional roles in positions such as IT, a detailed understanding of the industry, available roles and applicable skill sets is critical. By contrast, the internal recruiter handles all positions - administration and finance through marketing, IT and engineering. There is a lot less specialization involved. Growing organizations that possess urgent hiring needs must either hire more recruiters or consider partnerships with external recruiting firms. The latter isn't as scary as it sounds.

I'm often asked how to better develop this partnership and it's one of my favorite subjects. This is what I suggest: Top-tier executives and consultants advocate: when deciding what business process to outsource, focus on internal core competencies, and outsource when it makes sense from an external expertise and economies of scale perspective.(1) Focus on Core Competencies. Recruiting is no different from other outsourced processes. HR should ask itself, is building and maintaining a database of top-tier candidates a core competency? Are there open positions for which active candidates - those on job boards and those who apply directly to website postings - simply will not suffice? If the answer to the first is "no" and the second, "yes," then it makes sense to consider leveraging an outside recruiting firm (2) Separately fund recruitment efforts.

The same process followed to obtain a budget for recruitment or "placement" fees should be used when obtaining funding for any vendor service, All too often, it seems as if organizations reach out to recruitment firms as a means of validating their own internal recruitment efforts - rather than as a means of finding the best and brightest among the candidate pool. This way, the argument can be made to higher-ups that the entire market was scoured before a hiring decision was made. Despite enlisting the help of an external firm, this mindset often reflects the desires of internal recruiters to not have to pay a contingency fee, but, think that through - that means, hoping that the firm will not be able to deliver what your company needs. Then, there's the question of who owns the budget for these recruitment fees. Do they fall under HR's budget? Should the business unit in need of the candidate be required to pay for the service? Uncomfortably for all, when budget ownership is not pre-determined, some mud-slinging usually ensues. Department heads want to know why this expense must ensue; line managers will argue that the internal folks lacked competency. All but a Federal examination will be launched because no one wants to pay the resulting fee. When recruitment fees are established upfront, and a pre-determined expense is anticipated, none of this finger pointing takes place. (3) Carry out Annual Budget Exercises Combining Numbers 1 and 2. Most Staffing Directors participate in annual or semi-annual headcount and hiring discussions. That is the time to look at the types of positions available, decide which of these require specialized attention, and then set aside budget for outside recruitment firm fees where appropriate. This is the time for the Staffing Director to stand up and say, "This is our core competency. We specialize in the functions performed by employees in these types of positions. Equally important, we can more efficiently staff these key IT positions by utilizing a few strategic, trusted recruitment partners, and leveraging their expertise and their core competencies to make these critical hires."

Importantly, it's time to stop believing that the use of outside firms indicates an internal weakness or incompetence. Instead, it should be viewed as a way to gain efficiencies. Period. (4) Find just one firm. Once a company decides to reach out to recruitment firms, they often believe that a contingency fee is the best way to cover the market as it allows the organization to leverage each and every willing and able recruiting firm out there. There are several reasons why this is not an ideal approach.First, this drives prices up. By increasing demand - the same candidates could be called over and over for the same job - their salary demands and the contingency fee will both increase. Counter-intuitive, but true. Secondly, you are not as likely to get a firm's best work or primary attention. Recruitment firms will work much more diligently on exclusive or semi-exclusive requirements than they would when a requirement has been issued to every one of their competitors. Lastly, it's an annoying process that requires a lot of tracking and administrative work for HR. Date stamped applications, responding to multiple questions from different sources, providing feedback to the masses, managing different vendors-it all adds up. How can this possibly provide additional efficiencies? (5) Drive firms to meet your already high standards and fire those who do not. Again, treat this relationship like you would treat the relationship with any outsourcing provider. Outsourcing providers carry out your processes, they enhance your efforts. They are not given Carte Blanche access to do and say whatever they'd like. These agencies represent you. They are the first point of contact with each of your potential new hires. If you are not sure what precisely they are saying to candidates, it is time to find out! Train your recruiting partners, and measure them on performance.

If the quality of resumes is not high, or the messaging that they employ on your behalf is not up to par, then put the firm on notice. If poor performance does not improve, fire the firm. The relationship between an organization and their recruiting firm can certainly be complex at times. However, as with any other relationship with an outsourcing provider, it is critical to understand the variables involved in ensuring that the partnership is as successful as possible. While ignoring any of the steps above is not something that is recommended, it is most critical to recognize that your recruiting firm is a strategic business partner - a member of the team - rather than a tactical solution provider. The best recruiting firms are specialized and connected enough to identify the most dynamic talent available for your business-critical positions, even if they have to turn over rocks to find it. Approach the relationship nonchalantly and you may not be pleased with the output. Approach it strategically, with a dedicated budget and well-defined criteria, and you likely will not be making any hiring decisions without them any time soon.

Marilyn Weinstein

Vivo

Marilyn Weinstein is Vivo’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, responsible for overall strategy and business growth and development. Prior to starting iTalent Solutions in 2006—the successful effort which paved the way for Vivo’s launch in 2009—Marilyn was Vice President and General Counsel for AlphaSoft Services Corp., where she served on the company’s Executive Team for over seven years. She helped AlphaSoft grow from a start up to a $50 million per year, multi-office success story.