The other morning I spoke to a new client who was having trouble filling a role, and she asked me: “Why can’t I find anyone for my vacancy?”
This can be a massive subject on its own; there can be one simple reason or 1,001 different reasons as to why you’re not seeing the right people. Since I’m a straight-talking Yorkshireman, I'll ask outright: "Is it you, Mr. or Ms. Hiring Manager, who’s preventing talent from joining your company? Is it?"
Now, I’m not for one moment saying you’re doing this on purpose (the lady I mention certainly wasn’t). In her case, she'd been looking for a new hire for three months, with no good candidate in sight, and it was causing all sorts of problems for her, the team, and the wider business. While she was not wholly to blame, I'd lay up to 90 percent of the credit at her feet because of how she engages with recruiters.
When I speak to prospective clients, I’m frequently amazed at how many people don’t actually know what we recruiters do or what we should be getting up to once we have an open vacancy to work on. I come across too many hiring managers and HR professionals whose process is at fault. They want the recruiter to work from a standard job description; this never gives you the full picture and leaves too much to chance and misinterpretation. On the flip side, I have no empathy for the foolish recruiter who will accept this approach from the client. By doing this, they are letting the client down. Sadly what happens when this unholy union takes place, the recruiter -- armed with only half a picture of what the client actually needs and with no compelling script that enables them to sell (that’s right, sell), your opportunity to potential candidates -- sets off like a bull in a china shop trying to find the right candidates. Guess what? They fail to find you the talent you need and you end up wondering why you’re not getting any great candidates to interview. By default, you blame the recruiter. It’s a vicious cycle that understandably leaves people with a bad impression of the recruitment industry.
Now, you may have experienced this when there is no real relationship between you and the recruiter. Two or three weeks go past (or three months in this poor lady’s case); your projects are stacking up; the team's under pressure; employees are stressed; you’re stressed, and you’ve no idea what’s going on with your search. You’ve either got no CVs on your desk or you’ve got a few CVs that look OK. However, if you’re like my clients, no one wants to be presented with mediocre candidates. If they’re truthful, most people want the best. You want the grade A players, the top 20 percent in your industry niche, right?
First thing to consider is your Preferred Supplier List (PSL) and your relationship with the people on this list. Now, that's not the HR department’s relationship with recruiters but your one-to-one relationship with recruiters who will support you in finding the talent you need.
Secondly, if you’re using three, four, or more recruiters to fill your role, why? Are you getting three or four times the return by using multiple recruiters? No you’re not, otherwise you’d have filled the role by now. You need one recruiter -- just one -- the same way you need just one person to fill your empty seat. You don’t need any odd person to sit in that seat. You need a top performer. Therefore, you don’t need just any odd recruiter to fill your vacancy. When a potential new client tells me they’ve got three or four recruiters working their job order but “I’m welcome to have a look if I like,” I immediately ask: "Why do you need me then?” (The silence can be quite funny!)
By offering your job to four different recruitment firms, you’ve just turned your search in to a race. Statistically, the recruiter only has a 25 percent chance of making the placement and that’s before they’ve even started. Remember, in a contingency search (fee only payable upon successful placement) all the work, the research, advertising costs, interviews, and phone calls is done by the recruiter on the slim chance he or she may make a placement. More often than not, recruiters have had to agree to a ridiculously low fee of 15 percent, 12 percent or even less to be on the PSL. After two or three weeks of fruitless searches, is it any wonder they give up on your quest? I mean, you haven’t paid anything, you’re not committed to them, you don’t really care which firm fills the role, so why should they be committed to you? After two or three weeks they’ve probably lost £1500 (about $2,500+) in resources and time. Would you take this type of risk in your business? Would your company bid for and design a new piece of software at great expense on the slim chance you’ll get the business -- if you knew three or four other firms were doing the same job? I think not!
After about a month or so goes by, you get the email or call: “There’s no one out there.” “We can’t find anyone who wants to move.” Or even worse, no one tells you what’s going on. Funny, though. In all my time, I’ve never come across either an IT or sales position where there’s only one person on the planet who can do a particular job. There’s always someone out there, always.
My advice is this: If you genuinely want and need to move forward quickly and effectively on a vacancy search, then get a recruitment partner. Ditch your PSL or get all your recruiters in to pitch you on their recruitment process, then choose just one firm to work with. Give them the vacancy exclusively for an agreed-upon time and commit to working in partnership with them until the role is filled. Set interview dates and work to a recruitment plan rather than the old routine of “Send me some CVs when you’ve got someone for me, then I’ll take a look and get back to you.” If your recruiters are happy working this old way then fire them as this is not serving you. You need someone who will take control of your recruitment process, drive integrity in to the search, and more importantly deliver you great talent that enables you and your business to remain competitive.
— Scott Sherriden is the Director and founder of Red Shrine International Search, based in the UK. He helps CEOs, CTOs, and CIOs get the maximum return from their talent budgets by sourcing the Grade A players for their IT organizations.