Recent research may have indicated that in-house recruiters are relying less on recruitment agencies to fill vacancies, but most staffing businesses are still posting strong results, whilst the RECs monthly Report on Jobs shows vacancy levels rising on a monthly basis.
Many industry commentators have long been forecasting the decline of agencies, in the face of growing competition from job boards, internal recruitment teams and social networking, but the industry continues to grow, and offer an important route for sourcing the best talent. Newer sourcing or attraction models may seem to preclude the third party recruiter, whilst client and candidate expectations change and evolve in line with technology, but there remains a core need for recruiting specialists to find talent for companies, and to help that talent become hireable.
When I first entered the industry I recruited qualified accountants. Most firms saw agencies as advisers, their eyes and ears in the market place, who focused efforts on attracting great candidates. As a recruitment consultant your value proposition was usually the candidates that you could find, or that you knew of, and your overall market intelligence regarding shifting trends and pay scales, and competitor activity.
So what are some of the main advantages of using an agency now?
Knowledge of the market
The best recruiters will have their finger on the pulse of their specialist markets, and can give the hiring team insight in to what is happening. They should know the available talent, where they are and how to reach out to them, salary rates, career expectations, available skill-sets and current hiring complexities. If other businesses are struggling to find the same people as you they should be able to advise on alternative solutions. The best will act as partners and collaborators, and should still be your eyes and ears in the market.
Some candidates are hard to find. They may be passive or they may be selective. If they aren't responding to job advertisements, don't see themselves as part of your 'talent pool' and are too busy to search full time then the chances are that they may have relationships with trusted specialist recruiters in your sector. Even if they aren't currently active, there's a strong chance that a good recruiter will know who they are and how to reach them. Agencies have many networks - each consultant, candidate, client or collaborator has the potential to leverage their networks to help connect you to people with a range of skills and experiences, many of who would be off the radar of an in-house team or hiring manager.
Candidates not applicants
A lot of talent attraction is aimed at attracting applicants, whether they are responding to an advert, applying on spec, or through your website. A lot of these people may not be good matches for the role hence a lot of time will be invested in filtering, assessing, matching and communicating with them. When we talk of a bad candidate experience it's normally an applicant experience that we are referring to. Time and resource poor recruitment teams may not be able to run a thorough matching process. Using a recruitment agency should mean that you see only candidates - job seekers who have been pre-selected to match all the criteria that you are looking for and who are worthy of consideration and interview.
Help with employer brand
Large companies invest a lot of time and money in developing and marketing their employer brand, but many SME and smaller businesses don't have the same resources. If you chose your agency wisely then they can give potential candidates a real insight in to your business - what it's like to work there, benefits and career openings available, and a feel for the culture. If you partner closely with agencies, let them spend time getting to know you and some of your key managers, then they should be able to represent you as an employer of choice. If a candidate checks your business out on social media, either through a site like Glassdoor or by searching for people who used to work with you, then a fully briefed recruitment partner should be able to help clarify any points that may arise.
Access to key strategic skills
In the RECs most recent Jobs Outlook, the number one reason that companies gave for using a recruitment agency was to gain short term access to key strategic skills, a reason that been growing in importance over the last 3 years, now overtaking covering leave and peaks in demand. With talent shortages now potentially hindering growth it's not surprising that this is the case. Whilst some of the reasons I've already given may refer more to permanent recruiters, many also offer the opportunity to bring in qualified, experienced help at short notice. These flexible solutions are particularly crucial for a long term project or initiative.
Whilst the FIRMs recent in-house recruiter survey did hint at a decrease in agency use, it also showed a tightening of budgets and resources. When I asked corporate recruiters on social media to give me reasons why they use agencies many answers were around budget and resource. There is a budget for agency fees, but not to gain extra resource. There are are time constraints to performing a thorough search, so it is often easier for managers to interview from an agency shortlist - in fact many hiring managers, themselves possibly placed by recruitment agencies in the past, often favour third party recruiters. There is little doubt that a hard pressed HR or in-house team can benefit from the reach and networks of a trusted agency partner.
Of course most business will have their own reasons for using recruitment agencies. For many it's the temporary staffing service, or the more recent managed workforce facility that many larger companies are favouring as a way to monitor staffing costs. For some it may be a short term need and for others they may offer a major route to market to access the strong talent that they would otherwise miss out on.
Let us know your reasons for using third party recruiters...