Our job is hard. Recruitment is complex and demanding. We’ve all been there: sourcing for hours, interviewing, scheduling, pulling data, finding the one and only candidate willing to commute to the wrong end of the city–just for them to pull out at the very last minute because they’re moving to Woodstock to grow a mushroom forest instead (true story). But ask many clients what their understanding of recruitment is and, more often than not, they assume we post an ad, we get responses, we filter and pass them on. Oh, if only it were that simple.
When I moved from selling products to selling a service, I found some real differences. We have no tangible product (our candidates are not our product). What we sell is ourselves: our hard work, our professionalism, our ability to be a brand ambassador, our understanding of the market, and our expert knowledge of the recruitment process. How good we are at those things is what we should be selling. The candidates we present to our clients are a result of our abilities to skillfully move through these processes and bring together the right people, in the right way, at the right time.
A good recruiter knows their craft. But we continue to be misunderstood and undervalued, and we bring this on ourselves. If we educate our customers about exactly what it is we do, and the impact of a bad recruitment process or a working with a poor brand ambassador, it’s easy for them to understand why they should pay a premium price for a premium service. Buy cheap buy twice, right? But sadly, recruiters seem to have dug themselves a bit of a hole.
Guarantees, rebate periods, no placement-no fee deals, and undercutting costs are common in our industry. And it’s the market we have created for ourselves. I can’t think of any other industry that will deliver a service, but not charge a fee. If we’ve done our job properly, we have spent time getting to know the client and business, screened and referenced candidates, meticulously sold and matched the role to their values, answered questions, made sure candidates are aligned with the company’s vision, matched personalities that will work well together, managed the process, negotiated an offer, and negotiated an acceptance, start date, contract terms etc. That’s a lot of work and we deserve to be paid for it. So why do we continue to offer a rebate if the candidate leaves the company before a fixed date? How much control does a recruiter have on the success of a candidate once they join a business?
I also can’t think of any other service provider that is happy to play a speed game with their competitors. Imagine hiring a number of builders and only paying the one who completed your house in the quickest time. You’d certainly worry about whether it would withstand a storm. And no decent builder would agree to working like that. Let’s imagine you got in a ‘spot of bother’ with the law. You have three lawyers to choose from. Do you hire the cheapest one? Or the one most likely to get you off a life sentence? Ok, we’re getting a little extreme, but recruitment can be life or death for a business. Hiring the wrong person, or losing the right person because the approach was wrong, is a critical problem for companies, especially start-ups.
So, why do recruiters keep devaluing their service by undercutting each other and agreeing to non-exclusive contracts rather than up-skilling and proving their worth? If I have one committed, exclusive customer, and ten others who were working with two, three, or even four other agencies, where do you think I am going to focus my time and energy? Have you ever worked with a non-exclusive client and submitted a candidate who you knew wasn’t quite right, just in case another agency was going to submit them? If we do that, we’re wasting our time and our client’s (not to mention the candidate’s). Quality over quantity is always the best policy.
The job market is booming, there is enough work for everyone, and if we all pulled together to change the way the industry works, the level of service would improve, your sales cycle would shrink, you could charge better fees, get more committed customers and ultimately make more money. Happy client, happy recruiter, happy candidates. Instead of undercutting, we should be supporting our peers and lifting up the industry–aiming for quality over speed. If we all worked exclusively then we’d all do a better job, we’d all get a better reputation and we’d work harder–we’d deserve our higher fees.
So, recruiters: get better at what you do, learn your craft, and deliver to the best of your ability. Seek advice and keep improving. Find your niche and target a specific market–don’t mud sling. Don’t agree to terrible terms, don’t be a cheap solution. Be an investment for your clients, you deserve to be valued like one.