Upside Down

Turning the recruitment industry upside down. It starts here.

written by David McGarry


The perennial issue of recruiters not getting back to candidates, or the lack of the human touch has to focus on the source as to why this happens in the first place.

Before I get started, let me be clear this is not an attack on clients, candidates, recruiters, or anybody out there. This is simply an insight from my experience of 10 years in this industry.

Recruiters do make money, the examples I list further do not happen all the time, but they do happen significantly enough to warrant highlighting that intrinsic link, between the body of this write up, and the issue of not always getting back to candidates.

A recruiter can often spend a week/2 weeks/1 month working a vacancy, sacrificing evenings to meet candidates and going through countless hurdles to produce a quality shortlist.

You can then have scenarios where the client cancels the job, or says there is an internal candidate, or not offer the right salary, change the job level, or pick a candidate from another agency, or have the candidates pull out the process, or whatever plethora of reasons you can think of where no revenue comes out of that time investment from the recruiter.

I’d ask how many other professions are there in the world where a business can say please will you provide this service for us, and spend 1 week/2 weeks/1 month of your time delivering that service, and at the end of it have the scenario where nothing is paid for that time?

How many professions are there in the world where you can say please work asap to turn around a very urgent job assignment and in turn work late evenings/weekends/during your holidays, and at the end be told bad news the candidate isn’t getting the job for whatever reason?

It warps significantly the usual metrics of how a business financially operates.

The usual metrics are that if you provide a service of any substantial time commitment, that has a cost commitment to you as a business (salaries of recruiter, cost of meeting candidates etc), you don’t do it for free.

If you as a recruiter spend 3 months doing everything perfectly, and then you get bad luck and none of those processes turn to actual revenue, that individual is then under an incredible amount of pressure to deliver revenue. (and yes, this does happen a lot)

How can that recruiter in 100% of all instances do the nice to do things every candidate wants, when their manager/accountant is reminding them of the losses the team/business will have sustained?

If you want a solution to this perennial issue, you need to turn the industry on its head, and get clients to pay recruiters for their time, regardless of whether a role gets filled or not.

How a pay structure looks is a separate conversation, but what that does do is change completely how a recruiter approaches their job.

Critics may well argue that you shouldn’t get paid if you do a bad job. I would agree. If an accountant has a bad review, I won’t engage them to do work for me. I will find an accountant with good reviews/references and engage them.

However, if I ask an accountant to work out a tax bill for me, which I hope will result in a big reduction, and they cannot achieve that because of current rules, do you think I can pay them nothing for their time spent?

If I want to learn German, I will check recommendations/reviews and pay whichever teaching professional I believe in.

However, if my German isn’t quite to the level I wanted, but the teacher has spent weeks/months trying to get me to that level, do you think I can pay them nothing for their time spent?

Same goes for lawyers, IT professionals, marketing agencies, architects, management consultants, medical professionals, driving instructors, flying instructors, anything really you can think of. They may give you an hour for free, but anything else where they are engaged is paid, even if you don’t necessarily get the result you want.

I genuinely cannot think of any multi-billion pound industry, which is professional services orientated, that works on a basis where it could incur significant costs, actually provide a service, and have scenarios where nothing gets paid.

The reason there is a multi-billion pound industry is because as with everything in life, evolution takes over. The industry has had to evolve and work in a certain way to ensure that when they cover the costs of assignments where nothing is paid, that there is a way of working to ensure revenue is made to balance that negative side of the industry.

The philosophy has to change from “I will only pay you if you fill a vacancy” to “I recognise that you are working hard, I recognise you are a strong experienced professional, and I recognise that regardless of whether you fill this role for me or not, it is the right thing to pay something for your time.”

So likewise, clients should look at testimonials and a recruiter’s background and then engage on that basis. On a paid basis from the start.

For as long as this doesn’t happen, for as long as recruiters by the thousands get bad luck and then have to face those harsh realities of balancing their costs with revenues, these threads will go on forever.

Can we get clients to start paying recruiters in all instances when they engage an agency to do work? The short answer is no. Why? Because since year dot it has never been that way and to try get every client working this way will take years of changing minds.

Can we start informing the world as to what the economic realities are of clients not paying recruiters for the time they spend and the impact that has on candidates?

Most definitely yes!

This is not an attack on clients and there is no blame game to be had here. I do not blame clients for simply working to a way they have only ever known, especially when nobody is really telling the world the above points.

The industry is today what it is by default because of what it started out as decades ago.

If we can start making noise then in time hopefully things will change for the better.

But now you know, whether you agree with it or not, and bearing in mind you can choose to either work with an agency or not, if that recruiter has had bad luck working for 1 month/2 months/ 3 or 4 months and making no revenue even though they have provided a service, and they have a choice of trying to make revenue or getting back to everybody, the above should help you understand how the decision will be made.

We don’t need sympathy, sorrow, gratitude or appreciation, just an understanding of how life works in this industry.

To all candidates, know this, the vast majority of recruitment professionals care, they really do.


Upside Down

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