To continue my ‘Jekyll and Hyde- esque’ musings  about my experiences in-house and in agency, I thought it only fair to write a follow up to my recent post “How to win the heart of an in house recruiter“. Having reflected on the frustrations experienced on both sides of the fence, I tried to think what advice I would have given myself when I first moved in house in order to most effectively manage my agency relationships.  I should point out that these points were relevant to my personal experience where I had full autonomy over my part of the PSL – I understand that this is often not the case.
Firstly, you need a PSL

By this I mean a genuine list of preferred suppliers that are proven, vetted and that you actively want to work with rather than an unwieldy list of anyone who has ever sent a CV.

I know this is hard to manage. A random speculative candidate that a Line Manager wants to meet often results in agencies being signed up to the TOB leading to a random selection of agencies who you have no relationship with and who you will never actively brief again. We all know that this is an effective way for agencies to get on the radar and can sometimes result in uncovering a gem of an agency (and candidate) who can really add value. This is easy to control. Sign new agencies up for a trial period and make it clear to Line Managers that this is the case. If the agency then proves their worth, you can extend the agreement.

If you have a PSL, respect it. Trust the agencies on your PSL and give them the opportunity to really support you. To do this they need visibility of vacancies and an understanding of the wider business and your recruitment priorities. If you want to focus on recruiting some vacancies directly, tell your PSL and get your agencies working on those difficult vacancies which you won’t have time to work on. If agencies know they have a strong (and fair) chance of earning a fee, they will move heaven and earth for you and will be spreading positive messages about your employer brand in the process.

Ask for recommendations

Most of your Line Managers will have been placed by an agency or will have used them to recruit in the past. Choosing agencies that they like and respect will ensure they are engaged in the recruitment process from the start. Most agencies will say they are great so ask for testimonials and ask for details of other placements they have made either in your wider business or with your competitors. In the brave new world of Social Media, it is so easy to cross-check with In-House recruiters in other businesses. Agencies need to be aware of this and ensure they deliver a service which will stand up to scrutiny on LinkedIn Forums and Groups.

Meet the agencies you are working with.

I know how hard it can be to find time to do this but it will pay off and if you are genuinely committed to finding recruitment partners for your business, this is the place to start. This is your opportunity to lay down the ground rules and most importantly for them to buy in to you and your knowledge. If you want agencies to deal with you rather than accosting your Line Managers at every opportunity, they have to feel confident in your abilities and trust that you are there to facilitate a mutually beneficial result. By showing that you are willing to commit to them, this will be rewarded by better service and more flexibility. Also, I actually found my meetings with agencies a welcome relief from the constant conference calls, internal meetings and process management.  It was good to talk to commercially minded people who are focused on results, particularly in larger organisations which by their very nature can be stifled by bureaucracy, lengthy decision making processes and internal politics.

Behaviour breeds behaviour.

It is a real shame that agencies are so often tarred with the same brush, inevitably the same brush that paints the whole industry in a negative light. Let’s face it, we all understand where this comes from. There is no excuse however for treating any supplier the way so many recruitment agencies are treated. Starting off any relationship with the attitude that your expectations are so low that the other party goes away with limited incentive to represent your business well, is counter-productive to all involved.

Reward good behaviour.

Good agencies so often lose out to their less scrupulous peers. Take the case of a duplicate candidate. One agency has clearly spent time selling your business to the candidate and understanding the candidate’s suitability for the role. The other has clearly sent the CV without covering the candidate first. I know this puts you in a difficult position but in cases where the candidate confirms which agency is representing them correctly, it would be great to see this acknowledged fairly or at least with a 50:50 fee split.

If you can get to a point where you have a group of agencies who you trust and in whom you have confidence in their ability to fill your vacancies and represent your brand effectively, you can then concentrate on delivering the best and most cost effective recruitment strategy to your internal stakeholders.  Surely, a recruitment ‘nirvana’ worth fighting for!

This list isn’t exhaustive and I would love to know your thoughts:

What are the key ingredients for having an effective and motivated PSL?

What tips would you give someone taking on their first in-house role?

What is the best example of an agency relationship you have experienced – what does excellent look like?
Sophie Mackenzie

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