Category: PSL


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By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

This recruitment issue is as old as time itself however it still occurs regularly and causes no end of consternation for everyone involved.

For the in-house recruiter, it places them in the middle of two battling agencies – never a good place to be!

For the agencies, it can be a frustrating problem which can ultimately end in loss of revenue.

The biggest victim in this is the candidate (although they are often the culprit – I will explain shortly…) as this can put them in a very uncomfortable position, damage their candidate ‘brand’ and even potentially jeopardise them getting a new role.

We have been asked by clients several times recently for advice on what they can do when this situation occurs so we thought it was worth sharing our thoughts. As ever, no hard and fast solution but perhaps if more people understood the consequences, we could reduce the frequency with which this still occurs.

Why it happens

There are several reasons why this happens:

An agency sends the CV of a candidate to a client without their permission or knowledge.

Sadly there are plenty of agencies who are still doing this. I understand why – in a competitive market when clients are using multiple agencies for the same vacancy, the process becomes more about speed than quality. Combine this with the micro-managed agency environment where consultants are measured on the number of CVs they send out, it is simply not conducive to any focus on quality or service. This is compounded when the client is happy to use the agency purely as a ‘CV shop’. There is simply no need to add any extra value. There are major issues with this approach. Firstly, it creates risk for the candidate. They may not want their CV to go to a particular client for confidential reasons. It also damages their brand as they are no longer in control of themselves a s a ‘commodity’. For the client, this means that they are looking at CVs of candidates who may or may not be interested in their brand, may not be culturally right and may not even be interested in the job!

A candidate forgets – or lies – about having sent their CV

Looking for a new job is a complicated, time-consuming and bewildering business.  Candidates are overwhelmed by non branded ads on job boards so, when they submit their CV, they have no idea which role they have applied to. Some agencies use this submission as permission to forward their CV straight to the client without speaking to them first so they may never know who has seen their CV. I’m sure we have all had the experience of having spent an hour on the phone, covering a candidate on a role, selling in the company, covering any objections and getting their permission to submit their details, only to find a week later that they went on to the company website and submitted their details direct! Grrr! Often this is done without realising the consequences although occasionally, a candidate will think they are increasing their chances by letting their details be submitted by rival agencies. These things happen and all of us involved in the process need to help candidates navigate these pitfalls by being as explicit as possible about what our actions will be so they can keep track.

One agency submits the CV on the ATS portal, one agency sends it direct to the hiring manager

In theory and when used correctly, an ATS should alleviate this issue, especially if the client adopts a first past the post policy or uses the duplicate alert function correctly. The problem of course is when agencies (that are most likely not on the PSL) bypass this process and send CVs directly to line managers.

So, what to do?

  • If you have an ATS portal, honour it. If agencies submit CVs direct to line managers but the candidate has already been legitimately uploaded to the portal, favour the agency that is a. on the PSL and b. is following your process correctly.
  • Use the duplicate alert on the ATS and penalise agencies that bypass this without your permission eg. by using their own email address rather than the candidate’s.
  • Be wary of CVs that are submitted very quickly after giving out a job brief. Has the agency actually spoken to the candidate? Have they given their permission to submit their application? Asking further qualitative questions about a candidate will help you gauge what value the agency is adding (why are they looking to leave their current role? What interests them about your business? How will they fit culturally?)
  • Ask for a cover sheet to accompany each CV. This is something we used when I worked in-house and it became very clear which agencies really knew their candidates. I know they are the bane of most recruitment consultant’s lives, but too bad! The information on a standard cover sheet is information that a good consultant should be getting in the initial registration call so it really shouldn’t be an issue to complete it.
  • When the CV is submitted by two of your favoured agencies, ask everyone to be transparent. If the candidate experience is important to you, ask the candidate who they want to represent them. Chances are they will favour the agency that had added the most value and who has spent the most time speaking to them about the company/role. By feeding back to both sides, any agency who isn’t adding value will understand that this is really important to you and your recruitment brand and will hopefully do better next time. The agency who ‘wins’ this particular battle will feel justified in spending time doing their jobs properly.
  • Beware of any agency who deals with this situation aggressively – chances are they are treating the candidate in a similar way which is simply unacceptable. In these situations, a good agency will put their own interests aside and ensure that the candidate is protected. Sadly, they often lose out because of this.

All of us working in recruitment have to accept that you will win some and lose some. Those of us who are trying to maintain high standards of integrity will take this on the chin. I like to think that the laws of karma will prevail…here’s hoping!

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

Previous Blog Links:

https://admorerecruitment.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/winning-hearts-and-minds-how-to-build-your-influence-in-an-in-house-role/

https://admorerecruitment.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/a-match-made-in-heaven-how-to-get-a-psl-that-works-for-you/

https://admorerecruitment.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/how-to-win-the-heart-of-an-in-house-recruiter/

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By Shane Horn, AdMore Recruitment – Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

It is a thankless task, and one that is constantly ridiculed and looked at with derision from ‘the other side of the fence.’ The role of an in-house recruiter is tough, caught between the cross fire managing process, expectations and the worst of all: a hungry bunch of agency recruiters! However, not all is lost, that same bunch of recruiters can be your biggest ally if you manage them well. Some handy hints to get the best out of your PSL can be found here and if you follow the tips below you are on your way to less of a headache!

  • Build your team around you

The agencies you have carefully selected to be on your PSL should be working with you. If they are not, get rid. Agency recruiters are used to hearing bad news, don’t think by not answering their call they will go away. Explain what is not working, and why. Call a meeting, or give them a warning, but don’t let the situation drag on. Those that want to work with you will understand the tough job you have and will be honest with you. Get a team of recruiters that ‘get’ your situation. If you can’t speak to them on a Monday because you are in meetings all day, tell them not to call. If you prefer e-mail, tell them not to call!

  • Knowledge is power

It sounds obvious but recruitment consultants spend a lot of time talking to people – candidates you are looking to hire and clients who have similar needs to you. They will know first hand the challenges in the market. Ask their opinion – recruitment agencies are sitting on a wealth of information about salary expectations, market moves, and competitor challenges. Some of the information will be confidential of course however  you can gain a huge amount of market knowledge which you can then share with hiring managers and your wider resourcing team.

  • No nasty surprises

Be clear with your team of agency recruiters. Yes, terms and conditions have been signed, and it is all in there but be clear if there are points that might cause confusion in the future. If you have a 3 month ownership policy in place, tell the agency. If your payment terms are 120 days, tell the agency. No doubt the terms you have in place will be something you have very little control over so explain that this is what we are working with. The agency has a choice to work with you or not and being upfront will save numerous calls and emails further down the line.

  • Admin is a time killer

If you have limited admin support, why can’t the agency help? If you are booking in a number of interviews, get the agency to book them in your Outlook calendar. Be clear about the available time slots and ask the agency to attach the CV if necessary to make the whole process as easy as possible for you.

  • Banish the unwanted

A constant problem for in-house recruiters is the barrage of cold calls and unwanted speculative emails. They have a huge impact on your ability to do an already time-heavy role. If you use a mobile, put your trusted agency numbers in your contacts list. I always made sure I didn’t answer a call from any number I didn’t know. This would save me hours through a week. Also, if you are getting emails from the same source over and over again set up a rule in Outlook to ensure those unwanted emails go straight to your deleted items.

  • Everyone is on the same side

Share as much as you can with your agency team. If you have engaged an agency then I am sure you want them to fill the role?! Tell them the competencies that will be assessed and the hiring manager’s interview style. If you were prepping your direct candidate you would share as much information as possible, so why not with the agency?

  • Not all jobs to all recruiters

Just because an agency is on your PSL it doesn’t give them a divine right to work on every role you have to hire. There will be roles that you will hire direct so again, be honest with the agency. This will help limit speculative applications and ensure that when you do give a role to an agency, they have an expectation they can fill it! If you are briefing 3 agencies, again tell them who they are competing against. Recruiters are a competitive bunch!

Of course some of these points will be easy to install, where others will be impossible depending on your set up. If I could recommend one thing it would be to be honest, treat recruiters how they want to be treated: fair, with respect and as a partner.  If they don’t want to be part of your team, put them on the subs bench – there are plenty of players keen to be in your starting 11.

Hokey Cokey

Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

By Shane Horn, AdMore Recruitment – Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I’m an odd recruiter. Not in the sense that I don’t fit the traditional image we all know (and love?!) but because I went in-house, came back out again, and am far better because of it.

My recruitment agency career was going well – I had managed teams, moved to a search firm but still had an itch to scratch. The Holy Grail was an in-house role – how great would that be? No more business development days (fancy dress was not my bag!), no more internal arguments about candidate ownership, no more end of the quarter panic to hit your numbers. No, it would be great. Lots of jobs to fill, with warm line managers who wanted to work with me – heaven!

I really enjoyed my time in-house. It opened my eyes to the issues faced by my clients, which, without the experience I would have no idea of. I had many recruitment consultants ask me; “what’s it like? It must be great working in-house.” Or; “how did you make the move, I am keen to but always get rejected.” Oh, if only they knew! The role of an in-house recruiter is complex, where you are often accountable to multiple stakeholders. It is frustrating and rewarding in equal measure. It is impossible to understand the challenges that are faced everyday unless you have seen them yourself.

What I learnt very early on is that you can’t walk away from a problem. You can’t look at a tough job to fill and say ‘you know what, I don’t fancy working on that’. You can’t put it at the bottom of the pile and hope it goes away. Your clients (the majority just down the corridor) want results, and in some cases can’t understand why a shortlist isn’t forthcoming within 24 hours of the brief! You need to be on top of your game constantly. Who knows who will walk round the corner next and need to know why they haven’t seen any CV’s. You have to give answers and responding with “the market’s tough out there” just doesn’t cut it. Control was also an issue, as it is in any recruitment campaign, but in-house, the variables were huge. If it wasn’t a line manager going off PSL or a recruitment consultant not following process, it was a role cancelled at the last minute or issues getting salaries signed off. Fire fighting is something that is often talked about, but at times, it was a raging inferno and all I had was a garden hose!

Saying all this, I certainly felt valued in my role and felt a part of the HR team. Though my particular role was lonely at times (I would find myself calling recruiters on my PSL for a chat!), I did feel I was making a difference and that I was supporting the business move forward. With an outsider’s point of view, I felt I brought a commerciality to the role and certainly improved the process. So, why did I leave? Something was missing and ultimately it was this that led me back to the shark infested waters of agency recruitment.

What I missed most was the variety offered by working with both client and candidate. I admit, I may have been unlucky with my move in-house as I am sure there are many of you who have the variety I craved. But, as agency recruiters we build relationships on both sides and I really missed this. I missed updating with people to understand how they were doing, helping to shape their careers and offering advice. I missed talking about the wider market with clients, understanding their challenges and looking to help where I can. I also missed the commercial aspect. Reading an article in the press, keen to share that with my network and add some value.

My role now is more varied than ever before, and this is down to the fact I worked in-house. I’m involved in assessment centre design, CV re-writing and job profiling, something I wasn’t in the position to do before making the move. Previously I was in the rut of filing jobs, and didn’t really view recruitment as anything more than that. I feel I now work better with clients, and understand their frustrations and demands. I am certainly treated better – like I still have the old school tie!

By performing both roles I can understand what role is better suited to me, what plays to my strengths. More importantly I was able to join a firm that mirrored my values and beliefs.  I am sure the tag ‘failed recruiter’ sticks with many  in-house people after moving on from an agency because they end up treating recruiters how they were treated.  NOT ALL AGENCIES ARE THE SAME!  It’s not all about sales targets, and constant no finish line mentality. I am sure if more in-house recruiters thought about moving back over the fence the market would be all the better for it. You can still work with clients as if you were part of their HR team, and you can add real value to a business and make a difference – you just need to find the right agency for you. Have a look around, you never know, you might be tempted back to the dark side!

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By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

Keeping the magic alive: how to nurture the relationship with your recruitment agency partner.

So you’ve been together a while. Although the initial frisson of excitement you experienced when you first met has dissipated, you are faithful to them (for the most part) and they have really met your needs. They know you better than anyone – even better than you know yourself sometimes – you trust them to give you honest advice. Your relationship has settled into comfortable companionship.

And then…you stop communicating as much (“there just never seems to be enough time”), you both start taking your relationship for granted and before you know it, the spark has gone out. You are left feeling, well….dissatisfied.

No, I’m not moonlighting as a marriage counsellor; I’m talking about the tenuous relationship between you, the Client and your recruitment agency partner! Given that it can be so hard to find a recruitment agency that you like and that can actually deliver for you (let’s face it, you have to kiss a lot of frogs…), it is worth both sides making the effort to make it work.

So what can you do to ensure you get the best out of your preferred agency and don’t have to go back on the market?

Spend some quality time

It is often the case that you meet an agency initially to establish the relationship and rarely feel the need (or have the time) to follow this up with regular meetings. As an in-house recruiter or hiring manager, you will be constantly asked by new agencies if they can meet you to introduce themselves in the hope that you are sufficiently convinced to give them a go. There is no question that looking at the ‘whites of someone’s eyes’ will tell you more than any glossy website about how they operate – values like empathy and integrity and ultimately how they will be representing your brand in the marketplace. However with the best will in the world, your packed diary will mean it is near impossible to meet on an ad hoc basis unless you are actively looking to brief new agencies with work.

However, there are some really good reasons why it is worth investing time in update meetings with your existing agencies. Firstly, it reaffirms your commitment to the partnership. You are saying “this is more than just a transactional relationship. I am investing time in you as a trusted supplier so you understand the needs of the business. In return I will expect you to deliver results”. Secondly, it will move your relationship forward. It is incredibly hard to build a strong, intuitive relationship over the phone. Face to face meetings tend to facilitate more open and frank discussions. This can be useful to you if you need to renegotiate terms or deliver a sensitive or confidential assignment. It also builds trust on both sides which ultimately makes for better results.

An update meeting is also a great way to ‘refresh’ a brief for an on-going assignment. The fundamentals of the vacancies may not have changed however, chances are the consultant will have been working on it for a while and, particularly if you have struggled to provide detailed feedback on rejected CVs; they may have lost their initial momentum. By meeting the agency again to let them know what the business is now focusing on and what profiles are likely to work best, you will renew their enthusiasm to attack the assignment with new vigour and also increase the likelihood of you both getting a result.

Keep talking

As an in-house recruiter, you can find yourselves in difficult situations and under intense pressure. You are at the whim of the wider strategic decisions taken by your company which inevitably affect recruitment: restructures, redundancies, new store openings, new business wins. All of these will affect your job flow in a positive or negative way leaving you to adapt accordingly. When recruiting directly, you will need to inform your own candidates of any change in order to protect the candidate experience and the employer brand. When using agencies, you will need to inform them of cancelled vacancies, delayed processes and changes of brief. This can be really difficult, particularly when you know an agency has been working hard for you over often a significant period of time. You also have to manage the expectations (realistic or otherwise) of your hiring managers and will need to educate them about the challenges and opportunities presented by the current recruitment market. Being able to influence internally is one of the challenges faced by in-house recruiters and one which is often under-estimated by those on the agency side. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved and by communicating issues you are facing internally, your agencies will at least understand the context of decisions and be able to communicate these to candidates in an appropriate way. One thing a good consultant responds to is open communication – even if it means that they won’t make their fee, being informed will help them deal with pressure on their side. This is also an interesting test of an agency’s commitment to your business. If they have a tantrum when faced with a cancelled brief or rejected candidate and never call you again, this tells you all you need to know.

To err is human, to forgive divine

However strong the relationship and however well the agency has performed so far, you can bet your bottom dollar that at some point, a mistake will be made. Recruitment is a sensitive business and this, combined with the pressure many consultants work under and the time restraints imposed, mean that errors do occur. Chances are it will be unconsciously done or a simple case of human error and of course, it depends on what the consequences are, however it is rash for a simple mistake to wipe out the positive history you have together. This works both ways and the agency should be equally magnanimous if the mistake is made on your side.

Push the right buttons

Knowing how recruitment agencies work, how consultants are managed and what therefore motivates them will help you get the best from them. They will have a range of vacancies to work on and the truth is that they will focus on those vacancies that give them the best return – this may mean ease of fill or revenue. That said, when there is a positive relationship with a client, most consultants will genuinely want to help you. However, when negotiating terms and conditions, it is naïve to think that you will get the best result if the role is non-exclusive and at rock bottom fee rates, irrespective of how strong the relationship. It’s about making a commitment on both sides and, by ensuring that the agency has an incentive to prioritise your vacancy, you will get the result you want. When cost is an issue as is so often the case, give a period of exclusivity. Commit to interview dates in advance or facilitate a meeting with the hiring manager so the briefing is thorough. Remember, when working on a contingency basis, the agency will only get paid if they get a result.

A gentle stroke…

Real recruitment industry professionals want to be successful. This isn’t just about making as much revenue as possible (yes, let’s be completely frank – we need to make money, just like everyone else!) but it is also about feeling that we have supported our clients. That, because we did our jobs well, your job and that of your hiring manager will be just a little easier. Most of us are genuinely passionate about our clients’ businesses – we learn a lot about you and spend a lot of time selling your business to the wider community so we actually get a real sense of satisfaction from placing someone with you. Getting acknowledgment of a job well done is also an effective way of rewarding loyalty amongst your supplier base.

Honesty is the best policy

If you are really not happy, then let your agency know. So often, relationships break down because of a misunderstanding or an assumption made on either side. Most people would agree that the worst thing is not knowing – if we know what we have done wrong or what you aren’t sure about, we can try to fix the problem. Recruitment people are very think skinned – we can take it!

Tie the knot

Working on a retained or project basis is another effective way to get results. By paying a proportion of the fee up front, you are paying the agency for the work they are doing along the process – particularly important if you need them to add greater value by conducting detailed screening interviews or if a full search methodology is required. The total fee paid is the same, however by agreeing to work in this way, both sides are demonstrating their commitment to filling the role. The pressure is very much on the agency to deliver. Furthermore, I always found the biggest benefit of this approach was only having to talk to one consultant about a particular vacancy – no multiple briefing, update or feedback calls required!

I would be interested to know about the best agency relationships you have and what makes them work?

I wonder what the longest lasting client/agency relationship is in the industry?

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Previous Blogs from Sophie Mackenzie on in-house recruitment:

How to win the heart of an in-house recruiter

Leaving the dark side – How agency experience benefits the in-house recruiter

How to build your influence in an in-house recruitment role

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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