My colleague Sophie wrote about the candidate experience recently (click here) and following some recent first-hand experience I felt compelled to write this blog. I don’t expect it to change anything but could do with getting it off my chest!
There have been a lot of blogs recently about how the agency-led candidate experience is deteriorating and to his credit, Mitch Sullivan (visit his blog here) is waging a one-man social war on Contingent recruitment. Mitch talks about this in a far more eloquent manner than me but I thought I would share my own thoughts on why it is having a detrimental impact on my own area of specialism in Retail.
For those not familiar with recruitment terminology, Contingent recruitment is, in essence, recruiting without guaranteed payment. No win, no fee. The alternative is Retained recruitment where traditionally a client will pay a third of the expected fee upon commencement of the assignment, a third upon production of a shortlist and a third upon completion. Retained recruitment is often thought to be the preserve of Executive Search but this really isn’t the case. There are of course other derivatives, including exclusivity (is it ever really?), mapping, project fees, the list goes on.
So why is Contingent recruitment killing the candidate experience?
- Contingent recruitment is basically working for free…unless the recruiter is successful. So recruiters who only have a portfolio of contingent work will pick and choose what they believe will deliver a result. Consequently, some agencies will take a volume approach to the assignment and cover every candidate on their database regardless of suitability. Candidates will receive calls (or emails…) about roles that are either not of interest or they have no hope of ever securing an interview for.
- Contingent recruitment often equates to the client using multiple agencies. Using multiple agencies will often generate a multitude of problems for candidates, recruiters and clients. The biggest issue that often arises is arguments over candidate ownership. Unscrupulous agencies, and we all know there are many, will send CVs to clients without the candidate’s knowledge or bully them into agreeing that they ‘covered’ them on the vacancy first. The end result; candidates are often forced to lie and are left feeling deeply uncomfortable with the whole process.
- Savvy candidates are increasingly asking whether the recruiter is retained, exclusive or one of many. They are in essence, analysing their prospective employer through the manner in which they are conducting their recruitment. Multiple agencies – not placing trust in one supplier – what does this say about the culture of the business? Not retained – not serious about hiring the position? There are many other conclusions that could be drawn.
- Contingent recruitment does not encourage an agency to go the extra mile when representing their client. It does not ensure the recruiter researches the business and can talk passionately and knowledgably. It will often lead to at best a half-hearted or at worst a misleading brief for the candidate.
- Many agencies will do a great job when recruiting on a contingent basis and to retain some balance, Retained searches don’t always leave the best impression. However, where there is a Retained search there is genuine accountability. The recruiter has been paid in advance to provide a great service for all parties and as a result clients can manage that relationship accordingly. If the client briefs multiple agencies it is very difficult for them to manage performance in a measured and constructive manner.
Not every agency that works on a contingent basis does a bad job and indeed I will happily admit that I often work on a contingent basis with some of my clients (sorry Mitch). You hope in these situations you are rewarded for doing a great job but as we all know sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.
However, I always do a much better job when retained. In fact I have filled every single brief that I have been retained on and ultimately, isn’t that the result that everyone wants? The candidate experience becomes crucial in this instance and when retained you have full ownership. You are also able to fully engage your internal resourcing function, you can write a good quality brief, you can meet candidates and spend time getting to know them. There will be some mistakes made, as in any job, but they will be mistakes not deliberate attempts to create unnecessary problems.
PS. For those recruiters that are contributing to a poor candidate experience – it will catch up with you and sooner than you think.