​Recruiters… Stand up straight and stop bending over

It’s tough out there in the commercial contingent recruitment world – I know, I live in it too.  Clients seem to hold regular reverse auctions for fees, playing one recruiter off against another 3 or 4. Candidates swear they are being transparent, then they continually move the goalposts throughout the process and competitors pull out all stops to make the placement – sometimes ethically and sometimes… well…completely unethically.  It can be disheartening, frustrating and bloody annoying.

Many recruitment business owners will tell you steer clear of the contingent space… If I had a dollar for every one of my clients (remembering I am a rec2rec), who have told me ‘Oh Craig, we only do retained,’ or ‘we will work a contingent role, but only if it’s exclusive.’ I would be a very rich man…

Fact is 95% of recruiters are contingent recruiters. (Actually Andrew Banks – you know Andrew Banks, the good looking one from Morgan & Banks, Hudson, T2 etc. says that 99% of all recruitment assignments are contingent. I have decided to round down a bit…). Anyway, as I was saying 95% of you in the recruitment world are competing for the contingent dollar.  So the other 5% feel free to stop reading now… Oh, and if you do continue reading no need to comment – it will be irrelevant to the 95% of our industry that this blog is written for…
That’s right – I’ll say it again 95% of you out there are sharing the same pain… Being told on a weekly basis that the other recruiter is working at a lower fee and that the other recruiter has already presented your exceptional candidate – a candidate who, by the way told you they were working with you exclusively.

You continually struggle to understand the needs of your clients, form relationships, work those crafty, formula driven activity ratios like… If your monthly billing requirement is $30k and your average placement fee is $10k you need to make 3 placements a month… If you fill 1/3 of the roles you work, you need to be working 9 roles at any one time to hit your target.  If you generate a new job order every 2 clients visits and require 5 telemarketing calls to generate a client visit, that would mean if you only have 6 roles on you would need to make 30 TM calls to generate the 6 clients visits to pick up 3 job orders… Now, if the weather in Tenerife was 16 degrees hotter and x=13.3 you ratios change ever so slightly, but believe me – they do change…

Welcome to the ‘Contingent World’.  If we look around there are millions – ok thousands, or maybe hundreds – of training courses, conferences webinars etc. dedicated to improving the performance of the contingent recruiter. Gems like: Developing a Successful Temp Desk, or Improving Your Client Base… The impressive list goes on.

But, to be honest, if you are good at what you do – and have the backing of your employer – the simple fact is it is up to you to succeed.  Keep it simple and above all believe in the value and professionalism of the service you provide.

Here are 3 rules I take with me every day into the contingent recruitment world…

1.    Full Fees for Full Service – I strongly believe that in the contingent space it is important to be true to your standard fee structure. A recent conversation with a client went a little something like this…
‘Hi Craig, I’ve looked over your terms of business and your fee structure is 16% for this role. ABC recruitment have agreed to 14%, can you match that?’
‘Well, I’m happy to work on the role for 14%, but as the fee for the full service is 16% what part of the full service should we forgo? I’m happy to look at a shorter guarantee period?
There are 3 ways the conversation will go from here. No deal – and to be honest I would – in most cases – be happy to walk away from a client who is adamant about lower fees. Shorter Guarantee – and if the client agrees to this they are showing a propensity to ‘share the risk’ and deserve the lower fee. Full Fees for Full Service – you will be surprised at how many clients end up agreeing to the full fees/full service scenario after this conversation.
2.    Candidate Honesty & Transparency – Remember that any candidate you represent to your clients is a representation of your brand and reputation – make this very clear at interview, including your expectations throughout the process.  If my candidates act outside of these expectations they are no longer my candidates – one strike and they are gone.
3.    Act With Integrity – I know we are playing in the contingent, transactional space, but your personal brand, the reputation of your business and the integrity of your process is paramount (I like that word – paramount). You will develop referral based networks of candidates and clients – and believe me, this industry is smaller than you may think, and your reputation is harder to shake than your shadow…

There you have it… In short, the contingent landscape is a road littered with potholes, you can help fix them, jump over them, or fall into them…. Your choice.

Craig Watson

3 thoughts on “​Recruiters… Stand up straight and stop bending over”

  1. Great post, Craig. agree. The fourth thing I took into my ‘contingent recruitment day’ was to never be afraid to have a straight conversation with the client, or drop them altogther if they weren’t returning my messages. Unless the client has ‘skin in the game’ they are easily seduced by another ‘cheaper’ recruitment option.

  2. You make many good points Craig, but the fact remains that most contingency recruiters are not going to change how they behave and no amounts of blogs like this one are going to make any difference.

    I know you don’t want to hear this, but good recruiters have nowhere else to go once they master the art of contingency. The most logical next move for them is learn how to transfer their sales book over to retained-fee clients. Once they start securing work they don’t have to compete on (and therefore be tempted by taking short-cuts) they can then start to learn lots of other new skills that can only come from having time to project manage assignments, having to work all the attraction channels and properly assess those candidates they source.

    They’ll become much better sales people too.

    Instead, what most do is allow themselves to be promoted (and thereby becoming average managers and billing less) or start-up on their own and replicate the same contingency driven cycle of lots of cold calls and and weak client and candidate commitment.

    If you don’t want to be treated like all the other CV throwing agencies, you need to stop playing on the same pitch.

  3. As with most sales, you get what you pay for. If the client wants a lower fee they probably aren’t worth your time. There are way too many companies out there to just focus on the ones who are willing to sign your agreement because you won their business by having the lowest percentage on your agreement.

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