Recruiters – the commission v salary debate.
Last week I was approached by a guy who was looking to get back into recruitment after spending a few years out of the industry. We spoke about the fact that his absence, combined with a challenging market, might mean he will struggle to secure a role immediately.
“What if I was to offer myself on a commission only basis?” he asked. “ Would this increase my chances of securing a role?”
I rarely have conversations about a commission only model with either individual recruiters or agencies. And to my knowledge this set-up is rare. Maybe that is just historical, but for a role that is sales based, performance based and already heavily commissioned in most cases, you might think it would be more common. So I started to think about it …
Initially it seemed a fairly straightforward argument. If both parties are up for it, then why not? It’s a win-win with little risk. But then I posted the question on LinkedIn and it quickly became clear that there was a lot more to consider:
“I am not sure that it is healthy and drives the tight culture or behaviour”
“The key question is commission based on what and how that then effects longevity, quality, client relations, let alone the internal fight over opportunities.”
“What is motivating the individuals in the first place and how is this portrayed to clients.”
“The scheme would present the possibility of a clear conflict of interest in that the commission only recruiter would monster the Hiring Manager into hasty or ill-considered hires. How could you ever trust the ref checks?”
“It requires a very different level of attitude in both directions for this to be successful. It is not a traditional business and cannot be viewed as such.”
“There would be too big a question over trust for all parties. Where is the commitment from the employer? Where is the care from the employee?”
As the recruitment industry continues to evolve at such a rapid pace, and with the backdrop of continuing economic uncertainty, we all might need to look at alternative options to the traditional employment model of salary and commission.
For example, if you are a successful recruiter and looking for a new job for whatever reason (as is the case for more and more recruiters at the moment…) you could conceivably find yourself still looking in 6 months time as lots of the market continues to be risk adverse. That is a long time to spend out of the market and not earning money. Alternatively, if you can consider commission only, or a heavily weighted commission structure, you might find potential employers more willing to take you on. And if you genuinely back yourself to bill, at worse you will probably earn the same money , and it is probably less risky than being employed on a big salary in many cases. Of course they are not the only considerations, but when the alternative might be nothing it is certainly something to think about.
And for an agency that has an appetite to grow, but cannot realistically add any extra significant overheads to its business, this model gives them another option to consider.
Obviously it is not going to be for everyone or every agency and all the issues raised above need to be considered before going down that path. I don’t think it should become the industry norm, but nor do I think it should be ignored full stop. Personally, I think that in many cases there is room in recruitment for commission only (or at least heavily weighted commission packages) – and not just for desperate recruiters, or tight arse agencies! It is maybe something that we should all start considering more?