Recruiting or Consulting ?

I was in Sydney yesterday meeting a new client. Unusually for me he doesn’t run a recruitment agency. He met with me as he is looking for someone to grow his very successful Management Consultancy business in Australia, and his thoughts were that it would be a great opportunity for a recruiter looking to do something a bit different….but not your ‘typical’ recruiter

Interesting…go on…

“I generally don’t like recruiters. They just tell me what I want to hear and do what I ask.  I want to meet a recruiter who tells me what I need to hear.”

He went on to explain that the success of his Management Consulting business was due to providing clients with the best advice, regardless of whether the message is good or bad. It is not about telling them they are best and everything is great with their business. It is about being brutally honest about what is wrong and what they need to do to fix it. The clue is in the title, he said…it is about being consultative.

The obvious implication he was making is that the typical recruiter isn’t consultative…….and he is probably half-right.

In my experience, I would say we recruiter’s air on the side of caution when it comes to being brutally honest with our clients. My early career was all “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir “ I was so grateful to have them as a client  I didn’t want to  do anything to risk that. I was afraid of offending them, knowing that in such a competitive industry it doesn’t take much for them to walk away if they don’t like what they hear.  Sometimes I just felt it was easier to go along with my client and do what they want.  (This all sounds like the relationships I had with my girlfriends!).

Whilst this passive behaviour is not necessarily typical of all recruiters, it is probably how a chunk of the industry has always operated. And if you are then you need to stop, and start actually consulting. Sure it can be a bit scary to tell your client something they don’t want to hear, or that they are wrong. But if you are not prepared to step up and do this, then you are only doing half the job…. and your need to remove Consultant from your job title.

Of course just because you talk, it doesn’t mean that they will always listen…. although I guarantee you will surprise yourself how often they do. I advised my client that he needed to pay about double what he suggested to get the person he needed, so he is. I advised him that if he wanted to wait until the perfect candidate came about then he might still be looking in twelve months time., so the brief is now more flexible. I advised him that a 4 stage interview process is unnecessary; so now it is two stages. And I told him that to get the best result he needed to retain me…..but he didn’t (but then you win some and lose some).

P.S. Not wishing to make this an advertorial, but if you are reading this and interested in discussing the above opportunity, please feel free to contact me. It is something a bit different.

Luke Collard – 0408 633365


5 thoughts on “Recruiting or Consulting ?

  1. Aaron Dodd (@AaronDodd) on Reply

    Luke…interesting points that I can identify with. As you know Mindset has both a management consulting arm and a retaining recruitment/search business. 1/2 our revenue comes from each. Like your client, ideal candidates for MIndset have proven to be high-end retained recruiters who want to do more than “just recruit”.

    The key to a successful transition for a recruiter into consulting is to;
    1. Consult, don’t sell.
    2. Only accept retained assignments. Management consultants work on retainers, they don’t ONLY send an invoice if the client likes their advice.

    Contingent recruiters under tight performance KPIs competing with others on jobs become salespeople by necessity. They must sell a candidate quickly into a role to get an invoice out to meet their targets. The role is not consultative, it’s a sales role. Under a retained model, such as Mindset’s, we can take the time to find the RIGHT candidate and be consultative about the client’s real needs, not just the immediate empty chair that needs filling. We quickly become “trusted advisors” that usually leads into other non-recruitment consulting work.

    Good luck filling the role!

  2. Craig Watson rec-to-rec on Reply

    My only comment is that you said ‘(This all sounds like the relationships I had with my girlfriends!)’ You mean girlfriends… as in more than one? Sounds highly unlikely and another recruitment industry exaggeration to me…

  3. Mitch Sullivan on Reply

    I am still somewhat astonished when I see recruiters who have more than 7 or 8 years experience still working the contingency model.

    I’m not saying it’s easy to convert your desk from contingency to retained (whilst working the same jobs and sectors), but it surprises me that so few recruiters seem to want to try. And for the record, it really isn’t very hard to do.

    It defies all business logic, so I can only assume that many recruiters suffer from a deep-rooted lack of self-esteem or confidence in their real ability to fill jobs. Because, when you’re paid upfront, you HAVE to fill jobs. Maybe that’s a level of pressure that most recruiters don’t want to go to?

    The problem with contingency is that its main long term legacy is to just dumb everyone down.

    Luke, regarding your own attempt to win this work on retained (which I at least applaud you for asking), maybe you could have sold it a little more aggressively? Alternatively, you could have illustrated to the client exactly why you couldn’t work the job properly without the retainer and politely declined the opportunity to work on the job.

    It takes balls, but I reckon if you said ‘no’, the client would respect you for it and come round to the right way of thinking eventually.

  4. Aaron Dodd (@AaronDodd) on Reply

    I agree with Mitch 100%.

    Selling retained assignments is EASY. Most contingent recruiters are programmed from induction that “clients won’t pay retainers”, and that’s BS. The easiest way we found to get consultants to sell retained work is to take to contingent option away.If it’s there they’ll fall back on it every time as it’s the easy option…..Luke, I’m only surmising, but if you dodn’t have the contingent option to fall back on, would you have tried harder for the retainer?

    I refer you to this blog I wrote some time back;

  5. lukecollard on Reply

    Thanks Aaron and Mitch – good advice all round. I would tend to agree with you that it is largely a mindset thing with recruiters not asking for retainers, although some sectors and levels lend themselves better to selling the retained model. That being said, I believe contingency, ideally exclusively, has a big part to play in the recruitment industry and will continue to be a justified route for some clients and lucrative for those recruiters that do it well. For me, it is about making a commercial decision with each opportunity. For example, with the example in the blog I didn’t push a retainer as I already had the right candidate and the role exclusive which will result in the same fee. If I had insisted on retained I would have had to walk away with nothing.

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