Struggling to hire talent ….. try this….

Most of the recruitment agencies that I speak to are telling me the same story. They want to grow but cannot find the staff. For many, it is the biggest risk to their business and the issue that keeps them awake at night. So, it is surprising that not many of them are really doing much about it.

Sure, most have thought about it, and put some things in place to hopefully attract talent. They are paying an extra $10k than their competitors, or offering a more lucrative commission scheme ( whilst agencies will slice and dice their packages with different salaries and commission scheme’s, in my experience the overall earning potential is largely the same between similar types of agencies). Their office is ‘funky’ and ‘fun’ with a table tennis table and assortment of brightly coloured beanbags. They have casual dress on a Friday and finish at 4pm . They offer 25 days holiday and birthday’s off. They have a ‘impressive list of PSA clients’. They offer ‘outstanding opportunities for promotion’ Their last Christmas party was ‘insane’.

Guess what ….. so are your competitors. They are all doing the same, or similar things as you. And in any case, a lot of these things won’t really make the difference – especially to the type of people you want. In fact, it means you are more likely to attract the wrong type of person who is attracted by a higher base salary or an easy going culture.

But some agencies that are tackling the problem in a different way. They recognise that there is only so much you can offer people, so they don’t try and compete in this way. They have taken the problem, turned it on it’s head and come up with creative solutions. I met three such agencies in Sydney yesterday.

One of them, a boutique that doesn’t have the big war chest that many of their competitors have to play with, has taken the strategy to only hire graduates. Their theory, and it seems to have worked, is that it is better to bring in a fresh graduate with no experience (who would be largely ignored by their competitors) and train them. Whist they don’t expect much from them in the first 6 months, during which time they train them intensively, they soon bill as well as an experienced recruiter with 2/3 years in the market. And all this for $20k less salary. It has been so successful that they now only recruit graduates.

Another I met took a different approach, They only recruited people from the industry they recruited in, as opposed to experienced recruiters. Again, it meant that they weren’t competing with every other agency for talent, They hired people who could quickly make the transition to recruitment, based on the theory that recruitment is not rocket science and an intelligent person with the right qualities can become effective quickly.

Probably the most revolutionary approach was the agency that decided the only way to grow the business was by bringing in talent at the resourcer level, which meant their recruiters could develop and handle more work. The found it comparatively easy to attract resourcers, mainly because there are  lot of people that want to do this role as opposed to a traditional billing recruiter. And with this support the experienced recruiters were able to increase their billings significantly.

In these 3 cases, by thinking outside the box, and looking outside of their obvious talent pool (i.e recruiters working for their competitors), the agencies have managed to build very successful teams, and at a fraction of the cost.

Obviously , there is no magic answer to the issue of talent shortage that most industries, not just recruitment, are currently experiencing. If there was, I would be a rich man. What suits one business may not suit another, or even be an option. But if you don’t do anything about it, and not just what everyone else is doing,  you are not going to get a different result. You will continue to struggle to hire the talent you need and probably have to pay far too much for it when you do.

Luke Collard


4 thoughts on “Struggling to hire talent ….. try this….

  1. Ella on Reply

    I am a huge fan of graduates- they have no bad habits and can be molded to your own likeness! People from a telesales environment are also a good fit- they know the cold calling hurts sometimes but you are giving them a chance to have a bit of responsibility and run their own desks while getting out of the office too.

    The very people looking for talent should be the ones doing the LinkedIn hunting – Rec2Recs get a bad response and I can’t help thinking that if the Director or Manager of an agency were to approach a potential candidate through LinkedIn, then they would have significantly better results. InMail – Delete!

    1. Craig Watson rec-to-rec on Reply

      Hi Ella,
      Although this may seem a little self-indulgant but I don’t quite agree with your comment on Rec2Rec’s getting a ‘bad response’ for a number of reasons… Rec2Rec’s are brand ambassadors and give agencies access to candidates they simply can’t attract themselves (exactly the same as what agencies do for their clients). Also, most Directors and Managers these days are running full desks as well as their other P&L and strategic responsibilities – add recruiting their own staff to this and something else will suffer…

      1. Ella on Reply

        Just speaking for myself Craig. I generally tell rec2recs that I am not interested. However if a manager from an agency were to email me then I would of course respond positively and be a lot more flattered. It is the same way employers treat general recruiters – some are annoyed by them some are not, few welcome them. Not my rules, just what I have observed over my own time in recruitment. If recruiters stayed more than 6 months to a year in a job here maybe there wouldn’t be a need for rec2recs? I do not agree either with the fact that some other area will suffer if you do your own recruitment! As a BM, I hired my own team- nothing else suffered and I certainly can juggle tasks and priorities. If an agency has an internal HR/Recruitment team then they need to be seen to do more than posting a job and hoping for the best. If recruitment is your job then apologies but why on earth would you ask someone else to do it for you!

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