The last day or so I’ve been engaging in and following a LinkedIn discussion started by a third party recruiter about the frustrations he has with getting candidates in front of hiring managers, that there seems to be even more “interference” from the corporate recruiter or HR agents at potential clients.
The discussion generated lively comments from other contingency as well as corporate recruiters, and most of what I would say was already stated in one form or another. *Until* one of the other contingency recruiters asserted that “most” corporate recruiters have no understanding of the agency/retained search business.
I took great exception to that and told him so. Perhaps it is because I’ve been in the IT recruiting world in Seattle where Microsoft has turned the contingent staffing model into an art and where most recruiters have at least *some* agency experience and aren’t considered “well rounded” (translate that to “employable”) professionals until they *do” have it, but I would say only about 10% of the corporate recruiters I know have *no* agency experience. They *do*, however, have *previous sales* experience. Considering my vast network (both in and out of Seattle) I’d say I personally know about 200 recruiters. So please, don’t tell me that I don’t understand contingency based recruiting. I did my stint as an agency as well as independent recruiter, so yes, I know the model.
I’ve also *been* the corporate recruiter receiving so many unsolicited phone calls from agencies that I finally stopped answering my phone. So the professional that I took exception with asked me for “alternative” methods for gaining market share.
So let’s take a look at a few things. First of all, the term “cold call”. OK, just the very image evoked is off-putting. Especially in a tight market, if I have a need for a contingency based recruiter, I’m going to contact people I trust either *in* the agency/retained search world, or by reaching out to colleagues for referrals.
Let’s also consider a couple of other things. The recruiting profession has been suffering immensely the last six-twelve months with the recession, and anyone lucky enough to *have* a paying position is doing their professional best to make themselves as valuable as possible. So why, I ask you, would I take the very few requisitions I have and turn them over to an external agency, effectively telling my supervisor that I’m *unable to do my job*? HR/Recruiting is accountable for managing the influx of talent into any organization, and unless I have some extremely niche specialty position open that I have no idea how (or resources) to fill, I’m going to do my best to fill it myself.
And then there is the candidate pool. Now, I’m an expert sourcer. I realize not every recruiter is good at or even enjoys sourcing. But in *this* economy, I’m pretty certain that most recruiters have a much higher overlap access to candidates that the retained search recruiter does for standard profiles. Let’s be honest, most candidates are managing their own career searches right now. The passive candidates, if you can pry their resumes from them, are less likely to leave a secure job to move anytime soon, and most companies are being very tight-fisted on relo. So I’m guessing that my candidate pool is pretty similar to yours. So I’m not going to pay you 20% plus to give me candidates I’ve already seen, contacted, evaluated, etc. etc.
Social networking and the economic climate has brought one truism to light: these days, the employment market is about *networking*. We tell job seekers that they need to network, network, and network some more into their next job. I don’t see the recruiting side of the equation being any different. And picking up the phone to call someone you don’t know, or trying to “slide” a resume in front of a hiring manager by going around HR is *not* networking. The hard sales edge of retained recruiting has *got* to soften, and more relationship-building, branding, and professional recognition is going to have to become the standard.
What does this mean? You have to become *known* in your local professional circle and gain name recognition coupled with a good reputation. This means attending local recruiting and job networking events and speaking to both recruiters and candidates. Volunteer your time to help candidates understand the process and how to conduct an effective job search and how to write a good resume; at least in Seattle, I know of at *least* a dozen job search networking groups. If you don’t have a blog (a big mistake in this day and age), start one. You need to show your peers and potential clients that you know what you are doing, understand the market, industry, and how to produce quality candidates. If you have been ignoring social media, it is time to remedy that. Corporate recruiters are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, and if you want to service them, you should be going to those places where they already are.
Finally, this whole networking business model is about *forming communities* and making very human, very real, connections. Rather than call up Jeannie Smith at Acme Widget company to say “hey, I’ve got this great candidate for you!” try approaching via a mutual LinkedIn connection and ask if you could meet with her for coffee *just* to introduce yourself and ask her about her company and their business. Leave the candidate resumes until after you’ve established a rapport with her and an understanding of her company. It’s also time to start contacting former candidates and satisfied clients for referrals.
Last but not least, this is the time when splits are going to be the best deals for a lot of recruiters. Those recruiters that *do* have strong business ties are going to need help with sourcing and screening. The candidate influx is overwhelming, and often you can partner with other third party organizations to help them out.