• HR & Internal Recruiters – friend or foe?

      by Ben Batten
      20 August 2013


      • We don't need to meet, just send CVs!
      • The line manager is travelling and I don't have answers to the questions you have asked to ensure you can match the best candidate and save time! It's urgent, just send CVs!
      • We don't have a budget for the role, it's open, just send CVs!
      • Everything is done in-house, we don't use agencies, EVER!!

      Does this sound familiar? How do agency recruiters and HR/Internal recruiters develop better and more mutually beneficial relationships? Or are we destined to be each other's thorn in the side?

      I moved to Singapore six years ago, and one of the first things that struck me, was that in the vast majority of cases, hiring managers do not have the same ownership over recruitment and hiring as I had experienced during my recruitment career in Australia. In fact, many hiring managers are afraid of their HR colleagues and for fear of beating, will many times refer any sales call directly back to HR. I may exaggerate a little, as on occasions this may be nothing more than an easy excuse. However, the reality remains that recruitment is a process (tightly) controlled in a lot of companies, by their HR and talent acquisition teams.

      Talent Acquisition teams are almost always filled by ex-agency recruiters. They broadly fit into three categories a) those consultants that hate sales b) those consultants that seek a less stressful environment and c) those consultants that love recruitment but prefer to work in one organization where they can see the value add of their efforts. This being the case, you would think there might be some empathy for the trials and tribulations of being an agency recruiter, but no, it seems all the bad experiences they experienced on the other side, they took detailed notes on, rehearsed and give it back twice as bad.

      In a very cost conscious environment, these teams and functions are only set to increase not decrease. Companies are getting creative in their compensation models, offering commissions on successful internal placements, and putting in place very detailed and outcome based activities, providing every incentive for these internal teams to stay far away from agencies.

      So where do the agencies come in? Doesn't LinkedIn solve all internal hiring needs quickly and easily? On a very crude measure, the current global workforce is some 3 billion people. Admittedly, the professional and technical or skilled workers form only a portion of this number, but even so, the current reach of LinkedIn is only some 225 million or less than 10% of the global workforce. Internal recruiters are working on HR roles one day, finance the next, warehousing a week later. So the depth of their talent pools is limited to the immediate requirement, and not an ongoing library built up over many months and years.

      It is this depth of expertise, the ability to compare and contrast like skill sets day in day out that enables an agency recruiter to respond very quickly to requirements and to make informed recommendations. But what happens when an agency recruiter wants to introduce a candidate from a competitor when there is no need, or in anticipation of an impending headcount? Should the internal recruiter block this from a hiring manager? Do they feel the pain of a vacancy, or fully understand the benefits (or market intelligence that could be gleaned) from a top performing sales person from the number one brand down the road? Given the vast bulk of recruitment is done on a contingency basis, why obstruct what could be a unique once off opportunity with immeasurable value to your organization?

      My view for what it is worth, is that agency recruiters need to work harder to demonstrate their value. As frustrating as it may be, they need to respect the changing dynamic in the modern recruitment process, respect the internal recruiter, who has their own targets to meet, and dance in rhythm to their music. That said, internal teams need to be more open minded to recruiters that can demonstrate this value and who bring intelligent contributions to their talent challenges, and consider the merits of proactive candidate introductions. There needs to be more collaboration between agency and internal teams, detailed briefings to save time, and ensure quicker, more accurate matches. There will always be budget constraints, hiring freezes and obstacles to jump through for any hire, particularly with an agency fee involved. However, when you make that star hire, fill the vacancy that has been open for 12 months, or close a role before it officially opens, you will truly shine, and if an objective evaluation was done, I'm sure the opportunity cost of the fee versus having that role vacant longer than necessary, will truly stack up in your favor.