Dear Claudia,

Why do agency recruiters see HR as the enemy? I’m not an unreasonable person, but I’m here to do a job for my company (and I do it pretty well) – so why am I the bad guy when an unrequested-but-submitted resume is already in our database and I refuse to pay for the hire? Why should I have to request DOZENS of times that agencies work with our normal, published process to submit a candidate? Or when I reduce the number of agencies we work with to squeeze more money from my already limited budget, and your agency is no longer on the list? I’m supposed to be a good steward of my company’s resources, and yet third party recruiters continue predatory behavior with hiring managers: waving resumes like candy at little kids, checking in to “build trust” so they get a back-door requisition. It’s insidious, like getting your parents to argue over whether or not you can go out with your friends on a school night. Why don’t they ever learn??

Needs a Fumigator

Dear Needs a Fumigator,

I have to admit, I’m really glad you brought this up. You’re describing the classic and often dysfunctional relationship between three parties that are paid to be in charge; and each of them is supposed to be in charge of certain things when it comes to hiring.

I think that if a company is large enough to have an HR function, then HR needs to set the rules of engagement for hiring. Of course, this is a business decision that requires input from stakeholders like hiring managers and accounting; but if the policy represents the needs of the business as a whole, it's much harder for a third party to divide and conquer.

The truth is that, from a corporate perspective, agencies are a source for candidates – and an expensive one at that. But, unlike job boards and employee referrals, they proactively build relationships to get business. Don’t fight this fact; leverage it by building great relationships yourself with the agencies you choose to work with. Make it your business to ensure that your agency recruiters feel well cared for, understand your business and its requirements for talent, and consider you the primary go-to person for questions and contact. Don't wait for them to call you all the time; seek them out periodically and invite their feedback about your process and their experiences with your company. You may be surprised at their surprise at your interest.

Yes, it’s frustrating to constantly be nibbled to death by ducks, and sometimes you do want to call for an exterminator to keep the agency infestation under control. But consider this: the best fumigation service out there is when you simply invest in the quality relationships that you want to keep. Set the ground rules, enforce them fairly, and always reflect the quality relationship that you expect from your agencies. You might find your attitude changing dramatically towards what can be an excellent resource for talent.

Happy recruiting!


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Dear Claudia -

I agree with your statements. The recruiting process from the HR side requires a clear and client-focused program. If the stake holders agree with it they will follow it. If they do not, HR will always be in the middle and always perceived as the "Bad Guy".

In addition, your recommendation that it be relationship based between HR and the recruiters of the world, is completely accurate. If genuine relationships are established, HR need not fear those relationship based recruiters approaching the hiring managers. Hiring managers and recruiters will not feel the need to go around HR if everyone is a party to those relationships.

HR is a staff function and always will be. Unless HR is perceived by its own line management as a valuable partner, it will forever be trying to fix the wrong thing. To put it simply, the problem isn't that recruiters exist and do what they do, it is that HR has failed to build the necessary relationships within its own management organization to have themselves be seen as more of a solution than the recruiters.

Tom Dimmick
Well...nobody is "the bad guy," first of all. We're all just trying to do our jobs. Just as HR has protocol to follow (and agencies have to be mindful of that) agency recruiters have an agenda to make placements. This is a sales game and there is always going to be competition. There's always going to be agencies trying to beat down your door if you're an HR Recruiter and you'd be better off accepting that and maybe listening to whoever is calling about their services rather than hearing it's an agency you've never worked with and shutting off your mind to them. Some agencies still won't be worth your time after you've talked to them but at least now you know and what if you find a great new agency--wouldn't it be cool to take it to your boss and maybe gets some accolades for it?

Agency recruiters go around HR when HR is being slow and not listening. For some reason, HR recruiters never seem to have any sense of urgency in the hiring process. If an agency recruiter has a hot candidate for the position they understand the need to strike while the iron is hot and the candidate is pumped about the opportunity. HR Recruiters go on vacation halfway through a interviewing process or don't seem to want to bother the hiring manager about setting up a time on the interview calander or probing for feedback. Meanwhile, the candidate goes cold and someone else picks them up or the candidate has too much time to think about the job and starts picking apart what they don't like and start to think about demands whereas if the process was sped up they'd have no time to think about what they don't like. And sure as the sky is blue I am sure every HR recruiter out there just replied in unison with: "Well then if they ended up not liking the job after thinking about it for a while, then obviously it wasn't going to be a good fit!" WRONG! What the candidate is really doing is reflecting the company's seeming lack of interest. They're biting before they get bitten. Don't give them a reason to doubt and they won't.

I know HR has a process and I am willing to respect that but if someone can't show me enough respect for my craft and knowledge it just fuels me to go around you, beat you to the punch and win anyway. Sorry, it's just how it is.
THIS IS WHY YOU ARE SENSAI AND I AM GRASSHOPPA! Okay, I can see the value in that strategy. However, it's always depending on the HR recruiters willingness to work with you in that manner. It seems to me like HR has a big, rubber "F-Off" stamp they use particularly for any interlopers that they are threatened by meaning anyone new. However, I will give this strategy a try because I think you are onto something and, quite frankly, I want an e-mail from a VP like the one you got! Namaste.

Sandra McCartt said:
Ah grasshopper, never forget who signs the front of the check and who signs the back. The reason HR is resistant to TPR's is because of the cut throat, pushy, hot shots in our industry. Play by the rules , build your relationships with HR, become part of their team and understand that part of their job is to find those candidates themselves when at all possible.

In a new situation I make a deal with HR to let me submit candidates , if they can find the same ones I let them have them with the understanding that they will include my good ones they didn't find along with theirs when candidates are submitted to the hiring manager.

It won't take long before they see you as an addition to their team not a competitor. It also won't take long before they come back to you asking for help on a difficult search or when the internal time constraints are a press for them. It won't take long before they trust you not to undermine them and will ask you to speak directly with their hiring managers when they need your help. HR can be your best friend for long term relationships and your worst enemy if you go around them. I try to find out who the toughest hiring manger is within an organization , the one who gives HR hell. If i can help them with that manager's reqs they are more than happy to turn me loose to work direct as long as i keep them in the loop. It's their job to keep up with all candidates for lots of reasons. Because of the snakes in our industry it sometimes takes longer to build those relationships but it's worth it in the long run to be one of the "good guys" who get those listings when nobody else does because HR can trust you to help make them look good.

Consider this, if HR went around you to your boss asking for candidates and wouldn't work with you it would probably make you furious.

The stories of TPR's calling hiring managers to try and get a job order, then when they are referred to HR, calling HR telling HR that they have been referred by the hiring manager as if it were a personal relationship with the hiring manager are legendary. It may work sometimes but normally doesn't build long term relationships. If HR is going on vacation in the middle of a search ask who you can work with while they are gone or get permission to work with the hiring manger for that period of time.

I made a big placement this morning. When the offer email came from the VP of HR it was addressed to me and two internal HR people. It said: To the Team, please make this happen today. I was delighted to be included as part of the internal "team". I am working four 100K + positions with this HR group as we speak so give some thought to becoming part of the team.
I think if a recruiter sends an unsolicited resume, they deserve what they get.

Key word being "unsolicited".

Not hard at all to call HR, find out if they need your candidate, find out if they'll work with you, agree to a fee, and then send the resume.

I think that some recruiters fear engaging hiring authorities, and expect the magical resume to do their work for them, so they lead off with that and hope for the best.

And as far as "reducing the number of agencies we work with", It's been my experience that that is code for " you keep pushing candidates that aren't pertinent, so get lost".

If you bring them something they want, provide value, serve well, and make their job easier, HR can be a breeze to work with.
I love the contributions from the peanut gallery today!

@Tom: your focus on the quality of relationships is key, and your note at the end that puts the onus squarely on the shoulders of HR is well said...although I'll note that I've seen some pretty questionable TPR behaviors along the way, and I think it's a shared responsibility. I also think HR has every right to black list agencies that won't play nicely in the sandbox -- and the place to start that conversation is by providing an approved vendor list to Accounting: ain't nobody getting paid unless they're on the list. Hehehe, the bad boys listen up pretty quick after that.

@See_Jane_Recruit: You are right in so many things today, but most especially in your respect to Sandra-the-Wise. A wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am recruiter demonstrates commitment to self over commitment to the me as the customer, which makes me wonder what else you might do to pad your own pockets at my expense. Do I have to worry that you'll steal my employees out the back door? Not fun if what you're hoping for is a long term professional relationship built on trust. It also demonstrates a lack of concern for my retention numbers, which are the most expensive hiring-related costs for an employer; in the best case I have an empty seat and work backing up or spilling over to others in an understaffed department (affecting revenue or productivity or even more turnover for the business); in the worst case I may also have legal complications related to termination. I once inherited an employee that HR called a "Trifecta": Female, Hispanic, and Over 40. Under no circumstances was I allowed to fire her for dismal performance, even if she was the most expensive employee on my staff. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.

@Sandra: You Goddess You. I can't even think of anything to add, except to agree with Jane that you are the Sensei.

@Thomas: You are completely on the mark - it's kind of like making friends with your mother-in-law to have a happy marriage (or the father-in-law if you're the husband). Life is a little bit less like hell if they like you and want to keep you around.

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