Farmers, Fishers or Hunters? The 3 Types of Recruitment Company

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The recruitment industry in the UK is a billion pound industry. In 2006 in the UK alone there were 10,426 separate recruitment organisations generating circa £26 billion pounds worth of revenue and that has continued to rise year on year with the exception maybe of the last 12 months.

However, this post isn’t about the size of the industry and its effect on the economies we operate in but more about how recruitment companies operate themselves.

You see, I was on the way home from the office this week and as always on the London underground there were inevitable unforeseen delays and I ended up being stuck for about 15 minutes on the Metropolitan Line (the Brown line on the underground map) in between Baker Street and Finchley Road.

I had already finished my Evening Standard (free newspaper) and since I haven’t changed the songs on my Ipod for the last 6 months this rendered my Ipod unplayable, unless I wanted to listen and recite every word of the latest Jay-Z song Empire state of mind. So I ended up staring into thin air thinking about recruitment metaphors, strategies and philosophies and so on.

This brings me to the latest theory that I have conjured up.

Recruitment companies operate in 100’s of different markets, you have recruitment companies for IT professionals, you have recruitment companies for Nurses, recruitment companies for social workers, Engineers, Train Drivers, Teachers etc. The list goes on. However, to be successful in different recruitment markets requires different ways of operating or a combination of methods.

The 3 ways that recruitment companies operate in are either as Farmer, Fishers or Hunters.


Types of Recruitment Companies: Specialist, Niche

Traits: Small market, limited skill set market, hard to find skill-set and/or markets that move quickly

Method: In such a market a recruiter would try to get to know all the candidates or, as many top candidates as possible, within their market and create a talent pool. This type of recruiter will keep in touch and develop relationships with their candidates and keep them updated whether they had opportunities at the time of speaking to their candidates or not.

Recruiters in these types of markets would usually have high knowledge of the market they work in and would be able to advise their clients on recruitment issues. Job Adverts and advertising in these markets may provide poor results in the very niche or specialist markets or if in a fast paced market by the time you get response from an advert the opportunity may have already gone.

When a recruiter gets a job from a client in this type of market they will go back to their talent pool and talk to the candidates they have relationships with (farming) and keeping warm while they didn’t have no roles.


Types of Recruitment Companies: Generalists, Low Entry Level Recruiters (Also Bad Recruiters)

Traits: Non-Specialists, Easy to find skills, large amount of candidates, low barrier to entry jobs, mid-pace markets

Method: In a market where a recruiter does not specialise in one particular area and/or is happy to take any requirement from a client, whether it is a financial accountant role or a software developer role they would be a fishing recruiter. Also in markets where the jobs barrier to entry is very low and there are a high number of applicants for every position.

This type of recruiter will have no talent pool or an out-dated talent pool. This means they’ll have to begin every search for a requirement from the beginning. They will have to go fishing for candidates and place job adverts.

These recruiters are unlikely to have strong market knowledge as they are generalist and you’ll know this type of recruiter as most of the time when they call you up with an opportunity it will be the first time they would have got in touch with you and if the opportunity doesn’t work out it will be the last time you hear from that recruiter.

However a recruiter like this may have a lot of opportunities and a lot of the large recruitment organisations who are first tier suppliers to blue chip companies operate in this way, although they like to think they do not.

In this type of model client relationships is king and candidates are not treated as highly or as well as they should be this is because there are often a lot of candidates in these types of markets and also sometimes because of a lack of specialism it’s unlikely the candidate will bump into the recruiter again so there are no repercussions for treating a candidate badly.


Types of Recruitment Companies: Head-Hunters, Senior Appointments, Executive-Search

Traits: High-Salary Positions, Slow Pace markets, Directorship or Senior Positions, Business Critical Roles

Method: In this type of market, knowledge is also very important especially when speaking to your clients, however instead of building up a candidate pool and selling the skills or attributes of the candidates in your network you are more likely to sell your credentials.

When a client gives you a requirement in this type of market it is very likely that there will be very few potential candidates who could do such a role. This is the market of the retained search, you will have to identify the candidates, short-list candidates, meet and maybe wine or dine your candidate and you will have to do a lot of research even before you first solicit each perspective candidate. This is the hunt. Job Searchs in this type of market could take as long as 12 months. In markets where you have to hunt their are usually high rewards. Candidates often tend to be more difficult in these types of markets and Clients tend to be easier to liaise with.

That’s my new theory I will be teaching to all new recruits and I’ll be using when interview potential employees. The theory is still a work in progress as I am well aware Fishers may do some Hunting and Hunters may do some Farming and the Farmers may Fish and Hunt. However, I still believe each recruitment company has an embedded culture which the majority of staff work to.

What type of recruitment company do you work for?



Views: 1552

Comment by Jerry Albright on December 11, 2009 at 1:02pm
Great post Richard.
Comment by Bob Burgess on December 19, 2009 at 2:51pm
Richard - I enjoyed the post and I think it is right on the money.
Comment by Origin Forward Solutions on December 20, 2009 at 5:25pm
Thanks for the positive feedback. It really is just the tip of the iceberg, I'm sure this theory could be taken to another level by someone and could be a very credible theory if backed up with statistics.


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