Guess what? Candidates are customers too!

For all my blog posts please see 'The Savage Truth'

Last week I blogged on the importance of customer service in the recruitment industry, and how Aquent is surveying customer satisfaction, and rewarding our staff based on customer feedback

My story was picked up by recruitment journalists in Australia and the UK, and I have been fascinated by the feedback this concept has received. Comments on my blog are all favorable, but I have also had feedback that the concept is flawed because our staff ’will be worrying about satisfying customers instead of focussing on making money’. In particular, some critics regard spending too much time on candidates as foolhardy because, in the words of one individual, ‘Candidates don’t pay your fees’.

Frankly, this kind of comment gives me tremendous encouragement. That competitors in the staffing industry can be so naive, and so blind to the power of referral, recommendation and repeat business, driven by satisfied customers, makes me very confident about the future of Aquent, and the careers of our staff.

Two days after my blog, came an article in the Australian on-line newsletter Recruiter Daily. Robert Godden, a HR consultant with People Magic conducted research that involved collecting 85 job ads (50 with agencies, 35 with employers), all of which invited potential applicants to call a specific person for more information.

In the course of making 85 phone calls, Godden was only able to reach seven of the nominated contacts, all of whom were from agencies.He left 76 messages for the remaining recruiters (after two numbers rang out).The “unbelievable” result of the experiment was that only seven recruiters returned Godden’s calls — less than 10 per cent.

After ringing 50 of the numbers again a week later, he got through to two recruiters and only a further four (out of 48) returned his messages – again, less than 10 per cent.

As a career recruiter, proud of what we do, I find this result supremely depressing. We run expensive ads and invite people (customers in my view) to call us. Then we ignore them. It is disrespectful. It’s a sad indictment of the way recruiters are managed and coached. But it is also a supreme opportunity. An opportunity for forward thinking recruiters to differentiate and provide a level of service that leaves customers “wowed,” Frankly right now, it seems just returning a call might ‘wow’ most candidates replying to ads.

Talent is the only real currency a staffing company has. It’s what clients pay us for and it’s going to get increasingly difficult to access quality talent as the recovery takes hold. Job boards will become less effective and in any event they only tap into the active talent market. The recruitment company that owns the talent market.. will own the market

Candidates as customers? It’s a no brainer surely!

At Aquent we have a global strategy to improve the client and talent experience. We know we have much work to do. But we are tackling the task with gusto. We plan to stand out by hiring people with the right attitude, coaching customer service standards, measuring our customer satisfaction independently, and then rewarding staff according to what the customer thinks.

Views: 73

Comment by Margo Rose on February 17, 2010 at 8:56pm
Right on Greg. Now I wish more recruiters shared your view.
Comment by Saleem Qureshi on February 18, 2010 at 1:31am
Excellent post regarding the dark side of the recruitment industry. Recruiters need to tap on advanced technology to assess the talent through cost-effective mediums, and that is highly true that applicants are customers too. Ignoring an applicant can dilute the brand name of the company, and a company can ended up in loosing a great talent.
Comment by Andy Young on February 18, 2010 at 7:30am
Agree with much of what you say Greg. How could I not. As you say, candidates as customers is a "no brainer". However, as shoddily as some may get treated by the rogue element they often seem to go back to them for more. Until the candidates start voting with their feet - and clients stop accepting CV submissions for candidates that the recruiter has never even met, then the education needs to continue.

As far as 'owning the market" is concerned, now THERE'S the challenge. In such a fragmented industry and one with so few barriers to entry, then the need to differentiate over and above "talent as a currency" will be critical. We are constantly looking at ways to drive value into the process for our clients and the one's that recognise this get great results. Others who continue to go for the bums on seats approach ensure that the best practice approach sought by many is often compromised and undermined.
Comment by Ambrish Kochikar on February 18, 2010 at 10:59am
simplistically speaking, it could be argued (and i've had candidates come right out and say this) that the candidates do end up 'paying' you (even though they're not writing the check), since the as a recruiter/staffing agency, you're only taking a part of the total cost of the hire the client bears, which is in turn what they believe 'acquiring the candidate's skill set' is worth.

i'm interested in learning the outcome of your client/talent satisfaction survey 'strategy'. i don't mean to rain on your parade, but what is your idea, at the outset, as to how this will affect your cost of doing business?
Comment by Paul Alfred on February 19, 2010 at 5:10pm
You know our motto is the Best Candidates are NOT on the market - they have to be specifically targeted. That means all calls we make for our Clients are for specific resources. Our model does not allow for candidates to call in to our Company to apply for opportunities. We are forced to treat every Candidate like Gold with respect to our business model. Its unfortunate that the dark side as to how candidates are treated still exist in our industry...

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