I recently received a call from a $100mm medical device company wanting me to help them find a new Marketing Director. They told me that they were referred to me by a few executives within their company as “the recruiter of choice.” The first 30 minutes of the call was me asking questions to determine their ideal profile and how they envisioned attracting that caliber of talent to their company. I am quite familiar with their company and in the past have  recruited from them for some of my clients. Once I had a solid grasp of the specific experience and talent that was essential for this position the discussion turned to “how we work.”

I described that the way that we work is through what could best be described as a "modified retainer." I explained how in order to do it right, there were a few key elements that had to be there so that we were able to do the kind of high quality work that we are committed to. The person on the other end of the phone shut me down immediately. “Well, we don’t work that way. We only do contingency!” The irony is that this position had been open for several months and the continual stream of candidates brought by contingency recruiters failed to deliver any result other than failure. I could argue that the results were far worse than mere failure. In fact, as they were now back to square one after months of interviews and failed attempts, my question was, “how much money and time have you already spent with nothing to show for it?” Consider all the wasted time & money on airline fares, hotels, and not to mention the loss of productivity of all the employees who were brought in on the many interviews. Now multiply that by the loss of opportunity of those people not at their desks plus the empty desk of the open position. My challenge was unwelcome. He refused to give any meaningful answer, but instead explained it away that at least they got close on a few people. So his measure of success was not in finishing, but in getting close?

This is such a common problem. When a company decides that it is to their advantage to work with recruiters on contingency, they are making a huge, yet avoidable mistake. It is obvious to me that they do not understand the problem nor the solution. Not only are they creating a problem for themselves with regard to the reliability of information about their candidates, they are actually competing with other companies over the people being paraded in front of them by recruiters. Perhaps more importantly, I believe that this company will never see the best of the best people in the industry because recruiters are not willing, nor able to do what is necessary to bring them in on contingency. Contingency doesn't afford the recruiter the ability to find the best, but just the most accessible and available people. This is to say that they are either "Physically Unemployed" or "Emotionally Unemployed". In either case, they have a strong motivation for relief. (See Candidate Motivation)

I refused to work with this company on the grounds that I could not conduct the search properly without being properly engaged with one-third of my fee in advance. When they balked, that told me that they didn’t have a clue about what really goes on in the recruiting world. They must not know that the recruiters will not fully vet or disclose information about the candidates that could possibly derail their candidacy. Why would they? (Contingency recruiters don’t get paid unless they close the deal.) So we parted ways and within days, I received a call from a previous retained client where I placed a VP Sales & Marketing two years ago and a European Sales & Marketing Manager last fall. They just retained me on a Director of Marketing search. They understand the value of conducting a true search for the best talent instead of a search for the most available.

If a company won’t help you, help them; move on and find one that will. Your life will be far better for it!


www.druedeangelis.wordpress.com

Views: 174

Comment by David Wells on March 2, 2012 at 12:22pm

I sometimes find your comments breathtaking in their misunderstanding. Before I go further let me state I definitely see the value in retained searches for some positions and I have no issue with the retained business model.  I am just shocked that you fail to understand what a contingent recruiter does or how we operate yet feel justified in casting derogatory judgments.

 

"Contingency doesn't afford the recruiter the ability to find the best, but just the most accessible and available people. This is to say that they are either "Physically Unemployed" or "Emotionally Unemployed"

 

From these comments I glean you do not know much about contingency recruiting.  On what planet would I try to give my clients only the "most available" or "easiest to find people"?  The majority of my work is spent developing targeted recruiting campaigns for specific clients and then executing them.  The people I target are not actively seeking and are rarely passively seeking.  Yet because of my work and those on our team they will usually entertain conversations about future opportunities simply because you never know what lies ahead.  Once these relationships are started they must be maintained and nurtured and now you have a constant stream of high quality transactional, to management, to C-level executives that are comfortable and trust you to match them on that "perfect" opportunity that they wanted.

Do you think good contingency recruiters call resumes off Monster and then try to match those candidates to open positions?  If so you definitely need an update in the art of recruiting.  And as an aside the reason I like contingency vs. retained, greater client flexibility and better control of my own desk.  I know you won’t understand that comment but that is why I chose this side.

Comment by Amber on March 2, 2012 at 1:10pm

@Dru, I think it's great that you have a model you follow and have success with. I don't think your comments regarding contingency recruiting could be accurate in every scenario. That company may just not have found the right recruiter to work with for this particular position, or perhaps they have a problem themselves being able to know and select the right candidates.

There are many recruiters I know that are very successful and do work on contingency. Personally, whatever terms I have agreed to with a client I strive to find them the best candidates. Yes, even if it is a contingency fee. I do have agreements that are retainer, contingency, and many variations of fee arrangements and services I agree to.

 "Consider all the wasted time & money on airline fares, hotels, and not to mention the loss of productivity of all the employees who were brought in on the many interviews. Now multiply that by the loss of opportunity of those people not at their desks plus the empty desk of the open position. My challenge was unwelcome. He refused to give any meaningful answer, but instead explained it away that at least they got close on a few people. So his measure of success was not in finishing, but in getting close?"

This is excellent to discuss with the potential client, and also for a recruiter to base their decision of taking on the search. This can happen whether is a contingent or retained fee.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on March 2, 2012 at 1:24pm
Did you know that a jackass brays at everything and kicks just to be a pain in the butt, but they aren't very smart.
Comment by Drue De Angelis on March 27, 2012 at 11:30am

I am not blaming recruiters for these problems. I blame the fact that the terms of a contingency agreement predispose the outcome to a rushed and compromised result in most cases. (Compared to a thorough passive recruitment and vetting process.) My mission is to educate my clients and help others do the same in order that we recruiters may be in better alignment with our treasured clients. Don't miss the point, recruiters aren't bad, they are dealing with a bad, outdated and increasingly irrelevant process whereby the terms of engagement is the primary problem. 

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