Imagine No Recruiters...I Wonder If You Can?

Every day I go over Putney Bridge on my way to work. This may seem like minutiae of my daily commute in South West London but this weekend Putney Bridge becomes the focus for millions of people all over the world. The reason?’s the starting point for the University Boat Race, and has been for 154 years.

Now you may think that two teams of amateur rowers from the UKs top 2 universities battling it out for 20 minutes over 4 ¼ miles is hardly a reason for so many people to be transfixed, and it has to be said that in the 21st Century I’m not sure of the event’s cultural and sporting significance, which makes me think...

...would anyone miss it if it wasn’t there?

Seriously, the rowing teams of the 2 universities would, some alumni of the universities would, and bar and cafe owners in Putney would...but who else? A lot of people watch it because it’s on and it’s a tradition...but traditions sometimes end.

How about 3rd party recruiters?

I was looking through the most recent figures in the UK from the REC (Recruitment & Employment Confederation) and see that in 2008/09 the total number of permanent placements was 582,803. We’ve got a full time workforce of 21.16 million and estimates of average staff turnover range between 10% and 20%...let’s take a conservative estimate of 15% which would mean 3.17 million job changes a year, of which only 18% were therefore through 3rd party recruiters.

It’s amazing to think that all the permanent recruiters are out there competing for about 20% of the job move market. Put another way, 80% of hires are NOT made through recruiters...that’s 4 out of 5. Sounds incredible doesn’t it?

Which makes me wonder...

...would anyone miss us if we weren’t there?

What do you think?

Would 80% of hiring processes remain unaffected?

Would the other 20% of clients/candidates find each other without us?

And how could we add value to the 80% who don’t use us?

I realise that I’ve used an estimate, but even if we revise upwards a bit and get nearer to 30%, that’s still a lot of hires (70%) not made through 3rd party recruiters.

So the question for perm recruiters is...

A lot of companies clearly don’t need us or use us...could the rest learn to live without us?

Views: 119

Comment by Jayne Johnson on April 1, 2010 at 2:29pm
Great post and very interesting stats! In all honesty I believe companies could and would survive without us! Along with many other professions out there. The service industry as a whole is something that is built on the fact that people want advice or assistance. We do not manufacture or produce we simply advise and assist.
Comment by Dean Da Costa on April 1, 2010 at 5:13pm
The need for recruiters will always be there. Whether it is corporate recruiters, agency recruiters, or executive. There will always be a need for recuiters.
Comment by Gary Franklin on April 1, 2010 at 5:55pm
Great post and great question Mervyn. Would the corporate world miss agencies if they weren't there - yes they would, because not every corporate structure is equipped with an effective in-house recruiting structure and they do make use of agencies to further their hiring goals.
Would they and could they survive without them - yes absolutely. Those companies with the in-house structure would just get on with the job and not necessarily notice a blip, whilst those that had to a point depended on agency use would get used to a different model. This all begs the question of why do agencies exist and why are they used, when there is no real need for them in the first place. I chose my words without emotion and in the true meaning of the word “need”.
It is all a question of values and worth. Jayne above says that as a service industry the agency simply offers advice and an ability to assist. Rubbish ....sorry to be blunt I know this to be wrong. The majority of agencies (not all before you start) are not at all interested in providing or offering advice. They exist for one reason and one reason only - the fee and I have yet to meet more than have a dozen who actually have any basis on which to offer advice, let alone be interested in doing so.
Comment by Jayne Johnson on April 2, 2010 at 3:15am
Gary, unfortunately, you are correct with your statement regarding the majority of agencies only being interested in the fee. BUT (I know I should never start a sentence with but!) there are some very ethical agencies out there. Obviously we are a business and we have to make money BUT (that word again!) when I go to the big interviewing room in the sky I would rather be remembered for being honest and ethical than being able to make a quick buck!. I think the recession has made many companies look at "value for money and value of service" I hope this will reflect in the way recruitment re-emerges over the next few years. We do seem to have put the importance of sales over the importance of consultancy. Have a lovely break over Easter!
Comment by Todd Kmiec on April 2, 2010 at 11:28am
Mervyn, I'm really glad that you used some statistics on this and I'd love to see more. I'd like to know what percentage of the hires were third party in the '80s, in the '90s and up until '08 '09 which has been an absolute war zone out there. Has our market share as an industry gone up or down in this market? Also, I am absolutely sure you can't take '08/'09 as a new norm. In a year or two we should see different trends, but I'd like to see them vs the bubble years too. One big observation. I don't have the old statistics to compare, but 20% of the market makes sense to me for third party recruiting. Fits really well into the 80/20 rule. 20% of the hires are difficult enough to find that they need outside help. 80% not needing outside help makes sense. Maybe if we did 40% or 50% in the bubble years, that was the fluff in the market, in our industry. Interesting stuff. If you have any other time frame numbers, would love to hear them.

Todd Kmiec.
Comment by Randy Levinson on April 2, 2010 at 3:00pm
Mervyn, The best response I can muster is one of my favorite stories (or for those of you in the UK, favourite).

Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean.
As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."


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