I saw this in an ad that turned up in my inbox recently.  The ad was for a recruitment manager for a professional services firm:  "You will have had experience in a similar role in a professional services organisation."  Nothing particularly unreasonable or earth-shattering about that, you'd think.

In fact, if you analyse most of the roles advertised in recruitment at the moment, or in many other fields for that matter, the bottom line is that recruiters are looking for candidates who have done pretty much the same job in a near-identical business.  The only reason that the ad I quoted above caught my eye is that it came out and said as much!

Now it's hard to be critical.  Recruitment can be risky, and in a candidate-rich market why shouldn't hiring managers and recruiters be looking for the safest, lowest-risk option available?  In addition, from the recruiters' perspective, candidate selection isn't overly taxing, inasmuch as you are looking for experience on the CV, rather than ability in the individual.

And that's really the point here. Although it's difficult to see from our current gloomy economic perspective, markets do change, and when the labour market tightens, recruiters are going to need something much more creative to get top quality candidates to move.  Why should established employees in one company move to do exactly the same job in another?  When the flood of CVs that used to pour in to job ads is reduced to a trickle, how will recruiters whose role has been simply to filter ad response fare? How well will they cope when assessing candidates on more esoteric criteria than simply what's written on the CV?  How competent will they be at persuading top quality, highly sought after individuals to join their companies in the face of stiff competition from other organisations?

These questions might not be on the agenda for recruiters at the moment.  They should be!

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Comment by bill josephson on September 11, 2012 at 9:06am

Ian, excellent post.  I take it you're in England?

Where I sit near Boston as a long time recruiter the recruiting paradigm I've experienced has radically changed since early 2001.


Incrementally fewer quality fillable positions to work on as corporate sector companies increasingly stating they could find people on their own not requiring an external recruiter, and the positions received had serious flaws--one of which you stated above about a person going next door to perform the same function or lateral move, relocations, rare found multiple skills, rainmakers at "market" price, etc...


Bottom line is the need for my services becoming rarer and the assignments uncovered ones that in normal times you'd reject working on.


Don't know when and even if many of the jobs do return, which is my greatest concern.

With many corporate jobs heading to Asia, social network media on the Internet making it easier for companies to access good candidates, insourced H1B visa techies taking jobs US workers would have had, globalized competition, and the push for perm for the mentioned rainmakers filled around with temps/contractors they don't want to add to payroll due to government driving up the cost of doing business make the future, IMO, murky.


I know recruiting's changed when I offer to directly recruit via phone into competitors helping a company find passive/invisible candidates they wouldn't readily access on their own, and have them ask "how is that any different from what our own internal recruiting staff is already doing?"  The resistance gives me pause.

Comment by Ian Harvey on September 11, 2012 at 9:25am

Hi Bill.  Thanks for the comment.  I agree that the environment has changed.  Companies do much of their own recruitment now because they can, and the private networks which recruiters could market to clients are now easily available to all. I personally think it's right for companies to have recruitment in-house - how can you have a people agenda that is supposed to be strategically critical (so we keep being told) without some sort of internal control over the acquisition aspects of that?

However, the blog is not just aimed at agency but in-house recruitment as well.  From my experience, bad habits and poor process dog in-house teams as well as agencies.

Comment by bill josephson on September 11, 2012 at 9:57am

Ian, most in house recruiters I deal with were externals at one point.  They know how to recruit.  They're technologically savvy finding people.  They went in house because the third party route is less secure and/or consistent earnings wise.

From 1980-2001 the in house recruiters either never sat on the third party side or weren't good at it so went in house.  From 2001-present many good external recruiters opted to go in house. 


I don't know how all perform assessed internally by hiring managers as I'm on the outside. 

But I would say that for the most part many of the best outside recruiters are now inside, which is a 180 degree shift from my first 20 years in the business.   And, IMO, I'm confident they'll adapt exceptionally well to any market paradigm shifts going forward should we get back to a point where demands outstrips supply.

Inside recruiting may well be where the recruiting future is, attracting the best.

Comment by Theresa Hunter on September 11, 2012 at 10:32am

Very good post.  I have to deal with the very same situation you mentioned.  My law firm clients want someone who comes from a peer firm with great credentials, grades and experience.  When I first got into recruiting I was told it is not always about the money it is about the opportunity.  How do I go about selling a candidate from a peer firm why he/she should look at this opportunity when basically I am asking them to change addresses.  It is hard as a lot of times I can not even get a good job order to have something to sell a candidate on.


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