Recruiting is all about relationships. It is all about building enduring relationships with companies and with applicants. But often there is an unhealthy focus on filling the vacancy.

A major part of the reason is the recruitment sales model, which is sadly broken. Most recruiters are focused to get vacancies, then to get candidates, and then to close the deal. During this transactional approach, there is insufficient focus on developing meaningful relationships. And because of the model, if there is a change in either recruiter of company manager, the whole process is duplicated.

When I speak with other HR managers or hiring managers, there is an unanimous view that many recruiters are not interested or able to develop a consultative approach. There is little in terms of adding value and adopting a more considered approach.

For example, it would be an exception to the rule to meet a recruiter that asked me as part of the briefing what the outcome was of the exit interview. There is a general discussion, but no deep analysis or understanding of the trigger for the vacancy. In most of the cases, the recruiter is ready to present their shortlist. There have been a few times when I would even receive a number of CV’s before the briefing, though the recruiter has never done any recruiting for the business. Very proactive but also perhaps just a little bit premature to demonstrate real consulting skills. The first step in consulting is to fully understand the problem.

Recruiters need to be able to reflect, develop and build contacts, have a real knowledge of their clients and most importantly, be a consultant by adding value to the recruitment process.

In The Matrix (1999) the following scene takes place:

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself

As this blog post is about the Recruiting Matrix, I include the following matrix to highlight the considerable shift in relationship moving from just another supplier to being a recruitment partner.

The relationship can best be depicted as an arrow as we aim for a strong partnership. The deeper the relationship, the more likely is the mutual benefit for both parties. We need to change our thinking, by bending ourselves.

In a previous blog, Are you a gold recruiter? , I highlighted that there is a huge business cost in dealing with a large number of recruiters. In a previous company we were dealing with more than twenty recruiting companies! Every week I would meet with a different recruiter, either updating them on the business, or worse, having to explain the business to a new recruiter.

So here is a real challenge for each recruiter in 2010 – take a bit of time to see how much of your business is in the first or second columns, versus more value added relationships in the last two columns.

And for HR departments, if your recruitment budget is tight and you are dealing with a variety of recruiters, you may just be missing out on the great opportunity to have a real recruitment partner in your corner, helping you to attract and retain great talent.

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Comment by Charles Van Heerden on November 30, 2009 at 6:05pm
Hi Maren, very insightful and challenging questions. I may need another chart...

Firstly, I would love to hear thoughts from others, as I can only share my experience.

The principles of clustering probably apply most, with a spread across the continuum, similar to the lifecycle of companies. Overall, I would suggest a balanced approach, so this means activity in all boxes. Being in a specific box itself is not necessarily all that bad, unless you are only in that one box, which could suggest the risk of having only one client, or too many clients and no real relationships.

Great (and very sensible) questions and I look forward to some comments/help from others! I promise to consolidate all your comments into another post next week.
Comment by Hassan Rizwan on December 1, 2009 at 1:59am
Charles, all i can do is praise praise and praise. Your command on the subject helps you to come up with this literature. Probably the reason that you undestand HireLabs and its philosophy better than anyone else. Great post . Continue the good work.
Comment by Charles Van Heerden on December 1, 2009 at 2:22am
Thanks Hassan, you are very kind. I am convinced that there are smarter options, such as HireLabs technology, to deliver a better outcome. What I particularly appreciate is your customized approach to specific jobs, rather than the generic approach which has permeated a lot of assessment tools.

HR departments are eager for more efficient systems that will save them time, that are not too complicated and delivers real value. CEO's keep telling me they want less HR speak and simplified systems that help to develop consistent business management processes. Talent management is the cornerstone.
Comment by Ted Meulenkamp on December 1, 2009 at 12:12pm
I agree with your assessment that having a solid understanding of the business is fundamental to become a great recruiter and move into the direction of business partner. However, it highly depends on the recruitment strategy of the company. The only recruiters that can "easily" become a business partner are the corporate recruiters (and very few really are true business partners). For any external agency it would almost exclusively be possible if they do either an RPO or have so much business (>50 jobs a year) that they can really learn the business and the markets to provide that added value.

Another thought is that how many agencies are really capable to deliver all the talent you need? I believe highly in specialization of recruiters which has great benefits but as well means they can't do everything. As a company do you want to work with 1 agency that most likely will never deliver on all jobs or work with more that are specialist?
Comment by Charles Van Heerden on December 1, 2009 at 5:49pm
@Ted, I would agree that the recruitment strategy of the company is pivotal to developing a partnership as it takes two to tango. There is, in my view, a mistaken belief that certain roles have to be filled by specialists. When we implemented the partnership model the HR team had extended debates with Finance, IT and Design all suggesting that different providers need to exist for each segment. After three years of successful placements we blew that thinking out of the water! Good recruiters can (and should) recruit all roles, though they be better at some. Working within a specific industry is IMO a better strategy and I have seen great success working with a recruiting company just working within FMCG for example.

@Maren, happy for vigorous debate and really like your questions! There are some clients that just want us to fill roles and operate at the first level, just being a supplier. It is my contention that we should strive to work with that client and see if we can move into higher relationship. As we do more work with that client it should move further along the continuum, but often there s no real growth. Perhaps to share more, in one of my roles I managed 20 consultants, working with 500 companies. The biggest lesson I learned was to develop relationships at various levels within the client, as too often when the HR manager or consultant leaves, you are back to zero. The question we should ask ourselves are, once the market gets better, is how many clients we want to deal with that just wants another supplier.

You raise an interesting question about the impact on pricing. As the relationship develops there is a higher level of transparency. At partnership level I asked the recruiter to prepare the recruitment budget for the company! With another recruiter I knew all their internal margins. This is a real trusted advisor relationship. Though the actual placement revenue per role may be lower, there is a much higher share of the client's business. Often clients ask you to get more involved with internal appointments, or exit interviews, which adds more revenue and changes the role of the recruiter to that of a talent manager.

We worked on a fixed fee, as I don't like a % fee. What the company eventually pays a candidate is a function of various factors. For example, should we pay you less when you find a person ready for promotion but with great potential to develop which we pay at a compa-ratio of 90%; or should we pay you more by selecting a pair of safe hands with extensive experience paid at a compa-ratio of 110%. The fee should be based on the role, not on the pay package of the person that is appointed!

Relationships should continue to grow an develop. As we all know, it is hard work and takes time. The first year was the hardest for us, not only because we had to work across different locations, but there were so many stakeholders. The true benefits only materialized in year two and three. There is no reason why it cannot exist for some time, depending on the changes within the business. In our case, when the company merged with another company in Australia, we had to review the whole strategy and in fact moved recruitment in-house.


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