Why most staffing companies suck at staffing and what you can do about it!

Let me put my foot in my mouth for a minute and just state the obvious. Staffing agencies suck! An awful lot of them ...and they are driving corporates and other agencies away!

A friend recently told me that her feed is replete with business owners and corporate managers venting their frustration about dodging sales calls day after day. With over 20000 staffing agencies to choose (American Staffing Association) the corporates' have a wide variety to choose from. While a good majority of them have joined the diversity recruiting bandwagon- the truth remains that this offers no real value proposition. Diversity recruiting has been reduced to mere labeling and that in itself is a sad reality in the staffing world. So why do these agencies perform so poorly regardless of class, size or certifications? The lack of talent of course!

Recruiters not by choice

It's not a secret that the majority of recruiters out there are not recruiters by choice. Recruiting was a second option for most of them. Those who have chosen this as a passion are rare and few. And hence the qualitative difference due to lack of passion, interest and expertise reflects in every customer interaction that these agencies have.

Lack of expertise and formal training

Most recruiters do not require to be certified or have any formal training to be recruiters. Anyone with any background can be a recruiter. A high school degree is all that's required. Organizations seldom want to invest in support functions or rather cost centers. And the truth is most organizations seldom have any formal training for them ever. Which other job can you think of which is so customer and client centric that require no formal education?

All Air and no real sh*t!

All marketing and no results. If you see a company with big names on their client roster but low in overall company revenue- that's a signal that there's something seriously wrong with the staffing company's delivery. And by delivery- I mean recruitment! Pretty brochures and marketing collaterals do not guarantee delivery. Delivery happens when there is collaboration between recruitment and sales. It involves team work from every one - from top to bottom- everyone is a stakeholder in success. Unfortunately in most agencies- incentives are not wired to support team work. Agencies focus on short term goals and have internal structures built to develop competition instead of collaboration

Where are you headed?

When goals are written in numbers- there is a clear lack of vision. By numbers I mean dollar signs. You cannot grow a team, collaborate between departments and fulfill a vision of fulfilling great customer service when you try and promote cut throat competition. There needs to be a balance of meeting your hiring numbers and collaboration, customer service, and focus on the clients needs.

So what can you do?

The next time you evaluate a staffing agency to be a real business partner- please ask some very serious questions. Please go beyond the norm of rehearsed questions on numbers, expertise and certifications and dig a little deeper


1. Ask about the company history

A good company will have a good vision. If the vision is clear to the sales person- chances are you are talking to the right company.
2. Ask about the value proposition and how the team is structured to ensure delivery- if the sales responds by saying recruitment or delivery will handle it- you know there's a signal for disaster.
3. Set a deadline and a review on meeting delivery within 6 months. This tells the agency that you are a serious buyer and that reviews and continuation will be based on performance.
4. Set guidelines for interactions and consequences for missing the details.

In my role in sales- there are very few organizations that ask these tough questions. When a buyer asks these tough questions- we know they are going beyond the textbook and are really interested in bringing out the best in both of our worlds. In it I find true partnership and team work- not just to deliver the best results- but also a joy in creating magic in recruiting which I so passionately believe in.

Views: 1192

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on September 26, 2017 at 1:16pm

"".... and what you can do about it!"  

Only use an agency if you need 1-2 people who are very specialized, hard-to-find/get, or RIGHT now.

If you don't have an internal or contract recruiter, pay an offshore sourcer $50-$100/search (such as the one I use) to find the candidates (and their contact information) who are right for your job Iif you have a number of openings, use an offshore RPO for $800-$1,200/mo. That's what many agencies do, and they go right around and sell the candidates to you for 20% fees.

In summary: don't use agencies to "pick the low-hanging fruit", and when you do use them don't expect excellence on the cheap. 

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