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August 12, 2011 / Mervyn Dinnen

Do Recruiters Need Representing? Or Enlightening?

Here’s a question…who sets the standards in the recruitment agency industry?

The recruitment industry isn’t a profession requiring a qualification or quality badge. It’s a B2B sales business, predominantly made up of a disparate myriad of small owner managed businesses all competing with each other and showing little appetite for collaboration or ethics.

Standards are set by company owners, and their prime motivator is often profit not quality of operation. In the ten years I was supplying recruiters to the industry no-one asked me about the standards to which individuals operated. Their main concerns were fees and transferable client relationships. I was never asked to find someone with a relevant qualification…usually just someone who could sell.

Being a thorough interviewer, or having a string of recommendations from clients and candidates, were irrelevant if there were not billing figures to back them up.

Recruiters who don’t hit their targets are labelled failures. It doesn’t matter if their clients and candidates rate their service highly, and would recommend them… they won’t get hired in the rough, tough recruitment world without those billings. A blank couple of months usually mean a warning or redundancy, no matter if you’re with a member of a trade body or attend some training courses.

So I remain fairy ambivalent towards representative bodies, particularly those who make claims to create standards and set benchmarks. I followed the brouhaha that surrounded the launch of the IOR which still seems to continue – read this insightful blog from SteveWard.

Here is another ‘professional body’. An Institute no less.

I can understand Institutes like the ICAEW, CIPD or RICS, for example…their members are professionals, qualified by exams to practice, their standards often rooted in law. For the real professions you can’t practice unless you are a member. Membership is public.

But what teeth does a professional body or Institute have if membership is voluntary? If there are no definable standards, how can benchmarks be set? And is anyone interested? Are agencies going to only hire people with a ‘qualification’, and keep them if they don’t hit targets? Will corporates really only use a recruiter who has paid to join a representative body…or will they continue to use those that deliver the best candidates?

I think they are all missing the point. Too inward looking they are based on an assumption that the recruitment market is not changing.

Recruiters don’t need representing. They don’t need partnerships with service providers, and they don’t need to pay £3 – 4,000 for a badge.

They need to know what’s going on. They need enlighteningthe market is changing.

I blogged six months ago – It Pays To be In the Conversation – about how agency recruiters are reluctant to take part in the daily conversations that go on around shifts in the wider recruiting industry.

And then I read today a well thought out, well-argued piece – Recruitment 4.0: Crowdsourcing, Gamification, Recruitment as a Profit Centre … and the Death of Recruitment Agencies! – from Matthew Jeffery. Here is a thought leader within the wider recruiting industry who has clear views on where the industry could be going.

It’s a must read. And it’s a must read for recruiters…because unless they understand how the industry is changing, how new tools and new thinking is changing the way companies recruit staff, and how their transactional model is not providing the results that CLIENTS want, then they won’t be able to evolve.

This is the type of thinking that representative groups should be championing and bringing before their members. It’s way more important than finding software partners, or organising back slapping awards evenings.

So who’s really got the industry’s interests at heart? Who wants to lead the recruiters into the future? For in-house recruiters there’s the FIRM, but who will do it for 3rd parties?

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One Comment

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  1. Gareth Jones / Aug 12 2011 9:03 AM

    Wise words fella but as usual they will fall on deaf ears. I meet recruiter after recruiter who are saying it wont be long before we are back in the game. Worse, I hear them say things like “Clients might be f*****g me over now, but once the economy turns, ill be f*****g them over again!’ And note – this was from a board director of one of the biggest recruitment firms globally. What does that tell you about the industry.

    Its on its arse, and they will pay the price. Lets face it, if it wasnt for Asia and the Middle East, most of them would have been in big trouble now.

    Keep banging the drum 😉

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