Employer Insights

The Best of Frenemies: Agency Recruiters & Internal Recruiters

Mark Smith Posted by Mark
min read
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The recruitment industry has never been static and is an industry that has been disrupted by technology for decades. I remember having to send everything by fax! I thought I would spend a few moments today exploring a change that I believe has caused the most frustration for the industry over the last few years. As most people are aware, recruitment agencies are part of a hyper competitive market, with thousands of agencies in the Australian marketplace alone. In the past, agency recruiters were always the biggest competition, and there are many stories from industry veterans of the wins and losses competing against each other in this type of market. (I would love to hear some of these by the way, so if you are brave enough, please drop me a note, and you can write a guest post on the p2p blog.) In today's market, procedures have changed, and, in the current marketplace, for permanent vacancies particularly, the biggest competition for agency recruiters are internal recruiters. 'Hang on a minute!' I hear you say, 'These people are your customers. How can they possibly be your competition as well?' This is the dilemma that agency recruiters are facing. We are the best of frenemies with internal recruiters, and here are three reasons why:

1. KPIs

Like us all, internal recruiters have KPIs . Most internal recruitment teams, in my experience , have a minimum KPI to fill 90% of vacancies through the internal recruitment team. Bonuses, or, in the case of outsourced internal recruiters, rebates, are linked to this measurement criteria. By linking reward to this particular KPI, this influences the behaviour of the recruiter. In some instances, as a consequence of this KPI,  the internal recruiter will actively work to ensure that shortlisted agency candidates are not successful in securing the role. Just last week, in our Friday night meeting wrap up, one of the people2people recruitment consultants quoted an internal recruiter as saying, 'I didn't put your candidate forward for the job because I thought they might get the job!' It is hard to fathom. In times past, the agency recruiter and the client, whether it was HR or a line manager, were actively working to ensure that the best available talent was found and hired in the quickest possible time, using the quickest possible recruitment method.  

As an aside, I would recommend you watch this short video on how carrot and stick 'incentives' actually affect performance and behaviour.  Are internal recruiters working to the best KPIs?

2. Recruitment's reputation

All too commonly, we hear, 'I have been in your shoes. I know how it works,' from internal recruiters who have worked in an agency environment.  Sometimes, this can be an advantage, but, sadly, in most cases, the internal recruiter has had a negative experience, and this influences their interactions with agency recruiters. I won't spend any time now on the problems of low barriers to entry, allowing unscrupulous operators to enter the recruitment market, therefore damaging the industry's reputation. But the fact remains that this type of behaviour has given the industry a lot of bad press, leading to a bad reputation, some of which is deserved, while a lot of it is not. 

For some internal recruiters, their experiences can unduly affect the confidence they have in the advice and recommendations of the agencies with which they are dealing.  Are the best internal recruiters former agency recruiters, or should companies with internal recruitment teams hire in different skill sets?

3. Restricted communication

Last, but not least, many internal recruiters restrict the access agency recruiters have to line managers for the reasons I have mentioned above. By restricting the ability of recruiters to communicate, the added value of a recruiter being able to understand the vacancy is also restricted, and I am not simply talking about the skills listed on a job description. 

The ability of the recruiter to understand the culture and competencies required for the best fit is essential for the organisation. This is often overlooked, and some large corporates now only allow agency recruiters to view a job description, resulting in low quality candidates and poor results. I have written a post on culture fit previously. In the 21st century, agency and internal recruiters do not occupy the stereotypical client and supplier relationships previously experienced in the industry. Instead, we seem to be the best of frenemies, with frustration being experienced on both sides of the working relationship. When and how will this change?