Employers: Ways to recruit staff, what best suits you?

I have worked in recruitment since 1996, my follow Director since 1995. The industries that we have supplied in our time have been Construction, Civil Engineering, Infrastructure, Nuclear, Oil and Gas and IT. We have supplied directly to line manager/ directors, HR departments and supply chain. What is clear is that each company, or more correctly each person in that company has their own beliefs as to what is best recruitment process or processes for them and their company.

If you take our Financial Director and our Non-executive Director and combine their recruitment experience with the two Managing Directors of Project Resource you have a combined recruitment experience of over 83 years. This is a lot of placements, lots of sales experience, lots of business relationships to review. Our collective recruitment experience of 83 years tells us that some of these methods used to recruit professionals to your business work, some do not, and here are our collective thoughts.

Typical methods used by employers to recruit for their business:

Method: Managed agencies/ managed services

Summary: In effect, this is where the employer outsources their HR department, or brings in a specialist company (or recruitment business) in house to manage their recruitment function. Often chosen by the employer to streamline the recruitment process, replace a HR function or simplify communication where multiple agencies are used or to endeavour to reduce costs.

Our view: Often entered into with high expectations, but in the majority of cases does not deliver what the employer expects. We often see this system put in place, only to be disbanded approximately 12-24 months later. When it works well, which is probably 1 in 5, all parties, including the recruitment agencies can work efficiently; when it works badly the recruitment process takes longer, communication becomes worse, agencies lose belief in the process and performance deteriorates).

Advice: Liaise with your recruitment partners and internal recruiters to see what the issues are prior to putting any large commitment or change in place, see what improvements can been made first, speak (meet) to your recruitment team and suppliers to gather their thoughts and help to see what improvements/ refinements can be made.

Method: Recruit directly (through advertising, employer website or recommendations)

Summary: Employers will always endeavour to recruit directly, some push this more than others, some go to greater effort to make this happen, rather than using a recruitment agency.

Our view: If it works, do it, if it doesn't do not. Good advice is that businesses focus on what their strengths are, use agencies/ consultants for their specialism's (you may already do this for IT, advertising, marketing, recruitment, etc.). Advertising is costly and you can run an advertising campaign through an agency, either in terms of a featured advertisement (i.e. a branded job advert), or a variety of other options. The recruitment agency fee normally incorporates this advertising cost. Employing direct can mean the recruiting manager (adverts contact) of the employer are inundated with CVs, no filtering has been performed, and much time can be wasted sifting through CVs, and very often spending hundreds or thousands of pounds does not guarantee the result.

Advice: Have your up to date job vacancies posted on your own website to encourage job seekers to apply to you direct, but be very specific with the qualification criteria. Also be very specific on the essential experience applicants must have to be considered by you.

Method: Internal recruitment team

Summary: SME's and larger organisations normally have HR, personnel or recruitment teams, whose jobs are to recruit themselves or coordinate with recruitment agencies to find the professional people their business needs.

Our view: This is a valuable function if it works efficiently, but can be restrictive to the business and recruitment agency if it is not managed correctly, reviewed regularly, and communication is transparent and honest.

Advice: Have a recruitment procedure in place, with set rules and criteria. Ensure that your business needs are met, and that the recruitment team, line manager/ director and recruitment agency time is maximised. Make the recruitment process as lean as possible. So much time can be wasted waiting for CV feedback, arranging interviews, awaiting interview feedback, arranging second, third or even fourth interviews; awaiting job offers; rewriting job specifications, because they were wrong or not thorough enough in the first place; too many CVs being reviewed; too many recruitment agencies in the supply chain; too much process to make a decision.

Method: Recruitment agency (search and selection, head hunt/ retained search)

Summary: This is where an employer wants a very challenging or business critical appointment made. Normally the type of person sought is limited in supply, so using a recruitment business to search and entice the professional is one method of achieving the recruitment goal.

Our view: Very useful tool for the employer to have. If a niche recruitment agency cannot find a suitable candidate through a normal search process, then a retained search (head hunt) assignment is probably next best approach.

Advice: Ensure you have recruitment specialists that match the majority of your needs. Who will you use for a very niche or high level appointment? Retained search has to be entered into with caution, as there is never a guarantee of success, and you may be paying 1 or two instalments prior to successful appointment. If an appointment is not made, then many retained recruitment specialists do not pay back to the employer what has already been paid.

Method: PSL/ specialist terms

Summary: When employers what to refine the recruitment process, or lower costs they veer towards a structured recruitment system, normally called a preferred supplier list (PSL). To be part of a PSL, recruitment agencies need to work in a certain way, adhere to the employers terms of business, adhere to employer criteria, and for doing so are rewarded with job vacancies, that non-PSL companies would not receive.

Our view: If done well it works, but not often done well it can be horrendous for all involved.

Advice: The rules need to be rigid in some ways, flexible in others. Communication needs to be transparent and regular. Reviews need to be regular, with non-performing recruitment agencies warned then removed from the PSL if they do not deliver. Employers need to focus on quality, not quantity of recruitment agencies. Low cost, does not mean high quality, think about the service and quality of the professionals you seek, many employers, especially in 2008-2010 have thought the lower the cost (placement fee paid) the better, but the majority of time if you "pay peanuts, you get monkeys", of course their can be exceptions, but not many.

Method: Open to all

Summary: This is where the employer works with anyone, any business that can supply the right people, on the right terms.

Our view: This definitely works well for some companies, not so well for others. However, this process is most likely to guarantee the employer get's the best possible candidate available on the job market; costs maybe higher, there maybe more recruitment agencies to liaise with.

Advice: As long as this process is managed in the right way, following set rules, it can be a great, efficient system, which ensures the employer get's the best possible job seeker, fast, beating their competitors to the best talent. Communicate with your recruitment agencies partners to see what advice they can give you to streamline your recruitment processes.

These are only my thoughts and your opinion may be different. As we are all individually different, we all have a different view, we are all right, until experience says we were wrong.

If you would like to discuss any of these points further, or give me your views, then I am happy to discuss, or help your business. Second, third and fourth opinions are always welcome and give people more clarity on what is right for them, their team, and their business.

For more employer advice, you can visit our employer's advice page on our company website.


Bill is a joint Managing Director of Project Resource Limited, a high growth recruitment business. Bill focuses on business efficiency, business promotion, improving business and team performance, business growth, competitive edge, talent management and acquisition and instilling Positive Mental Attitude (PMA).


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