HR Teams and Recruitment Agencies have a notorious reputation of not getting on. I often liken this relationship to the situation in the Middle East. It flares up, it calms down but there is always an undercurrent of hostility towards the opposing faction. Maybe I am being a little dramatic here but I cannot see why internal HR Departments and Recruitment Agencies cannot live in peace and foster a mutually beneficial business relationship. This is one of the challenges that Recruitment Agencies face.

Don’t get me wrong, we get on exceptionally well with the majority of our clients. Unfortunately I think that too many HR Teams have been burnt by less than appalling service from sub-standard agencies, which makes our job very difficult, as we are starting on the back foot from the outset. The recruitment industry doesn’t have the best name in the business world but for those agencies that still care, and still believe in the personal touch – we need to be given a chance. This is why I have decided to write this article.

Here are some ways that we know our relationship with our client’s HR Teams is a solid one:

•Our clients value our input in our chosen area of expertise. They realise that we are well networked and add enormous amounts of value to them.

•Communication channels are clearly defined and feedback happens very quickly, from both sides.

•We understand the business (and the company culture) as we have been given the opportunity to visit the company and meet the line/hiring managers.

•The brief to our agency was clear and written on a Job Specification document. We have been able to ask questions relating to the job description to make sure we match the ‘soft skills’ of the candidate to the role too.

•Our clients only approach us for assistance once they have completed the internal process and are ready to employ an external candidate as soon as possible.

•We work in partnership with each individual in the HR Team for the greater good of the company.

•Our clients know that we are meticulous when following recruitment best practices and provide a far superior service compared to other agencies. This is why they do not mind paying extra for our services.

We realise that we need to prove ourselves when it comes to recruitment as the volume (not always the value) of the competition is so great. We generally find that once we have made a successful placement or two, our clients realise that we are head and shoulders above the rest of the pack and are happy to utilise our services time and time again. In some instances we are the only Recruitment Agency that our clients connect with.

In the odd situation where we are still proving ourselves, or bumping heads with our Client’s HR Teams – the following scenarios seem to occur:

•There is a disconnect between the Line Manager and the HR Team as the Line Manager’s ideal candidate is very different to the HR Team’s ideal candidate.

•When we submit candidate CVs, it is because the candidate has decided to put themselves on the market and attend interviews at various companies. It still amazes me when it takes 2 weeks to get feedback on the CVs, and then the client is furious that the candidate has already signed with their competitor. Speed is of the essence during the recruitment process.

•Our client seems to change their minds about what they are looking for. Often when we start sourcing for candidates, where a rare skill like C# is a non-negotiable but this can change to a ‘nice to have’ halfway through the interview process.

•We often find that our client’s budgets do not align with the required skill set, or experience, that they require. People are always amazed at how much they need to pay for scarce skills.

•One of our personal favourites with some of these clients is when we spend days sourcing for candidates only to find that the position has been placed on hold for the unforeseeable future.

•As mentioned previously, clients need to make sure that there are not any internal employees that could be used for this role. It makes sense to promote from within the organisation but then there is no need to engage with agencies if you already have a preferred candidate. This is not fair to the agencies or the candidates who were just used ‘as a comparison’.

•One last thing, Line Managers must ensure that they have the headcount, and the go ahead from whoever they may need it from, in order to replace, or recruit, for this position. So often we start sourcing and interviewing only to be told by HR that there is a headcount freeze.

I would like to add a disclaimer that this article has not been written about any particular client of ours. It has been a collective article, written by myself, with input from members of my team about the successes and frustrations that we face working as Agency Recruiters. We have 25 years recruitment experience between us so these are merely ‘scenarios’ that we have experienced first-hand.

At the end of the day, I must reiterate that we love our jobs; we embrace the challenges we face when dealing with the human element and wouldn’t our careers for the world!

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