You get what you pay for - why recruitment agencies need to stop selling dreams

You get what you pay for – why recruitment agencies need to stop selling dreams

One of the biggest changes we’ve seen over the years, particularly within technology, is the development of new and niche roles. Think about the typical job titles you’d see within the industry 20 years ago, and compare it to the ones now. There are so many more roles which exist. This hasn’t just created opportunities for the people who work in tech – it’s also opened up opportunities within the recruitment world.

Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen the emergence of recruitment companies who manage large-scale programmes for their clients. This is where they partner up with them on a long-term basis, often for a number of years. They manage the entire end-to-end hiring process and onboard large volumes of people on a regular basis. There is absolutely a place for this approach – some of the most successful recruitment businesses do this. It works best when they operate on a broad basis for companies with a high volume of roles.

At the other end, you have firms like Onezeero. For us, it’s all about vertical market expertise. In a complex industry like technology, we think it’s crucial to have specialists in each of the key verticals, such as Security, ERP, Data & Analytics, and more. This gives us the expertise to fill those roles which generalists recruiters can’t, and the focus of having people concentrating on their specific areas. The two different models complement each other, and companies tend to go for the one which is best suited to their needs.

But lately, I’ve seen some recruitment companies saying they can offer in-depth, vertical market expertise – on the cheap. I’ll have to be blunt here. These companies are dream sellers. Filling niche roles is a specialised, expensive process. If somebody says they can do it for peanuts, that’s a red flag straight away!

I was speaking to a CTO recently. He said that last year he was approached by a recruitment agency which claimed it could fill nine specialist roles he had, and at a much lower rate than he was expecting.

The end result was that they only managed to bring on one candidate. They simply found it too difficult to source the people required. There were times where the CTO was being sent CVs of people that he knew immediately wouldn’t be a good fit.

Like I said – filling niche roles is a job for specialists! To my mind, there are clear advantages to dealing with them rather than generalists.

Firstly, their market knowledge means they can actually advise whether you should undertake a certain hiring programme. They have access to data and insights which means they’ll give you the advice you need, not what you want to hear. You’ll be amazed at how many times a hiring manager has looked at market data I’ve put in front of them and decided they need to change strategy.

Secondly, they can determine what route-to-market you should use. One of the first things I say to any new starter is that recruiting is so much more than just a phone and a LinkedIn licence! The tech market is one where you need to find more ways to source candidates; for example, using video engagement software, or hosting meet-ups to showcase your client’s EVP.

Specialists will also have their own network of candidates in those niche markets. A recruiter that is a jack of all trades won’t be able to do this, as they’re being spread across multiple areas. But a recruiter who only operates in ERP, for example, won’t have this issue. They can cultivate a high-quality database over a period of time.

On a related note – businesses want to know they’re getting the attention they need. If you’re a HR manager with a number of live roles, you ideally want your recruiter to work specifically on your roles until they are filled. What’s more, you’d be willing to pay a bit extra for it. If your recruiter was offering to completely dedicate themselves to you for next to nothing – would that not set off alarm bells?

Last summer, we were awarded a contract by a well-known entertainment company from America, which was looking to build out their UK tech team in Leamington Spa. They needed to hire a number of engineers in a certain time-frame. Bear in mind, the town doesn’t attract the same quantity of candidates as London or Manchester, so this really needed to be a specialist operation.

We were able to put in place recruiters that were dedicated to that client, specialising in the exact vertical they had a need. We found the talent they wanted – and that was that. We weren’t trying to compete with the large-scale businesses and stay onsite for a number of years. We were hired for a specialist project, to deliver a specified volume of people. If they have a similar project coming up, they know exactly who to call.

Was any of this cheap? Were we offering super low fees? Of course not. But the client looked at the dedicated service they would get, plus the type of roles which were being filled. They knew they wouldn’t get this with the jack of all trades.

We all know that the recruitment industry has developed a bad reputation over the years – some of it fair, some of it unfair. So, it annoys me when I see firms pretending they’ve found the magic potion of high-class specialism at a low cost.

It doesn’t exist – so let’s stop trying to sell dreams.

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