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Eames Insights: Specialist agency recruiters and internal talent acquisition - a ‘one team’ approach

  • Publish Date: Posted 9 months ago
  • Author:by Chirag Raichura

I have been an agency recruiter within the financial services industry, focused on the banking sector for the last 15 years. During my tenure in agency, I have seen a global credit crunch, the COVID-19 pandemic, and banks generally going on numerous hiring reviews over the years…

Throughout my career, I’ve worked with many organisations and internal recruitment teams on seamless processes. Through that experience, I’m sharing 5 steps that make a successful recruitment model between specialist recruitment agencies and internal talent acquisition teams – the ‘one team approach’.

Many internal recruiters offer a valuable service to their employer in sourcing talent directly and have the added benefit of being able to sell the culture of the business effectively, given their experience of working directly in the environment. However, due to adverse market conditions this year, we only have to look at the number of talent acquisition professionals who are open to work on LinkedIn at my last count (1.3k+ at the current count just in the UK) to see how the profession has been affected by adverse market conditions this year. The predominant reason for this, based on LinkedIn feeds, suggests that redundancy is the main reason due to cost-cutting measures in reaction to slower hiring volumes from their last employer.

The driver for the most recent wave of redundancies has been the state of the UK economy, which in turn has led to a number of large corporations going on a hiring review. These hiring reviews are often initiated by a C-suite stakeholder who, understandably, is looking to save costs in tough economic conditions.

In my experience, during the buoyant times of volume hiring, many organisations will look to fill as many of their vacancies directly via their internal recruitment teams. If they are unable to successfully fill the role over a certain period of time, then they will enlist the help of an agency to help with the hire. Generally, these roles are niche hires which require the use of a specialist agency who have a pre-existing network of passive candidates and the tools and skills to headhunt a candidate that fits the niche requirements.

Often, some barriers to internal recruitment processes can be the time it takes for them to make a hire that the hiring manager often desperately needs in place quickly. A hiring manager will often have a pre-existing relationship with an agency recruiter(s) whom they have worked with before and often would like to use them as quickly as possible to ensure they receive the best quality candidates available on the market from a specialist, who has knowledge of a competitive market. In addition, they often will have successfully recruited for their team in the past, so they will have a track record of finding suitable candidates that fit well into their team.

There is a notion that direct hiring tends to save on costs with agency fees, but when working against time, it could be better to use an agency to tap into a wider candidate pool and established relationships. This ensures that the business receives a shortlist, which is often the best available talent in the market, rather than the best talent that is actively looking and applied directly to the organisation’s job advertisement.

I believe there is a way for agencies and internal recruiters to maximise recruitment processes and work better together to benefit the hiring managers whilst also mitigating the need for leaner internal recruitment teams during economic downturns. Here are my 5 steps that I believe lead to an effective recruitment process:

1. Utilise agency recruiters for niche, contingent specialist roles and direct recruitment teams to non-specialist roles to increase efficiency and time-sensitive roles.

Many internal recruiters are managing multiple vacancies, so the most effective way would be to utilise their time on the roles that do not have niche requirements. A good agency recruiter in a niche space should have an easily accessible network of candidates and the time to headhunt candidates, which in turn will ensure the role is filled quicker.

I have received feedback from numerous senior candidates who expressed a negative candidate experience from not receiving any feedback or application process acknowledgement. Providing feedback not only gives the candidates some valuable insight on improvement but also sets a positive tone if the candidate were to ever apply to another role in the future.

Using a good agency recruiter for such senior roles can ensure firstly that the candidate has the reassurance that their CV has been seen by the hiring manager and, secondly, if they are not selected for an interview, the feedback is given as to why other candidates have been selected ahead of them which enhances their candidate experience from the early stages of the recruitment process.

2. Release vacancies to direct and agency recruiters in tandem

Opening a requisition at the same time (or a shorter time lag such as 1 week) will still ensure that you have an influx of direct candidates who apply for the job. You will also ensure that your hiring managers are able to see the best talent pool in the market rather than just the best candidates in the pool who have applied directly to the role.

I understand that there are cost pressures from the top to reduce agency fees, which is where the drive to push direct recruitment on any vacancy that is published externally. However, given the importance of making the right hire for any organisation, the goal must be to ensure the new hire is made from the best possible pool of candidates on the market who are available and can do the job to a high standard to help achieve the business objectives at the top.

3. Use two agencies max per vacancy and keep a tight monitored PSL per vertical

A common frustration I hear from internal recruitment clients is the level of inbound emails they receive, usually from multiple agencies chasing for CV or interview feedback for candidates they have submitted.

If you keep a small but proven PSL of a maximum of two agencies, it will not only reduce the amount of inbound email traffic they receive from agencies but also ensure hiring managers will receive fewer but higher quality candidates.

Another effective method is to use an agency you trust exclusively for an initial period of 2 weeks, which will ensure they will prioritise your vacancy over others they have on their books. If the hiring manager isn’t satisfied with the quality of CVs submitted during this period, then another agency can have the opportunity to show their worth.

4. Keep internal recruitment headcount realistic to account for hiring/market changes

In my experience, when the market is buoyant, many companies over-hire within their direct recruitment function as they try to fill high volumes of vacancies without the use of agencies. This model does not provide internal recruiters with sustainable careers, as their longevity in their role is very much reliant on market conditions.

In 2022, it was clear some organisations overspent on talent due to rising salaries in a competitive market because of multiple hiring for the same skillsets simultaneously. This, coupled with tough economic conditions, has meant budgets and headcount have had to be addressed in 2023.

As always, the market will turn again soon, and these organisations will have to re-staff internal recruitment teams to cope with the increased volume of hiring, in some cases paying overinflated daily rate contracts.

5. Direct contact between Hiring Managers and a PSL Agency Recruiter

Ensure that your agency recruiter is fully aware of your recruitment process, i.e., submittal of candidates on the recruitment portal and coversheet completed etc, and has demonstrated they can follow such process. However, allowing an open line of communication with the hiring manager and recruiter, especially whilst actively hiring, will benefit all parties involved in filling the role.

A good agency recruiter will keep their TA contact in the loop of any conversations with the hiring manager so there is transparency during the recruitment process. This will allow interview requests and feedback to be shared directly with the hiring manager and agency recruiter, reducing the amount of external agency emails and calls to yourself, thus making communication more efficient for all parties.

In summary, recruitment is such a vital element of any organisation’s success and culture, so an effective recruitment model is vital to both company performance and reputation. In my experience, if the above process/model is utilised, then internal recruiters, agencies, hiring managers and candidates would all see the benefits very quickly.

I have seen this process work with multiple clients that I recruit for, including large banks and candidates in my network, frequently providing feedback on their appreciation for keeping them updated during a process, regardless of whether they are successful or not in their application.

Change won’t happen overnight, but if those business leaders who implement such hiring ‘reviews’ and head of talent acquisitions take note, then we will all be in a much better place the next time we see adverse market conditions. This, in turn, can only benefit all the key stakeholders that are involved in the recruitment lifecycle.

If you are interested in speaking further on these topics or you would like to have a confidential chat about your next career move or business objectives, please do not hesitate to contact me at chirag.raichura@eamesconsulting.com