For the Sake of the Integrity of the Recruitment Profession, Please Stop!

Win winHaving worked in the Recruitment industry for seven years I’ve seen a huge amount of great work, both agency side and in-house. There is, however, something in particular that still happens frequently which I believe creates significant damage to an industry I feel extremely proud to be a part of.

I’m talking about agencies and / or internal recruiters (and yes that includes you hiring managers) engaging in multi-agency, contingent searches.

I’ve heard numerous reasons to justify working in this way however I can’t help but feel none of them stack up and we are all culpable.

Firstly, I firmly believe the best relationships (both personal and professional) are built on trust, honesty and commitment. If these things don’t exist cracks are inevitably going to appear. When relating this to Recruitment any cracks appearing in a relationship are going to have a detrimental impact on everyone involved, in particular candidates.

So let me ask a couple of questions here:

  • As an external recruiter, are you an expert in recruiting all roles, at all levels within your chosen industry or vertical? If not, then how honest are you with your clients as to where you feel you have deep expertise and where you don’t? If you are not honest then why should your clients trust you and want to work exclusively with you (retained or otherwise)?
  • As an internal recruiter (and/or hiring manager), if you were confident in the ability of an external recruiter to fulfil a requirement for you, why would you not work with them exclusively? And if you insist on being non-exclusive, is it reasonable to expect full trust, honesty and commitment in return?

The biggest issue here is that this is very much a ‘Chicken and Egg’ situation. If neither party are willing to ask the right questions, and give honest answers then nothing is ever going to change. What makes it worse, is the people who are usually the most detrimentally affected are the people who are the most important in all of this, the candidates!

To add to the complexity of the whole situation there are some other myths I hear all the time that just don’t stack up. The benefits of briefing multiple agencies on the same assignment are….

Myth 1 – It’s quicker

  • Comparing all searches that Oasis HR worked on between Sept 2013 and Sept 2014 showed that the average time to fill was 27% less when we were engaged exclusively (irrespective of the source of the candidate)
  • When working with one agency, if they have any sense of pride and / or commercial acumen, your external recruiters are going to be much more committed to delivering an assignment where you have placed full trust in them by partnering with them exclusively
  • If the agency you are working with is more committed they are going to work harder, faster and better
  • By working exclusively with one partner it’s much easier to work towards clearly defined timelines making the process smoother for everyone

Myth 2 – It increases the chance of success

  • If this is true then I can’t help but feel this is down to luck rather than judgement. It stands to reason that if multiple agencies are engaged in a ‘no-win, no-fee’ capacity, then their main focus is going to be to get you as many candidates as they can, as quickly as possible to increase their odds of success
  • This approach creates a multitude of issues such as poor candidate qualification, poor candidate management, and at best, an inconsistent EVP and brand message going out to the market
  • Between Sept 2013 and Sept 2014 our clients were 57% more likely to achieve a successful outcome on the search when working with us exclusively (irrespective of whether we found the candidate or the client did so directly). I can’t see why things would be significantly different across any other recruitment business
  • Knowing that a client is likely to be 57% more successful when working with one recruiter exclusively (on the assumption that other recruitment businesses have similar statistics) why would I not want to suggest my client works exclusively with one recruiter, even if in some instances that happens to not be Oasis HR due to others having more expertise around a certain search?

Myth 3 – It’s less work for the internal Recruiter and / or Hiring Manager

  • In most, if not all instances I would feel the opposite to be true – if multiple agencies are engaged then the number of points of contact increases, the number of CVs are likely to increase and the overall quality of candidates decreases, all of which creates more work for the internal recruiter / hiring manager
  • If you engage one external recruiter on an exclusive and / or retained basis then they are almost certain to be doing more work with the added bonus of you having to do less
  • Assuming you have full trust in your chosen recruitment partner then you shouldn’t need to worry about them solving whatever problem needs solving within a realistic and appropriate timeline

Myth 4 – It creates competition (making agencies work harder and faster to deliver)

  • Personally I think that this, of all of the points listed, is the most non-sensical of all. If I’m engaged by a client on an exclusive or retained basis then I am putting the reputation of myself and my company on the line, as well as taking full responsibility for the hiring manager and / or internal recruiters’ reputation (given they are completely reliant on me to be successful)
  • Under these circumstances I am absolutely and categorically at my most competitive as I care deeply about the reputation and integrity of myself, my company and you as the client
  • If I was more competitive when pitting my company against other competitors (and hence being less focused on your needs and reputation) would you really want to work with me?
  • As soon as additional agencies are engaged then I would argue that by default less trust and commitment exists from both sides of the relationship which ultimately leads to a much greater chance of the relationship failing

The final point here is that as soon as multiple agencies are engaged, a search almost always becomes a lower priority for an external recruiter. Anyone who says otherwise would lead me to question their commercial acumen, or even worse question their integrity.

To all external recruiters – if you are not willing to be honest and transparent with your clients around the above (even though I am sure most, if not all of you, are) then don’t be surprised if your clients don’t trust you and don’t commit to you.

To all hiring organisations – be willing to put your recruitment partners on the spot about all of the above however also be willing to fully commit to them exclusively if you believe and trust in the responses and evidence they provide in return.

This may well simply be too much of a Utopian view on my part and I would welcome any alternate views. My ultimate aim here was to speak up about something that I believe is extremely damaging to our profession which I am keen to find a shared solution to.

Views in this blog are my own and I would welcome any feedback to my thoughts via

Andrew White

Written by , Director

Having graduated from the University of Leeds with 2.1 degree in Physiology and Sports Science, Andy spent his early career in the Health and Fitness industry before joining Oasis HR in 2008. Since then Andy has progressed through the ranks from a Researcher to Director, with current responsibility for managing all permanent recruitment and leading a team of Consultants and Researchers. Andy has an extensive network across the HR space with particular exposure spanning a number of sectors including Online / Digital / eCommerce, Technology, Media, Retail and Engineering (particularly Oil and Gas and Defence). Andy has always been a fanatical sportsman, having played Football and Golf at County level (and still playing to a reasonably high standard despite a dodgy knee!) and his natural competitiveness is manifested in a real drive to ensure he and his team can offer the best possible service to candidates and clients alike. Andy’s refreshing honesty has led to the development of many long-standing professional relationships.

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2 Responses to “For the Sake of the Integrity of the Recruitment Profession, Please Stop!”

  1. Greg Fisher

    Andrew, thank you for an interesting and relevant article. Having worked as a contingent recruiter, a retained search consultant and as an interim on day-rate, I can attest to the fact that whenever there’s more than one provider involved, things go wrong. In the contingent world the bare knuckle fighting that occurs when multiple recruiters are engaged reduces the process to a transaction – with the recruiter selling madly to all sides in the hope of pushing a body into a job in order to get the fee; at that point it’s not about the EVP or fitting the culture, it’s about meeting your target and earning commission. Does the client care? Not often, the desire to drive down the percentage rate is top of mind and the idea of ‘choice’ of candidates from multiple recruiters is supposed to assure them that they’ve taken a view of the whole market and come to the right hiring conclusion. What that client often doesn’t understand is you get what you pay for, they hired the person that the recruiter promoted at that price, not necessarily the best person for the job – that’s if they are lucky enough to see a response, because an often heard grumble from hiring companies is lack of quality candidates from those same recruiters they’ve belittled with a poor fee and then rubbed salt into the wound by giving it to multiple ‘providers’. Hiring companies take note, the old adage that you get what you pay for absolutely rings true when it comes to quality when you are recruiting.

  2. Ray Gower

    A very interesting article and a subject I wholeheartedly agree with. I felt a long time ago that the integrity of the industry was being eroded. Disillusioned, this is why I have not returned to the industry I spent many years in. Speed became the key factor when an assignment came on because of the multi agent culture.Regrettably this often results in the client missing out on the best candidates which affects retention and cost effectiveness. No one wins…


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