In other walks of life and business, the default setting for the vast majority of us is to use a specialist.
If you wake up to find your kitchen is flooding and the fridge is floating its way out of the back door, you don’t mull over the possible merits of a friend of a friend who is a bit handy. You ring the emergency plumber sharpish !
Similarly if you are up in court on trial for your life or freedom (admittedly not an everyday occurrence for most of us), a solicitor who does conveyancing, family law and a bit of criminal from time to time is not going to be your preferred choice. You hire the best barrister you can !
Sometimes you will go with the Jack of all trades but you do it usually because
- it is not the end of the world if the outcome is “just satisfactory”,
- it will be staggeringly cheaper (assuming nothing goes wrong !)
- you accept that the quality of the product or service will not be as good and (crucially) you can live with that.
…….I have never yet met a Sales Manager, Hiring Manager or HR Manager who is happy to accept “lower quality” and “just satisfactory” candidate hiring and it is no wonder. Good luck squaring that with the much proclaimed “our most important asset is our staff”.
And yet sometimes it seems to be seen as a smart option to use these Generalist recruitment companies (Michael Page, Hudson, Robert Walters, Manpower et al) when recruiting.
Employers often select as recruitment partners these big generalists for reasons that in my opinion are very rarely to do with the quality of their offering. To my mind they are usually selected for a combination of the following reasons:
- industry profile
- global/national network of offices
- expensive software systems
Reasons 1 and 2 are often nothing to do with a smart business decision and everything to do someone wanting to feel that they are dealing with the big end of town. This is not a good reason for selecting a recruitment partner.
Reason 3 Price is understandably a factor and should always be considered but again, if it is your key criteria, expect the outcome to suffer. Just as it would if you get my mate Handy Andy to have a crack at fixing your burst pipes because the emergency plumber is a bit more expensive !
The fourth reason seems fine at first glance: more resources and access to more candidates must be a good thing surely. Well potentially yes, providing they actually get used. Trust me, I have worked within that world and they don’t. Recruiters are very territorial and they are not going to spend lots of time talking to far flung colleagues who most of the time will bring nothing essential to the search anyway. Half of the time getting them to speak openly to the person at the next desk is an achievement. Never mind what the brochure says, this does not happen !
Reason 5 is interesting – yes technology is increasingly important. ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) are very helpful but as with all technology it depends upon the quality of what goes in….”rubbish in, rubbish out” as they say. If you are a specialist recruiter working with a select group of candidates and employers – me for instance – you are not juggling hundreds of potential match ups at any one time, you are working heavily on 5-10 possible placements. Even my brain can cope with those sorts of numbers. Technology is definitely a good thing but don’t make a decision based on which company has the newest bells and whistles.
The usual result if you go with the Generalists is that you are dealing with recruiters with little to no genuine sector knowledge and limited candidate networks to draw upon.
Then you need to be ready to be forever having the same conversations about what you are looking for, successful personality types within your company, your cherished corporate value system and culture etc as the bloody consultants keep disappearing !
Frequently rotated consultants (which is the norm in major companies) and high staff turnover (because most of them will not succeed), ensures you are forever re-explaining your requirements and trying to develop anew the all important rapport and understanding.
You would not allow a jack of all trades to handle anything else in your life that you care about, so why let them handle candidate search.