Let me be really clear here to start this post off: I’m not hating on staffing agencies. In fact, far from it. I actually grew up on the agency side; I cut my teeth there. I made my bones there. And I clearly have watched Goodfellas like a hundred times too many. I’m grateful for my external recruitment experience and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
That may come as a tremendous surprise to most of you, but as a technical recruiter working in-house, I get a lot of calls from agency recruiters. Like, a lot. And they suck.
Allow us to take a moment, to mourn for those whose heads just exploded from shock.
I want to give something back to the staffing agency world where I grew up. This is a “let me help me help you….help me” type of mini-festo.
More often than not, I tend to screen out the vast majority of staffing agency recruiting calls. The voicemails they leave behind provide some really good fodder for the team on really shitty days, and I’m constantly reminded of
A. Why I Left Staffing
B. What NOT to do
These messages are too templated to be terrible. In fact, I could probably just replace the name of the recruiter and their staffing agency on each of those well scripted voicemails and it’d just sound like I had the same message on some sort of perpetual loop. But every so often, for reasons I’m not entirely sure I even understand, I feel like being punished. And occasionally, I answer agency calls. And then the games begin.
Hey, don’t judge me – a recruiter’s gotta have a little fun sometimes, too. Even if (especially if) it’s at the expense of other recruiters. I did 18 years in Catholic school as a kid, so I know a little something about self-loathing and guilt.
I get it that you’re just doing your job. You’re hungry and ambitious, and won’t take no for an answer. You’ve got numbers to meet and a quota to beat – whatever. Whatever gets you through the torment of constantly worrying about getting fired by your branch manager is fine by me. But some things are just unforgivable.
What’s even worse is that the things agency recruiters suck at the most are also the easiest to fix. So, stop being a robot dialing for dollars and clogging up voicemail boxes with some variation on the tired theme of your “unique and proprietary database with 16 trillion great candidates” and start being smart about how you engage with potential clients.
4 Ways To Suck Less When You’re Recruiting for A Staffing Agency
Here are some pretty good staffing agency rules for the recruiting road:
Let me get this straight. You want me to shell out somewhere between 20-30% to have you help me find a candidate. When you call me and we have a conversation about a potential search, I’m not going to have a ton of confidence in your sourcing abilities if you have to ask for my e-mail. I’m asking you to find candidates that we either can’t find or don’t have the time to go out and get.
So, start off strong by showing me you know how to find or can figure out how to find my e-mail schema. Feel free to confirm it – it’ll impress me.
Oh, and if you aren’t yet familiar with tools that can help you find and verify e-mail addresses, learn up.
2. Intake Isn’t Just For Hospitals
But when I reach the point of actually proactively enlisting outside help, one of two things is true: either the role has changed significantly, or I can’t grasp the gist of the role. If you’re a recruiter, you know what I’m talking about.There are ones you just can’t get your head around, really.
Either way, I want you to have access to the hiring manager so you can pick their brain about what their ideal candidate looks like.
On the inside (that’s what us agency-turned-corporate shills call it), we conduct intake meetings to get all of this information.
And yes, it’s important for you to do so, too, otherwise, there’s a good chance you’re not going to be doing much more than keyword hunting. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well consider yourself lucky that people like Glen Cathey and Stacy Zapar roam this earth with the sole purpose of making recruiting and sourcing exponentially more awesome.
3. Pull A Fake-Out? Get Out.
I’m going to be completely honest here: I hate managing people. It’s the least fun part of what I do. But mentoring? That’s what gets the creative Jamba Juice flowing. I love helping other really ambitious recruiters learn, grow and develop.
Helping them tap into a local network, or discover how to use one of those wizard-like tools the SourceCon crowd is always playing with is where I get my energy. So when a freshly minted agency professional approaches me to ask for time to network, have a conversation or ask a question, I’m always happy to oblige. Well, almost always.
Just don’t ask me to go to lunch for an hour under the guise of “I’d love to pick your brain” and have that turn into a 55 minute sales pitch. It’s disingenuous, dishonest, and pretty much kills any chance I’ll ever work with your company or send anyone your way.
4. Free Candidates: Inquire Within
If we don’t have an agreement in place, I’m taking the information you send me and running with it. Trust me, you’ve given me enough to find the person in under 10 minutes, even if you do a half-assed attempt at concealing their identity. Never works, by the way.
Here’s what I don’t get. Why in the world would I buy the milk from you when you’ve already left the cow in my inbox? I get it…you want to prove you can nail the core candidate profile our company’s looking for.
But in reality, you have no idea how to describe what the hell it is we do beyond our tag line. You’re just matching keywords.
Actually, you know what? Keep sending those resumes to me.
Corporate and agency recruiters need each other to survive. It’s a fact. We live in a very delicate ecosystem where we have an interdependence on each other to do our jobs sometimes – like it or not. No one’s denying that. But if you’re an agency recruiter, you’ve got one of two choices: Ride along, live and eat well like the remora, or be relegated to bottom feeder status.
About the Author: Pete Radloff has over 13 years of recruiting experience in both agency and corporate environments, and has worked with such companies as Comscore, National Public Radio and Living Social.
With experience and expertise in using technology and social media to enhance the candidate experience and promote strong employer brands, Radloff also serves as lead consultant for Exaqueo, a high-end workforce consulting firm. An active member of the Washington area recruiting community, Radloff is currently a VP and sits on the Board of Directors of RecruitDC.