I’ve been doing my research on the dreaded “bad weasels, “more commonly known in the recruiting vernacular as “backdoor placements.” In a previous post, I mentioned some other potential names for backdoor placements, but “bad weasel” is not only my favorite, but probably the best description of this despicable, yet inevitable, recruitment worst practice.
After doing a little bit more digging into these weasel holes, however, I’ve found through my research is that despite the fact that backdoor placements are all too common (ubiquitous, even), very few recruiters have a formal process in place for dealing with them.
I’m pretty flabbergasted! It’s an oversight that’s quite shocking, but I’ll admit, a bit exciting, too – getting the backdoor placement bit of the process right represents a pretty incredible opportunity to nail down fees, and if you’re a recruiter, chances are that’s really the bottom line.
Backdoor Placements: A Fact of Life
One has to wonder why the back door has shifted from black hat tactic on the recruiting margins to the mainstream, a practice that’s something akin to the “norm” (if such a thing really exists in recruitment). Why has the back door become front and center – and how is this phenomenon seemingly seen by many as a fact of life?
After doing some thinking about back door placements, I’ve come to some possible conclusions about what’s driving this worst practice. Here are some theories, but I believe it’s because so many recruiters deal with one or more of the following challenges:
- Tech Overload: We’re bombarded by systems and software, which can create a dangerous codependency.
- Paralysis by Analysis: For once, recruiters have too many options and outcomes to choose from.
- Leadership Disconnect: There’s a pervasive disconnect between recruitment and HR leaders and the front line recruiters who have to execute on processes and technology of which leadership often has little or no operational knowledge.
- Low Vacancy Fill Rate: The current average in the UK for recruiters is 2/10 vacancies, or 20%. While recruiters are actually filling most of our jobs, most of us work with too many reqs, meaning that percentage wise, we don’t fill enough.
- Candidate Chicanery: Candidates often bypass the process by going directly to our clients.
- Client Chicanery: Similarly, many of our clients try to handle recruitment on their own, disrupting their relationships with recruiters.
Backdoor Placements: Who’s Fault Is It?
I’m keen to see how much cash and time (the two things recruiters never have enough of) is being wasted on bad processes which provide the opening for the increasing phenomenon of backdoor placements – and believe it or not, it’s not always the client who’s ultimately at fault. Here are some questions every recruiter should ask themselves to try to slam the back door shut:
- Do we have have a process for clearly communicating not only our value prop to clients, but also that those services come with a cost?
- Do your clients understand that a recruiter isn’t just some lovely, charitable resume or CV database for them to mine at will?
- What processes are in place for ensuring consultants communicate effectively with clients? Even when I used to be an IT Director at a recruitment firm, this was a massive problem. I remember regularly trawling through e-mail archives and trying a litany of searches just to find the one e-mail with terms that may or may not actually be in the body of said e-mail.
- Is your CRM scaleable and sustainable enough to handle the strain of keeping up with candidates and clients? Have you effectively created automated e-mails, resume sends, interview templates and other self-service capabilities to minimize any chance of a supposed misunderstanding by a client or candidate?
- Are you effectively training your recruiters on how to actually deal with and proactively prevent back door placements?
And finally, the most important question of all – and also the quickest win: how are you keeping your candidates from doing something stupid? It’s incumbent on recruiters to educate their candidates as to why they need to work with you instead of against you and what value you create for them?
Backdoor Placements: What Is It You Do, Again?
If all you’re doing is feeding candidates junk content about what to wear, what questions to ask, and the sort of specious stuff that anyone can easily find in the millions of similarly superfluous career advice articles that should be common sense to anyone with any sort of professional experience or even tact, then you’re offering nothing. At least not anything of value. Here’s how to help understand what you really do as a recruiter:
- You’re an advocate for the candidate’s career, and offer them help, guidance and negotiation skills they won’t get going direct.
- You not only know the client, but you also have invaluable insights and expertise on the industry – not to mention connections.
- You’re there for them, whether or not their candidacy results in an offer or fee (damn that free replacement term!). This is crucial.
- You are an advocate for them (going direct means they have less help / advice / negotiation powers
Backdoor Placements: Cold Calling Their Bluff
As mentioned previously, when I was an IT Director at a recruitment firm, I also had to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty with our systems and scripts. We also had over 200 recruiters “using” the system to power their desk and let them run their reqs – although I’ll let you interpret to what degree they actually were “using” said systems.
In that capacity, I had built a script within my CRM which provided recruiters a list of candidates who had been through the interview process, only for the requisition to go unfilled or the company ultimately cancel the job opening after going through pretty much the whole process. The administration team would then get on the phone, call the client directly, and ask to speak to the candidate directly.
If the receptionist confirmed that they were indeed able to put them through the company switchboard, indicating that candidate had, in fact, become an employee, that admin immediately hung up and started getting the data necessary to initiate the process required to recover the fee. That process was admittedly a big crude, but you should have seen how excited those recruiters were once the admin hung up that phone!
It worked like clock work, and often enabled teams to recover fees for back door placements that they actually earned.
Has Social Media Made Backdoor Placements More Common?
With social media, digital profiles and other online platforms, the ability to find an AWOL candidate could be seen as being easier – but is it really? Let’s return to the top of this post and look at the daily challenges the average recruiter has to deal with and ask yourself when the hell, exactly, they have the time to do this investigative work?
Has technology made backdoor placements more acceptable, or has the transparency inherent to social media made candidates somehow more opaque? Has 330 million profiles on LinkedIn given recruiters the excuse to just keep going and source new candidates while forgetting the ones we’ve already found and worked with?
Now is the time to get back to the basics and build a more robust, sustainable process for preempting backdoor placements. None of us should work for free – and this practice hurts everyone involved in recruiting. What are you doing to finally slam the back door shut?
Thoughts from the floor, please.
About the Author: Lisa Jones is a Director of Barclay Jones, a consultancy working with agency recruiters on their recruitment technology and social media strategies. Prior to Barclay Jones. Lisa worked in a number of Recruitment, IT, Web and Operations director-level roles. She is a technology and strategy junkie with keen eyes on the recruitment and business process.
You’ll see Lisa speaking at many recruitment industry events and being a recruitment technology and social media evangelist online. She works with some of the large recruitment firms, as well as the smaller, agile boutique agencies.
By Lisa Jones
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