People Matter Blog

People Matter Blog

Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Capgemini Group

The relationship between HR and recruitment agencies

I receive about 5 calls a day from recruitment agencies wishing to supply candidates to our organisation.  If they catch me on a good day I’ll be patient and explain the reasons why we are not looking to add to our already overly-long list of preferred suppliers and why, as an internal recruiter, budget constraints mean we are being asked to focus more and more on direct recruitment.   On a bad day, usually a tight deadline to meet or an interview about to commence, I can’t get them off the phone quick enough.

Over the years I have taken hundreds of such calls and admittedly I have succumbed (on a very small number of occasions…), agreeing at least to review the CV of that ‘perfect candidate’ the agency is trying to sell me for that hard-to-fill role we have advertised on our careers website.   It is, however, sad to say that on the majority of such occasions I have regretted the decision – the candidate has been way off the mark, the recruitment consultant delivers a service which leaves a lot to be desired and we’ve very quickly parted company. 

I ran a Wikipedia search on “recruiter” which resulted in the following definition for a third party recruiter  “.........(sometimes known as a "headhunter") or an employment agency acts as an independent contact between its client companies and the candidates it recruits for a position. These firms or individuals specialize in client relationships and finding candidates, with minimal or no focus on other HR tasks.”.  

Why are client relationships important in the recruitment industry and is it the relationship between individual recruiter and client or the client’s relationship with the recruitment agency as a whole which is more important?  I’ve thought about those agencies which have enjoyed a long-term and fruitful relationship with our Company and what it is about them which have allowed this relationship to prosper and flourish and to me what stands out is that it is the relationship with the individual recruiter and his or her “advocacy” skills which are key (as well as all the other obvious measures of success). 

The CIPD has published a 42-page guide:  "The relationship between HR and recruitment agencies: a guide to productive partnerships".  I recommend any recruiter (both in-house and supplier side) to read the guide as it sums up the importance and relevance of good a relationship between HR and recruitment agencies; ultimately culminating in commercial benefits to both organisations.  The guide explains the advocacy model in relation to recruitment. 

For me, what works well and helps to foster that relationship is the following and is really what I mean by advocacy:-

  • overall taking a longer-term, less deal-centric approach to the relationship;  this means taking time to deliver the right candidates for the role rather than flinging database candidates at the client and seeing what sticks;
  • intimately knowing the market in which we operate and getting to know us as a company; knowing where to find the best candidates, proven time and time again by successfully placing good quality candidates, who are successful, and remain with the employer (this knowledge takes time to build);
  • a good listener – listens clearly to what we don’t want as well as what we do – and sticks to it;
  • instinctively “getting it” so we don’t need to have a full briefing session every time we have a new role (again this also comes down to good listening skills);
  • being a professional representative of the client company in the external market;
  • clearly looks after the best interest of the candidate and the client i.e. if the candidate is not right for the role or client company then not overselling – this will lead to two unhappy clients;
  • trust and honesty – telling us when they don’t think they’ll be able to deliver on an assignment;
  • loyalty to the client.
As a recruitment consultant, you’ll need to think about whether the recruitment agency you are with ‘gets’ the advocacy thing because if not, you’re unlikely to be recognised.  For the recruitment agency I think it’s correct to say that spotting and keeping recruitment consultants who understand client advocacy is key. In my experience, sometimes these recruiters are not loud, brash and political and can be easy to overlook in favour of the obvious ‘salespeople’. There’s an investment to be made in allowing loyalty recruiters to flourish because these relationships won’t happen overnight and will pay dividends in the medium and longer term. 

And why is this important?  Because in a market where internal recruiters are being targeted more and more on direct hiring (and can use Social Media to help them deliver this) but still see the value the recruitment agency can bring, they will be looking to maintain a small but effective list of recruitment consultants. That means they will want to hold on to the recruitment consultants they have invested time in developing a productive and loyal relationship with – if the recruitment consultant moves agency and even goes out in his or her own – fine - the client can quite easily move with the recruiter (just as soon as those non-solicitation clauses have lapsed).  That clause might prevent the recruiter from soliciting the client for a period of time, but it does not force the client to stay with the original agency.


About the author

Nicky Winch
Nicky Winch
Nicky is Head of Recruitment for Capgemini Consulting UK, responsible for all experienced hires up to Vice President. She has experience of recruiting for both high volume and senior specialist roles. Previous experience includes Graduate Recruitment roles for Ernst & Young and at one of the world’s largest law firms Clifford Chance and running the Selection Boards for Unilever’s fast-track management training programme (UCMDS). She began her career as a market analyst and marketing executive for Scottish TV.
1 Comment Leave a comment
I found this article very insightful, trust built between client and agency can often be taken for granted by both parties and often the route to that trust is long forgotten, On the agency side you will no doubt receive calls from those that are setting out on their journey, eager to impress, eager to deliver and also very eager to find themselves in your market place and expertise and eager to start earning money. More often than not when relationships start in any aspect of life, mistakes are inevitable, its how you recover, learn, understand and work to prove your unmistakable devotion to getting it right that will dictate the level of success and future response. I once worked and cold called (one of many) Managers within the Social Work field for the very first time in my new job as a recruiter, This manager entertained my call and offer and I was told the brief of the job and subsequently supplied the CV of a candidate I thought might get the job. In honesty the submission was based on mixed emotions, getting up and running, eagerness to be seen as quick and efficient, start making money, these all influenced the decision to submit this person to the role, in my head it was as much about eagerly proving that I was capable as it was about making the placement itself. The interview took place and I called to hear the news, news I did not want to hear! I was told in no uncertain terms that if I ever submitted a candidate like that again then the manager would cut off any chance of doing business with that team within the local authority, as news goes I generally couldn't have hoped for worse, I didn't know where to place myself, I felt embarrassed, a novice, highlighted for what I was, a charlatan. But here's the kicker, the manager explained the interview to me, she explained the horror of the answers the candidate gave to simple questions, she explained what she needed to see in a candidate and her expectations from me. This is how you learn, opportunities, both taken and given. From that day forward the manager never went through the Vendor Managed Service, she came to me directly, I ended placing the manager herself in a role and established a long and very levelled relationship but equally never forgot my place in our relationship, this was not on even keel, my place as a recruiter, like a lot of client sourcing/facing roles in life, is all about keeping the customer happy (and the candidate!) and providing a service based on trust, honesty, integrity and the ability to understand that everyone makes mistakes, no one is infallible and the pleasure in creating that kind of relationship should be held in the highest esteem.

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