The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

Is big really better?

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JigsawRecently, I have followed a lengthy discussion on LinkedIn about whether it is really worthwhile entrusting your livelihood to a Recruitment Consultant when you are looking for a new job. Dare I say, the overall consensus was rather negative. The overriding opinion is that Recruiters are sales people first, and this means that job applicants are simply a means to an end. There is a lot of disgruntlement about service levels, and how applicants are treated.

Of course, this perspective might be different from the recruiting client’s side. They pay the bill so naturally, that is where the recruiter’s affinities will lie. But no doubt, even here it is not that difficult to uncover a real dissatisfaction in service levels, delivery of expectations and value for money.

There is a real drive for volume in the recruitment industry – KPI’s relate to sales calls, number of new vacancies, number of CV submissions, etc. This relates directly to turnover through the traditional sales funnel effect: High numbers put in at the top result in more results coming out at the bottom. The larger the business, the higher the overheads, leading to  needing even more CV’s and vacancies to keep the funnel sufficiently full.

The economics that apply are no different to a manufacturing company selling boxes for example. The more turnover they need, the more units have to be produced, the more raw material is required, the higher the production costs, the more units must be sold. It’s an ongoing cycle. The difference is that boxes don’t have feelings, families, and futures like human job seekers.

The credit crunch of 2009 has dramatically changed the face of recruitment in the UK, with the high levels of unemployment and fewer jobs available protracting the industry and creating more competition. That has not really changed now, in 2014. In addition, an approach in larger corporates to drive costs down by commoditising recruitment through purchasing has somewhat removed the human aspect from the their recruitment processes. At the same time, many recruitment SME’s have established themselves in the market, with experienced consultants either being made redundant due to the downturn, or simply getting fed up of the treadmill and seeking a better work / life balance.

I think (hope!) that this will have a knock on effect on service levels. Independent recruiters work for themselves, so ownership of service delivery and relationships will be crucial to their success. This is in stark contrast to commoditised, dehumanised recruitment processes.

There will be, by default, a far more personalised approach in the business relationship, the fees are likely to be a lot more flexible and delivery probably of a higher standard. Of course there will still be the ones who sell very hard to simply get “bums on seats” in return for fees. But in my experience, there is a far higher degree of business consultancy  and commitment in an SME because to the self-employed recruiter, every opportunity is a luxury not to be wasted.

There is still the perception, especially in larger corporate companies, that the larger recruitment brands represent stability and best practice. I would challenge this paradigm.

Giving a recruitment SME an opportunity to prove it’s worth keeps the economy moving and creates diversity in a market that is in danger of getting bogged down by corporate giants. The potential benefits to gain totally exceed the risk factors.

And it will find more spaces on shelves for “boxes” at better fees!

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