Recruitment Agencies – “Into the Lion’s den”

I continually tell my clients to tread carefully when looking at the advertised job market during their marketing activity because it only comprises 15% of all jobs and everyone is there so competition is as fierce as ever!  “Why not be different and stand out from the crowd – your chances of success are significantly better in the hidden job market,“ I say.

I also coach them in how to handle recruitment agencies, what to do to manage the relationship with them and to benefit from recruiter’s job market knowledge.  I have always been sceptical about recruiters, probably from my days as an HR Manager and Recruitment Manager and from approaching them as a candidate.  My view has not changed in the last year but actually got stronger recently. I believe that for a candidate approaching a recruitment agency either following redundancy or seeking a career move or change of direction it really is a question of “into the lion’s den!”

Why is this?  Only last year I had a conversation with a colleague who knows the recruitment market well. She has worked in it, knows how they operate and runs training courses for recruitment agencies. I said that I thought that up to 90% of recruiters add no value to their clients and was expecting to have my knuckles wrapped!  She responded: “No, it’s nearer 95%”.  This I have to say did not surprise me at all.  There are some good recruiters out there – and I have found quite a few, especially in the HR sector – but you have to know how to reach them!

What are the reasons behind this?  We know that the job market has become more and more contingency based with many recruiters throwing CV’s at organisations who increasingly call the shots.  They do not have the time or resource to meet candidates. Why should they? To them candidates are purely commodities and a means to earning a fee. But do the candidates realise this, and if they do what action are they taking?  Why just stumble along with the masses and become frustrated with getting nowhere?

From the clients standpoint it has changed as well.  Many organisations will see the first three shortlisted candidate CV’s they receive who “meet the spec” and will not wait for someone of real quality to arrive – sometimes despite the recruitment agency advising them, with authority, otherwise.  They are naturally conservative and think “better the devil – I’ll stick with someone who has my sector experience and exactly meets the spec – I’ll not take a risk or hire on the basis of potential.”

Here are some facts. There are over 18 million CV’s on databases in the UK. Databases are now big business. CV’s consequently are now not worth much. Agencies see up to 150 CV’s a day – probably double this in some sectors. In the advertised market there can be up to 740 people applying for one job. The bulk of the market is in the “up to £30K” salary bracket. Only 15% of jobs lie in the “£45K and above” range. Many recruitment agencies will not see you unless you are applying for a job. Many jobs are not really live at all.  Have you changed you perception yet? But you, the candidate, need to know how placeable you are, how your skills and experience stack up in the job market in your sector and how you stand out against the competition. How do you find this information out as of course you need to?

So our message to you the candidate is this. If you need to approach a recruitment consultancy or agency – and you may have to dip your toe into the advertised market with everyone – be very careful that you find one who will talk to you, listen to you and …. yes, even perhaps work for you. The latter are dying species. Research the market fully (there are ways that work) and get to know the agencies and quality consultancies whose names you may well find on Linkedin. They will be looking for you especially if you have set up your profile Linkedin properly. Then build the relationship and foster it.  Take notes of conversations. Don’t be under any illusions that they will return you call or email or give you feedback on an application. The ball is in your court and it is up to you how you play it.  You can succeed but it takes time and effort. Our mantra is “Quality not quantity”.

Should this ring a chord and you would like more details why not contact us or forward this blog to a friend or colleague.  Tell them what you have read and ask them to contact us for more information.

In the meantime our advice is – network, network and turn to the hidden job market!

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