How Many Recruiters Should We Engage?

The debate on this topic often goes over as well as bringing up politics or religion with your clients.  Hiring Managers and HR Leaders usually have a take on this subject and like politics, we have found that it is almost as challenging to change a person’s opinion on it once they have made up their mind.

Early in my career, I lost out to recruiters who had never spoken to the placed candidate. I had performed a complete vetting process. Since the short-cut recruiter got the resume in first, they got credit despite having zero insight. They had only a resume. The best recruiters who have a real process and look at the search as a project will cringe at the prospect of losing a deal because of something like this.

What approach is best?

You will hear “the more the merrier!” or “competition creates urgency” and on the other side you might hear “you will crowd the field and dilute the result” or “you are sending mixed messages to the marketplace”. All of these may be accurate. The answer is: it depends on what you are after.

What is your goal in working with a 3rd party recruiting professional?

Are you simply looking for access to a few resumes you might not have on your own? Or are you looking to partner with the best search consultant in your industry in order to turn the marketplace upside down & become an extension of your company? One that will learn how to market the position, the company and talk up your company to anybody and every one and do it accurately and maybe even better than you can. All while bringing you the top 3-5 people in the entire bell curve of the candidate-pool?

If you desire a recruiter that is simply a conduit to a resume, why would you dedicate yourself to one vendor? Notice I did not say partner, but a vendor. There are plenty of these types of vendors that will join the race to get the resume first. This can work and is a low commitment for both sides.

The downside…

It is clearly more of a race than a methodical search to get to the very best and brightest. Quality and depth are sacrificed for speed in this scenario. The point is, it takes an intense level of labor and time to fully go after everyone that could possibly do a certain job, fully vet them and present them, even if the recruiter has a deep database.

Let’s use an example. Let’s say ABC Recruiting Firm works a retained, exclusive search for a Marketing Director in Boston for a client company.

  • ABC runs an impressive, pristine, process including deep research, getting to the top 120 people that are possibly qualified,
  • They narrow it down to the top 65 people to hold conversations with. From there, between screening out and “No Thank You” responses, they narrow it down to 6 but based on the client’s specs and requests, they present the top 4 people.
  • ABC is also confident they covered the entire market. If a good candidate slipped through the cracks, it was an outlier.

This process is labor-intensive. What if that same project was given to ABC Recruiting Company and 2 other firms at the same time?

Could all 3 firms afford to put in that same depth? Or will they all fight over the low-lying fruit then move on?

If you want the best results from a recruiting partner, you need to stop looking at candidates being possessed by (owned by) certain recruiters.

Misconception: All recruiters have different candidates and I will get different people from each so spreading it out will give me better results

We live in an age of technology and we all have access to the same or at least similar information. If the recruiting firm is well connected, they should have access to the entire bell curve. It is just more challenging and time-consuming to not only get to all the people and but to convince them to hold a meaningful conversation with the recruiter and then to be able to sell them on why your opportunity could be a step up in their career. The very best firms would prefer to put in this work but are only willing to do this “top shelf” type of work if they have a low-risk proposition.

There are many companies that believe they are getting the best result from competition/non-exclusivity. They don’t know what they don’t know. They are getting competitive results from just the tip of the iceberg because they don’t understand that there is value in what lies beneath the surface.

Misconception: Having multiple firms working on it, will create urgency so I will get all the best candidates.

It may create urgency, but it creates a speed race for each recruiter to have a decent shot, then they will most likely move on. They can’t afford to clear their desk for it.

It reminds me of a movie from the ’80s with Robert De Niro called Midnight Run. De Niro’s character is one of the best bounty hunters out there, but his client is antsy to get results, so he hires a rival bounty hunter as well. The chaos that ensues is enough to make this dramatic enough for Hollywood. Decent movie by the way!

If you want a thorough search and to find the absolute best, I suggest you hold them accountable to very specific goals and dedicate your time, energy and company to that headhunter (or bounty hunter if that is your thing).

Again, this goes back to what you want from your recruiting partner. You should ask yourself the questions I raised earlier about what goals you are after and what role you want our recruiter to play: Vendor or Partner? If you want a true partner, you should carefully identify the absolute best recruiting professional for that project and let them work their magic without any obstacles or competition. (This only works if you have an elite partner.) You will notice the depth of the results and level of service rise to meet or exceed your expectations.