The role of recruitment agencies

There are many reasons why companies use recruitment agencies such as, to gain access to jobseekers; to fill long and short-term positions; to reduce time and the in-house resources devoted to attracting, selecting and recruiting; to access specific talent pools; to utilise specialist services such as screening and testing and to access expert knowledge e.g. market trends, current salary levels and benefits packages, advice on current legislation and immigration regulations.

In these times, where few companies have managed to escape some form of cost cutting measure, recruitment of new staff may seem a long way off.  Some organisations however see the recession as an opportunity to source quality candidates in an environment that is offering ‘Talent for the taking’.   In an employers market, as we currently enjoy, is there still a need for recruitment agencies to act as intermediaries? 

Many companies believe that managing the recruitment process in-house will afford them a significant cost saving, but is this approach really cost effective in either the short or longer term?  It is true that with more people currently unemployed there are certainly more candidates available in the local and global marketplace.  Ask any recruiter, in-house or in an agency, what the current response is to even the most minimal advertising and they will tell you of the large numbers of enquiries and resumes that they receive.  Add to that the numerous speculative approaches from job-seekers locally and worldwide and you can picture the email in-box and/or paper mountain that awaits them each day. 

Wading through the mass of applicants is time and resource intensive for any organisation, especially as many candidates may not meet the minimum requirements. Recruitment agencies can remove this burden, eliminating the time and resource costs involved and allowing Human Resource (HR) professionals to concentrate on other vital business. All reputable recruitment agencies will interview and screen potential candidates before presenting them to organisations for consideration.  This dramatically reduces the time spent on the selection process for an organisation.

Organisations can often reduce or eliminate the costs associated with advertising by making use of the local and global advertising that an agency is likely to be engaged in.  In addition, utilising this resource can potentially extend the scope of the search for suitable candidates.  Agencies may also be working with potential candidates, who fit the selection criteria and can be considered for the position.  Effective selection from this pool can avoid any additional need for advertising and sourcing of candidates, thereby reducing costs further.

Where advertising is required, companies can benefit from joint advertising with a well known and well respected agency.  This is particularly beneficial for small to medium sized organisations as well as and new businesses that may not have the brand recognition in the marketplace to attract a wide pool of suitable applicants.

Regardless of the current market situation, many organisations would prefer that their competitors remained unaware of their recruitment needs.  Working with a reputable agency, and avoiding company branded advertising can achieve a higher level of confidentiality, even in a compact business community.

Many agencies now offer ‘added value’ services such as HR consultancy, expert advice on immigration, market trends and benchmarking salaries etc.  Such services are very useful for HR professionals in a buoyant market, but even more so following a period of slow or no recruitment, during which time salary and benefit levels or legislation may have changed. 

Finding the right people for an organisation is always important no matter what the size, type of business they are involved in or the economic environment.  While organisations continue to hold academic qualifications, experience and vocational skills in high demand, employers are becoming more discerning about a wider set of personal attributes that they are looking for such as communication skills, leadership, teamwork, creativity and management skills. 

Research by Demos, published in 2006, found that HR Directors in FTSE 250 companies ranked ‘creativity and innovation’ as the most important skills for graduates in the next decade – above numeracy, literacy and IT skills.  Recruitment agencies can be an ally in attracting and selecting not just the right candidates for the position, but the right fit for the organisation.  In doing so, they will have satisfied the company goals as well as the employees career aspirations, which increases the chances of a long and prosperous working relationship between the two.

In order for a recruitment agency to work effectively with any organisation they need to invest time and effort into establishing strong relationships and developing a solid understanding of the organisation’s workplace, current practice, culture, ethos and future goals.  Our next article will explore the characteristics of successful partnerships and how organisations can get the most out of working with a recruitment agency.