Fishing for Talent
One of the things that drew me into recruiting from IT was something I noticed during my final job search. While perusing the numerous job boards I would see an opening that sounded pretty good and make note of it. Moments later I would find the same job description listed again. I’d pull up the first listing to compare and discover they were virtually identical.
The next thing I typically noticed was that both postings were from large staffing agencies. Not a huge surprise – companies I had worked for often used more than one recruiter to help fill a role.
As my search continued I would very often find another agency or two who had a cut and paste of the same job specification – or one that had been modified just enough to seem unique. There seemed to be a standard – when a company used agencies there were often somewhere between three and five listing the same role on the job boards.
What really caught my eye though was for almost every full time opportunity (non-contract) I could do a little detective work and figure out who the company was. I could do that because they too had the same job listing posted. The same job listing that three to five agencies had posted to the same job boards. Word for word.
I take that back. Sometimes they were not word for word. As I mentioned a few agencies did take the time to change thee wording ever so slightly so that it was not so easy to figure out who their client was. Well done.
Other times, though, the agencies did such a good job cutting and pasting that they included information like compensation, bonus information, the client contact name and email, additional detail provided by the client about the role.
The more I observed this phenomenon the more it stuck with me. Interesting job. Five agencies. Five “cut and pastes” of the client job spec. All posted in the same places. I tried to imagine what the value was to a company in this scenario. Broader exposure? More likely that someone sees the spec? It was hard to find a great upside to the behavior.
A scenario began to appear in my mind – an analogy to this approach that when taken literally was quite lovely but figuratively applied to staffing not so much. Imagine a group of six kids. It is summer. Maybe they are cousins all visiting a family camp on the lake. They are sitting on the dock, fishing poles in hand. Each one has a worm on a hook with a bobber in the water. Lots of minnows come out and poke at everyone’s bait but they are all hoping for that one big sunfish to come out and pull their bobber under.
Before long it happens. A bobber goes under – there are screams of excitement. A sunfish is on the dock. Success! Except one child is reaching into their pocket to grab her wallet. You see she is the one that actually wanted to catch a big fish – and she figured her odds were increased if she had her cousins all come down and fish with her. And she offered one dollar to anyone who caught her that big fish under the dock.
But she could have had THAT fish for free with a little patience.
Sure, you could argue that perhaps there was something about the hook or the fatness of the worm or the way the other kid worked their line that gave them an advantage the “customer” would not have had. To me it seemed like a scenario built for frustration.
I guess if you need someone quickly? OK. More hooks equals more opportunities. But for full time IT opportunities very few companies would rush to a hire. Jobs stay open while the company looks for “the right” hire.
But you want to catch a fish…
So who says that dock is the best place to catch one? Maybe a cousin ran to the neighbor’s dock. Maybe he came up empty – but maybe caught another keeper. At the very least it is a fish they would not have seen from the crowded dock.
What about the older cousin who jumped on a kayak and cruised along the shoreline just up the lake. The smallmouth bass they caught might be more desirable. It is certainly another option that would not have been seen from the crowded dock.
The point is there are other ways to accomplish the goal. And multiple successes via different methods provide options you might not see when everyone does the same thing.
Why THAT fish?
When I applied my fishing scenario I could not understand why a company would want to partner with a group of agencies that did little more than cast a worm and bobber into the same pool of candidates. How frustrating to pay thousands of dollars to have an agency use the exact same equipment you were using to find a candidate.
Why are they doing this then I wondered.
Not a large enough team to cover the pool. OK.
Not enough expertise in using the tools. OK.
But there are other approaches to solving those problems with internal team that are often less expensive – but that is a topic for another post! How does a company best leverage their staffing agency relationship to do it?
If you are partnered with an agency that is in the same pond with you, trolling the same candidates and using basically the same equipment you probably need to find a new partner. When TSP was founded one of the core principles was to enhance and build upon what our clients are doing as part of their recruiting efforts. We are recruiting great IT folks every day – and building upon and maintaining those relationships. When a client calls us to help fill a position our first step is not to make sure we have the job posted on all of the job boards. It is not to have a recruiter start a fresh search. We start with our network. Often we have a candidate in mind for the role before we hang up the phone – and while that person may or may not be ultimately right for the job we are off and running. With people we KNOW.
Because we know them well we are able to tell them about the role and find out about new candidates via referral. When someone in our network is not a fit but works in the same general IT world they often know someone who is well worth talking to. This is how we add quality professionals to our network. It takes more time but results in better connections, better relationships and allows us to provide value to both the candidate and the client by making a connection that would not have happened via job boards and cold recruiting.
If you are applying for jobs with agencies that are using these practices you too should take a look for a new partner. The same principle applies. If you have spoken with a recruiter who was focused on ensuring you had worked with a couple of very specific technologies and had held a very specific title – but was more focused on your compensation you likely already know what I am talking about. If you don’t fit the spec for the role you probably did not hear from them again. Our approach is to be very up front about the role and where you fit versus the hiring manager’s requirements (technical, cultural and financial). If this is not the right role for you that is not the end of the conversation. We still want to know more about your background. More about what type of role would make you consider a move. We keep in touch – and are there if you find yourself looking or interviewing for a job. Much more of a career resource than just a recruiter. Don’t get me wrong – we still want to make placements and buy groceries – but we find much more long term value in helping out our candidates (and clients) any way we can!
Do we use job boards? On certain roles sure. Our approach is driven by what our client is doing on their own and a number of other factors. But at the end of the day we hope to offer a quality experience for clients and candidates by establishing a long term rather than transactional relationship.