Developing a true supplier relationship with your agency


Many people see working with recruitment agencies as a painful process rather than a regarding them as a valued supplier- there, I said it (albeit with tears in my eyes).  But why is that?

Well, I’m sorry to say but its YOUR fault!

Well, not quite, but you do have a part to play in it.

Its important to remember that the recruitment agency industry is still relatively young in the grander scheme of things.  For many years, as it grew at an astounding rate, customer service and a focus on quality played second fiddle to making the placement and earning the commission!  People saw it as a chance to print money.  And some people still act like that, but in the main, the industry has become much more sophisticated over recent times as the market has become more competitive and agencies look to develop their USPs.

I feel we are in a transitional stage where added value is king and agencies are trying to build long lasting, valuable, partnering relationships, rather than the flyby-night approach of yesteryear.  The problem that exists at the moment is that there are the laggards that haven’t evolved and so perpetuate the old stereotype of the agency recruiter.  This has meant it has been difficult for the customers perceptions to have evolved with those of us that have developed a more sophisticated approach.

If we ask ourselves why people use agencies, there are a few reasons:

1. To save time

2. To save money (no, really!!)

3. To access talent that you won’t be able to.

And more often than not, its a combination of all 3- so lets now look at what people often do.

In social Housing, its common place for managers to go to a selection of agencies, give them the JD and send them off on their way.  They will often use agencies that they don’t like, or don’t rate, just because they have called every day for the last month.  As they resent the people they are dealing with, the levels of engagement are relatively low, information on requirements is sometimes generic rather than specific and thought through and any advice provided is often ignored- they just want the CVs and they’ll make a decision based on that!


You get constant calls from the competing agents to push their candidates forward, they try and force you into situations where you feel uncomfortable?  Its like engaging a team of PPI pushers isn’t it?  And then at the end of it all, you end up with a mixed bag of quality, sometimes the same name crops up, and then the fighting over representation begins.  Sound familiar?

But it doesn’t have to be like that.  Working with recruitment agencies is part of your supply chain.  Think about any of your other supplier relationships.  Lets take stationery as an example.  If you are needing to procure some pens, do you:

a) Go to a selection of stationery providers, and tell them to bring you their best pens and their best price and then you’ll make a decision? or

b) Research the market, look at feedback, get them to tender for your business, make a selection of the one that offers the best quality at the best price and then develop a relationship with them, so they understand your requirements, value your custom and work with you to improve their service over time?

I imagine its the latter- if not, you may want to review your procurement procedures.  And it doesn’t have to be different with recruitment.  In fact, I think its even more important to develop those relationships as your people are probably more important than your pens (I’m sorry bic, but its true).  And an understanding of your requirements, your business, your company culture, the department profile etc is probably more important when bringing in a new team member than when you are getting some more Biros.

And there are some other benefits to developing a better supplier relationship with an agency:

1. You’ll get better candidates

2. You’ll get better value

3. You’ll get a quicker, more efficient, and more pleasant process.

Which meets all the reasons you will have engaged an agency in the first place!  So, if the above rings true for you, have a think about how you can influence the process before you go and create another bun fight of a recruitment campaign!