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Say NO to Monkey BusinessYes, I’m still on about


Last week’s article ‘Sending resumes to match emailed job
specs is a job for a monkey’
drew a very spirited response from
readers with a string of public comments on LinkedIn in addition to a
steady stream of emails from owners. The common theme was that agency owners
and managers intensely dislike the way many of their clients engage with them.
Procurement, HR and internal recruitment are obvious culprits in this
undesirable state of affairs.


I have clearly scratched an open wound and the sounds
of pain have been loud.


So what choices exist for recruitment agency owners
and managers?


And I do mean choices; everybody has a choice about
the type of business that they pursue and the specific organisation that they
engage with.


The major problem, as I see it, is that too many
owners and managers have not consciously and deliberately made a considered and
decisive choice in this matter.


One of the important planks of any company’s strategy
is deciding what their ‘offer’ is and who is the best customer to target with
this offer.


In the early days of my recruitment career, there
needed to be little thought put into strategy as recruitment agencies didn’t
really have any serious competition due to medium to large companies rarely
having any sort of dedicated internal recruitment role or function. The life
cycle of each vacancy was much shorter (dealing directly with the hiring
manager meant that both interviews and hiring decisions occurred over a much
shorter time period) and there were many jobs to fill, with less competition,
and as a result, there was no significant cost in working on a vacancy that you
did not fill.


Back in those good old days, the strategy of almost
every recruitment agency was simple:


Make calls, find jobs, fill jobs. Repeat.


The biggest strategic decision most agencies made was
whether to have specialised consultants for temp and perm or whether to go into
a new market (eg open in a new location or expand into, say, business support,
if you were an accounting specialist).


Fast forward a few years or ten and we find ourselves
in a world with well-equipped internal recruitment functions, suppliers (eg
Seek, LinkedIn etc) pitching directly to end-users, a far greater level of
competition for the vacancies referred to agencies and a much longer vacancy
life cycle.


These changes to the competitive landscape have,
mostly, seen very little change in the way agency owners and managers approach
strategy (ie they don’t have a clearly defined and well articulated strategy
that they consistently execute).


Recruitment agencies say they are in the recruitment
consulting business but the reality is quite different. If you look at the
quality of vacancies many agencies are working on and how the client is
engaging with them, they are actually in the monkey business; the business of
emailing resumes to match job specs and waiting (and hoping) for a placement to


This approach is both demoralising and unsustainable
in the long term if you have an overhead cost base and remuneration &
commission structure that is appropriate to a ‘recruitment consulting’
engagement model.


Here’s my explanation of the differences:


– they typically farm out vacancies to multiple agencies
resumes in response to emailed job specs
job-filled ratio


or consistent fee discounting


wait for feedback on resumes and interviews
– they might use one other recruiter per vacancy or recruit in parallel
with the recruiter for a job briefing
job-filled ratio


fee discounts


predictable client recruitment process
Full –
the client divests complete accountability to the recruiter

the recruiter’s advice re key selection criteria, salary & benefits,
interviews, recruitment process etc
job-filled ratio


fees agreed


agreed client recruitment process that stays on track


flow of repeat clients and referrals


You can   make good (and consistent)
profits in each of these three markets but   (and it’s a big but) you have
to understand the reality (ie how the client wants to engage with you) of the
market you are choosing to be in and ensure that both your overhead cost
structure and consultant remuneration and commission structure reflect this


Where agencies come undone is that they think (and act
like) they are in the Recruitment Consulting business but a quick review of
their day-to-day operations exposes the reality that they are, in fact, in the
Monkey Business (I suggest you read my blog Another one bites the dust: The rise and fall of HJB  for a recent


The moral is … if you don’t like the business you
are in, then either:


Persuade your
client(s) to change the way they engage in doing business with you

Sack the client/s
and then find new clients who will engage with you in the way you want to do

Change your
overhead costs and remuneration & commission structure


No-one needs to be in the monkey business. Just choose
to say NO and get on with it.

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