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My blog three weeks ago about the future of rec-to-recs,
drew a spirited response from a number of people, both rec-to-rec practitioners
and rec-to-rec customers.


Here are my major conclusions:


1)       Rec-to-recs still have a valuable role to play    
As Davidson Director of Growth, Rob Davidson  , said “I’m a rec-to-rec-fan.
They play an important role
. We have had some good success with Vibeke
Thomson   (Galaxy Recruitment).”
A senior leader of a large IT recruiter concurs
I think that rec to recs are a necessary in our business, much
like we are necessary in our clients business. They know people in the market
and are across trends in the market”.  
Niall Hamill  , Chairman of the Andersen Partnership   said “….we’ve had a great deal of success dealing with Russell
Bebb and Tony Crane – two guys with an excellent understanding of our business
and a really solid passive candidate network.


2)       Rec-to-recs have a tough gig    
Hahn Healthcare Director, Craig Moore   spoke for many when he said: “I
think the fundamental issue with recruiting any experienced recruiter is why
would they leave where they are if they are any good? If they are delivering
good results and therefore making decent income it is often very difficult to
justify leaving the momentum you have built in your existing role to go start
again somewhere else. There is of course reason to leave a successful role if
you have a personality clash or you need to move interstate or the like, but
that can only be a minority of cases. Rec 2 Rec’s must always be struggling to
identify decent candidates. I think being a Rec 2 Rec is one of if not the
hardest type of recruitment jobs out there.”


3)       The business model used varies  
Watson Collard   have moved almost entirely to
a retained model, as has Rosemary Scott  . In contrast Lime Resourcing  
conducts most of its work on a contingent fee model. Steve Heather  
(Mining People International) used a monthly retainer with Scott Recruitment in
Perth across a six month period and “we recruited some terrific
Rosemary continues to operate business broking services for
the recruitment industry. Watson Collard also offers training and consulting


Across the ditch in New Zealand, Jonathan Rice   (Rice Consulting),
having been in business for himself since 2009, said about
his growth “Doing so in agency
rec-to-rec has proved somewhat futile though, so we have achieved it by
broadening our offering to in-house rec-to-rec, HR recruitment, and flexible
on-demand recruitment contractors (virtualRPO). All of these offerings fit well
together and have made it possible for us to grow to six people across
Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with more to come I hope.
We have tried different pricing models, hosting
training classes, developing new-to-recruitment candidates etc, but none of
that has really taken off or resonated with the agencies of NZ who generally
just want an experienced recruiter with local experience and sadly don’t really
care how they get them.”


4)       It’s the individual rec-to-rec recruiter, rather than the company  
 MPI’s Steve Heather   summarised a common
sentiment; “The only time I observed it (rec-to-rec) working….. was
where the recruiters were ex senior recruitment business owner or managers who
truly “got it”. Almost all the junior rec to rec’s who were basically
working for the rec to rec owner, were a total waste of my time.”


Jonathan Rice  again: “I have tried to grow the rec-to-rec side of my own
business beyond just me, but it is incredibly challenging. Rec-to-rec just
seems to be a business well-suited to flexible, agile, responsive solo
operators who can work hard at building a personal brand that recruiters engage
with, rather than passing on those skills and traits to other employees. The
fact of the matter is the candidates of rec-to-recs (other recruiters) often
need closer attention and tighter control than in other sectors, as they can be
very fickle and easily swayed. Perhaps it’s easier for a solo operating
rec-to-rec to maintain that laser focus and “at any cost” constant
attention required to get a placement over the line.


Rosemary Scott   stated: “I
did not stop running a national rec to rec business for any other reason than
the franchise model no longer worked, it was not to do with a downturn in rec
to rec.”


Niall Hamill   commented: “With such limited
candidate supply, limited candidate control and a highly competitive market,
R2R is a terribly difficult space in which to operate and equally very
difficult for the business to achieve scale”.


Bucking the trend was Lime Resourcing. Lime  Director (Qld, Vic
& WA) Andy Hardaker  , confirmed that Lime had, so far, been able to
grow to ten staff across four physical locations (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane
& Dubai) and is optimistic that there is room to grow each of those markets
by one to two consultants across the medium term.


5)       It’s all about the candidates  
 It’s very obvious to say but let’s confirm it anyway –
it doesn’t matter how many jobs you have as a rec-to-rec, it only maters
whether you have quality candidates. Rob Davidson   stressed the need for
a rec-to-rec to have patience as high calibre candidates often take years of
courting before they are ready to make the move.


Rosemary Scott   was adamant: “No
recruitment company, whether rec to rec or other,  can honestly ensure
consistency of candidates in this market, without  charging a retainer and
conducting a search exercise. Quality candidate shortage is the major issue it
seems facing the recruitment industry at present.”


The Director of one prominent Sydney recruitment agency was scathing in
his assessment of what he has experienced from a wide range of rec-to-recs over
the years; “Most R2R’s know very little about their candidate (even
what type of desk they want sometimes!). And if you asked them in any detail
about a candidate’s billings and what activity they needed to achieve it -you’d
be dreaming if you wanted an accurate response, if any response at all. Most
(90%+) R2R’s explain why a Consultant left any previous jobs as “the
culture changed” which is absolute rubbish.”


Vibeke Thomson’s (Galaxy Recruitment)  view was one expressed by many rec-to-rec operators; “Rec2Recs
need to deliver more than just candidates. We are the ears and eyes of the
recruitment industry and with our umbrella view, our value-adds are BOTH
candidate relationships as well as industry advice   to both candidates
and clients.”


6)       Assessment technology use is close to non-existent:  Considering how important an objective assessment of a
candidate’s competencies is it seems extraordinary (to me at least) that
rec-to-recs haven’t embraced assessment technology to provide an independent
view of their candidates that a review of ‘experience’ or ‘billings track
record’ will be unable to provide. I can only assume it’s because clients of
rec-to-recs don’t care for it or it’s another potential barrier to a candidate
being offered a job by their client.  

7)       Optimists are looking brightly at the future of rec-to-rec  
 All of the rec-to-recs that I spoke to were optimistic
about the future of their sector, although none were expecting it to get any
easier. Jonathan Rice summed the mood up best: “The future for us lies more in flexible on-demand recruiters which will
grow as the sharing /flexible /gig economy grows too. Some agencies see this as
a threat, but the more forward-thinking ones use our model for sourcing
specialists or to staff up for specific recruitment projects.  
I personally love agency rec-to-rec, for all its
foibles, but have found I can offer more value and better outcomes by reducing
my client base to a smaller number of firms who I have an intimate knowledge
of, rather than trying to bring on more rec-to-recs to deliver to a wider
client base. The future for us is bright, I believe, but only by making agency
rec-to-rec one facet of the way we source and provide recruitment expertise to


What else do you have to add to this debate?

Please post your comments below.  
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Welly Recruiter

I can vouch for the excellent service offered by Rice in NZ. They offer unparalleled market knowledge and deliver to their clients and candidates alike.

About Ross

Ross is a high performance recruitment coach and recruitment industry blogger and commentator.

Since 2003 Ross has run his own business,  providing a range of services to the recruitment industry in Australia and New Zealand.

" Ross worked for me over many years in an environment that demanded the best and stretched people to the utmost –and he excelled during that time.
Many people, at all levels in our industry, could learn from Ross Clennett. "

Greg Savage, FRCSA (Life)
Recruitment industry speaker, investor, leader, and board advisor

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