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The most recent HHMC Global Intentions Survey, released earlier this week, provided its usual feast of data to help owners and leaders compare the performance of their company with the broader industry.

The financial data supported the commonly held view that the most recent half-year (July – December 2021) was a very positive one for almost all recruitment agencies with four out of five agencies reporting revenue growth.

I was stopped in my tracks by the graph on page 25. The survey’s respondents were asked to nominate their agency’s top 5 barriers to profit growth.

Easily the most nominated barrier was “access to candidates.”

Fascinatingly, at least to me, it was the Larger (> 50 staff) and Medium-sized (11-50 staff) companies and Medium (6 – 10 years) and Longer-duration (10 + years) companies that more frequently nominated Access to Candidates as a barrier to profit growth, compared to both the Small (< 11 staff) and Newer (5 years and under) categories of recruitment agencies.

This result defies logical thinking.

Surely the longer an agency has been around and the larger it is, the more candidate files its database contains, compared to recruitment agencies that are both smaller and more-recently established?

In addition, the larger and older an agency is, the more likely its general brand and market reputation would help provide greater access to candidates.

Yet, this is clearly not the case.

How does this counter-intuitive state of affairs come to be?

A clue is provided on page 36 of the report where respondents were asked “Are all your client and candidate interactions driven from and recorded within the system?” Only 56% of answers came back “yes” (and I suspect there’s some wishful thinking at play here).

System protocols, training, and auditing are critical competitive advantages for any recruitment agency yet a large minority of agency leaders seem content to let their competitors have a free ride.

When I was leading teams of recruiters one of our key activities was calling candidates to stay in contact with them, regardless of whether we had a job to talk to them about or not.

The benefits of this tactic are many, the most significant being; gaining an update on their job-seeking status; uncovering leads; and building a stronger reciprocal relationship with them.

When we undertook this activity, most commonly as a team, one of the key search fields we used was “Last contact date”. Knowing we were highly reliable for recording each candidate interaction meant we could narrow our search field to run a list of, for example, all candidates with the last contact date of (say between six and 12 months previously) and make calls knowing these candidates were not part of our current active pool yet recently enough in contact to (hopefully) remember us and respond to any message (if they didn’t answer).

The chances of reactivating the candidate was a much higher pay-off activity compared to a culture where there is no record of candidate contact other than registration date and any date the candidate was short-listed or referred to a job (assuming these activities were recorded within the job file).

For an owner or leader keen to change their agency’s culture when it comes to updating candidate files on the database there’s an obvious, to me, starting point – stop calling such activity ‘admin’.

I recommend renaming it to something more akin to its actual value or status, e.g. candidate pipelining.

Follow this cultural change with clear database protocols, training, and compliance/audit reports.

If you really want to send a serious message about cultural change then database compliance could be a KPI or qualifier for bonuses or commissions.

In a market in which the speed with which you can represent quality candidates to responsive hiring managers will continue to be a key differentiator for the short-to-medium term I would suggest that improving your agency’s culture of recording candidate interactions is a relatively costless yet high pay-off step to take.

Acknowledgment: thanks to HHMC’s Rod Hore for permission to re-publish the content sourced from the HHMC Global Intentions Survey (version 9, January 2022). 

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Rod Hore

Great analysis and commentary Ross – doing the basics well continues to be a key to profit and value growth.

sharon vandermeer

Ahh so true Ross and a great reminder! This year we have focused on that more and its helped us tremendously.

David Stewart

Nailed it again Ross, this has been a running sore in the industry for so long and creates a terrible UX, damaging all of our reputations.

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