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Do recruitment agencies add value to the hiring process

In tough economic times, when businesses are looking to reduce expenses, recruitment costs are a common target but it becomes even more critical to use the services of an external recruitment agency when hiring senior staff. Here’s why:
In spite of a slowing economy there are still many senior positions that remain unfilled because of an acute skills shortage in South Africa. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that professionals are more mobile than in the past. Very few engineers, for example, will remain with the same firm for more than five years. Research shows that the majority of professionals will have worked for three to five different companies in the first 10 years of their career. Identifying, hiring and retaining the right person for as long as possible has never been more important.

So what do firms do to try and reduce costs?

Online job portals and adverts are a great platform when searching for candidates and many firms use these extensively. And, yes, they do provide value in certain circumstances. In addition to those who are really looking for work, these platforms become a way for an employed person to test the waters and see what’s available. I would however argue that the importance of this tool diminishes as the level of seniority of the vacancy increases.

The setting up of an internal recruitment team is another popular option for some corporates. In addition to recruitment they are normally tasked with various other HR-related functions. However, it is extremely rare for an in-house team to have the requisite skills to hire the full spectrum of employees – from blue collar through to executive level.

The limitations of using job portals or an in-house function becomes more evident when searching for specific qualities in a candidate: just because there are candidates responding to an advert, it doesn’t mean they are the right candidates. In some instances the right candidate wasn’t even looking to change, and it was the industry knowledge and network of the recruitment specialist that made the difference.

In almost all instances using the services of an agency is on a contingency basis; no placement, no payment. This puts the agency at risk rather than the client. What corporates should be doing – to save costs and end up with a better overall service – is identifying those agencies that specialise in the sectors where they operate. These agencies will have an intimate understanding of the business, operate a network which they constantly monitor, and, more importantly, will have knowledge of the potential candidates. This short circuits the process of finding the right person for the vacancy.

Corporates with vacancies or excessive turnover at senior level should be examining their recruitment strategy: perhaps a useful starting point is to have a conversation with a professional firm. After all, the only time you pay is if we deliver a completed assignment.

Alan Russell is the Managing Director at ThornTree Group.


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