It may seem easier to put out an alert on social media if you’re searching for new staff, but professional recruitment consultants can do more than just write a job ad.
In the digital age, anyone can pull together a list of would-be recruits, but managing the selection process takes experience
Specialist recruitment agencies save firms time and money on screening, testing and whittling down shortlists of candidates
While technology such as AI can do some of the work, the human touch is still important in assessing softer skills and ensuring a candidate is the right fit
Technology has transformed the hiring process, with artificial intelligence enabling organisations on the talent trail to spend less time searching for candidates. But what does this mean for the recruitment industry? Are organisations using this technology to handle their recruitment needs in-house, or can recruitment agencies still add significant value to the talent acquisition process?
Ann Swain, chief executive of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), says that while many recruitment agencies still pride themselves on their ability to identify and access potential employees who would be out of reach of a novice hunting on LinkedIn, the value these firms add today goes far beyond simply sourcing talent.
“In the digital age, anyone can pull together a list of would-be recruits, but managing the selection process and identifying the right person for your business takes experience,” she says. “Recruiters can also present an opportunity that resonates with the needs and aspirations of an individual candidate in a way that a traditional job ad or unsolicited LinkedIn message simply can’t.”
While big brands such as Facebook or Google have jobseekers queuing up to work for them, the reality is that most businesses have to work a bit harder at recruitment. And they could benefit from partnering with a recruiter who takes the time to get under the skin of the organisation and can present the benefits of joining its team authentically and persuasively.
There are many other factors to consider. For example, the salary and benefits offered to a sought-after candidate can be a deal-breaker, and as such, the sharp insight and up-to-date knowledge of the market that recruitment agencies have is key. However, not all candidates are driven by the size of a pay packet.
Swain says: “Jobseekers may, for example, be seeking flexibility or a particular type of corporate culture. For this reason, it’s vital that recruiters have an in-depth understanding of not only the wider market but also the client organisation and candidates they are working with. Through quizzing both parties on what they are seeking, and asking why, they can make the perfect match.”
The compliance factor
The legislation surrounding recruitment and employment is increasingly complex. Firms that don’t have their own HR teams may benefit from the additional support a recruitment firm can provide, whether recruiting for temporary or permanent roles.
“Too many businesses continue to fish in the same pond for talent. However, by using a recruitment company, you turn the pond into an ocean”
Ann Swain, chief executive, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies
“Particularly within temporary recruitment, agency workers are now provided with much more protection than previously,” says Amanda Watson, director of recruitment company Ambitions Personnel. “The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 are just one example of this, where a temporary worker is entitled to equal treatment as a permanent member of staff. In 2020, we’re also due to see further implementation of new legislation following the Taylor review [of modern working practices] and also the upcoming changes to IR35 [anti-avoidance tax legislation].”
Engaging a professional recruitment consultancy can help mitigate against risk not only through the effective management of compliance but also in terms of transparency and diversity.
“At a time when inequality across the UK workforce persists, sourcing talent through a recruitment company demonstrates that you are casting your net far and wide to really find the right person for the job,” says Swain. “Too many businesses continue to fish in the same pond for talent. However, by using a recruitment company, you turn the pond into an ocean.”
Value for money
Using an agency for permanent recruitment can offer value for money, as many agencies work on a success-only basis and will offer a discount to a business prepared to work with them exclusively. This means organisations save on the cost of advertising and time spent sifting through many unsuitable applications, and instead receive a hand-picked selection of candidates who have been fully interviewed, screened and, where applicable, skills-tested.
Watson says: “The best recruitment consultants know their markets and will have a wide network of contacts to utilise, along with headhunting techniques to approach passive candidates who may not be otherwise active in the marketplace. They will want to spend time within your business to really understand what the role entails and the wider environment so they can accurately match only the most suitable candidates.”
Employers can often be left thinking they need to make a permanent hire, a decision that could have a negative impact further down the line. A recruiter will be able to assess the situation and perhaps suggest that a better course of action might be a temporary or contract hire, or getting a short-term project team to complete a skills transfer.
The market can also be cyclical, especially in contracting, so firms can reap the rewards of long-standing, established relationships built up between consultant and candidate.
The human touch
While recruiters can save businesses time and money when hiring talent, there is a hidden value to specialist consultancies that shouldn’t be underestimated, especially when it comes to sourcing particular skills, says Dean Harte, MD of RedRock Consulting, which specialises in hiring tech talent.
He says: “We’re experiencing a candidate-driven market. A specialist technology consultancy can give an employer access to an unrivalled knowledge of the talent market in their given sector, as well as being best placed to advise an organisation on the type of hire they need.”
And in spite of the smart technologies, tools and platforms that are shaking up traditional hiring methods, there will always be a crucial role in the recruitment process for people. Recruiters can use these platforms to carry out initial assessments and whittle down a large pool of talent to the select, shortlisted candidates, but there are more intricate parts of the process where human interaction is vital – for example, when judging how the prospective hire will fit into a team and the assessment of softer skills.
Harte explains: “This is a challenge for artificial intelligence because AI doesn’t have datasets big enough to accurately determine what an organisation is looking for. There are reports of large firms trying to implement this and a dataset of more than 100,000 records not being sufficient. Judgement on this level currently needs human input, but this can be carried out by external consultancies to save an organisation the extensive time and effort required at this stage of the process.”