Sourcing – No Thanks, I’m a Recruitment Consultant!

Posted on February 25, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Many years ago, as the MD of a growing recruitment business I was accompanying a Recruitment Consultant on a client visit to take a brief for a new role. The meeting went as well as could have been expected. A nice, straightforward role to fill with a great company, the client was fully committed to recruiting and HR would not be involved with the process (sorry HR readers but it often went so much smoother without you!). On the journey back to the office I turned to the Consultant and asked “Who do you have for that role then?” He looked at me and with a confused tone answered “What do you mean, I haven’t sourced it yet”!

This was a defining moment for me – what on earth had this ‘interweb’ thing done to our proud profession? Recruiters had become word search detectives and Boolean string  macramé manipulators, if a client wants someone with experience of SAP R3 then we absolutely have to find a CV with SAP R3 written on it as many times as possible!!! Is this good recruitment? Not in my book, either by the client or the recruiter – words on CV’s do not make successful placements.

Gone were the days when recruiters spent their time getting to know their candidate and client community – meeting them at networking events, Interviewing them (in person) and chatting on the phone at 9 o’clock at night, taking the time to build a trusting relationship. I was so committed to this method I even ended up marrying a candidate!!!

Now don’t get me wrong ‘Sourcing’ has its place – some roles in certain fields can be very niche and it is extremely hard to find candidates. I was reminded of this recently when I met several highly skilled Sourcers at TruLondon2 (the social recruiting unconference). People like Katharine Robinson (@theSourceress on Twitter) who recently won a competition proving that she was one of the best at her profession in the world. I have total admiration for these people – they seem to be able to find almost anyone and thrive on difficult, complex puzzles. They are studious, analytical, detail conscious and most definitely NOT Recruitment Consultants!

In most markets 90% of jobs will be filled by individuals who don’t need to be sourced. They won’t have the right words on their CV but they will demonstrate the kind of character that makes the client feel excited when they interview them.  A Recruitment Consultants job is all about getting this right and the only way they can do that is by making sure they get to know their candidates and their clients really well – it takes effort, no shortcuts – just lots of activity and plenty of people judgement skill.

One lasting observation from TruLondon was that there seemed to be an awful lot of people sourcing and not very many who focus on building relationships. Social media and particularly LinkedIn give recruiters an ideal opportunity to widen their network and build relationships – yet most still see it as a sourcing tool!

Its time for Recruiters to get back to basics. Social media is a means to an end ………and that ‘end game’ is about relationships.


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12 Responses to “Sourcing – No Thanks, I’m a Recruitment Consultant!”

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I agree totally Mark – it was such a wonderful feeling when taking a job from a client and getting that flutter inside knowing there were at least 2 people in your filing cabinet (!!) that would be right – you knew your candidates so well that you could tell a client immediately about them (including the negative – humanising someone is good as no one is perfect), organise some interview times and tell them you will report back later to confirm. No CV’s were needed to get those candidates in front of the client and because of the relationship with your candidate you knew their availability – ok – so this didnt happen all the time but this was what I call “Carlsberg moments” and my clients, over time, from building that relationship would then give me jobs AND interview slots at the same time and not go elsewhere because they knew a good job would be done.
Those were the days! (I sound as old as the hills)

Thanks Lisa,
I agree and lets not fall into the trap of feeling that this is somehow ‘old fashioned’ or ‘out of date’. Good recruitment is still about knowing and building relationships within your community – clients & candidates. The internet can be used as an effective networking and relationship building tool, the problem is that it can also offer recruiters the opportunity to cut corners and this is what has happened.

I fully agree with you. But I believe a good recruitment pipeline should consists of people you already know and candidates you have sourced (or who applied to your advert). A good mix of passive and active job seekers. Also me must not forget that sourcing can, or should I say should, be the first in building a relationship.

Hi Jacco,
Thanks for that perspective and you are right – Any candidate sourced gives the recruiter the opportunity to develop a further relationship and so build their network.
As a recruiter my network was always a mix of passive and active job seekers, the names that popped into my head when I was discussing a role with a client were more than often not individuals who were not activiely seeking a new role. The benefit of the strong relationship is that I could call the individual about the role and say “hey I know you are not looking at the moment but I couldnt let this opportunity pass without letting you know about it” and they would either respond positively or refer me to someone else. I personally think this route is much more successful then searching the internet for individuals who have written the right words on their CV’s!

Mark – great blog, and in everything you say, you are absolutely right.
However here’s the problem in 2010: the market is online now. Our candidates aren’t on the high streets, because we aren’t on the high streets anymore, and therefore the jobs are not on the high streets, and so they have to look elsewhere for the jobs – which of course is the internet. So the only way they can look for jobs is to register their skills, needs and their `key words` and search for jobs – based on those key words. And in turn, we recruiters have to go where the candidates are – and they are online, and how do we find them? Key words.
I started in recruitment 16 years ago – and loved the kind of recruitment you refer to, face2face interviews, a candidate box of 20 great specific candidates you knew and loved, clients who had time for you to go in and discuss candidates, and you got and earned your 20% without question.
Volume has taken over though. More recruiters, more clients, more candidates (due to increased passive candidates). This competition in turn has brought lower fee demands from clients, which in turn has encouraged simplified online processes and short-cuts – and client cares not one jot. Nor the candidate. Nor the recruiter. That said, it shouldn’t stop great relationships with the great candidates you ultimately find, and with your clients
It’s sad, really sad. We were at #trulondon encouraging the social media world and its benefits to recruitment – but in truth the online world and the need to meet demands for smaller fees, has de-personalised recruitment – and that will only increase unless methods of using the internet are utilised to enhance relationships. Just the relationships will be different.

Great comment Steve, the last paragraph sums up what LinkedIn is to me. Job boards, boolean searches etc etc have de-personalised recruitment but I believe LinkedIn is starting to reverse that trend. We had never met before TruLondon but as soon as I saw you were there I knew I wanted to speak with you because I had become aware of you (and your views) through LinkedIn group discussions – this is how SM works and why I believe relationships and the internet are not mutually exclusive.

Excellent discussion. I think Mark’s later comment make a great deal of sense – Linkedin is opening up all kinds of possibilities hitherto difficult or impossible. But ultimately don’t “People buy People” still? Meeting and knowing somebody well still has merits, especially in Interim Management where I practice.

[…] was reading a great post by Mark Williams (aka Mr. LinkedIn) about the impact of the rise of the internet on recruiting.  […]


Firstly, I’ve been following your very interesting blog for some time, but this is the first time I have been moved to comment.

This is a subject that intrigues me, for as a long-term consultant, I have seen things from both sides of the fence and I never cease to be amazed at the attitudes of recruitment consultants.

Although I am an independent, senior consultant, I have increasingly been required to recruit staff on behalf of clients. From this perspective when I have used recruitment consultants, there seems to be little pre-qualification of CVs prior to submission for review. Despite always providing a detailed job and person specification, the large majority of the CVs rarely contain little of what is demanded. Most memorably, I had one contractor turn up and open with the winning line “I don’t know why I’m here really, I told the agent that I didn’t have the skills you needed but the agent it would be OK”.


From a candidate perspective, I repeatedly get the feeling that agents don’t read beyond the first three CVs that they receive for a role, if at all. Six weeks ago I sent my CV in for a role that so specifically matched my skills and experience I felt I could not fail to secure further discussion with the agent, if not an interview. Agent failed to respond to phone messages, yet two days passed before I get an email via LinkedIn from the agent regarding the role asking me to call him as a matter of urgency. Naturally I return his call – he describes the role I have applied for (perfect match), and asks for my CV. Somewhat confused, I suggest that he might be calling me because he’s already read it as it was attached to my email regarding the role. His response?
“Oh no, I didn’t read any of the applications – we had about a hundred. I found your details by searching for keywords on LinkedIn”.

The above illustration may seem comical, but it is sadly true. Over the last year to eighteen months when called to recruit on behalf of a client, I turn to LinkedIn, and then advertise directly on Jobserve. It’s obviously cheaper, and whilst I have a lot of chaff to wade through to find the pearls of barley I’m seeking, I have chaff to weed out from agency submissions also.

I guess, Mark, that I’m wholeheartedly agreeing with you that agents no longer seem to wish to build relationships with either client or candidate, and if this attitude prevails then I can see the market changing radically over the next decade towards direct recruitment.

I am sure that all recruitment consultants do not behave as such, but it only takes a few bad experiences for employers to begin to look to alternatives.

So, I’d like to close on a positive note by saying that not all recruitment consultants are of this ilk: Simon Dunscombe of Summit, and Tony Monk/Dianna Slade of Evolution are both excellent examples of agents that strive to build relationships on both sides. Sadly Summit have yet to fill a role I’ve had or placed me, however they came recommended to me by another independent consultant and since then Simon has regularly been in touch from both client and candidate dimensions. Evolution placed me once and have kept in touch since then, to see if they can assist me on either front. Neither apply pressure, but are keen to help and invest the time in getting hold of me for a chat (which earns Kudos in itself, I am notoriously difficult to get hold of at times). As a result, I will elect to use Summit and/or Evolution where possible and suitable.

So, recruitment consultants take note: if the worm turns, your days are numbered. Begin building relationships with clients and candidates alike, before it’s too late!

Thank you so much for taking the time to give us your views. I am really sorry that you have had these bad experiences – its an all too familiar story I’m afraid. It is however uplifting to see your comments about Simon, Tony and Dianna. There is no reason why these individuals should be in the minority. Poor recruitment practice couple with weak selection (of their own consultants) and a lack of training & development have led to many of these problems but it is also true that the end user clients have also had a part to play in this. Clients who drive down recruitment fees and remove decision making responsibility from Recruiters treating them merely as a source of CV’s have a lot to answer for.
The one good thing to come out of a recession is that it is the Simon, Tony and Dianna’s of this world tend to manage OK whereas the lesser recruiters lose interest and drift off into another job (good riddance!) so I think we can be optimistic that things will improve.

Excellent commentary. Now let’s hope that those folks who are the road blocks read this!

Nice post and I totally agree.
Coming from an inhouse recruitment background, I have tried to transition into the recruitment agency side of things but to no good affect.

But having said that, I have now introduced 4 people in my professional network over the last month to a few companies in my network who have been successfully given jobs either contract based or permanent based.

Point is, that I didn’t have to search for CV’s on a database or a social media site, I just did the good deed of recommending a person that I knew both professionally and personally to a few companies who then took the matter forward.

I didn’t even charge anything as recruitment companies would, but it has now presented me with an opportunity to start my own business and most of what I am going to do will be based on buiding really strong relationships whether its with current customers/clients or new jobseekers and clients. Relationships are the key.

So your post is a motivation and makes me believe that what I am about to do will be successful.

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