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It's time to standardise terms between clients and agencies

Posted on 17/09/2020
by Nick Boulton

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I was asked a really interesting question by a colleague after he read an article on LinkedIn:

“If you could change something about recruitment, what would it be?”

With any major economic upheaval, recruitment tends to reinvent itself. What would I like to see change for the better?

How we improve our industry and business is something I’m constantly battling with. The amount of cowboys and boiler-room agencies that litter the market means that you are always fighting an uphill battle.

Poor recruitment practices, shoddy customer service and terrible experiences for candidates and clients are deep-rooted issues and will take decades to eradicate. There will always be a battle between money-hungry leeches who don’t give two hoots about recruitment and those who actually choose to build a career in it.

It’s something I care a lot about, which is why there are two big things the industry could do to lift standards.

  • Raise the bar to entry

This is tough to do when you’re scaling up as a business. Most agencies just want bums-on-seats-and-mouths-on-phones when hiring. But if you made a few fundamental changes, it wouldn’t take long to improve the talent pool and standard of recruiters. My ideas would be:

Make recruitment a career of choice rather than a backup plan: This only comes with educating people about what is involved with recruitment. Possibly a university module focused on recruitment or widespread adoption of some of the qualifications offered by the likes of APSCo or the REC.

Test at interview stage: All our clients do it, why don’t you do it for your own staff? We make every employee undertake a general psychometric test and a McQuaig test before they even start the interview process. It means we have an immediate barrier to entry. I think if you can raise the general standard of intelligence and awareness in your business, it’s a great start and makes you far more accountable for who you employ.

Hold onto your britches, this one is going to be controversial…

  • Have an industry-wide standardised set of terms between client and agency

OK, calm down. I know a few of you would have almost choked on your coffee reading that, but unless you have the ability to hold both parties accountable, we will never eradicate the recruitment agencies that blight our industry or clients who don’t see our time being as valuable as theirs.

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of recruiters who categorically do not deserve the fees they are charging. They are performing tick box recruitment, adding absolutely no value to their clients and calling it “recruitment”.

I know it’s radical, but if you standardised this, both parties agreeing to SLAs, financial penalty clauses, agreed communication channels and times frames, you would see a massive improvement in the relationship clients and agencies would have. Time to hire would improve dramatically, quality of hire would increase and in turn the quality and standard of recruiter and recruitment agency would improve.

Big changes, but I think it’s time for change!


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