Now's not the time for tech companies to haggle over recruitment feesPosted about 3 years ago by Nick Boulton

The 'F' word continues to rear its head in the world of tech recruitment—fees. Client Server Director Nick Boulton asks whether haggling over a 2-3% discount is worth the effort for tech companies.

Fees have always been a controversial conversation—recruiters dread it, and clients look forward to saying what they “Won’t pay more than”.

When hiring, much like anything else, you get what you pay for. Simple.

Having wrestled our way through Lockdowns 1 and 2, BREXIT, hiring freezes, budget cuts, zero candidates, remote working, employee stress, trying to run a business, Client Server has weathered the storm well, all things considered.

Then, as the second half of the year dawned and things started to pick up, what did I find myself doing? Talking to clients about how expensive hiring was. Recruitment leaders will be familiar with these lines:

  • "Recruitment costs are too high."
  • "Fees need reducing."
  • "Oh, but could you possibly find me 11 x Data Scientists with PhDs from Red Brick universities, all with 3-5 years experience in cleantech start-ups, who are happy to accept a pint of milk, 3 carrots and a small goat instead of salary?"

Well, guess what? In this market, where every single company is hiring heavily, the competition is crazy. You need to incentivise, not penny-pinch.

The last thing tech companies should worry about is how much their recruitment partners are charging. The conversations need to be about how to secure the best talent, not how to find the cheapest. Contingent recruitment with the right partner is a no-risk strategy: you don’t pay anything unless you find the perfect candidate you think is worth the price tag they come with. What’s not to like about that? You could not get more try before you buy if you tried.

There is absolutely no benefit going back and forth to save yourself 2 or 3 per cent on fees. In the grand scheme of things, it's nothing. If you spent on average £100K every quarter on fees, you’d be saving £2-£3k. That’s it.

Imagine how much more productive, efficient, profitable you’d be with the right hire? They would certainly “make you” more than £2-3K a quarter, otherwise, why did you employ them in the first place?

You don’t want an unmotivated, disengaged recruiter working your roles, you’ll never get them filled. And surprise, surprise, when you do find someone you want to hire, they have another offer (probably from a client paying the going rate for fees).

You want them to sell your business with enthusiasm, hunger and determination to find you the best people.

So while you’re trying to “squeeze the life” out of your recruitment partner, you might just want to consider one thing: What will cost your business more?

a) Recruitment fees?


b) A lack of quality technical staff to complete projects and meet deadlines?

Now is not the time to haggle if you want the best people. Recruitment is cyclical, it’s driven by technology trends, economic turbulence, start-ups, unicorns, mergers and acquisitions. It ebbs and flows like the tide, but when it’s hot, it’s hot, and good recruitment consultants are nobodies' fool. If you want the best people, you need to be prepared to pay for the best service.