May 12, 2021

Contingent Search is Stupid


Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Highlights

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Aside from contingent recruiting, name a professional services sector that works for free. Maybe getting paid later.

I’ll wait.

The boom or bust of contingent search is clearly an inefficient way to run a business. But it’s also bad for hiring companies. Being the lowest priority for a dozen vendors is never a recipe for success.

It’s time for a re-think. Jeff Smith and James Hornick do just that in the next 10 Minute Talent Rant, Episode 19, “Contingent Search is Stupid”

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Transcript

The 10 minute talent rant is live. I’m James Hornick joined by Jeff Smith and we are on the clock. The 10 minute talent rant is our ongoing series where we break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition, hiring space, maybe even pitch a solution or two. Before we dig into this, remember to subscribe to Hirewell’s YouTube channel and the Talent Insights podcast, where you can get all of our episodes.

Jeff, this week’s topic: contingent search is stupid. Let’s go. All right. I know you have a story and I think it just behooves you to just kind of start there. We’ll start with some storytelling. This is what we call a normal story.Jeff was actually involved in this one as well, too. it’s things are hot right now in the recruiting space,

we’ve got a lot of people reaching out to us. We had a CEO of a company reach out, mentioned that he needed 10 – actually 20 tech folks. So I’m like, cool. Sounds interesting. We can totally help with that. This is over email, by the way. He then mentioned you had several other firms on it, all contingent.

I’m trying to get my thumb up so you can see this. He wasn’t seeing any results. So contingent isn’t working clearly. His fix though, was to add more firms. So let’s double down on the thing that clearly isn’t working. Maybe that’ll give us a better result. So I just responded back like, “Hey, we don’t really do contingent. We have a better, more cost-effective model that I think will get you better results.”

Like I could go back on an email about this, but happy to explain it to you alive if you’re interested, but I’m kind of like whatever at this point. I’m going to chase this one. But he agreed to a call. And he rescheduled that call. Then he rescheduled that call again, and then he no showed call number three.

And Jeff, I wonder why is this guy having such a hard time hiring? It’s crazy. It’s really hard to discern. I can’t put my finger on it

Look, if we want to get right into brass tacks, like companies that pay – you’re paying the most per transaction in the contingent model and there’s absolutely no apparent competitive advantage or extra value for up against like retained or kind of managed professional services search, like full stop.

You’re just getting no value and you’re paying more money. Secondly, recruiters are forced into this giant rat race that is is like a 30 minute sprint to find the three most applicable candidates on paper that are open to opportunities on LinkedIn. And we can get into a myriad of reasons why that is a complete disaster.

Most of which is, it takes a complete wrecking ball to any sort of diversity, inclusion or equality initiatives. I mean, you’re literally just like throwing darts at the wall. Finally, you got 10 recruiters on this. One of them is going to win. The other nine of them are going to not win. And the other nine of them are probably not that good anyways.

And they’re going to destroy your brand. They’re going to ghost candidates, they’re going to not give any sort of substantial feedback whatsoever and then you’re going to look like, I mean, that’s going to be the representation of your entire recruiting process in a nutshell, for like 90% of the candidates that were solicited the job.

I think one of my favorite quotes, from my boy Mitch Sullivan, who I had on one of our other shows last week. The difference between contained – contingent retained is, do you want me to maybe fill the role or do you want me to definitely fill the role? And that’s literally what companies need to realize. Like, do you want someone to actually do this work for you and get the job done or just maybe? And I think that what’s always struck me odd about the contention model is it creates this weird kind of strained relationship between companies and their recruiting partner clients. Like they want their help but not really. It’s a quasi competitive, this may be your- you’re going to bust your ass to do something, maybe it’ll pay off. And it’s just not a – I’ve said this before, there’s literally no other industry that would enter into this type arrangement. Think about any other professional services area aside from like ambulance chasing lawyers. There is no one else who would ever start doing work for free

and maybe getting paid later on and that’s going to affect the quality of work as well as the quality of the actual partnerships you can build. The only thing I’ve ever found a corollary is real estate. And talk about another industry, no offense to real estate agents out there.

I’ve worked with some great ones. It’s the same stigma, right? And yes, there are bad recruiters out there, now don’t get me wrong. There’s bad people in every profession but part of it is because we get burnt out because they don’t make any money on all of the effort that we put forth.

So. Candidate experience, I mean you lose the essence of everything that you are and everything that you want to be when you’re going out externally on the market. If you have multiple recruiters out there or firms that their entire motivation is speed based, like you are actively engaging in self-sabotage.

I mean, you’re getting algo hits, you’re getting again, the resume match with the job description, but you’re not turning over every stone. Like, let’s be real about this. Again, all 10 of those recruiters are putting 30 to 60 minutes worth of work in and if they hit on somebody that works, they’re sending them.

If they don’t, they’re moving onto all of their clients. I think not to sidetrack you there, but there’s a lack of understanding that like all searches kind of in the space that we work in, every search is head hunting nowadays. Every search. Every single search has head hunting, passive candidates, people who are not looking for jobs.

And if you want to- in order to get results, that’s a level of granularity you need to have, which is not what you’re going to guarantee to have when you’re working on contingent basis. Isn’t the whole freaking point of hiring a recruiter to kick over every stone? Isn’t that the point? Like, why are we not doing that?

The whole model completely negates any sort of want or ability to do so on our end. You also as a client, you naturally just become the lowest priority on our totem pole by design. We have other clients and we’re not going to actively tell anybody this overtly but we’re going to be working on and chasing after retained business where we have substantial partnerships.

Like again, full stop. Yeah. The thing that I’ve always found weird and this is kind of the first example to kind of lead off with here is there’s the misdiagnosis spiral. So I’ve always seen this where companies that might have a couple of contingent partners aren’t seeing any results and they conflate that with, “Okay, I haven’t found the right one yet.

They can find what I want. These guys all suck. So let’s just keep adding more and more and more.” But none of this is happening in a vacuum. These firms already know there’s 5, 10 other firms working on it and they just tune you out. The true fix here is going the opposite way. So. Yeah.

Are we talking about fixes? Jump into it? Perfect. Find a partner. It might not be us. We would hope it’s us. I mean, that’s where we flourish, but with any other business transaction, like when you find some substantive partnerships where you’re getting value out of that relationship, show the loyalty, show the loyalty to a recruiter or a firm that’s done great work for you.

They’re going to reciprocate. You’re going to get savings for that bulk work and you’re going to get branding and messaging externally to those candidate pools that is just far more relatable to what your business is doing than just throwing it out to 10 recruiters and hoping that they even get 50% of the message

right. Yeah. I think another thing too is just being open to new models. What’s really exciting about the recruiting space right now is there’s so many new things happening. Like I’ve talked to people, I know different parts of the country, different firms, they’re testing different stuff out, they’re testing different measures, different delivery models out, different kind of retain based models out, things where they’re kind of dedicating people to specific clients for specific lines of work.

People are doing some interesting stuff. And the thing is I hear two things like sometimes I’ll hear people and say, this sounds really interesting. Tell me more about this, but then we also hear “Sorry we only do retain. That’s what my boss told me. That’s what procurement let us do.” Don’t be that second person. Don’t be a paper pusher because in terms of you’re trying to actually solve a hiring problem, you need to be open to the fact that the world has changed.

Talent pools have changed. Recruiting has changed and the models are changing. Yeah. I mean, I think we harp on it a lot. Like when I get even when I’m involved in like a scope to retain or not fully full board, like professional services, managed engagements, like all that stuff, I enjoy tinkering and I enjoy looking at a company’s process and telling them what’s great.

And then also consulting with them about what isn’t so great. And some of it sticks, some of it doesn’t. But the reason I feel emboldened to do that and incentivized to do it is because there’s a retained relationship. So expect more like you’re paying for it. You’re paying for a service, get the extra value out of it.

Get the ATS management, get the scheduling, get all the admin stuff that everyone knows is a time suck for recruiters and hand it off. That’s what we’re here for. We are short on clock. So that is a wrap for this week. Jeff, thanks again. Thanks for tuning into the 10 minute talent rant, part of our Talent Insights series, which is always available for replay on the Hirewell YouTube channel as well as the Talent Insights podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify, and Amazon.

Jeff thanks again. Everyone out there. See you soon!


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