Too many recruiters are buzzword-matching paper-pushers

  • Post published:17/01/2012
  • Reading time:6 mins read

Did you know that most people are not looking for a job? A recent survey made by the US company, The Adler Group conducted together with LinkedIn, revealed that 83% of 4,550 people who participated in the survey, classified themselves as passive candidates. And here is the irony, that HR departments (corporate recruiters) still spend most of their time trying to attract candidates from the remaining 17% and what we call the pool of active candidates.

This recent Adler/LinkedIn survey just confirms what we have known all along. No surprises really and the result is similar to one made by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics some years ago. The bureau said:

“Active candidates are a small group of the total workforce. At any point in time, just only 16% of all employees are actively looking for job. Active candidates are proportionately only a small population of the best talent. The high performers are almost always employed and seldom look for a job”.

Here is Tom’s Law on this subject (learned through 25 years of recruiting people):

“You cannot source and hire passive candidates who are not looking for a new job, in the same way you source and hire active candidates who are.”

There are a large number of recruitment companies (of course none of the recruitment companies who also read this blog, because they know better now) who pull resumes from JobsDB and other job boards and email them over to their clients… without even calling to qualify them first. You see, the process used to find and recruit passive candidates is fundamentally different than the one used for active candidates.

But fair enough if you say that some recruiters do call these candidates to screen for qualifications, but I challenge that they still do not go wide and deep enough for their clients. If you pay a fee of 25% of the successful candidate’s annual income – or a smaller percentage – and you paid only on hiring a candidate presented by your recruitment partner, you are in danger of being taken to the cleaners. I’m going to be very blunt now, but sorry to say that you must blame yourself.

Having said that, executive search firms (including Grant Thornton) have done a lousy job of educating the market and their clients about what you as a client really get for your money. Many companies still believe that you call recruitment companies to buy resumes from their database. And they believe a recruitment company is a recruitment company is a recruitment company. I tell you, nothing could be farther from the truth.

What really annoys me is the predominantly database recruiters who market themselves as headhunters, when what they do is simply shopping for resumes on the internet job boards.  Resume shoppers and buzzword-matching paper-pushers would be a more appropriate designation, don’t you think?

When you engage a recruitment company for less than 25% fee and which is paid only if you hire a candidate, then all that happens is a search or shopping for resumes on the recruiter’s database. They may call two or three people they know in their network to check if they are looking for a new job, but that’s about it. If you are not satisfied with the resumes you receive, they have no where else to go for more resumes since they have exhausted their sources. Rather than telling you this, they will pretend to search for more whilst they take the next caller, hoping to turn around an inquiry quick enough before another contingency recruiters presents someone the client likes.

Think about it. If you only make money by presenting candidates who get hired by a client, and before such client may accept candidates from a competitor, it’s really a matter of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. It’s obvious that you get no contingency recruiting team to spend months after months on your search. The risk of working for a long time on a job, and then end up not being paid because you hired from somewhere else, is too high to make it a viable business model.

So by all means try out the cheaper option of contingency recruitment, but keep in mind that if no decent resumes are coming forward, don’t waste your time but move on to other recruitment alternatives. Or risk waiting for a miracle which could be that a relevant candidate happens to send your recruiter a resume one day; but when and do you have the time to wait?





Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.