Blog News Are you concerned about your future as an independent agency recruiter?
independent agency recruiter

Will COVID-19 influence fundamental changes to the traditional agency recruitment model?

Even if we push aside the extreme market conditions that we are currently experiencing, most industry experts will agree that an overhaul of the way that the traditional independent agency recruiter works is long overdue. Contingency recruitment, in particular, has encouraged bad practice in many areas. This has subsequently lead to ‘the recruiter’ receiving its unfair share of bad press.


To appreciate how radical this transformational change could be, we need to quickly go back to basics. Starting with the genuine pains, challenges, frustrations, bottlenecks that clients say they endure and the recruitment objectives of what our prospective clients say they want to achieve.


Analysis of over 10,000 completed client surveys by the team here at SRO, highlighted the following items firmly and consistently in the corporate clients top 10 recruitment objectives:

  1. Recruit more efficiently – less time and less effort for better results
  2. Attract more quality Direct Applications to Jobs (Not via a 3rd party)
  3. Deliver a better user and applicant experience
  4. Keep recruitment hiring costs to a minimum
  5. Fill more jobs first time and in less time (<20 days)
  6. Apply better due diligence hiring decisions to reduce attrition
  7. Centralise & control recruitment processes whilst enabling hiring teams
  8. Be more agile in adopting new technology, products and services
  9. Improve reporting and better understand what is working and what isn’t
  10. Recruit ethically, improve diversity and remove bias from the recruitment process


The consistent elephant in the room for many professional recruitment companies is that their clients see them as the lesser of two evils.  Simply put – they use them because out of necessity, not because they want to. This strains the relationship at its foundation and any positive transformation must involve a radical shift in perception.


Repetitive rhetorical conversations need to dissolve, and real conversations backed up by actual change need to emerge.


This does not mean that there isn’t a role for the ‘independent agency recruiter’. In fact, according to the CIPD, REC, APSCO and the Office of National Statistics, UK business during the last 10 years, have consistently recruited around 20% of its staff via 3rd party service providers. This includes temporary and permanent staff.


Another more recent global report by AI market leaders, Burning Glass, confirms that around 80% of all hires now come via applications made online. That statistic reflects the increasing number of job-related searches taking place each month via Google. This is now in excess of 17m searches coming from unique UK IP addresses each month.


That’s more than 50% of the working population doing a job-related search online every month.


Subsequently, ‘prospective applicant’ behaviour is making the trend of recruiting online easier and more effective and when done properly, can dramatically reduce a company’s dependency on using agency recruitment services with a contingency fee model.


When we factor in the current market conditions there is a very strong business case for independent and agency recruiters to consider making that adjustment to their business model now.


So, what is the plan?

If the independent agency recruiter is going to successfully reinvent themselves, they need to provide solutions that accurately reflect client demands first. Savvy entrepreneurs & investors will tell you that you must solve a real problem worth solving for customers first and develop your business model second.


That may sound straight forward and logical but that does not mean it’s easy. There is a good reason that most disruption comes from start-ups; they simply do not have the baggage of incumbent ideas and are not entrenched in yesterday’s models.


 If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down

(even if it has made you money in the past)


Of course, it’s hard to change the way we do things, especially when we have been doing things a certain way for a long time. That is why Smart Recruit Online has made this our mission – our raison d’etre is to devise solutions that accurately reflect client demands.


We achieve this by continuously innovating at the intersection between technology and phycology, between computer science and behavioural science. Whereas the recruitment ecosystem evolves constantly – this intersection remains the frontline.


As developers of recruitment technology solutions, we have drawn significant inspiration from the marketing sector in the last 10 years. Digital Marketing Consultants and Recruitment Consultant work in very similar ways. One is generating leads, while the other generates candidates. However, the marketing sector gets a lion’s share of investment and can rapidly embrace the fluid changes and uses of technology so much more effectively and quickly.


They are masters at developing evidence-based approaches and evolving creative new business models born from real data and focussed on true ROI.


Think Hubspot, Marketo or Infusionsoft for Digital Marketeers. These platforms and their advanced tools and methodology have become an integral part of the marketing arsenal, to the point that they simply would not be able to perform without them now.


Professionally presented dashboards, segmented with layers of detail and evidence validating each stage of the process are the norm. They highlight areas for improvement in real-time, enabling those real conversations we talked about.


This is how you can transform your business and elevate above reactive tactical recruitment and into strategic talent acquisition.  


Also, we must think about the one-dimensional commercial terms that an independent or agency recruiter typically offers. It’s a major part of the reason that only 20% of jobs go to this sector of the recruitment supply chain.


So, how do you access the other 80%?


With some adjustment to your commercials and delivery models to reflect the level of difficulty and the work involved, you can quickly access the other 80% of jobs and increase your probability of commercial success.


You must be able to provide clients with a full suite of services to meet their needs on attractive commercial terms.


Here is the full range of services that you COULD be offering. They cover every possible type of job and all the transactional options that the client has:


  • ATS or Recruitment Platform: provide a low cost, yet highly effective technology solution to the client, that allows them to do everything else for themselves.


  • Recruitment Advertising Media: The client possibly has an ATS or recruitment solution in place, but is interested in buying media more intelligently and to get better value for money against their limited recruitment budget.


  • Applicant screening: The most time-consuming aspect for internal recruitment teams is the screening and selecting of the applications, especially on high volume roles. If you had effective AI tools that accurately rank candidates for relevance, against the job details, this time can be reduced by around 80%.


  • Fixed Price Solution: Most companies can attach a value to each recruitment campaign, but for 80% of jobs that doesn’t support an agency fee. Getting paid for the work you do, is a sound business model, so if you can make £300-500 profit on each campaign for what is typically between 1-3 hours of your time, then the cumulative effect, when you do this 12 times each month, is between £3600-6000 in guaranteed revenues.


  • Contingency & Retained work: When you can provide the full range of services outlined above each time that the company needs to recruit, you will always have advanced or exclusive visibility of the jobs that are struggling most and that presents you with the opportunity to gain either an advantage or to negotiate an exclusive or retained arrangement with your clients. Your successful fill rate will subsequently go up and the overall revenues that you generate from success fees will potentially double or treble. You already know this model of course ?


  • Agency & Vendor Management: If the client still wants to use a network of 3rd party suppliers, perhaps you can provide a solution that outsources and removes all those unwanted agency sales calls? There are going to be a lot more of them over the coming months.


So what is stopping you from adapting your current model?


To get started you will need a technology partner, that can provide you with an advanced recruitment delivery platform (not a CRM) with a suite of best-in-class tools so that you can deliver the full range of services that actually meet the clients need. Services that have been developed around the 10 objectives highlighted at the beginning of this article.


Select a partner with the right technological capability and an understanding of the talent acquisition ecosystem and wider recruitment industry.

Every journey begins with a single step, but the best journeys are those you embark on with the right partner in tow. Even the best climbers in the world don’t attempt Everest without a trusted team of Sherpas. With that in mind, we have done the heavy lifting for you.


independent agency recruiter


We are a technology partner that can support you, develop the skills required and adapt to this more advanced way of working, with on boarding, training and ongoing support.


We will also help you access better online client branded media advertising packages, that you can resell media to clients, and that will ultimately help you and the clients to fill more jobs from direct applications whilst making you a profit.


It is important to note, that this is not an abandonment of the old ways, or a discarding your existing client relationship style. It’s a reinvention of your business and the services that you are prepared to take to market, in order to not just survive, but thrive within the Post CV19 world.


The first movers in this space will undoubtedly be the major players in years to come, so getting a head start in this traditionally slow to respond sector is an opportunity for those who want to capitalise on the inevitable rebound.


Remember the 3 types of people in this world, those that make things happen, those that get on board with what is happening and those that wonder what just happened.


Steven Covey states clearly in the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, that the most common trait amongst highly successful people, is that they tend not to procrastinate once they identify something that makes sense.

Mark Stephens

April 22, 2020

Mark has worked in and researched the HR & Recruitment landscape for over 20 years. His key focuses are how recruitment technology, evidence-based processes, and human behavioural science can be used to optimise recruitment performance. He is a serial entrepreneur, previous winner of the prestigious Chambers of Commerce 'Innovation in Business' award, and founder of Smart Recruit Online Ltd, and Corporate Wellness & Mental Health UK Ltd (Corpwell).

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