Publisher’s Corner

Is logging on to (or the gaggle of others) and harvesting resumes real recruiting? Depending upon which spurious poll you read, most claim that about 50% of all company openings are filled though the Internet and its various permutations. Perhaps this is true if you are including non-professional openings but the number drops significantly when only professional slots are included. There are recruiters who make big bucks by doing nothing but harvesting resumes from the Internet and referring them to companies. That’s fine, but I don’t consider that to be “recruiting” and, while I don’t like the insulting term “fetching,” that’s really what most internal recruiters do. It’s easy to replace one chair warmer with another in the lower levels of the corporate hierarchies, but it gets a bit tougher when seeking an authentic impact player for an important position.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the new technologies. They are a great sourcing tool and starting point. Finding three or four mediocrities on the Internet can be a great stepping off point to ‘daisy chain’ to those whom you really need. But most corporate recruiters view their Internet yields to be the finalists rather than just the keys to lead them to the real ‘goodies.’

A discussion of this topic of real recruiting recently surfaced on ERExchange ( and the response of Eric Egler, VP Engineering Sales – National Engineering Resources, Inc. struck a chord with me. Here’s what he wrote:

“I’ve only been in this recruiting business (contract and direct staffing) for about 4 years. When I joined this firm to first lead their sales & marketing activity, I had certain expectations of what recruiting was – I expected the ‘old school’ method of headhunting and prospecting by phone and using technology just for support. I had reviewed industry training, talked with successful recruiters, and visited some offices. I was shocked when, upon arrival, it was like a library in the recruiting cubicles! You’d hear a phone conversation here and there, but otherwise, it was clicking on keyboards. Half the time the recruiters even talked to each other via email in the next cube! I was frankly shocked. How could they develop relationships with clients or candidates via email? The answer, obviously, was not very well.

Soon I realized the recruiters had been trained by past management to recruit reactively – by using a searchable database, and if that didn’t work, to post to job boards. That was the way they had always done it. And the results showed in low fill ratios, very transactional relationships with customers, problems with competition for the same people, etc. They had never been formally trained or even been exposed to the concepts of targeting source accounts, networking, referral development, cold calls, etc. So I immediately embarked on a big training effort to teach phone skills, sales skills, and recruiter training. Through this we found that some of our people did not possess the aptitude or interest to do that kind of work – the work I call ‘value added’ because it is the work our client cannot or will not do. It’s the ‘hard’ work, so to speak. Like has been mentioned by others, if we’re just posting the same job on the same board as our customer, why should we get paid?

Over the past couple years we have made major improvements in this area, and it is starting to demonstrate benefits in improved customer satisfaction and increased order fill ratios.

We reversed our process to mine our proprietary database and build networks from there. We’re trying to balance using technology with conducting effective headhunting activity. We’re actively building our database with contacts and resumes from people not otherwise available.

We still use job boards but we’re using them to mine data and trying to refrain from posting our jobs. We try to do it more strategically, as we can pick up some new people with an ad. We’ve also started working with more niche sites and industry websites versus the big general boards.

The bottom line is, by doing the more traditional phone work and headhunting, we’ve improved both our contract and our direct hire placement.”

Has anyone tried to call their own office lately? You might be surprised at the business your voice mail system is running off. Practitioners frequently complain about the voicemail obstacles they encounter with clients and potentials, but then make it equally unpleasant for clients and candidates to reach them. I’ve encountered it often and have mentioned it before, but it really came home to me recently when an HR acquaintance of mine told me about trying to get through to an Account Executive at a recruiting firm to whom he had been referred. Seems he had 6 similar openings in the $80-120,000 salary range because of his company’s acquisition of another firm. He was referred to this Account Executive through another human resourcer because of the specific specialty involved. After several attempts to break through the recruiting firm’s poorly constructed voicemail system, he gave up and placed the business elsewhere. Almost $200k worth of fees to someone else because of an inability to break through the unfathomable labyrinth.

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Last month, we mused, “Is shilling for retail outplacers? Jobseeker who registered with Monster tells reader he was supposedly contacted by Monster asking him, “Would you mind if R. L. Stevens Associates (a retail outplacer) called you?” Within a day, this candidate was contacted by RLS offering to represent him for 5 years for a fee of $6,300. He declined but, if true, this is troubling in many ways. If anyone else has heard of this kind of secondary contact through a job board, let us know.”

We doubted whether would jeopardize their reputation with this type of collaboration and, true to form, we heard from them. They told us that they did not have a relationship of this type with RFS and asked to speak personally to the jobseeker involved. As’s Terms of Use prohibit use of their information to generate leads for other businesses, we are attempting to put the two together and will report on the outcome.

How do retained firms really perform for their clients? They usually quote ‘completion’ rates rather than ‘placements’ since that figure is always higher. A ‘completion’ may reflect an aborted search for whatever reasons. Placement rates can be far different and, heretofore, no audits have ever been done of the real results. Christian & Timbers, one of the profession’s top retained firms just released the results of their audit and have revealed that the ‘placement’ rate of the searches they had during 2005 was 79%.

Typically, the ‘sell’ end of a search has reaped 60% of the internal revenue allocation, with only 40% allocated to the ‘do’ portion of the search. C & T has just equalized the allocation to 50/50. Interesting! Will others follow suit or will the big money still go to the rainmakers?

This month, due to an overwhelming number of requests, we will start a periodic column on Search Research. Few can dispute the importance of this topic in the current candidate-driven market and we are privileged to have Tiffani Griffith as our new columnist. Tiffani is a well-renowned professional in the field of research with 11 years of experience leading to her current position as Director of Research for Xavier Associates, a national executive search and candidate research firm located in the greater Boston area. Xavier Associates is a leader in customized staffing solutions, specializing in meeting the specific needs of their clients.

As Director of Research, Ms. Griffith is responsible for business development, strategic planning, and day-to-day operations of the research department. Under her direction, the research department at Xavier Associates has provided superior results for various Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and large government agencies.

Paul Hawkinson is the editor of The Fordyce Letter, a publication for third-party recruiters that's part of ERE Media. He entered the personnel consulting industry in the late 1950's and began publishing for the industry in the 1970's. During his tenure as a practitioner, he personally billed over $5 million in both contingency and retainer assignments. He formed the Kimberly Organization and purchased The Fordyce Letter in 1980.


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