Where Less Is More

For the benefit of our clients, this can be a business where “less” can be “more,” but only if the staffing firm can consistently deliver results.

The starting point to consistently delivering results is to understand and fully appreciate three of the most important foundation blocks of our business.

1. The true value of our service will be measured by the client through the positive impact the candidates we place have on the performance capacity of their organization.

2. Our focus should be on the “impact” of our service, not merely on making the “deal.”

3. Nothing pays off better than the focused, concentrated effort of competent, committed, informed professionals.

With this as a backdrop, let’s consider the talent pool that is available for any open position at a given point in time. Regardless of the position, the available talent pool will consist of three types of qualified candidates.

1. Unemployed, qualified, and potentially interested (approximately 5% to 10% of the available talent pool).

2. Employed, qualified, and potentially interested (approximately 10% to 15% of the available talent pool).

3. Employed, qualified, and not interested (approximately 75% to 85% of the available talent pool).

For the sake of this illustration, we are making the assumption the best-qualified candidates are equally distributed throughout the entire talent pool.

Nothing presented above should come as a surprise to an experienced recruiter. Nevertheless, the vast majority of recruiters continue to allow themselves to be increasingly commoditized by their clients. Because many clients see little difference between individual recruiting firms they choose to take a quantity approach to filling their open positions. They function under the misguided belief that the more recruiters they involve with each opening, the greater the likelihood that one of them will deliver an outstanding employee. “After all, isn’t it better to have the recruiters competing with one another?” What they fail to realize is the real competition lies between their company and all the other companies who are seeking the elusive perfect match for their opening.

Beyond the confusion and frustration clients create with this “more” is better approach; they also limit the depth at which the talent pool will be penetrated while unnecessarily extending their time to hire.

Although the following example is an approximation, it does serve to illustrate how “less” can be “more” for a client who has a critical opening. The operative word here is “critical”.

Four or more recruiting firms working on the same opening:

Because of the client’s “more” is better approach, the individual recruiting firms will restrict their search activity to the easily identified and readily available portion of the talent pool (see #1 above). Ultimately, the recruiting firms will be recycling to the client only the top of the talent pool. Can the client hire a qualified and interested candidate through this approach? Certainly. However, the odds are against them because they are competing with every other company for the best candidates from 10% of the talent pool.

Three recruiting firms working on the same opening:

This is better than the “more” approach. However, on a contingency basis, the three recruiting firms realize the odds of success may be as low as one in three. As a result their efforts will need to be restricted to the top 25% of the talent pool (see #1 and #2 above). To commit a greater level of time and resources would not be a prudent business decision. However, the client’s likelihood of success increases with fewer (“less”) recruiting firms involved because it increases their commitment (“more”) to filling the opening. This will also increase their penetration of the available talent pool but only to a limited extent.

Two recruiting firms working on the same opening:

Many believe this is the best that can be expected in a contingency environment. With this approach, each recruiting firm will commit a greater level of time and resource to scrutinizing the top 25% of the talent pool while assigning limited resources to the remaining 75% of the pool. With a 50/50 chance of filling the position, the recruiting firms have to allocate their resources accordingly. For most clients, this approach has greater effectiveness than the “more” is better approach. Once again, with fewer (“less”) recruiting firms involved, their overall commitment to filling the opening increases (“more”).

One recruiting firm working on an exclusive basis on each opening:

This is the ultimate “less.” No confusion on submittals. No previously crossed paths where candidates are concerned. Just a clear shot at the entire available talent pool. What the client should expect, and if they have selected the proper recruiting firm, is a total concentrated commitment of time and resources that are focused on locating the best-qualified candidates regardless of where they may reside in the available talent pool. The client has greater exposure to a broader cross section of the best-qualified candidates “more”. This approach offers the greatest assurance of quality hire.

The reality of business is that any prudent company will commit their resources to those tasks that will secure for them the best return, both in the short term as well as the long run. This is true for our industry as well.

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Therefore, we need to ask our clients the following questions:

“When you have a critical opening, ask yourself an important question. Should we take a quantity approach, utilizing the services of many recruiting firms simultaneously, understanding that we will receive a limited commitment from each firm thereby interviewing only the best candidates from 10% of the available talent pool?


“Should we make a commitment to one carefully selected recruiting firm which has the capability of delivering to us the best candidates from the entire available talent pool?”

“Basically you are making a decision as to whether or not it is in your best interest to tap the entire available talent pool for qualified candidates or to gamble on filling your position from tapping only 10% to 25% of the available talent pool.”

“A small commitment from many recruiting firms or a full commitment from one carefully selected, competent recruiting firm.”

“The choice is yours. But remember, you should not expect a commitment from a recruiting firm that is greater than the commitment you give to that firm.”

This is aic example of “where less is more.” The fewer (“less”) recruiting firms involved in the process, the greater (“more”) the level of commitment across the board.

In the competition for top talent, those clients who are willing to put their critical searches in the hands of a carefully selected, competent recruiting firm will net the best results. There is no substitute for a committed, focused allocation of resources when it comes to recruiting the best-qualified candidates from the entire width and depth of the available talent pool.

If you believe that the best approach to this business is to make a full commitment of resources on behalf of your clients, then explain to them the benefits of “less is more” and how it can work to their advantage. Of course, when you get that exclusive assignment (by written agreement whether contingency or retained), you must be prepared strategically and emotionally to deliver results. Then, both you and your client will experience the circumstances “where less is more.”

As always, if you have questions or comments just let me know.

Recipient of the Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry's leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including PETRA ON CALL, and BUSINESS VALUATION, visit www.tpetra.com. Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or click to email him.


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