How to Un-Break Recruiting

By Jenn Steele - Mar. 18, 2014
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How to un-break recruitingI still remember the first time I hired through a traditional recruiter. I was at a law firm. We were sitting in a room and discussing salary, benefits, what I was looking for in a candidate, and what the recruiter would be doing. Then the recruiter said, “Our standard is to charge 22% of the salary, but we’ll knock it down to 20% for you guys.”

I thought I’d mis-heard.

But I hadn’t. I remember thinking, “Okay, so this recruiter is going to find a few candidates and send their resumés to me to review. And then I have to interview them. And I’ll check the references personally. And I’ll construct the offer. So I’m just paying $XX,000 for this person to be a resumé hose? I’m in the wrong line of work!”

Now, of course, I realize that sometimes recruiters do much more than that. But at the time, I was a bit taken aback. It felt like – no, it WAS a lot of money for an opaque process that they wouldn’t explain.

From an hourly perspective, it seemed like we were going to be paying the recruiter far, far more than our most senior partners charged. And, unlike our senior partners, this recruiter didn’t have a graduate degree and 20+ years of experience. Also, unlike our senior partners, the recruiter didn’t have to provide me with an itemized bill describing everything that he did and how long it took to do it.

We justified paying that recruiter (and countless others) exorbitant fees because we didn’t have time to do it ourselves. I worked at other companies where we had to make the opposite trade – we put in egregious numbers of hours because we couldn’t afford exorbitant fees.

Does this feel broken to anyone else?

Un-Breaking Recruiting

I don’t think of this as “fixing” recruiting – I don’t want to patch it. I just want to make the darn thing work! So I’m calling it un-breaking recruiting.  And here’s what I think we need:

1. Transparency

If I don’t know what a recruiter is doing, how do I know that I’m getting what I’m paying for? Maybe the recruiter is doing a crap-ton of work and their hourly rate isn’t actually all that good once we do the math. Or maybe the recruiter is making over $1K/hour. Which seems high, but maybe it’s worth it?

Or maybe it’s not. I have no idea, because, as a hiring manager, all I see is a stream of resumés or candidates as opposed to documented time.

2. Consistency

Most professionals have to meet certain bars, but I feel like my Great Aunt Sally could call herself a recruiter tomorrow. Conversely, I know recruiters who are real superstars and who (if I could afford them) would do all my recruiting for me forever and always. Sadly, there’s no way to know which one you’re talking to, since there’s no grading mechanism or consistency in the industry.

3. Choice

Each time I worked with a recruiter, they told me what they would do and what I would do. I’d have to fight with them if I wanted to see more resumés, or I would have to beg them to do more filtering if I wanted to see fewer. They would get angry if I worked with other agencies or on my own, and I ended up feeling boxed in.

I don’t like feeling boxed in.

4. Cost

Holy crap, using recruiters is expensive. So expensive it puts getting expert help out of reach of many small businesses and startups. So expensive that I had to choose between new servers and new people. That’s an awful, painful choice.

So, to un-break recruiting, we need to increase transparency, be able to figure out consistency, be able to choose what help we get from recruiters, and make it more cost-effective.

We Started Calling It Elastic Recruiting

I have a little confession to make – I used to work at Amazon Web Services (AWS). The coolest thing about AWS is that, with elastic computing, companies use only the computing power they need when they need it, and then they pay for what they used.  When I got to RecruitLoop, I realized that we do the same thing – companies use only the recruiting “power” they need when they need it, and then they pay for what they used. So we started calling it Elastic Recruiting.

What is Elastic Recruiting? It’s getting an expert recruiter who bills by the hour, gives you the help you want/need, and tells you everything that he or she is doing.

Apparently, I have two little confessions to make – Elastic Recruiting goes a long way towards un-breaking recruiting, but I don’t think we’re completely there yet. So part of the reason I’m posting this is to find out what else we need to do to un-break things.

In a bit more detail, here’s how Elastic Recruiting un-breaks recruiting:

1. Transparency

We push our recruiters to be completely transparent. They document their hours and what they do with their time just like lawyers do. You see what we’re doing, and you can always have communication with your recruiter.

2. Consistency

We’re a bit fascist with our recruiter marketplace. We reject 7 recruiters for every one that makes it to our platform. We hold recruiters to a high “two strikes you’re out” policy. We’re super careful to match roles with recruiters who have done that work before. We’re trying our hardest to get consistent, excellent results from our recruiters.

3. Choice

This is where the “elastic” part really comes in. We have clients who can’t afford much, so they only pay for their recruiter to do a couple of things (usually sourcing or screening). We have other clients who have our recruiters help them with absolutely everything. We encourage clients (and recruiters) to stop projects at any time. We’re stretching for truly flexible recruiting. (Sorry – had to get a bad pun in there somewhere!)

4. Cost

Our recruiters set their own rates, but I have yet to see any rates near what a senior partner at a law firm charges! (Heck, I have yet to see many that are even as high as my personal independent consulting rate of $190/hour.) I’m consistently amazed at how much clients save with hourly billing, and it has put recruitment help in the hands of a lot of companies that couldn’t afford it before.

We don’t yet have all of this 100% right at RecruitLoop. But we’re trying, and we have a slew of amazing recruiters who have bought into the concept of Elastic Recruiting. I’m six months in, and I’m pretty happy with how we’re doing.

What do you think? What more can we do? What have we missed? I seriously want to know. Comment below, Tweet me, send me smoke signals – what else can we fix?

Image courtesy of Sam Howzit.


Jenn Steele

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