9 August 2023

Fill Your Niche Skills Gap by Partnering with Your Recruitment Agency

Steve Halsall

Red Tiger Consulting


Make no bones about it, recruitment can be a tough profession. On the face of it we, as recruiters, are dealing with humans who at times can be unresponsive, irrational, and even selective with the truth. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing more rewarding than an engagement where everything goes smoothly and the client and candidate are both singing your praises. But with the significant highs there can be the occasional low!

In house recruiters are sometimes under-resourced and overstretched. I feel your pain – hiring managers or candidates are not always working to your timescales / plan. I had an assignment last year where the internal recruiter had to manage nearly 100 live roles – they have now left the business and are back working for themselves.

Candidates, I also feel your pain. You are getting bombarded via LinkedIn, email, phone, test, social media with a wide range of roles, some of which you question whether the recruiter has actually looked at your profile and determined your suitability. Unfortunately some recruiters are still working to the phrase – throw enough excrement at the wall and some of it will stick.

This blog post is trying to focus on the positive; where there is a true partnership between client and external agency and we (Red Tiger Talent) ultimately find the right candidate to fill the role. Here are some things that can ensure we support you in filling the roles as quickly and efficiently as possible.

1. Engage the recruitment agency from the start of your process

If time is of the essence in filling roles, and remember that the more senior the role the longer it will take (6 – 12 months in some cases), then it is important the internal and external searches start in tandem. I’m into metaphors – it’s just like fishing – you can use a small net to see what you can get, or you can have a larger net to increase your chances of making the right catch.

Surely you would like to conduct the CV reviews and first round interviews in one go, rather than a stop-start approach? You can also lean on your agency prior to the search, to provide feedback on the job spec, interview process, discuss potential target candidates and validate salary budgets.

I do understand that in-house recruitment teams are there to reduce/eliminate the fees that go to external agencies like Red Tiger Talent. Something that is often overlooked however is the cost to the business every week or month a role isn’t filled. That cost will vary depending on the type of business/role but the cost isn’t just the loss in productivity/output/revenue from being down a budgeted head; it could also have a cost in terms of impact on other staff.

I know of people wishing to leave because they are over-stretched due to under-staffed teams. In addition, constantly advertising roles for long periods of time may also create a bit of candidate inertia. Like houses that have been on the market for too long, they may start wondering what is wrong with the role/company.

2. Use specialist agencies for niche areas

In the example above where the internal recruiter had nearly 100 roles, I am sure that there would be a vast range of roles under their remit. There is no way that they can sustain decent relationships with the number of candidates required to fill all the roles. Even using a conservative estimate on identifying 5 candidates per role this means that this recruiter would need to have over 500 positive conversations and hope that all of those conversations are successful in delivering applicants (which is not very likely).

This is where niche recruitment agencies can really shine. Red Tiger Talent specialise in analytical roles and we spend our days speaking to analytics candidates. We pride ourselves in building a trusted relationship with those candidates and we are much more likely to get through to potential candidates as we are likely to know them (and they know us!). Plus we are also more likely to know who is currently active in the market.

3. Agree a fair rate, payment terms and refund schedule

This is where procurement tend to get involved and with larger businesses they tend to push their onto recruitment agencies. Generally, these are acceptable as they cover off the main things that we look at which include the following:

The Initial Fee

At Red Tiger Talent we understand our value and that comes at a fair price. We are up front about these rates and want to have a level playing field between clients. Some clients may pat themselves on the back for negotiating a really low agency fee, but is that really encouraging differential service? If a candidate can be placed in a role at company A that has a fee 5% lower than company B – the recruiter could potentially give impartial advice.

Payment Terms

Cashflow is critical for a small business like Red Tiger Talent. Which is why we don’t particularly like 60 or 90 day payment terms. Or ’90 days from the end of the invoice month’ which we will never agree to. These organisations often contradict their CSR statements on being “true” and “fair” to their suppliers. Recently, for the first time in our 7 year trading history, we have had to swallow a +90 days late payment on not just one but two of our invoices from a client.

Scale of Refund

Someone like me who is relatively new to recruitment consulting (in relation to my c30 years working in insight) is astounded that an agency like mine is not only rewarded on their ability to find and deliver good candidates to the recruitment process, but is also penalised on the basis that if the hired person leaves within the first 3-12 months (yes some companies expect a 12 month period on refund!).

I have had to accept that this is the way recruiting works – I just wish my beloved football team could get agency refunds for some of the dud players they have signed over the years. For me, a significant part of my role is screening and delivering appropriate candidates to the client in order for them to meet the criteria required. It is a bit like a relay race – I then hand over the baton to the hiring manager/HR function for them to go through their process. It is extremely rare for the hiring to fail and if it does its for one of four reasons (in descending order of likelihood).

  • Change of hiring manager/conflict with existing hiring manager
  • The role they were sold didn’t turn out to be the role in reality
  • The candidate interviewed well but when they started they failed to hit the ground running and were deemed a poor match for the role
  • The company had a restructure and made the candidate redundant (last in, first out)

Most, if not all of the above, are out of the control of us as the recruitment agency.

4. Forge a two-way partnership

Engagements work very well where there is information that flows both ways. In terms of information this includes the following:

Ensure the interview process is streamlined and compact

“Good people these days are hard to find” (not quite Feargal Sharkey but at least I tried!). This means:

  • Timely feedback on candidate CVs
  • Timely slots for interviews
  • Rapid and honest feedback after interviews
  • Quick progression to verbal offer
  • Immediate issuing of contract / offer letter

Be clear on direct candidates

This can avoid awkward conversations we will try to have with the same potential candidates. Who knows, we may have some positive (or negative) feedback about certain candidates in the market in relation to your role.

Some situations arise which will challenge the relationship; they are a real test of the strength of the partnership. There are three scenarios that I can think of. I am not going to give you the outcome, but I’d invite you to think about what outcome you would recommend in your role as an internal recruitment advisor/hiring manager.

Scenario 1

Engaged with a large retail business on a mid-level analytics role. I spoke to a candidate who had become unsettled due to redundancy affecting their team and therefore was looking for a move. I submitted their CV, and was told by HR that this candidate had been contacted by their internal recruitment team over a month ago and despite them saying at that stage they weren’t interested in the role, the internal recruiter claimed ‘ownership’ of the candidate.

Scenario 2

Working for an international retail business and had a couple of good candidates at the final stage. Hiring manager was up front and told me they were about to offer the role to a direct candidate. The hiring manager was surprised that I hadn’t put the successful candidate forward. When the hiring manager revealed their identity, I justified why I hadn’t because the candidate had accepted a role 3 months earlier with another international business and was due to start there in a month’s time.

Scenario 3

Working for a large UK-based landlord on a mid-level insight role. I spoke to a candidate who said it wasn’t the type of role they were looking for at this time. I then found out that the candidate had applied directly.

Hopefully you have found this blog post of use – I am certainly interested in your experiences of dealing with recruitment agencies and what has or hasn’t worked for you.

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Published by Steve Halsall

Steve is the founder of Red Tiger Consulting. He has worked in Location Planning for over 20 years – both on the consultancy side and client side. His passion is building successful teams that evolve their capability (skills, software and data) to meet the ever changing requirements of analysis. In his spare time he is mainly kept busy with his two children, falling in and out of love with Liverpool FC and at some point he wants to re-start his golfing ‘career’.


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