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How to get the best bang from your recruitment buck

– By Raj Tulsiani

Every well-managed organisation focuses on maximising value from every part of its supply chain, and recruitment is no exception. This isn’t just about reducing costs; it’s about fine-tuning supplier relationships to ensure that you get the best return on your investment.

But achieving a genuine return on investment from your recruitment supply chain won’t happen by accident: the best organisations understand how to apply and maintain the appropriate level of pressure on their recruitment agencies to ensure that they are underpinning the company’s strategy. And this is important because when you think about it, what’s more important than finding the right talent and retaining it once you’ve got it?

sept-001Most of the recruitment failures I’ve come across can be traced back to failures at the very start of the process – the classic one being an inadequate or inaccurate job description and role brief (which includes a thorough exploration of the culture fit required). It seems silly to mention something so simple, but creating a tight brief for every role is an essential step that is often overlooked.

Not writing a proper job description is like starting to cook without looking at the recipe or even knowing what you’re hoping to produce. But the good news is that this is something you can get you recruitment agency to help you with. Any decent recruiter will jump at the chance to get control of the process, putting you well on the road to achieving good ROI.

When it comes to developing the brief, your agency needs to be almost obsessively inquisitive. They need to ask the right questions to find out exactly what the successful candidate is expected to achieve in the short, medium and long terms, and make it clear how those goals align with the overall business strategy. They should also make a thorough exploration of your organisational culture and the culture of the particular team, plus the stakeholder and management environment the new hire will fit within.

It does take an investment of your time to go through this process properly, but I guarantee it’s worth it. An added bonus is that if senior stakeholders are engaged and encouraged to provide constructive input, they will be more committed to the process and its success.

Once your agency has got the brief nailed, the next piece of the puzzle in the push toward achieving ROI is rigorous due diligence in the exploration of candidates. This demands agencies with a ‘forensic’ approach to recruitment. It means performing a thorough exploration of candidates’ background, experience and achievements, their motivations, personal situation, personality, preferences and management style. Mandatory referencing, CRB checks and even Financial Probity Assessments might also be appropriate for some roles.

In many roles, cultural fit and stakeholder management skills can be as important as technical competency, but these are much harder to assess, even in face-to-face interviews. Again, it’s up to the recruitment agency you chose to convince you that they have a robust, consistent and bulletproof process that will not only deliver a fair and equitable recruitment exercise, but also ensure you’re best placed to make the hire ‘right first time’.

In the relatively recent past, the recruitment process effectively ended with a successful hire. But standards are becoming more exacting. In reality, a ‘successful hire’ doesn’t just mean someone arrives at your doorstep, brushed and polished for their first day of work. The real test of the recruitment process is whether they live up to the potential you saw at interview – and that they continue to perform in the way you envisaged.

So retention is a key part of the ROI equation, and although not directly the responsibility of the recruiter, you can look to share at least part of the accountability with them.

For me, retention always starts with a good match of the candidate with the role and a great match of the candidate with the company’s culture. But it’s also about creating the conditions to enable them to succeed, which is where you can consider engaging your agency to help devise the new hire’s ‘performance roadmap’ for the first six months, so they know exactly what they are expected to deliver. In my experience, failure to retain people in the first year is very often caused by leaving a new hire drifting for the first part of their tenure, without a good induction structure or clear objectives to work towards.

Since your recruitment agency helped develop and refine the role brief and they know the successful candidate extremely well, why not get them to help set the framework for the early part of the new hire’s job?

It’s also worth considering a ‘retention bonus’, or withheld portion of the final stage of the recruitment fee, payable once the hire passes probation, or perhaps the three-month stage. This is a way for recruiters to ‘put their money where their mouth is’, but you also have to be very realistic in the fact that they can only support you in creating the conditions for retention, rather than actually making it happen.

The three elements I’ve mentioned – role briefs, accurate due diligence and creating the conditions for retention – are the cornerstones of achieving ROI from recruitment, but you can also go on the front foot in managing your recruitment agencies by challenging them directly.

Ask agencies how they achieve increased ROI compared to their competitors. Agencies that have the capability and capacity to be genuine strategic partners will very quickly be able to point to the ways they can – and have – delivered it. You’ll quickly get a sense of who’s a ‘fee and flee’ operator, and who’s ready to stay the course and hang their hat on their promises.

Look for recruiters who are close to obsessive about detail. Good recruitment is always process- based and failures are nearly always a result of a failure in process. Due diligence and candidate assessment is a big part of what you pay for. Find an agency with a rock solid process (with enough flexibility to cope with different companies and situations), and you’re well placed to achieve ROI.

Ask agencies about their approach to retention. Do they stay involved with the hire after it’s happened? Are they willing and able to be part of ensuring the right performance measures and induction structure are in place for the first few months? Agencies that can help you with that part of the process are far more likely to deliver genuine return on investment above and beyond ‘putting bums on seats’.

Challenge agencies on their fee structure. Going with the cheapest will typically put you at major risk of a substandard outcome (as with any product or service), but there is no reason that agencies can’t be more innovative with their fee structures, eg through linking a proportion of the fee to the retention of the candidate. The best recruitment agencies can help mitigate your risk and so boost your ROI.


Raj TulsianniRaj Tulsiani is Co-Founder & CEO of Green Park Interim & Executive Search. He is a passionate advocate of the power of diversity as a source of competitive advantage, heading a team that sets the benchmark for innovation and commitment to consistently attracting diverse groups of appointable candidates.


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