The most common job title in the global staffing industry is recruitment consultant, and for “recruitment consultant” to have become the defacto job title used for decades by organizations all around the world to describe what we do, it must really resonate with clients, candidates and recruiters. Perhaps it is because the word consultant implies a valuable service provided by capable people whose guidance and counsel can be relied upon? Maybe.
Why is then that over the last few years as an industry we have done our best to undermine this title and downgrade it? The trend across much of the recruitment industry has been to increasingly automate, centralise and outsource as much of the recruitment process as possible. With expansion in the global staffing market projected for 4 percent growth in 2014, according to Staffing Industry Analysts’ 2014 Contingent Market Forecasts, it seems strange that what is actually the core of our value proposition (matching candidates to roles) has become something we are willing to devalue.
The results of this have been inevitable: customers find it increasingly hard to differentiate between agencies or see the value we add, so they start to think about bringing recruitment in-house, or worse yet, they treat it as a commodity and focus on just the margin, ignoring everything else. If we don’t value the role of a recruitment consultant why should our clients? Why are we allowing the focus of our negotiations to become all about the cost and not the value we can provide?
Another impact of devaluing our role as consultants is that the job itself becomes less attractive to the individual actually performing the role. Rather than developing a relationship with clients and acting as a trusted partner, recruitment consultants are reduced to mindlessly matching CVs to requisitions, with the emphasis being on volume, speed and cost per unit, rather than fit, retention and value. Is it any wonder our industry suffers from high employee churn rates?
We should instead be cherishing the unique role a “recruitment consultant” can perform. Today, most clients have a job description, some will provide a person spec and there are even a few companies that will provide a resourcing plan, but it doesn’t matter to what degree clients are organized. Ultimately there is still important information not contained in any of these documents. It might be some details about the culture of a company, or the hiring manager’s thoughts on the type of person who would excel in the role. The manager might just value the chance to have a sounding board whilst considering who to hire. This is where a “recruitment consultant” earns their fee and why the industry should protect and value this job title above all else.
A good “recruitment consultant” should have the negotiation skills of a buyer, the legal knowledge of an HR specialist, the communications expertise of a marketing professional. It doesn’t end there either. To do the job really well a recruitment consultant must also be a subject matter expert on the desk they are running, act as a counsellor, a cheerleader, have the ability to map a market, identify top candidates and find them great roles — doing all of this while operating in a very competitive environment, against the clock.
So let’s reverse the trend that is diminishing our roles as consultants, let’s stop acting like candidates are just a commodity and focus on the value we can add rather than the price we can charge. Let’s celebrate the term “recruitment consultant” and remember why we chose that job title in the first place.