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Your PSL is never going to work

Posted: 01 March 2018

If you’ve been in recruitment for more than 5 minutes, then you’ve experienced first-hand the Preferred Supplier List (PSL) objection to you providing a company with a candidate, in fact probably until you’re sick to the back teeth of it. It’s the default, the go-to, the immediate response to any hiring problem, review the PSL, we need some new suppliers…..well guess what, your PSL isn’t working and it isn’t going to work just because you change the recruiter.

There’s a stack of reasons for this; the market, agency management, poor incentives, poor process, trust issues, lack of engagement and I could go on. Essentially, recruiters are still perceived as CV senders, transactional recruiters who stick an advert out and hope for the best. No successful recruiter operates this way anymore.

The value of good recruitment is almost never measured, and, invariably, when a recruiter starts to do well and make placements with a customer they are asked to reduce their fees. Where is the reward for being brilliant and better than your competition? Someone please help me see the logic on this.

Want to get the best out of your recruiters? Read on.

First you need to be able to measure success. Any PSL owner that uses recruitment agencies should know their agency’s metrics. Your agencies shouldn’t just send you CVs and hope for the best, make them work for you. If you don’t make your agencies accountable, you are the reason your recruiters are racing to the bottom of the pond.

To stop this, find out from your business and your recruiters:

• What does failure to hire cost you?
• What is our time to hire via agencies?
• Why is it so good/bad?
• Who are our best performing agencies and in what areas?
• What do candidates think of us?
• What do our recruiters think of us?
• Do I trust our recruiters?

Then, ask a million more questions before you’re happy.

Once you’ve dug into the data, you can then start to look at improvements, cost savings and you can start to ask yourself some of the really big questions: “Does this model work for us?” “Do we get value for money from our recruiters?”

I’ve spent the start of this year meeting a lot of HR Directors, HR Managers and Heads of Resourcing and the honest answer to both of those questions is normally “no”. All of them want to change, but change takes time, not to mention it takes winning the hearts and minds of their stakeholders which is not an insignificant task. Most of them have accepted that the PSL model is not workable in today’s tech market. A multi-agency, fastest finger first approach gives no quality, no engagement and little reward, for anyone. Small tactical campaigns do.

Recruiting 100 heads with completely different skill sets is a huge challenge, recruiting 20 heads in your core markets for an agency should be a walk in the park. But here are the rules:

The first rule of tactical recruitment is that it has to be exclusive – you have to drive quality, you have to ask your agency to go against everything they’ve probably ever known and not send the candidate that fills the shortlist. Don’t measure volume, measure quality.

The second rule of tactical recruitment is to engage with your recruitment agency – give them time with the hiring team, let them talk directly, let them manage the process. The agency are accountable for the service and you should trust them to get it right.

The third and final rule of tactical recruitment is to pay your agency – just because it’s an exclusive contract, doesn’t make it easier to fill. In fact they should be so accountable and ingrained in your business that it’s probably harder, they should be finding the best of the best! The goal here is to reduce time to hire and save money, money you would probably pay your PSL who will take 3 times as long to fill the role. You could even come up with something a little more innovative, like paying your agency on certain milestones.

Talk about it and be creative, business is more fun when you break the shackles of tradition.

Choose an agency based on facts and skills and then actually trust them to get your recruitment right. Trust them to deliver what you need and reward them for doing so. Measure them, make them accountable, make them earn their fees, but please don’t insult them with: “we only work at 12%”.