A battle between agency recruitment and internal recruitment is nothing new nowadays. Since the inception and growth of in-house recruitment teams it has turned into our industry’s very own hundred year war. ¬†The tension between the two factions follows a familiar pattern: ¬†Agency recruiters are targeted with making as many placements and billing as much money as possible. Internal recruiters are targeted on cost per hire and a sizeable reduction in agency spend to justify their existence.

However, they’re also tasked with time to hire and quality of hire, plus often have agitated hiring managers breathing down their necks, jostling for attention among fifty or more open job requisitions. And so, naturally, agencies are still called upon, a truce is called, a game of Christmas Day footie is arranged between the neighbouring trenches, and some business is done.

The expectations on the delivery and performance of the agency is, though, extremely high. As of course it should be for the size of the fees involved. Every internal recruiter out there will have their own portfolio of horror stories when these febrile agreements are entered into, but one I heard this week probably takes the cake.

Or does it?

The bad behaviours in the story are unassailable: The winning of a retained assignment followed by four weeks of complete radio silence. The representation of an unsuitable candidate from the internal recruiter’s previous place of work with misrepresentations about their ability and suitability. Attempting to cut the internal recruiter out of the process and undermining them to their manager.

Worst of all, a contingent placement was also made, where the candidate lasted one week before leaving. As you’d expect, the invoice for this placement was yet to be paid. However, bizarrely (or so it seems to me), the agency are insisting on payment of the invoice still, so they can then start working on the free replacement. And when I say insisting, I mean issuing emailed rants questioning the honesty and integrity of the internal recruiter who is refusing to pay.

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In my twelve years recruiting I have, unfortunately, had a couple of instances where, for varying reasons, the placed candidate has left before invoice payment. In those instances I’ve been more interested in damage limitation and maintaining the client relationship. I’ve torn up the invoice, and continued recruiting a replacement, for which I would be able to bill another fee, rather than doing it for free.

Contractually of course the agency recruiter is within their rights, assuming they have the usual terms of business in place. The work has been done and a fee is due, and will need to be paid within a certain time frame in order for the free replacement guarantee to apply.

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For me I guess it’s a question of contractual obligations versus moral obligations. The relationship is beyond repair, so it seems improbable that the agency will do their best work in securing a free replacement, knowing that future work from this client is unlikely anyway. It would seem logical, to me, to chalk it up as a bad deal, and just move on. This agency sees it differently though, and want their money, seemingly shameless about chasing thousands of dollars for a shoddy service and awful outcome.

I’d be interested to hear from both agency and internal sides this week. What would you do?

Jonathan Rice

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.

2 Comments

  • Avatar Mark Sumner says:

    Having sat in both seats I think the moral high ground here is an absolute must. I cannot fathom that the agency would want payment for doing such a shit job!

  • Avatar Pauline Brown says:

    Interesting. Here’s something slightly off topic….My partner recently had a conversation with an agency Recruiter who had floated a resume through for a role with his client (no job briefing, no engagement, just a generic sales cv). He’s not in Recruitment, he owns a business strategy firm. His client asked him to liaise with the Agency around the terms of business before they decided if they would progress. In the process of this conversation he stated the % they would pay if they selected this agency candidate to the role. The conversation went back and fourth and the Agency Recruiter finally agreed on the % but advised that since it was below their usual terms of engagement there would be no guarantee for the candidate. I was completely taken aback. Having come from Agency of many years and now internal, it made me question what credibility this Recruiter has if a discounted fee means no guarantee and an increased fee means a guarantee. Either way the candidate presented doesn’t change regardless of what fee has been negotiated and in my mind as a competent Recruiter you should be prepared to back ALL of your candidates you represent. If the Consultant has done due diligence around the process and represented a candidate to an organisation, a guarantee should be a no brainer. Every candidate you represent is a reflection of your credibility and experience and fees should be irrelevant to the guarantee.

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