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The Rise of Flex Recruiting

In the seismic shift from traditional office-based work onsite to more hybrid and flexible work options for skilled professionals, there are several skill sets that by the nature of the work are going to be the last holdouts to ever going ‘back in’. These include specialized software developers, salespeople (did they ever go in?), web application designers/developers, statisticians, and yes, internal recruiters for these skill sets for companies. A strong, experienced recruiter needs a computer with video conferencing, access to a few sourcing tools, and a phone.

As we’ve seen through our ‘almost post-pandemic’ fits and starts for most companies – those internal recruiters who are reluctant to return are now being evaluated against something that hasn’t been ‘en vogue’ since the Great Recession recovery – remote contract recruiters and RPO solutions – what we call Flex Recruiting.

Let’s define the difference between the two.

Contract recruiters are typically, but not always, considered temporary but very effective solutions to provide firepower to the existing internal recruiting efforts of the company. They are generally paid hourly in the neighborhood of $50-80/hr depending on the level of experience and urgency. How they are measured depends on the company, though most I have seen are paid to source more candidates into the hiring pipeline, which is vital for companies to meet/exceed their hiring goals. The client level of trust to do that is high with the person they are hiring.

RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) is typically when a company ‘retains’ the services of a search, recruiting or talent management firm to better funnel their hiring efforts and save on internal staff costs. The service provider may provide one or several dedicated recruiters, and basically act as an extension of the client’s talent acquisition efforts, charging a monthly/hourly fee vs. huge placement fees. The client level of trust to do that is high with the company they are hiring.

Now that we know what these solutions are – why are they so popular, flexible, and which do we recommend?

First, the total cost of recruiting in general is lower. If your company has a high volume of hiring needs, and you have internal recruiters with 20+ positions on their plates, odds are your company is paying placement fees of 20% or more to outside agencies for the most critical hires.

EX: One internal recruiter at $80k ($100k all in) and one outside agency placement fee ($20,000 on $100k salary) is almost $29,000 cost in a month. A RPO provider or contract recruiter typically charge between $10-15k monthly for as many hires as you can bring on.

Additionally, the flexibility provided from no overhead and minimal internal management adds luster to these types of TA solutions. Companies add firepower to their recruiting efforts at lower cost and greater flexibility. What’s not to love?

We do have a few recommendations on best practices for managing contract recruiters, the majority of whom are going to be remote:

  • Conduct a thorough interview with the recruiter: Get a strong sense of skill set proficiencies, sourcing tool expertise, prioritization preferences, and past experience.

  • Ask for and Check References of Past Clients: This serves two purposes, one to verify their work is solid, but also to ensure they don’t have several other clients they are also servicing – unless that is fine with you.

  • Be clear about Expectations: Is it volume sourcing you need? Specific skill set candidates? Are they vetting the applications you receive as a company? Whatever the focus of their service is, just be clear and communicative, it helps everyone involved.

  • Allow access to Managers: This is a sticky wicket with some companies, but if the recruiters don’t hear exactly what the hiring needs are from the managers and you expect them to rely on an HR job description, they are being set up to fail.

  • Have regular calls and check-ins: At least weekly, calibration meetings and prioritization of expected sourcing efforts is the best way to ensure you are getting value out of the service.

  • BIG ‘No-No’: Please do not have a contract recruiter manage any outside agencies who are doing placement recruiting. This takes away from the contract recruiter’s time in actually recruiting, and the outside agencies hate it and will probably shift their support to direct contact clients.

There are certainly strong and compelling reasons for preferring internal recruiters to be, well, internal. Culture and retention top the list, as well as long-term cost management. We have several clients who, despite the temporary shift to remote, fully intend on hiring people who will fill their office space – and that is perfectly fine. They are aware of the recently-limited talent pool for their positions, but that’s why we’re helping them. We believe on the spectrum of ‘fully remote company’ and ‘everyone in office company’, most employers will fall somewhere just over the right half when all is said and done.

For the record, Davis Laine offers both Flex solutions, depending on the client need. For example, we have small integrator customers who need proposal support to help win bids and pay a monthly service charge for cleared candidate sourcing. We also have very large commercial customers who utilize our recruiting efforts to identify qualified and experienced contract recruiters to be exclusively-dedicated extensions of their existing efforts. We find these types of solutions to be effective if set up properly, and are always willing to discuss should the need arise in your company.

About the Author:

Mike Nicholas is the founder of Davis Laine, LLC, an expert advisory firm specializing in solving talent acquisition headaches through TA setup advisory, specialized recruiter skills training, and RPO Recruiting services.

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