Today we’re launching a new regular feature called “My take on…”. It’s designed to be a platform for an honest perspective on a relevant issue or subject. To put forward a candidate to give their take on an issue, please email david@prolificnorth.co.uk.

This week, Creative Spark founder Neil Marra gives his take on recruitment consultants…

My agency is 14 this year. We’ve come a long way, and have made a success of ourselves thanks to the absolutely unbelievable talent we’ve been lucky enough to employ. Thing is, I’m finding I have to be luckier and luckier as each year goes by. Killer candidates are getting harder and harder to find, and I’m increasingly laying the blame on the recruiters.

marraWhen Creative Spark was starting out, we relied on recruitment specialists to get us the right people. Back then when recruiters didn’t have the luxury of social media, they physically came to the studio, taking the time to get to know us, learn what we were about and gain an insight into our culture. That insight is what helped them find not only “good on paper” candidates, but good “fit” candidates too.

Fast-forward to 2016 and that insight is rotting in a ditch somewhere. Recruiters are no longer trusted friends and colleagues tapped into our business and culture, they are interchangeable, pushy voices at the end of a phone. Or, even worse, they’ve become a sign-off at the bottom of an email that starts “Hi, sorry for being out of touch this year, but I’ve just stumbled across this great find…”

I blame LinkedIn. It’s made people lazy. Recruiters in particular. There are millions of CVs just sat there, so why bother getting to know an agency or a candidate when you can just bash out a keyword search? It’s a recipe for disaster, and small to medium agencies end up having to gamble on “good on paper” candidates who can often end up being a terrible match.

There’s no insight, no initiative, no fit. Half the time the recruiter has never even met the candidate, but my office still gets hundreds of calls from consultants insisting they have the perfect person. How could they have any insight into what we need when they don’t even know who they’re hawking? Or for that matter who we are as an agency? The pressure to place a candidate has made it a numbers game and it’s us, the small agencies, who have to take all the risk. Oh, and a fee of anything up to 25%…

Now, in fairness, some recruiters do take the time. They meet both agency and candidate and work as the professional matchmakers they always should have been. Problem is, they’re a dying breed. Our industry has always been saturated with blaggers, but now those blaggers are getting into great agencies because they are pushed heavily by recruiters who don’t know (or don’t care?) that they’re actually not right.

I pride myself on having a good nose and a decent early-warning system, but it can still take a good few months to suss out a new hire. Sure, that’s what probations are supposed to be for, but recruitment fees are often due up well before that. What I resent is a) blaggers treating my agency as a dry run and b) recruiters feeding them to me in the first place. The final kick in the sack is the recruiters’ response when it doesn’t work out, invariably something like: “Oh unlucky, but I’ve just found another random who’d be perfect. Fee still applies by the way.”

To end though, I ask this: why aren’t recruiters doing something? They’re not the only ones who can use social media to find candidates. Creative industry professionals aren’t idiots, they know they can apply direct to agencies like ours online. They follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn. If I can leverage my existing networks and get candidates directly, cutting out recruiters altogether, why wouldn’t I? Why would I pay extra for something that might end up being a bust? Also, more importantly, what is the unique value a recruiter brings that makes them worth their 13-25%? In the past, their insight was well worth the cost and I was happy to pay. Today, I find myself increasingly unhappy indeed…

Finally, to all recruiters who might read this article and see an opportunity to call us up and tell us you’re so, so different: don’t. The game is up. We’ve heard it all before…

To give your take on a particular issue or subject, contact david@prolificnorth.co.uk.