Category Archives: management

Outsourcing Recruitment, a Necessary Evil


There’s sometimes a bad feeling about having to outsource your recruitment. Maybe a feeling that you’re paying for a service that you could be doing yourself, and that you’re paying over the odds for it with fees. I have also heard people equate their relationship with recruitment agents to their negative experiences with Estate Agents. As a middle man trying to get the best for both sides and take something for themselves, there’s often a feeling that nobody wins.

With all the trepidation comes a reality, a reality that your business has decided to take this option and there maybe many perfectly valid reasons why they have chosen to do this.

  • Your HR department do not have the capacity or skills in your industry to effectively bring in the right candidates.
  • You need to scale particularly quickly and you need access to candidates on the market fast.
  • You’re looking for a niche or high end market of candidates which is expensive in time to find.

I’ve seen may people take this common approach to scaling their teams but they have failed to invest further time in making it a success. Upon taking this approach and receiving the wrong candidates or getting a lack of talent through the door they have laid the blame firmly with the recruitment agent further perpetuating the bad feelings of this experience.

I think this is wrong.


You only get out what you put in.

If you’re looking to outsource you recruitment because people aren’t breaking down the door to get a job with you then its likely you’re operating in a competitive market. As the agent is representing numerous other companies possibly in your space what are you doing to make sure that when they find a good candidate they are promoting your business over everyone else? Equally, with several options on the table for a good candidate what are you doing to make sure they come to you?


Build a Relationship

Getting to know your agencies is very important. Most of your relationship like many suppliers will be conduced by phone or e-mail. An initial meeting is essential. This is often done over the phone, but I think to really build this relationship you need to meet the them face-to-face. Putting a face to a name for all those e-mail, phone, faceless conversations is paramount. If this is geographically not possible, then use Google Hangout, Lync, Skype with video to ensure they know who you are and build that rapport. This meeting should not only be a chance to find out what they can do for you and how you can best work together, but also your chance to sell. This might seem counter intuitive as you think they are the one vying for your business and maybe this is the reason why it falls down so often.


Sell, sell, sell

It’s time to differentiate yourself. Why is your culture, company, position worth the best candidates. Think outside of the specific role for which you’re hiring. What is it about the department in which the candidate will work that makes it attractive? what about the company as a whole, what’s the strategy, growth, the future? All of this may seem overkill, but if you can enthuse and sell your company and the role as a great place/position to work to the recruitment agent then they will find it very easy to sell it to your potential candidates.



Now the recruitment agent is singing from your hymn sheet and your biggest promoter there’s still more you can do. Give the agent the tools to allow them to sell your position and company effectively. What marketing material can you provide? Company blogs, recruitment video, team social media handles, biographies. What can you provide the candidates that will make you stand out and for them to remember you?

All of this maybe redundant if the candidate is not what you’re looking for, but its worth using the recruitment agencies to do your marketing for you. What if that candidate went away and grew their skills and became what you always wanted? Why would they remember your company and why would they want to re-apply?

All of these suggestions might not be possible. You may not be prepared to invest the time in this process, and if you don’t, don’t expect to get as much out. You need to find what’s right for you in terms of cost and effort, but the chances are you should and can be doing more.

One to Ones – Another Feedback Loop

Over the last couple of weeks I have been committing one of the worst sins as a manager. Not keeping up with my one to ones. This makes me feel really bad. Although I offer an “open door” policy, or in my specific case a no door policy (I don’t have an office) and I always try to encourage my directs to approach me whenever they have a problem or need advice, I still feel I have let them down by not having the metronomic opportunity to have my undivided attention and talk.

It still surprises me how few people have experiences of regular 1-1′s so I thought I would share my thoughts on my experiences.

What are One to Ones?

One to ones (1-1) are a regular and frequent meeting to give and receive feedback to your direct reports; those people that you manage. In the same way that we approach releases we approach one to ones, early and often, tightening one of the many feedback loops in Agile teams. It’s a time to allow direct feedback and build relationships with your staff. Giving feedback isn’t just about negative feedback nor telling someone how badly they are doing, it’s a time to offer encouragement and coaching. There any many techniques on providing feedback such as reflective questions or non threatening language but I wont go into that here.

The Anti-pattern

Annual reviews are a common practice in the business environment but the frequency extends the feedback loop between yourself and your directs to months. This allows little time for course correction until its too late and the behaviors that either you, your directs, or worse both, reach a point of no return and its time for personal improvement programs or other last resort corrective techniques that too often come as a surprise. How many times have you sat down with your directs to provide feedback at an annual review and you receive a look of shock and horror, as they were unaware of the impacts of their behavior or the fact that they were even doing it?

The cost of not doing them?

  • Your directs don’t know where they’re going wrong or what they’re doing well.
  • Morale depletes due to lack of encouragement or effecting other teams members with the unchanged bad behaviors.
  • As a manager you don’t get to find out what’s really happening on the ground and how people feel about it.
  • You don’t build up solid relationships with your directs.
  • You don’t allow yourself the opportunity to discover those gems of information about your directs that can help you understand where they are coming from and empathize.
  • You don’t allow a constant and open channel for communication.

What do they look like?

I generally make the 1-1 sessions 30 mins long, but this will depend on your availability and how many directs you have reporting to you. The session is split into 3; 19 mins for their feedback, 10 mins for my feedback and then 10 mins for any other business. My 1-1′s very rarely stick to this schedule but that’s OK. The important part is that the first part of the meeting is focused on what they want to say, reinforcing the fact that this meeting is for them and not a status update and that all parties have an allotted time to provide feedback.

Schedules can be tricky and the frequency is a balance. Too often and they can be time consuming for your direct with little to discuss at each. Too infrequent and you loose the opportunity for course correction and you slip too close to the anti-pattern.

I hope to share more of the specific challenges that I have faced in 1-1′s in the future, but hopefully, if your not doing them yet, this is enough to get you started.

There’s some useful pod-casts on 1-1′s and feedback in general from the people at Manager Tools. If you can get past the jovial conversational format there’s some good content.