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Multi-agency recruitment vs. agency exclusivity: what will you choose?

10-Jun-2015 17:00:00 HR Recruitment Agile Talent
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Why multi-agency recruitment limits success when hiring Agile people

Agile is not a skill. Rather it is a way of being, thinking and behaving, of bringing about change. For an agency to identify the right Agile candidate, selection cannot be based on their skills or job titles. It has to be about the individual, their experience, the essence of who they are and how they can help a client organisation on their improvement journey.

Yet the majority of the recruitment for Agile people in the UK market is still dominated by recruitment agencies focussing on CV-based and skills-based selection criteria, i.e. just matching a job spec to the obvious, visible and easily identifiable skills on a résumé.

 The results of this approach are that clients receive CV shortlists to screen and they end up interviewing candidates to assess their suitability. Candidates and client organisations frequently find themselves wasting each other’s time when a lack of suitability becomes apparent to both parties within the first five minutes, but everyone has to painfully endure another 55 minutes to avoid embarrassment.

Agencies should send to clients candidates to hire, not to be screened


So why is this happening when it is clearly a less than optimal approach? One of the reasons is that multi-agency recruitment drives the wrong behaviours in recruitment agencies and does not deliver quality or value to clients.

There is a questionable belief that engaging recruitment agencies in multi-agency competition encourages speedier delivery, provides a higher level of service and ensures clients receive a wider and better mix of candidates. Even if this were to be true, these are the wrong behaviours to encourage! The most important benefit of any recruitment approach should be that it drives up candidate quality and suitability.

Yet I have never heard a client advocate using a multi-agency approach for this, the most important reason of all! I have also never heard multi-agency recruitment cited as driving up candidate quality, primarily because the evidence points to the contrary.

Contingency recruitment agencies only get paid on results and, as most agencies have access to the same candidate pool, a multi-agency race occurs where agencies are required to present candidates before the competition. In this way, the client organisations are encouraging agencies to approach their hiring need based on speed rather than quality.

So what is the alternative?

Recruitment agency exclusivity is the route to the best results


Giving exclusivity on Agile engagements to a knowledgeable recruitment agency provides clients with the following benefits:

  • Finding the hidden gem: Agile candidates are in high demand. Finding the right candidate is 95% of time about finding the passive candidate. Passive candidates do not respond to advertisements. Multi-agency contingency recruitment does not allow for the legwork to identify and attract passive candidates, who comprise the majority of the market.
  • More time to understand: Candidate fit, cultural match, experience relevance. All of these core tenets of candidate suitability are nothing to do with the CV but all to do with the person. Candidates must be met in person by an agency, understood and filtered accordingly.
  • Higher agency commitment: On exclusive engagements, clients are committing 100% to an agency as opposed to say 33% if they are using an agency preferred supplier list (PSL) of three. Multi-agency recruitment drives agency commitment down, not up.

When we talk to candidates and clients about their experiences hiring and applying for Agile roles, we always get the same feedback: “agencies just look for buzzwords and key skills on the CV, they don’t really try to understand the role / who I am”.

When both candidates and clients are repeating the same message and when a different approach could save time for the business, deliver better quality, reduce administration costs and increase engagement between the client and the recruitment agency, why are we not talking more about exclusivity?

The solution to hiring good Agile (and arguably any other) people is for the agency to focus more on the person and truly understand the individual’s fit with the hiring organisation. A great recruiter who knows their market can use the full range of tools and strategies at their disposal to find the right person. But this is done most effectively when undertaken on an exclusive basis. As agencies, we need to be supporting our clients by demonstrating the importance of this and not just languishing in the multi-agency status quo.

I would love to hear the thoughts and views of candidates, hiring managers, HR teams and other agencies. Do you think we should be talking more about the value of exclusivity for recruiting Agile roles?


Gustav Bjorkeroth

Gustav Bjorkeroth

“What I enjoy about life at Radtac is working with some of the most motivated and innovative people in the industry today” Gus is first and foremost a Dad to 3 young kids, a lover of early German (and slightly niche) electronic music and a big armchair sports fan. When he is not droning on about Leicester City Football Club, the England Cricket Team or starting an office fight over politics, he is occasionally found doing a bit of work! Gus is responsible at Radtac for the development and management of our Radtac Certified Associate offering and for the delivery of strategic business initiatives. He splits his time between our London and Leeds offices. Gus brings to Radtac a wealth of experience in sales, talent management and project delivery. Before joining Radtac, Gus worked for a number of entrepreneurial services companies, and founded and built a recruitment business. Gus is a CSM, CSPO and Scaled Agilist. Read more