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Talent Acquisition Teams - Trusted Partners or Competitors?

Written by Scott Harrison

The world of recruitment has evolved significantly over the last two decades.  Whilst there always has been/ will be a role for agency recruiters particularly in relation to very difficult or confidential hires, we have seen companies make inroads in terms of successfully launching and developing their own internal talent acquisition teams.  The commercial objective of such teams is to source talent directly and consequently reduce agency fee cost and release time that line managers dedicate to recruitment to concentrate on their immediate business duties.  Direct recruitment has also been facilitated with the technological advent of Linkedin where sophisticated search engines allow companies quick access to candidates who were previously hard to reach.  A major consequence of this for agency recruiters has been that our access/ relationship with the line managers who are hiring for their immediate team has lessened and the onus is increasingly on us to build a strong and collaborative relationship with the company’s talent acquisition professionals.

Agency recruiters must adopt to the times

I have worked with and managed many agency recruiters for some 20 years now and I have seen agency recruiters unable to adopt to the emergence of talent acquisition professionals.  Rather than seeking to build up a relationship with the talent acquisition team, they view their presence as diminishing their control over a recruitment process.   Hiring processes can be complex, challenging and lengthy and line managers need to give a full and comprehensive briefing of their hiring needs to the talent acquisition team but once this is in hand, the expectation is that they can delegate conduct of the process to them.  This is an integral part of business efficiency so professionals play to their strengths, work smartly and utilise time correctly. Agency recruiters who excel in this market collaborate with internal recruiters, ensure introductions are made in line with due process to avoid ownership disputes and keep them informed at all stages of the recruitment process.

Talent acquisition teams are becoming more sophisticated

Talent acquisition professionals are often a dynamic force, comprised of recruiters who have worked in the industry for years with an intrinsic understanding of the business for which they work. Talent acquisition professionals also have close networks with other professionals in their field and they have a solid understanding of the portfolio of agency recruiters in the market and exchange recommendations on the best agency recruiters to work with.   They are keen to work with a select few recruiters renowned within their space and have developed preferred supplier lists (“PSL”).  In addition to streamlining the process for the talent acquisition teams, the PSL model carries significant benefits for agency recruiters; we have early access and some degree of exclusivity over new roles released. 

The agency/ internal relationship has to be reciprocal

We strive to build a relationship with talent acquisition teams and where we see the greatest success is when our efforts are reciprocated and such professionals equally work hard to build a relationship with us. We see the best results when internal recruiters state clearly what their goals are, their strategy for engaging recruiters and highlight where the benefits of collaboration might lie for both parties.  A classic example of where we see a breakdown on trust in the agency/ internal recruiter relationship is where the latter has already secured a highly suitable, proficient candidate for a role yet they engage our time on a search when there is minimal probability of our candidates being reasonably considered.  A further area of frustration is where we work hard sourcing candidates yet CVs drop into a black hole with little or no feedback.  Transparency is key and as agency recruiters, we are wholly appreciative that business needs for hiring can change overnight- the market can ebb and flow, often an internal candidate may be identified or perhaps a restructuring takes place which freezes headcount.We absolutely get that. We, however, appreciate being updated on such changes so we do not engage in work that will prove to be redundant and we can focus our energies on assisting our clients on hiring which matters.

Changes in talent acquisition teams

We have witnessed with interest the operational evolution of talent acquisition teams.  Such professionals have moved from being administratively orientated to sourcing talent through referrals and headhunting to drive down costs and control the supply of talent.  The pedigree of internal recruiters has risen substantially and internal recruiters often have strict accountability on their work from statistics on everything from staff retention to agency usage.  In larger teams, the head of talent acquisition can manage several internal recruiters and they can often engage recruitment process outsourcing (“RPO”) teams adding a further level of complexity to how to drive costs and when to engage external recruiters.

Our outlook for the future collaboration of talent acquisition teams/ agency recruiters

In summary, it is our prediction that talent acquisition teams are here to stay and we expect to see them to evolve and become more sophisticated.  We are also witnessing a trend of talent acquisition teams becoming increasingly separate from the HR function with a reporting line directly into the business rather than HR and undertaking a more strategic role in the development of talent for their company.  The best agency recruiters embrace this change, collaborate with talent acquisition teams transparently, tightly manage processes and have an ongoing commitment to excellence in candidate generation.