Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Recruitment Agencies and those annoying phone calls

I am one of the those people that regularly, almost daily, receives phone calls from recruitment agencies to see if I need more contractors for temporary assignments. We call those people agency temps. In other places they might be called freelancers.

I find these conversations always a bit awkward. The recruiter knows that I receive those calls regularly from many different agencies and that I most certainly already have an established base of recruiters I work with.

On the other hand I need the agencies at times so I do not want to close any doors but also do not want to give away whether I have a need now or in the near future. Before you know you have your mail box full with resumes and your phone red hot while you're not really certain whether you need someone or not. Even if you need someone, you need to limit the number of recruiters you deal with to a minimum.

In general I am more loyal to a recruiter than to an agency. If a person has proven to be able to find the right candidate, the agency the recruiter works for is less important.

The use of recruiters for temporary IT staff seems to vary per country while the philosophy of when to use temporary staff versus employment seems more similar. I noticed that in the Netherlands that there are less freelancers in IT than in Australia. I think primarily because of different taxation rules. Some cultural differences play probably a role as well. Where for example the Dutch rather have the certainty of a permanent employment, in Australia I see more sole traders then in the Netherlands. It seems to be easier to start your own business here in Australia. Even if you contract temporary staff in Australia via a software house, half the time the people are not permanently employed by that software house.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I prefer permanent staff. At least to facilitate the amount of work that is guaranteed required by the team. As far as I know this is the general logic for resourcing your team. Peak work is covered by temporary staff.

It is important to put good effort in the selection process for temporary staff because peak work often slides from one peak to another. You contract someone for a specific project and before it is completely finished you have another project at hand creating another peak. It sounds a bit contradictory but is demonstrates the challenge of resource planning.

This way I have however often been able to retain good temporary staff for long periods and reduce my recruitment needs. The consequence is that when recruiters call me, I actually hardly ever have a need increasing the burden of their calls.

But I do need them. When you look for people with skills that are widely available in the market you don't want to cull through 500 resumes. And when you look for skills that are very scarce you need every hand there is for the search. It is important to work with a mix of recruiters that specialise in different areas. I was lucky to have contracted in the past some very good Oracle EBS functional and technical specialists whom I would like to call upon in times of need. When I find that a recruiter personally knows many of those people, I know that this is a person to stay in contact with. You can't always contract those same people again but if the recruiter has the right network he can find someone else with those good qualities.

Though recruiters sometimes claim otherwise, you should not rely on them to assess suitability for the role. To assess the technical skills you should possess those skills yourself. (Therefore I believe for example also that when outsourcing you should have at least have some skilled staff in house to assure you select the right vendor and assure that you keep receiving quality services.) And when you have emergencies at hand, you need to be able to contact someone who can provide the required skills fast. Therefore, having relationships with software houses is important and you don't build those relationships only by calling them when you have an emergency.

For certain skills I sometimes prefer to resource from software house. Because they have technical skills in house, they can assess much better the skills of the candidate. And if you have experienced that their own staff is highly qualified then they will usually provide that same quality in people for your temporary assignment.

I prefer this in general also above outsourcing. Only when you clearly can control the quality of the services provided or when it really does not make sense to bring the skills in house, I prefer the outsourcing option.

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