• Mark Pearce

The day contingency recruitment met the real world

Updated: Sep 25, 2018

It’s not easy running a recruitment business. If you work in recruitment, you’ll know it can be a crappy job at the best of times. It’s like riding a rollercoaster with a group of nauseous children, who’ve mistakenly been given laxatives to help them feel better.

If you’re on your guard, you’ll avoid drowning in the impending, explosive results.

If you don’t work in recruitment, you’ve probably experienced how crappy it can be dealing with people doing a crappy job - when they’re crap at their job.

And this often paves the way for most recruiters to be milked by employers and candidates.

They can smell you on that rollercoaster before they’ve entered the theme park - and they’ve varnished their approach to pulling one over their opponents.

This recruitment blog isn’t an attempt at redemption. Far from it. It’s a straightforward look at how contingency recruitment (aka transactional recruitment) would play out in the real world of business.

I use the term ‘real world’ because the scenarios you’re about to read could only play out on some fictional planet full of rollercoasters, regurgitated milkshake and loose stools.

Something for you to remember the next time you ask recruiters to do something absurd.

Before you read these 5 scenarios, please use the below scorecard (1 point for each scenario that applies to you and your business):

Less than 1 = You run a normal business

Between 1-5 = You’re probably an idiot.

Tendering to get on a panel

You’ve been invited by a company you’ve never heard of to join their supplier panel. They send you an email with instructions and a boat load of attachments that read like they've been written by someone who's studying for a doctorate in Latin.

They won’t take calls to answer any questions. You’ve a tight deadline to gather a load of information by, involving 5 of your staff.

As the deadline approaches you’re sweating with anxiety. Will you make it? Luckily you do, in the nick of time.

6 months roll by and not a word. You’re still unable to speak with anyone about it. Then your inbox pings with the ‘dear John’ confirmation you weren’t expecting.

All that cutting-edge IP you put together to impress them? Well, it has. They’re using it with another supplier. Or, in some cases, they’ll use it to fly solo.

Tendering - the art of sharing your best IP for absolutely no return.

The surprise customer

Good news. You’ve been approved as a supplier with a new customer. Which comes as a surprise because you don’t know much about them. You sent them your brochure a few months back and now they desperately need your help.

You set up a meeting with the management team. After 5 minutes, you partly understand their issues. They’re comfortable you’re the right company for them. How easy is this? Money for old rope, you think.

Day 12 on the job and the proverbial has hit the fan. They’re all over the place. They’ve changed their scope of work 6 times. They’re having a go at you over everything. Even Frank's half-eaten tuna mayo sandwich has caused a major hazardous event when someone nearly stands on it. There goes your LTI record.

Behind the scenes you hear they’re going to kick you off their supply panel. All companies like you are rubbish. Better, faster and cheaper it said on your brochure. Still, there’s plenty of customers out there.

Panel bandits

One of your customers rings you. They’ve a bit of a problem with their processing plant. They want Sarah, your mechanical engineer to pop down and survey it. You send Sarah and she calls you half an hour later.

“There’s four blokes down here from different engineering companies. They’re asking us to break the work up and they’ll pay the engineering firm who delivers the best work.”

Great, you think. Let’s get cracking.

You build a team around Sarah and come up with a great idea to fix your customer’s problem. You present it. Unfortunately, Sid and the team at Low-Cost Engineering did the same work for $1 an hour less.

You kick yourself for not dropping your trousers sooner. There’s always a next time, right?

Every penny counts

You’ve agreed a scope of work with one of your customers. You’ve been through the finer detail and tweaked the scope. You know what needs to be done from here.

You deliver an outstanding project. Your customer tells you that you’re their best supplier and awards you another project. You’ve never felt better.

That afternoon, the phone rings and it’s the Procurement Manager from your favourite customer.

“Hi, Steve. Look, we need you to shave 25% off your margins. Times are tight, you know. Every other supplier has done it - the ones who’ve been chronic, never delivering a stitch on time or of any quality.”

“Go on then, Rick. You’ve twisted my arm,” you say without a grain of contest.

Look at it this way, you’ve just saved yourself losing great repeat business. Now you can keep investing your time delighting that customer. Great work.

These aren’t the parts you’re looking for

You win a piece of work with a new customer. They want 7 control valves replacing. Your valves are known to be the best in the industry.

You fit them and send your invoice. The next afternoon you get a call from the Hydraulics Replacement Manager; HR Manager for short. Unfortunately your valves were already in their warehouse and they won't be paying for them.

However, if you send another 7, they’ll see if they’re also in their warehouse. If they’re not, then you’ve a chance of replacing them and getting paid. So, you agree to send more.

Unfortunately, 6 of the valves are in stock and the other has been blacklisted after it ran off with the company secretary.

Hopefully, there’ll be another chance to work with this customer again. You’ll probably land lucky next time, right?

How did you score?

I'm betting it was a genuine, round zero. You’d have to be utterly stupid to allow this to happen in your business. In fact, it’d never happen in a million years.

Unless you’re planning on strapping yourself in for the Big Dipper’s next ride - and asking a contingency recruiter to take you through the twists and turns you're not prepared to experience yourself.

What do you want to do now?

Inverse Energy is a search consultancy based in Perth, Western Australia with a focus on mid to senior management and leadership jobs across the energy, mining, infrastructure and defence sectors - worked on a retained or exclusive basis.