Using a recruitment agency: how to get the lowest fee AND the best service

Demand for experienced management consultants is booming and you are struggling to find staff. So much so you are forced to consider paying a recruitment agency fee!

Given the scarcity of relevant candidates, many management consulting firms think the obvious answer is to use several recruitment agencies. The rationale: “it’s madness to put all our eggs in one basket so let’s get a spread of candidates. Also, while we’re at it we can use the spectre of competition to get them to work harder. Oh and also to reduce their fees.”

hiring companies need to address the candidate experience as well as simply advertising for staff


This is why:

1. You are asking a specialist recruitment agency to work for free in the hope of getting a fee.

This forces the recruitment agency to decide on how likely they are to realise a fee from a specific role/employer and therefore calculate how much effort they are prepared to invest.

There are many factors at play in that decision but in crude terms: if you are using four agencies for a role each agency has a 25% chance of filling it (IF you do end up hiring and IF you don’t fill it yourself). And also you are saying to each agency “you have just 25% of my commitment”.

So no they’re not going to work harder because they’re in competition: quite the reverse.

2. The focus will be mainly on ACTIVE management consulting job seekers

25% chance doesn’t equate to a lot of effort so as a result, all the recruitment agencies will focus on active and easy-to-find candidates. There is nothing wrong with active consulting job seekers at all, but this is very much a “tip of the iceberg” strategy: in a market with candidate shortages you have to be looking for “passive” candidates too. It also involves them all fishing in the same small pool so using four recruitment agencies definitely won’t find you four times as many candidates.

3. The quality of shortlisted management consulting candidates

The candidates won’t be well screened: partly because of the diminished “effort” as just mentioned, but also because no recruiter can afford to take the risk of NOT sending a marginal candidate. Another recruitment agency might and who knows you might just end up hiring them, so they lose a fee.

THE ALTERNATIVE – offer a period of exclusivity.

From a management consultancy recruiter’s perspective this transforms the economics and probability of success. And the employer will gain:

1. A fee reduction

As the recruitment agency are much more likely to get a fee, they can consider a fee reduction.

2. A better service

The transformation in the probabilities also means the employer is getting the Recruiter’s full commitment to filling their vacant role. The responsibility for success has shifted to the Recruiter who now owns the problem.

The client is taking the focus off speed and back on quality and exclusivity which means the recruiter has time to do thorough work.

3. Better choice of candidates

Exclusivity allows the Recruiter to bring all their resources to bear in the talent search. Not just a quick database search of the latest candidates. The service can now include:

  • a thorough, detailed hunt including a full and comprehensive database search
  • spending their money on varied advertising
  • looking at their networks and communities
  • social media activity especially LinkedIn
  • headhunt approaches

4. Time saving and Brand representation

Working exclusively means the Recruiter can invest time in really getting to know your business. As well as ensuring more relevant candidates this in turn takes less of your time as you’re briefing one agency, not four.

Exclusivity means more thorough screening, including proper interviews and detailed candidate qualification saving an employer still more time.

The management consultancy firm’s brand and image is improved by using one recruiter, partly because their job is not devalued in the eyes of candidates, who will be suspicious if the job is represented by multiple recruiters. But also, because a good and exclusive recruiter will be representing their client in the best possible light and enhancing the all important “employer brand”.

In summary – how you should work with a specialist management recruitment agency

By offering a period of exclusivity to a specialist management recruitment agency you are multiplying the prospect of finding the best talent, rather than dividing it by the number of agencies you brief. Also as an extra bonus, even though they are providing a better service they may be persuaded to reduce their fee because they are much more likely to get one!

If you would like to discuss how Prism can help with your management consultant recruitment please contact Chris Sale, Managing Director, Prism Executive Recruitment on 01344 636 426 or [email protected]

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