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Permanent Recruitment – transforming markets not transacting placements James Osborne

Permanent Recruitment – transforming markets not transacting placements  James Osborne

Written by James Osborne

Last edited May 3, 2023

Permanent Recruitment – transforming markets not transacting placements James Osborne

There is no doubt in my mind that the impact permanent recruitment services delivered by a staffing / recruitment organisation has such a significant influence on the global economy.There is no doubt in my mind that the impact permanent recruitment services delivered by a staffing / recruitment organisation has such a significant influence on the global economy. The impact an agency can make to the successful development of a business and on consequence, to the market that business is involved with, will determine just how quickly those organisations can outperform the rest of their market and how sustainably that market will evolve.

Unlike temp / contract recruitment, the focus shifts from speed to hire to quality and performance and as such critical to a perm agency’s growth is the ability to both deliver a service that is superior to a customer’s ability to do it themselves or to tap into a pool of talent that is better than any of your competitors.

However, where many agencies go wrong is when designing an above par permanent recruitment service offering that is quality driven, they don’t position themselves appropriately to their customer universe. In other words, agencies who supply a high end, high value service should be build an applicable charging process and developing appropriate partnership agreements (not supplier / customer relationships) that match the effort involved to source and unearth talent – this is especially so in a market that is twice as hard to source candidates that many agencies currently find themselves in.

Personally, I find the more typical contingent supplier relationships that a number of agencies abide by as wasteful and devalues what an agency consultant actually has to do to in order to recruit the highest quality and calibre candidates out there. This can then create dysfunctional levels of communication between an agency and their customers where recruitment processes can become unnecessarily elongated, candidates are lost and quality is diminished.

To run an appropriate permanent recruitment campaign, an agency must be allowed to work closely and in collaboration with a hiring organisation, not as a supplier. Consultants need to have the ability to invest the appropriate time to assess cultural fit as much as skill fit. They need to be given the time to effectively consult with their customers’ hiring leads, thus creating applicable sourcing campaigns that are fit for purpose and that impact not only an organisations’ ability to hire the right talent but also to be able to hire talent that are the best on the market (active or passive) and retain that talent.

When building a permanent recruitment service, an agency’s offering needs to reflect this and consultants should push customers to work in this way, and pay fees according to the measurable impact their service has on the overall talent proposition – attraction, recruitment, performance and retention of talent. This is more about quality driven outcomes than it is about the delivery of quick activities. More about the performance of talent than it about speed to hire.

Any recruitment organisation, whether new to the market or existing, should be pushing for more retained, exclusive relationships that our customers have greater respect for. Relationships where we are positioned as partners not suppliers, where we control the process and can influence the outcomes through our professionals and expertise, and where we are truly valued for the time investment we put in.

Where we are measured and rewarded according to the ROI (Return on Investment) organisations receive from a quality driven service.

Simply put, when the size of active talent pools continues to decrease, so the effort we have to put in to engage with the passive talent market should increase… and with it the fees we should be charging.

Once positioned and rewarded accordingly, the key for a recruitment organisation to grow out the performance and productivity of their perm desks is to drive the profit efficiency of those desks, from a client, candidate and internal perspective.

We refer to this as “tweak performance”, something we got deep into at the latest Recruitment Network members’ Huddle (click here to find out more), built around the concept of improving the effectiveness and value of what we do every month by a 1% marginal gain.


  • How can we increase conversion ratios at every stage of the candidate attraction process by 1%?
  • How can we increase margins for the service we deliver by 1%?
  • How can we increase the number of retained placements we make by 1%
  • How can we attract 1% more candidates from any single talent acquisition channel?
  • How can we make it 1% easier for passive candidates to engage with us?
  • How can we improve the retention of the candidates we place by 1%?
  • Etc… etc…

Measure these regularly, drive behaviours internally around these measurements to create incremental improvements, and then reward progress accordingly.

Permanent recruitment is a transformational, quality-driven, professional service delivered in partnership with our customers – it is time to start valuing it appropriately, both internally and externally.

To find out more about The Recruitment Network, the ultimate support club for recruitment business leaders, click here.

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