What makes a good procurement recruiter?

The news about CIPS and GPA and our recent posts on the subject (here and here) got me thinking about just what makes a good recruitment service provider? As someone who has been a candidate many times, and a recruiter (on a pretty large scale at times), it comes down for me to one primary factor. Whilst process and quality management are important, the ability, reliability and values of the people who are actually working on your recruitment task seem to me the main factors.

Now that may be different if we're talking real mega recruitment – 400 people for a new call centre perhaps. But in the situations most of us face, looking for a small procurement team for a new office, or a handful of category managers for marketing services, the people are key.

So when I look at procurement recruitment firms, that is what determines my favourites.  GPA, for example, has had Gail Pyrah at the helm for 20 years. She is someone I would absolutely trust, and understands procurement and recruitment back to front. And her senior team – people like Giles Sinclair, David Simpson and Alex Steel, have been around for some time, so you get the feeling they look to build long term relationships which depend on performance. Similarly, Christina Langley at Langley search & selection has that track record, understanding of the procurement market and personal influence over her business. Iain Gilmour at MSSL is another good guy and veteran of the industry.

Other firms such as Purcon and Hudson I have at times found very good, but it seems to me they've had more staff coming and going over the years than the above firms, and so much does depend on who you deal with on a particular job. John Okusi (Richard Bailey Associates) acted in a highly ethical and admiral manner, helping me with a problem some years ago; and although I’m not really talking about the head-hunting end of the market here, I can’t leave out Sarah Lim, who has been a star in our industry, although at Spencer Stuart she’s working now beyond just our sector.

How you manage your provider is also key.  I'd never suggest procurement people should be ‘soft’ with suppliers. But this is a market where to some extent, you will get what you pay for. Beat the recruiter down on margins, and do you think they're going to push that star category manager they’ve identified your way? I'd argue for a heavily success-dependent and incentive fee structure, but one that does enable the recruitment firm to make a fair return. (Again, I’m not talking head-hunting here, where the ‘30% of first year salary' fee basis has always seemed pretty illogical to me, as well as adding to the salary spiral we've seen for top executives).

But do think about the value that you'll get from your recruits being the real crème de la crème, set against a few £K more paid to the recruitment firm.

And a final point. How you treat candidates in the recruitment process does matter. Even those you reject may have an influence on you or your business in the future. I’ve bid for consulting work from people who I rejected years ago at interview – never occurred to me at the time, but I apparently always did the rejection in a professional and courteous manner which was a fortunate for my future business prospects!

You never know. I saw incredible incompetence once from a consulting firm who interviewed me; I've never recommended them since. (Wasn't the rejection that mattered, it was the chaotic approach that got me!) Another firm demonstrated an interesting blend of arrogance and incompetence when they interviewed a friend of mine a few years back. They were top of the world then in their industry; they’re now rapidly fading. Perhaps that attitude in the recruitment process was indicative of wider problems…

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