Why recruitment agencies have survived the Social Media (SM) revolution

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Nowadays we are used to receiving notifications from sites such as Linkedin and Xing, telling us that a particular company is recruiting.  If the job appeals, we can download the full description, research the company and begin an online application within just a few minutes of receiving the message.

In the second decade of the 21st century we are interconnected in ways we would never have imagined ten or fifteen years ago: the social media revolution has not only transformed the way we apply for jobs, it has also changed the way businesses search for new staff.

From the jobseeker’s point of view, social media channels offer an easy, targeted alternative to hours of research. Within seconds of receiving a job alert, an applicant can ensure that his or her CV will appear in the HR department’s Inbox. Thanks to SM giants such as Facebook applicants can ‘follow’ the organisations they want to work with: learning about new job opportunities as soon as they are published.

From a corporate perspective it’s equally easy to place a job description online, knowing that the company will instantly receive applications from hundreds of eager applicants.

It wasn’t always like that. The more mature workers amongst us will remember a time when our high streets were awash with recruitment agencies and it was normal practice to register with one when looking for a job. Employers would place their vacancies with an agency, then sit back and wait for screened and suitably experienced candidates to turn up to their office door.

This system worked well, but during the past two decades recruitment agencies have been caught in a ‘perfect storm’ of economic and cultural change: not only battered by the advent of social media but squeezed by the Great Recession of 2008, which led to more and more businesses taking on their own recruitment in order to save money. In the face of such impossible odds, it seems remarkable that some recruitment agencies have not only survived, but have gone on to thrive in the upturn.

The truth is that many employers who experimented within-house recruitment during the recession have learned from their experiences.  As they now begin to expand and take on new staff, they want to be sure they have the right people in place to help their businesses move forward.  For this reason they have stopped regarding agency services as a luxury, believing that a fee based on 10%-30% of the first year’s salary is a worthwhile investment if it results in a successful, long-term placement.

Experience in screening and selecting applicants is especially important when a company is looking for candidates to fill a specialist job role, particularly in employment areas such as healthcare, education, finance, investment or the public sector, where rigorous procedures must be followed to ensure that appropriately experienced and qualified staff are engaged.

An agency interviewer will not only assess a candidate’s attitude and presentation, they will also search carefully through the CV, looking for any discrepancies or unusual employment patterns that might hint at problems to come. In the role of the ‘middle man’ the agent may also become a sounding board for both employer and applicant, gaining unique, personal insights that can’t be gleaned from a job description or a CV and which help the agent to meet everybody’s needs and expectations.

This approach may sound traditional, but today’s recruitment agent is far from being stuck in the past. Once a casualty in the onward charge of social media, they are now harnessing its power. The medium is diversifying, growing and changing all the time, creating different platforms that appeal to different age groups and demographics. Far from being outpaced by the likes of Facebook, Google Plus and Linkedin, recruitment agencies now keep up with the latest developments in social media so their clients can stay ahead of the game.

Peter Forshaw, Managing Director, Maxwell Stephens

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