Bringing hired guns in-house

Hot-shot headhunter savvy combined with intimate in-house knowledge - for as long as you need it.

As Canadian companies move their businesses online or implement new technologies to keep pace with competitors, they are challenged to find a way to secure the right IT resources — before they are lost to lucrative offers south of the border.

One way some companies counteract the “brain drain” is to contract specialized IT recruiters to work in-house during peak periods. With HR professionals working at full capacity on development and retention strategies, there is a growing need for dedicated internal recruiters who are in the trenches, finding people with the right skill-set and briskly selling them their dream position.

Andy Labute, senior director of human resources for Toronto-based Microforum, a software products and Internet solutions company, explains the appeal of having somebody in house, at least for a while, rather than on relying on a headhunter.

“It takes longer for an external person to understand your culture and form a relationship because there is less interaction than if someone is onsite, in your facility, going to lunch or even meeting at the water cooler,” he says.

In large companies, recruiting consultants can work in tandem with a firm’s full-time recruiters. In smaller firms they can alleviate the workload of HR professionals. Generally, these consultants occupy an office at the client’s site but can provide remote assistance, when necessary. Consultants can be retained independently or through a specialized recruitment company that employs screened personnel and assures satisfaction.

Last fall, DMR Consulting, a provider of e-consulting services and business solutions with Canadian headquarters in Montreal, experienced a surge in projects but the recruitment team couldn’t keep up with the need to fill new positions. After assessing the tasks at hand, the firm decided to supplement its internal team with two IT recruiting consultants for a three-month pilot at its Calgary office.

“The concept of bringing recruiting consultants in-house was new to me but it seemed like a low risk approach and made good business sense,” says Rob Hughes, DMR’s Calgary-based Western Canada resourcing and recruiting manager.

Proven skills

Using a contract recruiter can be extremely efficient. Seasoned IT recruiting consultants hit the ground running and they can often accelerate the hiring process. They bring a wealth of knowledge and proven skills to the client and quickly apply them to their new environment.

These consultants usually have a tool kit of tactics, a proven approach and savvy cold calling skills developed through extensive agency experience. They bring this expertise, as well as an established network and up-to-the-minute knowledge of new and emerging technologies to the client.

Hughes found his IT recruiting consultants used these assets and a fresh perspective to help DMR achieve process efficiencies. “In some cases, they also had more latitude than full-time staff,” he explains. “For example, they could use their contacts from other regions to fill pressing requests in the organization and their political autonomy to employ more aggressive recruiting techniques.”

Corporate culture replication

From the outset, Hughes also found these consultants worked collaboratively with DMR staff to learn about the company and its direction and established a rapport with the hiring managers. “When it came time to fill these managers’ resource needs, the recruiters already had an understanding of the cultural and personality fit required and needed minimal briefing, which gave us a huge head start.”

Staffing flexibility

Having recruiting consultants on hand freed up DMR’s full-time staff and allowed them to focus on other urgent requirements and highly sensitive projects. “One consultant spent several days negotiating a deal between one of our southern U.S. offices and a team of contract resources from Edmonton. It would have been disruptive for a staff recruiter to invest this much time,” Hughes points out.

Labute concurs. “At Microforum, our recruitment manager is responsible for numerous recruitment-related projects, such as trade show booths, recruitment advertising and Web site sections. By assigning recruiting to a dedicated consultant, he can focus on these other tasks.”

Lisa Woytowich is national recruitment manager for Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Canada Inc., a consulting firm focused on innovative new economy solutions. She uses contract services to assist with staffing across the country. This ensures coverage of one-offs and high volume projects.

“We thought we would be able to support Vancouver and Calgary from the Toronto office, but a phenomenal year of growth increased our targets and made it difficult to support the recruiting needs of these cities remotely. Our solution was to hire a contract recruiter who knew Western Canada’s IT marketplace.”

Cost effective

Bringing the recruiting function inside, by using full-time or contract recruiters, immediately reduces a company’s cost per hire by cutting or decreasing agency commission fees, which range from 20 per cent to 35 per cent of the candidate’s first year salary.

Andy Labute ranks cost-effectiveness as the leading benefit of recruiting consultants, particularly when volume hiring is required. “For an employee with an average salary of $60,000, you will pay 20 per cent in commission fees to a recruitment agency. This means each hire will cost you $12,000, which adds up to $120,000 for 10 hires. For the same $120,000, I can cut costs by bringing in two or three recruiting consultants, who can each hire 10 people,” says Labute.

Strategic savings

Long-term strategic savings can be realized through the increased accountability, internal knowledge and credibility of recruiting consultants.

Having an expert recruiter on hand assures companies more control in the process and higher accountability. Seana Bingham, a seasoned recruiting consultant based in Toronto, agrees. “Since you are not working for commission, your focus is on finding the person who will give the client long-term satisfaction, not simply fill a position,” she says.

Internal IT recruiters are also more adept at identifying the specific skill sets needed because they know the company’s business. “Because they have formed a relationship with the hiring manager, they often have the comfort level to point out gaps or speak up when a profile is completely off the mark,” explains Labute. Furthermore, this knowledge also helps them strategically plan ahead, envision upcoming needs and anticipate who, from competitive firms and other sources, will be available in the near future.

Recruiters carry more credibility when they sell a position and a company’s corporate culture from an internal position. In today’s market, selling is a major part of an IT recruiter’s job. “You carry the weight of the company behind you and candidates tend to accept your word as genuine,” says Bingham. “They also know that you are not spinning your wheels about a prospective position that may never be approved.”

Role of other channels

Even firms with dedicated IT recruiters still use recruitment agencies, job boards, recruiting sites and other channels when they need to cast a wider net to fill particularly difficult or mission-critical positions in a short time frame. The difference is that these companies depend on their recruiters to be intelligent gatekeepers who can switch agencies on or off, as required, and provide the personal touch needed to ensure each placement is the winning fit.

“We deal with a couple of agencies that know us inside out, but the individual attention of an in-house contractor working within our team creates synergies that I have rarely found with external agencies,” says Hughes.

IT recruiting consultants filled some 30 positions in less than three months for DMR. According to Hughes, “This pilot got us on top of a demand crunch, streamlined our processes and was a huge success. In fact, we are still working with one of the recruiters on an as-needed basis.”

With today’s growth of technology in Canada, contract recruiters are emerging as a critical portal for clearing any resource bottlenecks and adding “bottom-line” value to a business.

Paul Dodd is president of Inc., a recruiting company that specializes in recruiting IT recruiters for contract and full-time placements. He can be reached at (416) 440-1324 or at [email protected].

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