Why it’s time to go ‘exclusive’ with your IT recruitment partner

Why it’s time to go ‘exclusive’ with your IT recruitment partner

Maria McCulloch

Why it’s time to go ‘exclusive’ with your IT recruitment partner

At Nine Twenty, we've been sourcing IT and digital talent for high-growth SMEs for over 16 years. We’ve supported start-ups, helped them grow and, in many cases, supplied them with the digital talent they’ve needed all the way through to a successful exit.  

As an industry veteran, I can say with certainty that the situation our clients are facing today is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Even before the pandemic, the UK, and Scotland in particular, suffered from a well-publicised digital skills shortage. However, the current Covid-19 crisis has massively accelerated the digital transformation of most businesses. Whether it’s an urgent need to address issues relating cyber security, business system applications or online trading, the demand for IT skills is at an unprecedented high, making the search for IT talent more competitive than ever. 

Against this backdrop of limited resources and increased demand, I believe many organisations need to rethink the way in which they currently engage with their IT recruitment partners. 


Too many cooks

A common practice when using recruitment agencies is to engage multiple agencies at once to fill a limited number of roles. This is, frankly, a bad idea when it comes to recruiting IT skills. Let me explain why.

When agencies are put into opposition against each other, the focus of the recruitment process moves from quality candidate selection to speed, candidate ‘ownership’ and aggressive competitive tactics.

Given the limited amount of digital talent out there, many of the same candidates will often be known to several different agencies. Some agencies, in response, race to submit a suitable candidate's CV to the hiring company in order to be first, often without discussing the role or company properly with the candidate and, in some cases, without even informing the candidate that their name is being put forward! 

The by-product of all this is a lesser quality selection process and reduced focus on the candidate’s cultural fit. For the hiring company, this can lead to duplicate CVs being submitted by different agencies, wasting valuable time – including time spent assessing candidates who haven't expressed any real interest in working for you!

For this reason, it makes sense for both parties (the employer and the IT recruitment agency) to establish an exclusive relationship. This level of commitment ensures that the client gets absolutely the right person for the role; a goal which is helped considerably when a single agency knows that they, and they alone, have responsibility for filling the vacancy.


Agree a fee

Likewise, while the idea of 'payment by results' may be attractive to an employer when using a recruitment agency, I don’t believe it is the best way to engage with a specialist recruiter right now.  Working with a specialist IT recruitment partner on an exclusive basis – and a pre-agreed fee structure - makes a lot more sense on various levels.

Firstly, it reduces the level of financial risk for the agency and, therefore, provides their consultants with more time and space to really get to know your business and the true nature of your digital needs. OK, so you need a dot.net developer, but for what exactly? The nature of such a role can vary massively from one organisation to another. Establishing the exact requirements of the business upfront can save a lot of time and heartache in the long run. Guaranteed income for the agency represents the time they need to find the perfect candidates for their client. Which sounds like a win-win to me.


Getting to know you

If you are a company in the process of building your digital team and you're not already known to the IT and development communities, there’s another very good reason to ‘go exclusive’ with your IT recruitment partner. For businesses like yours, with no profile among your target talent pool, it's not enough to simply advertise a vacancy. You need to promote your organisation as an attractive place to work. You need to build the profile of your brand as an employer.

At Nine Twenty, we ensure that we get the brand tactics right before we embark on the search. This often involves working with our clients to help them build the right employer branding and marketing strategy.

Most of the adverts we place are promoted under the employer brand, rather than our own. We've found that, in general, employer branded recruitment strategies produce up to 50% more uptake and engagement than ads published under the recruitment agency's name. By allowing your exclusive recruitment partner the room to genuinely get to know your company and promote your employer brand in a consistent manner over time, the recruitment process becomes smarter, more efficient and, ultimately, more successful in delivering the skills and the team you need.

One thing’s for sure, the demand for digital skills is only going to increase in the coming months. Competition for IT and software development talent will be fiercer than ever. It’s time for employers to think through their use of recruitment agencies. I believe those who establish exclusive relationships built over time, based on mutual understanding and trust, will be the ones to come out on top.


Chris Lowden                                                                                                            

Commercial Director

Nine Twenty Recruitment


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