More on the Change From Companies to Recruiters Calling Consulting Firms, Directly

Yesterday, I made the comment that there are more recruiters that call, these days, than in the past. In the past, customers used to call around to find their own people. Several things have changed to cause this.

The Up-rise of Recruiting as a Profession
As those of you who have tried to find someone know, it’s not easy. If you know where to look, it’s one thing, but when you’re starting your first project and new to the industry, it’s hard to figure out how to get the right people to your project. Thus, recruiters have become a popular option. After all, why spend a lot of time on something you might not be successful at when you could pay someone who has some experience in looking for people for you, right? Now, that’s not to say that recruiters are always the answer. Some recruiters are better than others. Sometimes, by getting a bunch of recruiters involved who don’t know the industry, they don’t end up finding anyone for you, after all. Sometimes, you really do know more about how to find someone than they do, depending on what recruiters you choose. And, in that, you don’t get what you need.

Keep in-mind, though, that using a recruiter raises the cost. If you pick an industry rate that you feel is fair that you want to pay, remember that you’re offering something lower than that to the actual resource that you get.

Preferred Vendors
More than ever, companies have gone from staffing their specialty systems by calling industry experts to signing agreements with preferred vendors who are supposed to handle all the company’s needs. In some cases, the preferred vendors are split by division or area, so that they are more likely to understand the types of needs they need to staff and, thus, more likely to be able to fill them. Other times, it is a blanket agreement with a preferred vendor who only understand the absolute most popular software, such as managing the e-mail system, the word processing software, and a few other enterprise-wide software packages.

In either case, no-one can really staff everything. In either case, both will be unlikely to have people on staff who can service your LIMS or ELN. These are still specialty areas that not every consulting company is interested in specializing in. At least where the company knows something about it, they will have a better idea the types of resources you need and where to find them. In the case where the company really has no idea, good luck getting anyone of any quality. I realize you have no control over that, but that’s the case where maybe you should just try to do it yourself, somehow.

Once again, as with a recruiter, this costs you something. If the preferred vendor cannot find someone, they will subcontract it out. If they subcontract it to a company who also doesn’t have the right person or whose people are currently all busy, they will then subcontract it, too. Thus, it is not uncommon to see multiple layers of subcontracts. As always, everyone has to make money on this. So, I have run into situations where customers mention they are frustrated with the level of resource they have. And, the customer might mention a rate they are paying that is actually quite generous — one where they expect they would get a highly-experienced person. But then, because there are so many levels of subcontracts involved, the actual consultant they bring in is making the hourly rate of a quite junior person. And, of course, the person is a junior person and the customer is upset about that. They think they should get what they pay for.

One way to fend-off this situation is to insist that there be no subcontracting or not without prior approval. This keeps these multiple layers from happening. However, it also makes it harder to find a warm body when you need it. Since I do work directly with most of my customers, I see this is quite often included in the contract I sign with them to prevent me from doing just that. However, it is different when I work with customers because they are bringing me in to do a specific thing — they already know I can dedicate all the time they require because we’ve already agreed-upon it. This is unlike the situation with the preferred vendor where there is a blanket agreement even before having any work to staff.

In the past, customers would ask other customers for referrals. They felt that, if another customer in their industry could speak about the work a consultant did that they could understand whether that consultant could be a good fit with their own project. These days, since people have less of a travel budget for conferences and courses, I think customer meet a lot less people. Thus, there are many fewer places for them to get referrals for resources. I won’t call this cause-and-effect, that this has led to the up-rise of recruiters and preferred vendors, necessarily, but I think it has made customers much more receptive to having to go through the recruiters and preferred vendors, where there are opportunities to do otherwise. Not everyone has that choice, but even where customers do have that choice, I find them exercising it less-and-less.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

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