Predictable Hiring Part 3

In the last two blogs we’ve looked, in detail, at two of the phenomena that occur (albeit accidentally) with a multi-vendor Contingent Recruitment model* and how these may be problematic when attempting to secure niche data talent

*That’s recruitment speak for a few agencies competing on a no win/no fee basis.

The first problem we looked at, in a blog you can read here, was the contrary behaviour that occurs when several service providers are tasked with fishing in the same Talent Pool on a Contingent basis. Each provider needs to “hedge their bets” (mitigate their risks) so none can fully commit all available time or resource to the role.

Consequently, and what we looked at in Part 2, a shallow surface skim of the Talent Pool is normally carried out by each of the suppliers.

This tends to focus the resulting submissions on the “most active” or “available” talent, rather than the slightly deeper (but potentially more suitable) folks who could take a few weeks to surface as they aren’t as easily or quickly reached through social media messaging or other fast-moving communications.

I believe both phenomena to be wholly illogical, leading to very unpredictable results in terms of the service providers ensuring they are sourcing “best fit” for the role. This, in my opinion, wholly undermines the specialist credentials that granted them a slot on the PSL in the first place!

The final obvious challenge that this model presents occurs initially within the crucial briefing/discovery element of the role, with a huge knock-on effect further on in the process.

One of an internal Talent person’s major SLAs is to reduce the time their internal stakeholder (the manager who is hiring) spends doing “non-core stuff”. In the scenario we have been looking at, our client needs to hire a Head of Data Science.

The hiring manager for a role of this nature will be a very senior data leader within the business.

From that, we can assume 2 things:

- They don’t have much available time

- Whatever time they do have available is not for “non-core stuff”

However, the internal Talent person will have to find some time in their diary for them to brief the agency service providers because (remember when we spoke about the many, many factors that determined the prioritisation given to any role in Part 1?) a role where no briefing is provided is automatically a low-priority role in any agency.

Without a briefing, any decent recruiter (and I have worked with some of the best in the UK) will perform a cursory sweep at most. If a client can’t commit to telling you what they want – how committed are they to hiring?

So, a choice needs to be made:

- Have 1 briefing with all agencies involved. Advantages – gets it all over and done within an hour or so. Disadvantages – no service provider wants to ask deep probing questions in case the answers give their competitors an edge. They’d rather discuss privately, later. Taking up time and resource from internal Talent and/or hiring manager!

- Have separate briefing sessions with each individual service provider. Advantage – allows a proper, confidential dialogue with each recruiter. Disadvantage – depending on number of service providers, can be very time consuming for internal Talent and hiring manager

Somewhere, a decision is made and/or a compromise reached.

And, from experience, it’s seldom a scenario where every service provider knows as much as all the rest, and each can market the vacancy and pre-screen any applicant to a standard they’d consider “first class”. Consistency across suppliers is lost.

The compromise invariably leads to an unconscious and involuntary loss of quality somewhere in the process.

So, a bunch of rushed recruiters, each with some scraps of information and not much more, race to the market – all trying to get in front of anyone remotely suitable as soon as they can.

And what do they do? They email or message job descriptions out with the classic line:
“Does this look like something you might be interested in…?”

No breakdown of the major scope of the job – key interfaces, etc.

No detailed understanding of the purpose of the role – and what a successful incumbent might accomplish in the position.

No comprehensive overview of the Employee Value Proposition.

No “compelling narrative” describing the overall “sell” of the position.

Why would someone, in a good job that they enjoy, earning good money and with good prospects (the very people that the hiring manager would LOVE to chat to) be enticed by a hasty cut and paste from a job description? They receive dozens of them every month!

Also, on the odd occasion where a member of the PSL does manage to engage with someone from deeper in the Talent Pool (who, perhaps, is at crucial “itchy” stage of their career journey mentioned in Part 2), they are unable to “seduce” them properly.

The person could be perfect for the opportunity but turn down the chance to learn more about it because they haven’t been convinced in any way that the role could be right for them.

Any subsequent approaches by any of the other PSL recruiters is normally stopped in its tracks with a “Ah, that role? No thanks, heard about it already…not for me”
It’s not the recruiter’s fault – they are forced into this action by the nature of the model.

It’s not the internal Talent person’s fault – they are using their specialist service providers in the manner the model determines.

It’s not the hiring manager’s fault – they’ve given up time and articulated their needs in the best way they can.

It's just illogical.

And that illogicality leads to unpredictability.

The very sector that prides itself on using science, fact, and logic – which is changing the way the world makes decisions – restricts one of its most crucial functions (talent acquisition) by utilising a model that, no matter the good intent of its stakeholders, doesn’t present the most logical and predictable results!

It’s like the HiPPO just walked right back into the room and sat down!

Surely there must be a better way than this?

Yeah, there is. Stay tuned to find out more……

Are you looking to attract individual talent or build a data team? MBN Solutions offer a logical and reliable way to secure data talent for your business or project.

Get in touch here for support and guidance in this area.


Author Bio


As Director of Client Services for MBN Solutions, Rob has spent over two decades at the sharp end of Talent Acquisition practice for the Data sector. During this time, he has partnered with some of the UK’s leading data-driven businesses to deliver best-in-class talent solutions. In addition, working in an advisory capacity, Rob designed, built, and delivered the Data Lab’s MSc Placement Programme, has contributed to forums including Scotland’s AI Strategy and DMA Council and sits on University of Glasgow’s School of Maths & Stats Industrial Advisory Board. A regular data industry blogger and event host, Rob also now hosts a data leadership focussed podcast called Boss’n’Data and has been recognised by Data IQ as one of their 100 most influential Data and Analytics practitioners in UK organisations for two years running