12 things HR Directors “hate” about recruiters

Barron Williams post
Barron Williams

Find more articles

OK “hate” is maybe too strong a word but hopefully, we’ve got your attention and we promise that this is taking the issue very seriously.

The HR and recruitment relationship is a complex one – Two different functions focused on the same end result yet you often find much conflict. 

Whilst there’s significant overlap between the two functions, our primary focuses often seem diametrically opposed. Or are they?

To put it simply, the search function (that’s us) is responsible for attracting and screening candidates. 

The HR function (that’s you) is responsible for managing the professional relationship between an employee (recently our candidate) and the hiring company. 

Rinse and repeat. We attract talent. Our clients are responsible for developing and retaining said talent. We collaborate on the “journey” in between.

So why does (or at least why is there a perception that) conflict exists between these two closely linked functions?

Much like there’s often negativity from candidates in terms of the “experience” when it comes to dealing with recruiters, maybe there is historical justification? 

The Barron Williams team have been in recruitment for many years and we have come across our fair share of firms whose methods and approach are not aligned to the values they claim.

Recruitment agencies get some pretty bad press at times, and there’s no denying that, some of it, is deserved.

Is it a case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch?

At Barron Williams, we work with many HR professionals. But we have taken the time to foster and cultivate excellent relationships with them.

The reason is a simple one… To best support them and their organisation in attracting and securing talent.

That said, when it comes to the search and selection industry as a whole, there appear to be a few things that (to put it more delicately) get on the nerves of business owners and HR professionals.

However, rather than seeing us as adversaries, our network of trusted HR professionals use us as a vital cog in their hiring machine. What are we doing differently?

They know the internal workings of their business. But we know people. We are the ones out there, talking to talented senior execs. 

Our aim is to provide you with a different perspective and to be an integral part of your hiring strategy.

So let’s not shy away. Let’s be frank. Address and tackle these preconceived notions. 

After all, honest conversation is what allows us to resolve conflict and avoid the need for confrontation…

1. They prioritise quantity over quality

Are there still recruitment firms out there that throw mud at the wall in the hope it will stick? 

Come on recruitment people, being lucky is not (and never was) a search strategy. 

In a sluggish economy, where the good roles are few and applications potentially high, you need a search firm with the right experience and processes to quickly filter and connect talent with opportunity.

Quantity over quality is a strategy that can sometimes work with entry-level roles but, the greater the skills and experience required, the more quality becomes a priority.

At Barron Williams, we have a large network from which to draw and we work hard to ensure the top talent doesn’t slip through our fingers. 

If you come to us, then we have to ensure we find and place the best person(s) before someone else does. We might pressure you to keep the hiring process moving – but for the right reasons – to keep your options open on the best people. 

That requires an industry-leading search and selection process that effectively screens and manages candidates – from soup to nuts.

Ensuring first-class candidate experience is essential and you can’t do that without high-touch comms with the candidates on your longlist. 

We make our own luck in recruitment. Finding the right candidate takes a lot of hard work. So does keeping them. 

Delivering quality over quantity takes even harder work. Attention to detail, speed, care, courtesy and persuasion – all essential.

So the next time you get that high-quality longlist with several excellent candidates to choose from, that’s because we’ve built our brand, professionally handed the right people, interviewed, screened and sold them both the role and your organisation.

2. They don’t take the time to get to know our organisation

It is imperative we understand what sort of people will best fit in the role and at your organisation (and those who don’t!)

A role brief is just that. A brief description. It will establish the level of education and skills required, etc but it will not paint the full picture.  

We need to go a step further. Find out what you really want and what makes your organisation tick. What does good look like – both deliverables and candidate profile – for you?

To truly “know” an organisation we must take the time to understand the culture, industry, sector, projects, direction, etc. 

We need to identify candidates that not only match the role brief but the company and the course in which you’re heading.

At Barron Williams, we take the time to get to know the business, sector and to develop the necessary relationships with hiring managers and key decision-makers. 

A lasting impression always beats a quick win and collaboration is the key to building a real partnership between recruitment and HR.

Getting to know your organisation and its culture is essential to finding the right people for you.

3. They don’t research the role enough

Matching CVs to JDs is the easy part. 

Providing you with a balanced high-calibre longlist on the other hand requires understanding and more hard work. 

The more we know, the more personalised our approach can be to finding what/who you need. 

The science is simple, good role briefs attract good candidates. 

Good research is essential in order to produce a good role brief that effectively communicates the role and attracts good people.

Recruiters have to take the time to research the role. That is what gives us a crystal-clear picture of the person you need. 

But we are not just here to take a brief. Our role is active, not passive.

Effective research must include market evaluation and troubleshooting to ensure all i’s are dotted, t’s are crossed and that the brief is deliverable.

And we’re not afraid to ask difficult questions in order to best understand the complexities of the role and client.

4. They don’t communicate

I never know what’s going on! I have to chase them for updates!!!

It is probably the biggest frustration for candidates and clients alike. 

Every industry survey ever taken will always score over 60% as the biggest frustration in our industry.

For us, strong client relationships are built on clear and open comms. And good comms are built on trust. 

We work in collaboration with our HR clients to build long-term working relationships. 

Whatever your preference, telephone, video, face to face, we are open and receptive. We are honest. 

We keep in touch, communicate in the right way and for the right reasons. We offer a constructive, honest and open conversation. A true partnership.

5. They say they know OUR market as well as us

A good understanding of your market is important but what you really want is for us to know our market, the market for people!

With competition for top candidates fierce, we must ensure your organisation stands out from the crowd when pitching your role.

Talking to relevant candidates soon tells us what the current market for the people you want is like – real-time, real people.

You’re an expert in your field, we are an expert in ours. 

We listen. We ask the right questions. We ensure we have the full picture of your objectives. And don’t shy away from difficult questions. Same with candidates.

We know our market and on any given day that may be the market for people you want to hire.

6. They don’t spend enough time getting to know the right people

The best people need to be nurtured, engaged, managed and respected. 

Traditional recruitment methods are no longer enough to attract the best, keep them engaged and be able to present them to you. 

Candidates must be nurtured to turn talent pools into successful hires. Good process, good practice and a professional approach.

For Barron Williams, this starts before they even become a candidate and will continue long after the hiring process is concluded.

Of course, we keep in touch with our hired candidates – they are our future clients. We also keep in touch with other good candidates – you never know.

With only 30% of the market active, the right people are often the passive 70% not looking for a new role. If we get to know them when active, we will stay in touch when they’re not.

Executive search firms have to nurture and engage with potential talent to ensure we have the right people ready and open to talking as and when you need them.

It’s not difficult. Lite touch. Contact. A little earned goodwill is all it takes.

Failure to not know the right people would be a strategic failure on our part and taking advantage of those relationships we already have is key.

7. They don’t manage the candidate relationship well

Protecting your (and our) candidate brand is simply crucial. 

For that reason, we only work with organisations where there is clear brand synergy. 

We have to be comfortable introducing candidates – they trust us!

Excellent Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) is critical to what we do and our brand/reputation. We expect clients to dovetail with that approach.

When candidates meet you – they’re briefed, fit for purpose and credible. Period.

Excellent candidate experience is what enables us to attract and place the best.

We view candidates as advocates and clear and open comms ensure we’re always keeping people informed at every step of the process.  We stop just short of over-communicating.

They have to trust our good name and we have to deliver to retain that trust.

8. They don’t appreciate how busy I am/we are

Only the best can dovetail well, usually because they’ve been there themselves and understand the pressures. We try and anticipate your needs and communicate accordingly.

We’re not here to say that we are getting it right all the time but it is our mission. 

All we ask is that when good candidates are interested in the role, you work with us to the best effect.

We know how busy our clients are. They know how hard we work. Usually to good effect and mutual benefit.

9. They pursue me aggressively

Recruiters looking for business when you don’t need them is a tightrope many in our industry fail to walk. 

There’s still a school of thought that cold calling works – does it really?

It is all about balance… Our HR clients want light contact and then for us to act as a trusted advisor when they do need to talk.

We need to earn the right to that call – not just expect it.

Historically, our industry has a tarnished reputation in this department. 

Most of us (us included in previous roles) have a past bad experience with pushy recruitment consultants. Unfortunately, the bad ones tend to leave a sour taste. But if doesn’t need to be this way!

We are a professional services business, aggressive prospecting is not something we do.

Engage respectfully, of course, but we trust our clients to tell us when they want to talk.

10. They provide longlists of readily available candidates

Have you ever felt that a search firm has failed to attract the best because they haven’t put in the hard yards? Do the CVs arrive a little too quickly?

A robust longlisting and shortlisting process at the exec level is essential in separating the qualifiers from potential podium finishers.

The longlist should qualify and effectively screen the best applicants against the role brief, eliminating those that don’t fit your organisation (technically and culturally).

You want the best candidates available from the whole of the market (active and passive) to narrow down to a shortlist that is ready to hit the ground running and drive the team/business forward. You want a choice. Hard choice.

A longlist of those readily available with the right background and qualifications could be quickly pulled together. But what about the “between the lines” fit? Those key attributes?

You simply can’t ascertain fit without process. And that means much more than ticking a list. 

Time has to be invested to deduce if candidates are the right fit – talking to them. Quick is good but only if the good are quick!

11. They fail to deliver

Search firms chasing the next invoice rather than chasing your future long-serving execs are (to put it bluntly) doomed to fail.

It is no good saying “We’re the best… We’re different” if you are not focused on delivery. And by delivery, we mean conducting a full and proper process until success is achieved.

No wonder HR professionals often begrudge briefing recruitment agencies to fill that next role.

When organisations need talent they also need process to deliver it.

That is why our HR clients keep coming back to us for those difficult yet vital role briefs.

A good search firm knows how to get the job done properly, whatever it takes. Perseverance means success – ultimately.

Some might exhaust their own capabilities first, reach out to networks, advertise the role on LinkedIn, etc. 

If that doesn’t work, then we’ll talk. This is where we can prove our worth and add value.

Our search process will include relevant company and sector research, followed by contact with both prospective candidates directly and sector contacts who may lead us to the right people… The hard yards!

Our reputation is built around the power of our process and the quality of professional service we provide. Measured by success.

12. They’re a necessary evil

At the end of the day, we have a common goal. To achieve that goal, whilst there’s much crossover, we have to deploy different skill sets.

The search and selection process works best when done in collaboration – sharing data, ideas and strategies, etc. 

We work closely with HR professionals in partnership to ensure we are sourcing, hiring and onboarding the best.

What many perceive to be two different approaches, when combined, creates a powerful recruitment strategy.

And whilst we can’t guarantee there won’t be the odd tough conversation, developing a professional working relationship on a foundation of trust, honesty and openness, will lead to hiring the best people.

If you’re looking to work with a team dedicated to helping you find the right people to fulfil those crucial roles for your organisation, please use our Client Upload Form or call us today.

If you’re looking to find or apply for a new role, then please feel free to Upload Your CV or call us for an exploratory conversation.

And if you’re not already, please don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Barron Williams

Find more articles


How do you get the most out of your recruitment agency?


How do you get the most out of your recruitment agency?

Read More

Stepping back into a senior exec role after time away


Stepping back into a senior exec role after time away

Read More

The 5 biggest challenges facing recruiters in 2024


The 5 biggest challenges facing recruiters in 2024

Read More