Do you know who your competition really is?

Expert AdviceWith this post I wanted to take a look at the competition we, as recruiters, face to fill jobs. Clearly there is the obvious competition – other recruitment agencies and recruitment consultancies fighting against us to fill the jobs that are out there. Even on the accounts we would consider to be “exclusive” there is always going to be someone sniffing around “our” account. If you don’t believe that then you could be in for a shock. Every account has leakage to some degree. How well looked after are your best clients? If this is the case, and it is the case, we need to know who the competition is and what they can offer. The more we know about them the more likely we are to beat them in the market place. Double check who your competition is, even if you think you know, through talking to your client contacts and candidates to see who they rate in the market.

What I really wanted to look at was the real competition to us filling our current live jobs. The real competition to filling a job with a client is not other agencies (or job boards, job centres, clients’ personal networks or adverts they may run) it is the other candidates they may be interviewing irrespective of what source they came from. That is the competition. The true competition to filling a job is going to be a candidate that is better than yours, isn’t it?

How do we assess this competition?

Ask the client for the names of the other candidates. As simple and obvious as it sounds, this is the quickest and easiest way. Over the past few years many (an experienced) consultant has told me that “their clients” would not tell them that. They go on to tell me because they know this to be true they don’t ask. This has never been true (so far) as it turns out they have never asked them! Because they assumed that the client would not tell them (In truth I think that few of them even thought of asking the question). I have then seen the very same consultant phone the very same clients and, asking in the right way, get the names of the competition. That’s right – get the names of the candidates the client was and has interviewed. There are some very powerful language patterns that I recommend you use for this to make the job easier, although now may not be the forum to discuss them.

Imagine for a moment being able to gather this info. I must point out, there is nothing stopping you asking your clients today, other than your own fear of rejection. This is such useful information to gather as it can:

  • Allow you to see if you missed anyone on your database (poor skills coding etc)
  • Highlight dormant candidates you know are now looking again
  • Give you the names of candidates you may not know (and their employers etc)
  • Create control with the client
  • Sets a benchmark to beat for you and your (re)sourcer teams
  • Creates a comparative index for you to sell your candidates against when presenting candidates for the client to interview
  • Show you who the competition is (explicit and indirect)
  • Gives you something further to qualify with the client (likes and dislikes about each)
  • Saves you time so you don’t talk to candidates who are already submitted
  • Saves the client time as you can find different and better candidates
  • Provide the client peace of mind as we will be able to find better candidates
  • Creates difference between you and other recruiters as being someone who is interested in helping the client improve quality and choice
  • Helps you understand the requirement better
  • Provides you with shortlists for other jobs

The more you think about it, the more reasons you will discover as to why it is so beneficial to know who your competition is. This was standard practice for me and my team on every job, as it creates market knowledge and commercial, competitive advantage. If the only thing that stops you achieving the above (and more) benefits is not having thought if it, not having been told it or the fear of rejection then it will no longer stand in your way now!

Now imagine what you could do with this information if the candidate who gets the job is not your candidate – backfill opportunity! Recruitment 101 – pick up the phone to the company they are exiting and pitch them a candidate!

“It is not one thing that we do 100% better than anyone else, but 100 things we do 1% better than everyone else.”

Related Articles:

How to work smarter, not harder, as a Recruiter

Unique Selling Points – do they exist in the recruitment agency marketplace


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4 Responses

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  1. Every scrap on information has potential value to a recruiter, even if its not immediately apparent. Like pieces of a jigsaw that don’t look like they belong, they are still essential to complete the full picture.
    Recruiters get trained to glean any information they can, and so ask candidates all the obvious questions and ask employers all about the job. However, I’ve always been of the belief that employers can be your very best source of vital information. You may well be denied if you ask seemingly impertinent questions, but there’s only a slime chance of that if you phrase your questions correctly.
    Typically, I would ask employers which other recruiters they were using, who had the best understanding of their needs, what candidates had been submitted so far, what companies candidates had come from, which companies current employees had come from, which companies they had lost staff to (including from this role). I would also ask if they had a particular candidate they knew of that they would like to interview (but can’t approach directly). If possible, I would speak to the outgoing staff member, as they often have a great network which can include potential candidates.
    After interviews, I ask the employer to include my contact details in the rejection letters sent to candidates.
    Strictly speaking, some of these processes may be contravening the candidate’s confidentiality, but I would try to be as open and as respectful as possible. If done professionally, most people are very comfortable with this.
    Whilst discussing competitors, I used to insist that all my recruiters had intimate knowledge of their competing recruiters in other agencies, including which clients they had and vacancies they were working on. I would ask them to meet that challenge head on, and seek to beat them to the placement as often as possible.

    Stephen O'Donnell 20 April 2010 at 5:23 pm Permalink
  2. Oops. Freudian slip. I appears I have mistyped the word “slim” above, as slime.
    What am I like?

    Stephen O'Donnell 20 April 2010 at 5:25 pm Permalink
  3. PS. I wrote a blog last night, which may interest your readers.
    Aren’t Recruiters Brilliant? http://wp.me/pPAVC-7G

    Stephen O'Donnell 21 April 2010 at 9:36 am Permalink
  4. 3 words: Data Protection Act

    John 8 October 2011 at 12:34 pm Permalink

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