Collins McNicholas has been in the recruitment business for 23 years and the main reason for our success over that period is that we have managed to establish long term relationships with most of our clients from the time we first started working with them.

Collins McNicholas’ preference is to work with clients as a Recruitment Partner. Ideally, this is on an exclusive basis which provides a solid platform to strike the optimum balance between quality of service and speed of delivery. The best time to establish such an exclusive relationship is at the start-up phase where the relationship is formed before the recruitment process has commenced.

Alternatively, we work in relationships where we are one of two or possibly one of three suppliers where the client treats the chosen suppliers as recruitment partners with the quality of the relationship that this implies. This kind of arrangement can work well especially where the other two suppliers have been carefully selected by the client. This enables the three recruitment partners to continue to put a strong emphasis on quality and to ensure that their work is informed by recognised standards of professional practice.

We have more or less walked away from relationships where there are multiple suppliers that have often been often poorly selected, where the focus is on speed only and where quality and professional standards take a back seat.

Over the years we have succeeded in convincing most of our clients that ‘less is more’ and that they can expect a better service from us where we are an exclusive supplier or where we are one of only two or three suppliers. The reason why this is the case is simple. As the owner of a recruitment business that employs a team of professional and highly paid consultants I cannot afford to have them spending much time on any vacancy unless there is a reasonable probability that they will fill that vacancy. The probability of successfully filling a vacancy ranges from 100% in an exclusive relationship down to 33% in a situation where there are two other suppliers. These are odds I can work with and nowadays most employers understand the commercial realities underpinning such a policy. This decision to focus on companies where we are on a short preferred supplier list (PSL) has become much more important in a situation where most of the vacancies given to recruitment agencies are ones which are hard to fill and which require extensive research to come up with a shortlist of high calibre candidates. Owners of successful recruitment companies simply cannot afford to have their best consultants working on hard to fill positions if there is not a reasonable probability of success after they have produced a shortlist of suitable candidates. It is interesting that since I first wrote this article in October 2012 the mantra of ‘less being more’ is becoming more established in the recruitment industry and is leading to better outcomes for clients and agencies alike.

Once or twice we have worked in a situation where there have been multiple suppliers. We are prepared to do this providing it is the client’s stated intention to move to a situation of three suppliers or less in a reasonable timeframe.

As well as being one of a limited number of suppliers for us there also has to be parity of esteem in the relationship if it is to develop into a long term relationship. This issue of parity of esteem is one where the expectations of the recruitment company can influence the way the company is treated by a client. Our expectation has always been that we will be treated as a Recruitment Partner and this must have communicated itself to clients because this has largely been the way we have been treated by our clients over the years. Our expectations in this regard have been influenced by the quality of consultants that we have recruited, by our company values and by our adherence to professional standards like the CIPD codes of practice for recruitment. These factors give us confidence in the quality of the service we are providing and the added-value that we bring to our clients.

Of course one occasionally encounters companies whose modus operandi is to treat recruitment agencies on a less than equal footing. In my opinion, this is not a viable strategy, especially where the type of candidate a company is trying to attract is in short supply. Sometimes a client will change their attitude to recruitment agencies in general or to one or two in particular if they can be persuaded of the benefits of doing so but on a couple of occasions, we have had to reluctantly walk away from a difficult relationship where we saw no prospect of this changing. As the recruitment market becomes increasingly more sophisticated I think nearly all companies will move to relationships based on parity of esteem.

Another key factor in developing and maintaining a long term relationship is the willingness to go the extra mile in trying to fill a position that is very hard to fill but critical to the client. As a Recruitment Partner, we will persist with a difficult position long after many of our competitors will have decided to stop working on that particular assignment. Filling such a critical position may carry extra weighting with a client and may give the successful recruitment agency more credibility than filling several positions which are important but not as critical and/or not as difficult to fill. Filling such a position may even be a ‘loss leader’ because of the time spent working on it but if this leads to an increase in our standing as a Recruitment Partner it is well worth it in the long run.

These are some of the factors that have helped us to develop and maintain long term relationships with our clients. There are many more but these ones have served us particularly well over the years.

Colman Collins

Managing Director

Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Service Group