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Is there always going to be a place for specialist, executive agency recruiters?

Adam Kurdas
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Since the 90’s and the emergence of regional and global job boards such as Monster, Yahoo Hot Jobs and Seek, the agency recruitment world has been under threat, or has it? Many said it signaled the beginning of the end for the agency recruiter. What happened? Not a great deal. Some would even argue that the growth and success of the job boards can be largely attributed to the agencies, who in turn became their biggest users.

What next? Companies began ramping up their internal functions by bringing talent acquisition teams in-house and the same chat surfaced about the demise of the agency. What happened? In-house teams started to manage the bulk of roles, in many cases at the lower end of the market where candidate attraction strategies are based on job boards, sifting through volume and where candidates are aplenty. Deep specialist market knowledge was lacking and the internal teams became generalist recruiters who in turn, sought the help of the specialist recruiter to source for what was deemed “hard to fill” roles. So the specialist recruiters remained and forged mutually beneficial partnerships with internal functions.

Cue LinkedIn, and the next threat to the agency world. An increasingly popular and powerful tool, (tool being the operative word) LinkedIn has made it easier for recruiters (internal and agency) to access the passive market and candidates who wouldn’t have been visible through job boards. The fundamental difference is LinkedIn gives you access beyond the active candidate. So how does this impact the specialist recruiter? It doesn’t. It becomes another tool (if used well) for agencies to increase networking capability.

So what does the specialist do differently? Has intricate knowledge of a niche segment, understands the specialist skills and can challenge the status quo and knows what best practice looks like in those fields. A specialist spends every day interviewing, networking and building relationships and trust through consistent communication within a niche, something social media, job boards and internal functions can’t or don’t have the capacity to do.

Job boards, social media and internal functions have changed the recruitment world, in many ways for the better, but has it put specialist agencies in jeopardy? No….and I predict it never will.