Silicon Valley tech has disrupted just about everything in the last ten years, is UK tech recruitment next?
12 July 2017



I once spoke to a Silicon Valley recruiter, who had been in the UK for 6 weeks having previously worked (within talent acquisition) for a number of the Valley tech companies and she was taken aback by the way the recruitment agency model worked in the UK. "Cold calling”. "Really" she said dismissively. "do people really get anywhere doing that these days?" and her disparagement didn’t end there. She was very opinionated around the contingency model in the UK and likened this way of working as archaic.

I had never really heard anyone question this model before; after all, I had never experienced anything different. My background had been largely based on sales, and outperforming the competition to earn our place on the supplier list, or attempt make an impression on the hiring manager. This was one of the draws of a career in recruitment. Fast paced, sales orientated, competitive. Sound familiar?

Needless to say, the war for tech talent in Silicon Valley is beyond competitive, however, given the huge amount of tech companies there, the recruitment agency approach seems to have taken a slightly different evolutionary path.

Here, the contingency model accounts for the majority of the market and here recruitment agency's typically qualify the role over the phone, gather a buzzword shopping list of technologies and a general breakdown, before hurrying back to their desk in a mad rush to be the first preferred supplier to fill the hiring managers inbox with ‘suitable’ CV’s.

There, the RPO (as well as deviations of) and retained models are far more prevalent and recruitment seems to be more aligned with the mantra of professional services (Working in the interest of your client). The agency proposition is to embed recruiters on site at these tech companies and place emphasis on upskilling the customer to become more efficient at finding their own talent.

Perhaps, this is why recruitment in Silicon Valley doesn't seem to be viewed with the same amount of distrust as it is in the UK?

Having spoken to many sceptics within in-house teams, it appears that the perception (No doubt fuelled by the contingency model) is that many recruiters are encouraged to place their primary emphasis on the sale, and not on providing value for the client. 

This got me thinking...

Is the contingency model actually serving UK businesses and their talent acquisition endeavours, appropriately?

Maybe a fresh, rationalised model, whereby all agencies work with clients on an exclusive and retained basis would surely improve the quality of the service offering, thus improving the reputation of the industry as a whole.

For this to become a reality, there would need to be a serious shift in how UK business’ perceive and utilise recruitment agencies. It would involve tearing up the old PSL and instead, selecting a smaller number of ‘partners’ to be brought in-house, taking ownership and accountability of expanding specialist areas of the business.

It would mean ‘recruitment’ or ‘talent acquisition’ brokers (Agencies) would need to completely change their business development tactics and strategise around inbound digital marketing and branding as opposed to outbound marketing (cold calling, emails etc..) formulated towards the goal of acquiring authorisation to ‘work’ contingency requirements.

Hang on a minute……. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Aren’t people like Greg Savage and other industry commentators saying that we are moving towards a scenario whereby recruiters need to act more like marketers than telesales people anyway? 

Perhaps this is because we are actually in the midst of a gradual evolutionary shift away from contingency recruitment and towards something that resembles the Silicon Valley market.

We are keen to talk to businesses who feel that the PSL and Contingency model isn't working for them, and want to discuss an alternative.