Opinion: Why recruiting in large numbers doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality for quantity

Author: David Evans | Date: 20 Jul 2016

Recruitment advisor David Evans explains how he finds the right agencies for the job in Saudi Arabia

David EvansAs an independent recruitment advisor I have taken many calls regarding best practice on a wide range of recruitment and retention issues. One subject that seems to interest a lot of people is volume recruitment.
I was an internal recruitment manager in KSA for eight years, recruiting for Saudi Arabia and the other GCC countries. When we spoke of ‘volume recruitment’ for the GCC we meant thousands each year – both local citizens and overseas sourced labour, in line with government guidelines.
Events like the 2022 World Cup in Qatar mean a lot of labour is being hired from outside that country. However governments in the Middle East are generally looking at ways of reducing their reliance, wherever possible, on such recruitment.
You may not be recruiting for the Middle East or only concerned with volume labour amounting to hundreds each year, but the principles are the same.
First of all, study your historic and current situation. What’s working recruitment-wise for you and your organisation and what’s not working? What are you basing those decisions on? How good or accurate is the data you hold? Who gave you the data and are you able to verify it?
Maintaining your own records for each source of supply and comparing it against external agency-supplied data is far more beneficial. This should include the number of CVs received for each job advert, from each individual source. How many were offered interviews, and of those who were offered jobs, how many accepted and declined (along with the reasons given for declining)? The list of things you can measure is as long as you want it to be. Your interpretation of the results can lead to highly beneficial changes for your organisation.
In the beginning of my time in the Middle East, it became clear that a number of our external agents tasked with providing us with interviewees were not meeting our expectations. After evaluation, only a handful of our agents were worthy of being retained. But when your business activities need a new employee flow of significant numbers to service an expanding enterprise you cannot simply turn off most supply taps. This causes the flow to become a trickle or, worse, a drought.
So what did we do? We drafted criteria of what our expectations were from high performing agencies. Then we advertised for Expressions of Interest [EOI] from established agencies to service our needs. We evaluated the response against the criteria we set. Our existing agents at the time were advised not to apply.
Instead, we advised all our existing agents that we were conducting the exercise. We pointed out that we expected to see a marked improvement in their performance. It was necessary that the candidates be better informed, be of good quality (in short, worth interviewing) and be sent to us in a more timely and efficient manner. Failure to achieve this could seem them replaced. Their initial reaction was one of shock and dismay that we considered this necessary.
However, it was necessary and there were three big outcomes for us that were all positive:
  1. We retained only the best of our initial agents. Those that did not make the grade were released from our service, and we replaced them.
  2. The response from our EOI advertising was huge and we appointed several new agents to satisfy our recruitment needs.
  3. Monitoring of agency performance, using accurate data, continues to highlight any necessary changes.
David Evans is an independent recruitment advisor and associate member of the CIPD.