Dusty old books for a dusty old concept

‘On the books’ is a funny phrase, isn’t it? When a client asks, “Have you got this kind of candidate on your books? Or “Do you have a few on the books?”, the only reaction you can give is, “Oh yes, of course.” As with most things, it is a little more complicated.

Let us let you in on a little secret: ‘On the books’ doesn’t exist. It never really has. It is a pretty prehistoric idea of how recruiters operate, but there is more to it than just a non-existent concept.

Everyone says “yes” because it is more complicated to say “no”. If a prospective client doesn’t hear the answer in the affirmative, they will naturally conclude that you aren’t on top of your game and will move on to the ones who are. They will move on to the ones who say, “Yes”.

The contingency or non-specialist recruiter will reply with an emphatic “Yes” when asked. Then when the client is happy, they will search for candidates on the job boards while pretending they already have some. There is no judgment here. This is what the industry does. Then when they find them, they will let the client know that they have selected some perfect prospects. The more unscrupulous ones will also pitch them to other clients hoping for a bit of a bidding war to break out. There is no exclusivity with the first client so it is not as frowned upon as it should be.

The specialist, ‘partnership’ recruiter also lacks the candidates ‘on their books’, but what they have is ongoing networking. This means that once the call comes in from a client, they can set their machine in motion, approaching specially selected possible candidate. Specialists can get it all rolling in a 24-hour period and come back with really specific candidates for the niche required relatively quickly.

But the key here is specialism, and due to the exclusivity, they will not be splitting their focus between other clients for the same candidates. They are responsible for finding the prospects, no matter what, and they know where to look for candidates who are not on job boards yet.

In a candidate-driven market, your company is not special. You do not have the best advert on Linkedin. People will not automatically sign because of your perks package. This is a hard thing for some firms to hear, as they are used to having the most power in the situation. Attracting candidates to sign on the dotted line becomes a bit of marketing and PR exercise. Selling the company in the initial stages falls upon the specialist recruitment partner and they are ready to do that because they are specialists in the industry.

The candidates you want are not sitting there waiting to be picked. They are not hanging out on job boards waiting for their Prince Charming. They are not on someone’s books. Imagine if that were true, if they were there just waiting. Well, they wouldn’t necessarily be the ones you wanted, because then they are obviously not in demand. The ones you, and every other of your rival companies, want are very much in demand.

The hidden gems need to be headhunted out of their current role by someone who can persuade them that the move is the right thing for them. The candidates are there but they just do not know they are candidates yet.

Planting an idea that wasn’t there before, is not what generalist recruiters do. They have their skills but that is not one of them. Those prime candidates are buried inside companies who are probably your competition. Next time you catch yourself asking, “Do you have one on your books?”, just take a deep breath and ask, “Can you find me that diamond in the rough?”

We will answer, honestly, “Yes, we can.”

Curious about how Zenshin Talent can help your organisation? Contact us today for a no-strings conversation about your needs and our experience.