Part 2:  Why Recruitment Agencies Will ALWAYS Beat You To The Best Candidates… And How To Beat Them At Their Own Game.

Unravelling the myths.

There are some self-limiting beliefs that stop a lot of companies from trying to recruit directly for themselves.

Sally and Kevin are brilliant examples of this.

Whether it’s a bad previous experience, nerves, a lack of knowledge, or a combination of all three, most companies flock back to their ‘comfort blanket’ recruitment agencies, because they’re unaware of how to produce similar (or even better) results.

Making this worse are the myths about recruitment agencies that I’ve heard many times over the years, and continue to hear today.

Myths I’m going to dispel.

Myths that actually prevent people – possibly you included – from trying to recruit themselves.

Myths that are never really properly discussed (for a very good reason) – and I’m going to blow them wide open, right now.

Myth #1:
Recruitment agencies can instantly access massive candidate databases that I can’t.

Ah, the ‘candidate database’.

That holy grail of mythical excellence which recruitment agencies love to sell the benefits of to their clients.

It’s a favourite way that they ‘prove’ their value in the process:

That being the ability to instantly access your perfect hire and pluck them from one of the vast databases they have access to.

There are three different types of candidate databases they could be referring to:

Their own database
– Built up over the years of every application they’ve ever received

External CV databases
– These are subscription based and are usually tied to online job boards

– They’ll need to pay a pricey subscription to get full access to this, but a lot of recruiters do, and it can be a good source of candidates, but it’s fraught with problems which I’ll discuss later.

In the vast majority of cases, these CV databases are next to useless, and as I’m going to show you, they’re only used as a last resort.

But before I do, there are a couple of huge issues that you need to be aware before being sold on the ‘database line’.

Specifically, these are the two main issues that you need to consider:

Issue #1: The internal database

Looking for a job takes 3 months max if you’re a candidate of average ability.

When you apply to a job being managed by a recruitment agency, you automatically get added to their CRM and candidate database.

Your CV is there for every consultant in that agency to find and when they do, they can pitch any job to you that they think could be a fit.

However, within 3 months, that data is almost certainly out of date and irrelevant.

And that’s because in all likelihood, given the average time it takes someone to find a job, the candidate in question will probably be off the market by then.

[And if you’re being completely honest, in an ideal world, would you really want someone who’s been out of work / looking for a job for more than 3 months anyway?]

Add to that the complexities of GDPR and other regional data protection laws, and it’s considered unreasonable to hold onto candidate data for longer than is absolutely necessary for them to find a job.

Which in the eyes of the law, is 6 months max.

[Whether agencies delete this data is another matter…]

What that basically means is that a recruitment agency’s internal database is next to useless and has an incredibly short shelf-life.

Issue #2: The external database

Candidates that sit on online CV databases generally aren’t very committed.

There, I said it.

A swooping generalisation borne out of a long career in recruitment, but it’s true in the vast majority of cases.

Good candidates tend to get jobs very quickly.

In which case it stands to reason that the people still sitting on a database after a few months might be there for a very good reason.

And after many, many years of experience in the recruitment industry, I can safely say that when I’ve had to make an approach to someone I’ve got from an online CV database, their commitment levels are on the floor.

Getting them to the point of accepting a job is nearly always 100x harder than when you’re dealing with someone who’s directly applied to one of your adverts.

It doesn’t matter whether the candidate is from our internal database, someone that sits on a job board database, or someone from LinkedIn.

When you’re recruiting and you’re using CV databases as your candidate source, you have to kiss a huge number of of frogs to get your prince or princess, as the saying goes.

And it’s really easy to understand why…

Here’s a scenario I want you to ponder:

Let’s say you applied for a job on a job board 6 months ago, and you started a new position 3 months later.

Now when you initially applied to the job, there’s a very high probability that you ticked the box that added your details to that particular job board’s CV database, to allow other recruiters to find you.

Assuming you’d forgotten to remove your CV from the database once you’d got a new job (which 99% of people do), then the database will still assume that you’re looking for a job.

Your details are still sitting there, ready for some preying recruitment consultants to swoop down and target.

But their approach is pointless in 99.99% of cases because you will have started a new job 3 months ago.

Which in turn means a huge amount of wasted work for a recruitment consultant.

Work they’d rather avoid, that I can promise you.

Recruitment consultants want the quickest, shortest, easiest route to the best candidates to make the most money possible.

That same principle is true with LinkedIn (in the vast majority of cases). Only in some respects worse, as people on there have given absolutely no indication whatsoever that they’re looking for a job in the first place.

Targeting people on LinkedIn is time-consuming, irritating work and potentially very expensive, because you have to spend such a long time just to generate the tiniest bit of interest in your role.

As a result, these mythical large candidate databases, full of people ready for the agency to pluck a brilliant candidate out of at your desire, simply do not exist.

Or at least not in a meaningful way.

Without fail, I can guarantee you that recruitment consultants would much rather deal with someone that’s applied to one of their online adverts, as opposed to trying to coax someone into being interested enough to apply.

The reasons for that are clear and obvious.

In the situation where an interested candidate has raised their hand and applied for a job you’re advertising, you retain the control and have an assumed position of power.

When it’s the other way around and you approach a candidate, that power balance shifts.

All recruitment consultants are trained to control the process at every stage.

And that includes shortlisting strong, committed candidates who are unlikely to turn the job down should it be offered, and consequently not jeopardise the agency’s fee.

Which is why recruitment consultants prefer job advert applicants, to candidates that sit on a CV database.

So, bearing all of that in mind, this is what really happens when a recruitment agency gets a new role to work on:

– The role is (quickly) advertised online
– The race for candidates is on (vs other agencies in case they get there first)
– Only if there’s a terrible response will the consultant resort to searching on CV databases

The reason?

Because recruitment consultants are fundamentally lazy.

[Like the majority of the human race].

Remember, they are purely interested in making the most money from you for the least amount of work.

And trust me, trawling through CV databases and making approaches to semi/non-interested candidates is far down the list of a recruitment consultant’s most enjoyable jobs.

What this means to you.

Well even in the recruitment industry, the job advert is king.

Publishing a job advert online is a recruitment consultant’s default first option when they’re trying to quickly find someone that’s right for your vacancy.

The only exceptions might be where someone has just applied for another role (within a few days normally) and they could be right for yours, or if your position is a contract/temp role, and they have a bank of available people ready to call on.

Don’t be fooled though.

Even for those types of roles, the agency will advertise first to see what that generates before having to put some unwanted graft in.

They will not rely on CV databases.

Recruitment agencies only use CV databases as backstops, nothing more.

Once you understand this simple concept, this opens up a whole new way of seeing where the power actually sits.

Myth #2:
Recruitment agencies interview every candidate they send to me, which I haven’t got time to do.

Err, sorry.

No they don’t.

The good agencies will interview a big chunk of them, but even they don’t interview every single candidate.

The reason?

Well this depends on how you’ve chosen to engage your recruitment agency.

If they’re not exclusive, and they’re up against a few other agencies, time is of the essence.

In their terms they’ll have something to cover them as the agency that should get a fee for introducing a candidate before anybody else does.

And that’s the key point to consider:  It’s a race for the best people if they’re up against other agencies.

Now there are only so many places to go fishing for good candidates – so competing agencies will be targeting the same people in the same places with their ads.

It’s not uncommon for the average job-seeker to apply to 20-50 jobs in a single day.

The internet makes that easy.

They won’t necessarily recognise that the jobs they’ve applied to might be the same actual job, just managed by different recruitment agencies.

So, now you appreciate that, put yourself in the position of the agency:

Commercially, they want you to pay them a fee, and not their competitors.

It’s that simple.

To guarantee that, they need to put the right candidate in front of you before anybody else does.

Time is of the essence, remember.

So guess what gets compromised as a result?

Yep, the interview.

The really poor agencies out there – which unfortunately are the majority – will give CVs a cursory glance before firing them at you.

Ask yourself this:

How many CVs have you received from agencies in the past that are completely irrelevant?

If you’ve been recruiting for any period of time, I’m guessing quite a few.

That’s the reason why they do it.

They’re shooting a load of (often sh*tty) CVs at you – before anybody else does – in the hope that one of them sticks.

Normally written into their terms – which you will have accepted in advance – will be a 24 hour window where you’ve got to tell them whether or not you’ve received any particular CV from another source.

Failure to do so might mean that you have to pay two fees, so please be warned.

However, once they’re through that period, they’re home and dry, and so long as you recruit someone from any of the CVs they’ve sent to you, you owe them a fee.

“It’s in the terms, mate. You signed them.”

Sound familiar?

Ultimately what this means for you – the person paying the bill – is an incredibly poor service, and a ‘race to the bottom’ almost, in some kind of desperate hope that just one of the CVs they fire across to you hits the mark.

You waste time going through a lot of irrelevant CVs, thinking the recruiter has lost their mind, and questioning what you’re about to pay a fee for.

And quite possibly thinking, “I could do a better job myself…”, which you almost certainly could.

Myth #3:
Recruitment agencies are experts at what they do, and I wouldn’t know where to start.

Ok, well a recruitment agency probably knows how to write job adverts which fully exploit job boards better than you do.

And yes, they do this every day and probably have specialist computer systems to help them do their job.

So in that respect, I guess from your perspective, that does make them experts.

But are they really?

Or do people look at this perceived expertise the wrong way around?

The fact that they do this day in, day out, gives them a process edge over any company that is trying to do it themselves.

That is undeniable.

But when it comes to the selection of appropriate applicants, who’s going to understand your business and your requirements better:

You, or your recruitment consultant?

And how many recruitment consultants really take the time to properly understand what your company is like, how the culture works and the exact kind of character you need to be successful in that role?

In my experience, not many.

It’s a skill that not many in the recruitment industry have got.

Their primary driver is to get some candidates in your inbox as quickly as possible and to make some money from you.

Do they care?

Some do, but not for the reasons they probably tell you.

So who really has the expertise?

Who really cares enough to make the right decision?

At the end of the day, the recruitment agency sends you a shortlist.

You select which candidates you want to interview.

You then select which candidates you want to progress until you eventually choose someone to hire.

What is the recruitment consultant doing in the background?

In the vast majority of cases, not much.

You are the experts.

You are the ones who make the decisions.

And then you have to pay a fee for the right to hire someone, just because – when you boil it right downyou didn’t know how to write an online job advert like a recruitment agency does, that would in turn attract your perfect hire.

Is it starting to become clear?

The Job Advert Is King!

Job adverts are the life blood of the recruitment industry.

Recruitment agencies are so over-reliant on them that in their absence, they would struggle to provide you with any candidates to see.

They spend huge sums of money and lots of time posting adverts on job boards, and they’ve mastered how to get their jobs ranking highly and get the top people applying.

And that’s why recruitment agencies will ALWAYS beat you to the best candidates.

Simply because they know how to game job boards to get the best people applying for their roles.

And that, essentially, is what you’re paying your rather large recruitment fees for:

The ability to create a good advert that ranks well in a job board search engine and entices the reader to apply.

So if you find yourself in the same position as Sally and Kevin, and you want to reduce the amount you spend on recruitment agencies and eliminate your reliance on them, then the key takeaway is obvious:

Master the art of writing brilliant job adverts.

The best thing about it is that it really isn’t that difficult to master.

And to call it an ‘art-form’ is a bit of a stretch.

It just requires some structure and thinking about things from the reader’s perspective.

Over the last 16 years we’ve honed and perfected online job advertising for my recruitment agencies, to ensure that we get the very best ROI on our recruitment advertising spend.

We refined it to a few fundamental building blocks which you have to have in place to get a job advert right.

And over the next few pages, I’m going to show you what these building blocks are and how to put them together.

When you get to grips with it, you’ll be able to get off the recruitment agency hamster wheel in a flash.



    1. Lots of self-limiting beliefs and myths continue to be circulated about recruitment agencies.
    2. The CV databases that recruitment agencies can access are next to worthless.
    3. Recruitment agencies do not interview every candidate they send to you (pick yourself up off the floor)
    4. Calling recruitment consultants ‘experts’ is a bit of a stretch – they know how to write job adverts better than you and in turn manipulate job boards better than you.  But where it counts, the knowledge about your business and what you’re looking for in the perfect candidate, the real expertise is all yours.
    5. The job advert is king!
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