HR & Staffing Agency “Partnerships” – Do They Exist?

HR & Staffing Agency “Partnerships” – Do They Exist?

In my business, the word “partnership” may seem overused. It sometimes may even seem as though it doesn’t exist.  But there is hope! I have felt compelled to shed some light on behalf of all of us that have built our careers on being a partner to our HR colleagues within our national customers.  I also want to thank those HR professionals over the years who have treated their agency recruiters with kindness and support as you have with mine.

I started my career in staffing as an internal HR recruiter for a large computer company in Seattle.  Subsequently, I landed on the agency side of recruitment shortly after my initial HR stint.  I went to the agency side, not because I didn’t love working in an HR department for a large corporation, but because I enjoyed watching the partnership that my company had with two different agencies.  I remember hearing my HR VP refer to them as “her partnership staffing companies.” I watched the interaction closely and learned from the magical chemistry that existed.  The mutual respect that was demonstrated between our company and the reps that we worked with at the two agencies was something that I will never forget.

Of course, it’s not always perfect and there were bad candidates that occasionally got through the cracks.  Or there were hiccups in the recruitment process.  Sometimes it was my company’s fault and sometimes it was the agency’s. But there was always accountability and transparency.  It was a “partnership.” So when I decided to leave the HR company to try recruiting for multiple companies nationwide with an agency, I took all those wonderful lessons with me.

At first, I encountered quite a bit of resistance from my once counterparts in HR at different organizations.  It was confusing and frustrating. Why were these HR professionals not very receptive to working with me?  I was often hung up on, told that they were too busy to talk to me or even that they did not appreciate my call.  Wait, what?

I started understanding that I do not have to work with all these companies that don’t understand what a partnership is truly about.  I just need to find the ones that do.  I realized that not everyone needs my services nor do they see value in it.  But then again, no one needs a recruiter until they themselves are looking for a job 😊

After searching, I started finding the clients we as recruiters call our “A” accounts; our “Champions” and “Advocates.”  I was looking for the clients that hired the right kind of HR professionals that believed in the same level of respect in business that my old boss in HR did.  It took some time but once I figured out the secret on how to best qualify those people and not waste my time on the others, my whole world changed and so did my business.

One of the very best clients I have ever worked with was the HR department at John Muir Health, an awesome health system in the Bay area of California.  That relationship spanned 12 years and it was one of the most rewarding ones I have ever encountered.

Here’s how it worked…

The HR Generalists we worked with had hundreds of open positions across several departments and although they had a strong internal recruitment team, they knew they needed a few partner agencies.  With hundreds of agencies beating down their door, we worked on their hardest reqs and had success.  We slowly earned their respect.  We followed their process and we asked for feedback.  In turn, trust was developed and then respect followed.  We did what we said we could do and when we couldn’t, we told them.  The relationships turned into friendships and although we still competed with many other agencies, we were never given preferential treatment – we didn’t need it.  We valued their culture and mission and they valued ours.

After 20+ years of doing this agency work, I still encounter those HR professionals that don’t return ours calls even after we have started working with them, hang up on us when we call to introduce ourselves and still don’t have time to talk.  I get it, I was there.  I got the 50 calls a day from vendors and agencies wanting to work with me.  Usually when I was on a deadline for my boss or running to a meeting. I didn’t always have time to talk to them but I did my best to make time.  I did my very best to tell those that I didn’t want to work with that I appreciated their call.

Luckily for every one of those type of HR professionals, there are three more that do appreciate recruiters and what we do to complement their business.  They value the “partnership” and they don’t see us as “salespeople.”  They see us as an extension to their HR department.

I don’t think the word “partnership” is overused, I don’t think it’s valued enough.

Thank you to those amazing companies and HR professionals, like those at John Muir, who have supported my company over the years.  We couldn’t have survived without you and I’d like to think that we added some great value to your organizations along the way.

Written by our CEO, Dawn Whitney