Can Multiple Recruitment Agencies Successfully Join Forces?

When should it be war and when should differences be set aside for mutual benefit? The default position for most agencies is to compete fiercely with rivals, and to never do anything which might benefit them. After all it’s only natural to covet the clients of your competitors, and to expect them to do the same. Equally, you don’t want to divulge any information on your business, clientele, and candidates to a competitor - or more especially let them speak with your recruiters. But are there circumstances where you could consider suspending that competition and actually collaborating in order to satisfy your clients?

How recruitment agencies can collaborate to succeed.Split fees and collaboration with other agencies at a geographical distance, or which cover differing recruitment disciplines is clearly the preferred route to go, but it’s not unheard of for rival recruiters to work the exact same vacancies and split the fees. No-one wants to sacrifice any part of their fee, especially on a contingency basis; but properly planned and organised (setting egos and suspicions aside), a retained assignment to recruit a number of staff in a multiple placement scenario can work to the benefit of all concerned.

Let’s face it: right now, contingency recruitment means multiple agencies working the same job, chasing only one fee. The risk of failure (and zero fee) is high, and the same ground is trampled inefficiently by all. In that scenario, recruiters are more likely to give up altogether after a cursory search of their database and a brief advert of the job online. Not quite the bustling competition the client had in mind, when giving the job requisition to 4 agencies.

I’m not suggesting changing the billing model altogether. I know it works, and the market is familiar with it. I am however strongly suggesting that rival recruiters pick up the phone to each other more often, and that clients encourage you to do so too. A few years ago, The Recruitment Agency Network (RANJobs) in Scotland was a network of firms which initially built a website to contend with S1Jobs price rates. Before long those agency owners, who would normally never speak, were pursuing a joint tender for a huge government contract in order to compete with major national agencies.

Six top tips to make it work:

1. Establish the scope of the agreement early on (one or more vacancies, or ongoing work), and be as open as possible. Honesty is absolutely essential.
2. Get it in writing. Cover all eventualities in a written agreement.
3. Involve agency owners/directors at all stages.
4. Inform the client of your arrangement. It won’t matter to them, but they need to know which recruitment firms are speaking with candidates on their behalf. Done properly, and in line with your written agreement, this protects you from the partner agency trying to oust yours.
5. Inform candidates coming from the other agency of your collaboration, and vet them personally before submitting to your client.
6. Allow some wriggle room for mistakes and miscommunication. These are bound to happen, and you should anticipate them.

Lastly, don’t be afraid of losing your own recruiters, simply because they are dealing with a rival. Meet the challenge head-on, and it isn’t likely to be a big concern.

Credit: Image from David Castillo Dominici via

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Stephen O'Donnell

Stephen is the MD of PC Evaluate, which delivers online personality profiling services to UK employers.

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