Pressure to make positive impact on the bottom line has forced major change in the way companies view the management of their recruitment. Understandably it is seen as an area that offers the opportunity both for radical change as well as significant savings. The management of the recruitment process is therefore increasingly becoming the subject of review by procurement and purchasing as well as human resources professionals.

Of late, most tenders seem to have been mammoth projects for their organisation and have taken months in the planning, evaluation and selection of a great number of suppliers, culminating in the selection of a few. These exhaustive methods swallow up enormous resources for a considerable amount of time and seem, from the outside, to be unnecessarily arduous. From the “other side of the fence”, there are some key issues to be considered that may assist in making the process easier and more effective…

Where do you start in the process of tendering out recruitment services? Firstly, one of the most critical elements to establish is the profile of service you want to achieve. This should be clearly identified and will help to “cull” potential tenderers that are unable to deliver that service profile but whom you may otherwise have invited. It will also clarify the type and depth of information needed from any would be supplier.

Secondly, the criteria you will apply to determine the successful tenderer should be agreed upon by all decision makers at the outset (ALL decision makers!)

The options available in the various levels of service are almost infinite, ranging from “straight” recruitment for a specific area or specialisation at a reduced price, right through to a total insourcing or master vendor arrangement that becomes an effective extension of internal resources and operates on site. In between, companies may elect to include permanent recruitment or temporary recruitment only or to service a particular geographic location.

Methods of selecting the best service profile are varied. Most seem to opt for the “Expression of Interest” and use the responses as the basis for deciding what level of service would best suit their needs. An alternative to this lengthy process may be some discussions with other users, industry bodies or, at the risk of sounding radical, even the service providers themselves!

For such a critical function value for money must motivate the final selection rather than actual price alone. Any cost benefit has to take into account the quality of service and the supplier’s ability to deliver. Ideally any supplier should have some cultural synergy with your organisation and be able to demonstrate that change in either organisation will not impair the quality of service that is agreed. What would be the impact of their failure to supply?

They must also be in a position to add value to any corporate strategy or direction. Becoming an employer of choice can only occur with a positive image in the market place and this, in some cases, can be made or broken by recruitment service providers. The quality and flexibility of their processes are also critical, as is the capacity to adapt to the rapid changes in demand and supply that inevitably occur.

Offering tenders to anyone who has supplied recruitment services to a company is the most popular (and seemingly the fairest) method of deciding who should be invited to tender. This method, however, is an unnecessary drain on resources. In addition, it effectively excludes potentially ideal recruitment suppliers who happen not to have been used and may include many organisations that are unsuitable and whose involvement will merely add to the workload.

Research in the marketplace at this stage can narrow the search and target the most likely service providers. Bearing the outcomes and service profile in mind, an evaluation of recruitment services companies should throw up some obvious choices. The Recruitment Consulting Services Association can provide a list of members as a starting point and relationships with current suppliers should not be overlooked. On the last point, the temptation is to try and please everybody by inviting their “buy in” and getting their contribution to the document. The tender document that demands the answers to everyone’s wish list will not produce an effective, practical agreement that is easily evaluated and incorporated into the organisation

Main considerations should include their ability to service each location, some synergy of corporate culture (particularly important where master vendor is being considered), the extent of services available, specialisation or generalist, market presence, innovation and their economic viability.

A final test should be to visit them on site, verify their claims with other clients and make sure you are happy with the overall package, not just the price. Most organisations would agree that their future success relies heavily on the calibre of people in the organisation and the competition for candidates is strong. Therefore any strategic alliance in recruitment must be continually re-focused on corporate objectives, and, if well formed, will contribute significantly towards achieving them.