Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Choosing a Recruitment Communications Agency

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Ri5 for the January issue of Pharma Times, the monthly magazine for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and healthcare industries.

The first half of the article, not included here, focused on the history of the recruitment communications industry. The following portion then goes into how the internet has effected that landscape and how a recruiter might go about selecting and engaging professional support in this area.

This should be of interest to anyone who is considering seeking the support of an agency such as Oxus and I am pleased to say that when looking at their main criteria, we tick all the boxes!

"... And then along came the Internet and, not only did the goalposts move, but the rules of the game went out of the window. As in so many other aspects of life, the Internet opens up wonderful potential for recruiters, while at the same time presenting a new set of challenges. The opportunities are threefold: the Internet offers extraordinary scope for an employer to communicate with its current workforce and potential employees ...; it allows far more detailed communication about an organisation, its culture and what it is like to work there; and it has vast capacity for candidate administration. This is not then simply a new channel for advertising vacancies but a platform on which to build and promote an organisation's image as an employer - the employer brand. It can also provide the administrative infrastructure for managing talent pools and pipelines.

Response rates and costs can be measured in real time, allowing campaigns to be fine-tuned on the run. Yet alongside all these largely positive possibilities, there are dangers lurking: anyone who has a modicum of Internet savvy will check in the chat rooms and on social networking sites to get informal views about any prospective employer's good and bad points. There is thus very little point in constructing a gold-plated employer brand if one scratch reveals rather tarnished base metal below.

The purpose of recruitment (or employment) communications is to achieve the best possible return on an organisation's investment in attracting and retaining the people it needs. Recruitment communications agencies are in business to develop and implement effective recruitment marketing strategies and employee communications, using a wide range of media expertise and creative flair to deliver such results. The specialist skills that such agencies have evolved over the last 50 years or so are now allied to the most sophisticated knowledge of digital and Internet technologies. At the very least, recruitment communications agencies deliver useful and valuable services; at best, they can help to achieve real competitive advantage.

Not all agencies offer the same services. The starting point is much as it has always been:

A recruitment communications agency will be able to write, design and produce recruitment advertisements and manage their placement in appropriate online and offline media.

They will offer expertise in the design, production and hosting of recruitment websites - both general careers sites and job-specific microsites.

They will advise on how to optimize the use of search engines, job boards and other online and offline media to drive qualified traffic to the right place.

Many will offer strategic advice on employment marketing, brand development and management, and communications strategies.

Most provide response management facilities.

Perhaps the key task for any employer wishing to appoint a recruitment communications agency is to specify precise requirements before devising a selection process to identify the best qualified.

Drawing up a long list of recruitment communications agencies that could meet the specification should be fairly straightforward. Look at the advertising agency listings and visit the agencies' own websites to get an impression of what they are like. And look for good examples of online and offline recruitment communications, and try to find out who was responsible. Or simply contact the HR team in organisations you respect and ask who they use. Once you've identified your targets, you should make contact and, if initial impressions are favourable, arrange a meeting. Some form of structured assessment may be appropriate, or you could consider a trial project or a competitive pitch between a short-list of agencies (probably inviting a maximum of three contenders), making it clear to all concerned the criteria you will be using to determine the winner. (One of the most useful exercises may be to brief all agencies on a "real" project and invite them to propose fully-costed solutions, with as little room as possible for ambiguity.)

Recruiters, not just in the UK but the world over, have at their disposal the means to communicate more effectively than ever with employees and potential employees. The price of getting it right need not be high, but the cost of getting it wrong could be huge. UK recruiters are fortunate to have at their service the world's most accomplished and talented recruitment communications experts and any effort put in to finding the right agency partner is likely to be repaid in spades."

Ri5 call themselves “the premier information and marketing platform for the recruitment communications industry” and they are without a doubt one of the best sources of information online for this industry. Check them out if you wish to read more.

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