Consider the following scenario. On Monday morning, a candidate posts his resume on the Internet. Within minutes, the resume is consumed by five different recruiters, who immediately "submit" the resume to the same company via email attachment. The question is: Which recruiter now has "ownership" of the candidate?
None of them. Why? Because the sixth person to find the candidate's resume happens to be the company's own staff recruiter, who deliberately leaves his email unopened. Since none of the "submitted" resumes were under consideration, it's the staff recruiter who "owns" the candidate from the perspective of the company, which neatly sidesteps the obligation to pay a fee.
The five heartbroken recruiters may cry foul, especially since "ownership" of the candidate's resume is their only claim to fame. But in truth, what did any of them do to deserve a fee?
Nothing. In this particular case, the five recruiters failed to do that which the company was unable or unwilling to do for itself; namely, to quickly surface a qualified candidate. It seems the company was fully capable, thank you very much, of performing the research task.
Barbarians at the Gate
By definition, the purpose of delegating the recruiting function to a third party is to gain assistance, not enter into a fractious competition. For every recruiter who fights for a fee that's based on a mere technicality (as in, We found the candidate's resume on the Web five minutes before you did!"), take a hard look at what you're doing. Quite possibly, you're creating a nuisance and cheapening the perception of your value.
With recruiters and employers competing for the same pool of public-domain candidates, it's no wonder so many companies have assumed a siege mentality. Backed into a posture of self-defense, they've erected a fortress called the "agency agreement," a formidable contract designed to maintain their control over candidate ownership rights through rigorous recruiter submission procedures and restrictive access to managers.
To all the despairing recruiters who complain that "The resume was already on file"; or "Twenty recruiters got to the candidate's resume before me," you have my sympathy. But the reality of the situation is, if you're not adding value, there's a good chance your services are unnecessary and unwanted.
Create Distinction to Avoid Extinction
Suppose you can find high-quality candidates by methods unknown or inaccessible to your clients or your competition. If that's the case, congratulations. Your contribution to the recruiting process has obvious merit. But if you're simply recycling the same people as everyone else---or trying to make a career from being first in line---you'd better be prepared to lose out on a lot of placements.
There's more to recruiting than finding a resume on the Internet, or anywhere else, for that matter. To command respect and truly earn your fee, focus on the true benefits you bring to the hiring process, such as:
As raw data becomes more available to everyone, try to put into perspective the actual reason for your existence. If you, your clients and your competition are all delegating to the same source---the Internet---the more you risk redundancy and become expendable. Only by increasing your value will you earn the respect you deserve and the income that's rightfully yours.