Why We Don’t Participate in Recruitment Awards

Around this time of year, we in the recruitment business have our timelines on LinkedIn filled with recruitment award winners. There is a lot of industry glow going around. At Wahl and Case we don’t believe in these awards. Our industry as a whole leave more clients and candidates dissatisfied than those we delight. Celebrating ourselves, championing the status quo, while our industry frustrates the majority of people we touch is something we don’t believe in at Wahl and Case.

Recruitment industry awards champion the status quo. Most candidates and clients are extremely frustrated with recruitment agencies. How can we celebrate ourselves when we are not solving the fundamental problem of our customers?

Recruitment International, and other organisations that create these awards are trying to service our industry by shining a light on the most critical component in company building: talent. But the awards are closed systems – recruitment agencies submit their own (un-audited) data. Then how are decisions made? The decision-making isn’t transparent either. Are clients polled? No. Are candidates polled? No. What these awards actually do is strengthen those giving the awards. The intention to champion our industry is an approving ambition, but the way it is conducted is mis-guided. These closed systems, not having awards created by client / candidate polls, perpetuate the status quo. 

And the status quo has an end date. Talent is the most important of the three most critical functions to building companies (idea and money being the other two). But our industry is broken. Recruitment agencies are going to be replaced by internal recruiting functions, and increasingly by technology. What we do is massively complex: discovering the right individual, matching all the different (often clashing) motivations to the right client culture, then ensuring they stay and create value. So we won’t be disrupted by technology soon, but it is coming, and it is coming fast. These awards don’t acknowledge that. These awards have recruiting firms looking to do things the way they are done today, rather than the way they will be done tomorrow. The agency business will survive for years, but it is going to become more and more niche. Only the recruitment agencies that add more value, less transaction, will survive. In 5 to 10 years the majority of the firms winning awards today will not exist, or if they do will be shadows of the pride they strut today. The recruitment industry awards perpetuate the transactional nature of our business – the transactional nature everyone hates.

These are some of the reasons we don’t participate. And we don’t suffer anything for it. We are the best recruitment firm in Tokyo for technology search. We are near peerless when it comes to startup recruitment. We’re overwhelmed with work, and our real problem is executing well on that demand. Our problem is adding more value to our clients, innovating our process so that consultants can utilise technology (AI, psychology, social) much more effectively to increase productivity to make more, and better placements. Our problem is trying to break free from the transactional nature of the recruitment agency business, to try to capture more of the value we actually create by our introductions. We don’t really have any competitors.

Every recruitment firm out there needs to increase productivity, increase value delivered, innovate to fight the frustrations that our industry today causes. Because our clients and candidates are overwhelmingly not happy with their options. And there are a lot, a lot, of smart people trying to do that for you, creating new startups, new options. So rather than seek to win a closed award that champions a systems that will become obsolete, innovate.

While we agree with the intention of the creators of these recruitment awards, we won’t participate until it becomes more innovative in outlook, looks to the future of recruitment, and becomes an open system of nomination and decision. 

Talent is the most important thing for future business, globally. As a recruitment agency we are at the nexus of this importance. But we have to change. Recruitment agencies have to be more innovative, have to create new business models, and move away from the transactional model today. Agency awards, by definition, promote the past. Once they promote the future we will participate.