Why it’s Time to Shake up your Agency PSL

Every internal recruitment function has the same goal: to attract the right, highly skilled talent into your organisation.    

Most recruitment functions will want to source vacancies directly to control costs and brand perception and potentially use a PSL of recruitment agencies to support their internal initiatives in order to plug resourcing gaps or deliver to highly specialised/critical roles.  

When engaging recruitment suppliers, a well-managed and highly tuned agency PSL can generate fantastic returns and connect you to unique, high-quality talent, but the reality is, this list all too often goes untouched.


The recruitment agency market is saturated. A huge increase in the number of recruitment agencies means they are all vying for your attention. As the person responsible for your recruitment suppliers, chances are you have gone into self-preservation mode. Rather than seeking out agencies with a fresh approach, HR and internal recruitment teams like yours are, understandably, increasingly unwilling to deal with the sheer volume of calls, emails, LinkedIn messages, proposals, and pretty much day to day harassment.

That’s because the vast majority of these agencies don’t have anything new to say. As a result, HR and internal recruitment teams tend to stick with the same agencies that have been on their PSL for a while, regardless of whether they are improving your access to highly skilled talent for your business or not.

It is only by taking on this swarm of recruiters, like mosquitos buzzing around your business, that you can ensure you are selecting the most innovative and effective recruitment partners when you need to call upon them. 

By failing to shake up your PSL on a regular basis, you could be losing top rated candidates to your competitors.  However, if you could get access to better-qualified candidates for roles that you have outsourced to agencies at present, would you be interested?  If so, then it’s time to shake up your supplier list.  Here are four reasons explaining why shaking up your PSL will give you access to new pools of better-qualified talent.

General good practice

To get the best out of your PSL and ensure that the agencies on it are the right ones for the job, ask yourself the question: are the agencies on my PSL all giving me access to highly skilled, top rated candidates? If the immediate answer is no, then changes need to be made.

Analyse how long the hiring process with these agencies takes, and look at the fill rates. If they are not exceptional, relegate the agency as they do not deserve a place on your list – in fact this is a must!  Agencies are getting complacent and are using increasingly outdated ‘old school’ sourcing methods that are becoming ineffective in the modern, digital era of recruitment.

Leading internal recruitment leaders advise reviewing your recruitment suppliers every six months via an effective scoring system to maximise value.

You need the best in the biz working for you

The recruitment industry is notoriously volatile. Agencies are constantly changing as recruiters move from one agency to the next or change roles internally. So it’s likely the best recruiters will not stay in their role or at their company for too long. Meaning the performance of the agencies on your PSL will always tend to decline. Agency brand isn’t important here, it’s the quality of the recruiter that counts.   

As we move into the digital era of recruitment, modern recruiters focus on developing long-term relationships and engaging people through more innovative methods than mass spray & pray methods. When outsourcing roles to agencies, attracting better qualified people to your company relies on you regularly checking that the leading recruiters in the market are working for you.

Reputation is king

Many agencies on your PSL will have developed a poor reputation among candidates in your sector – ask any candidate (or client for that matter) what they think of recruiters and the response will be negative at best. Whether this is because the industry in unregulated, or by failing to deliver on promises, they will struggle to attract the right calibre of candidate for your company if their brand equity in their market is poor.

If people don’t trust an agency, they will not engage with them and they will look for work elsewhere, increasing the chances that you’ll lose candidates to your competitors, who are focused on using those agencies with an excellent reputation (that do exist). The over-saturation in the agency market makes it easy for those with highly sought after skill sets to only use agencies that they respect. You need to ensure that the agencies on your list have a strong brand equity in their markets and are constantly investing in innovative ways to develop their reputation.

Old school techniques won’t get you very far

To date, the recruitment industry has been through three eras.

The first era, The Analogue Age, which began in the 80s, required recruiters to be highly skilled in marketing techniques and to build strong relationships by managing internal networks of talent, without access to high speed communication methods that are common place nowadays.

The second era, the Spray & Pray Age, created by the advent of the internet and email in the late 90’s, brought out the worst in recruiters. Relationship building fell by the wayside as a focus on transactional methods, short term thinking, and mass email distribution became the norm.

Fortunately, the third era which we are now in, the digital era, is a renaissance for the recruitment profession. The type of skilled communicator that dominated the first era of recruitment – the relationship-builder, the cultivator of networks – is coming back as talent acquisition once again emphasises a strong need for one-to-one engagement to stand out from a saturated market of old school recruiters where candidates are now becoming desensitised with the barrage of noise they are receiving on a daily basis regarding career opportunities. The key to talent acquisition is now engaging with people. The very nature of how people communicate with each other is being altered by the Digital Age as new societal norms are shaped. Candidates are increasingly looking for work differently and as a result, modern recruitment techniques are surfacing.

The agencies which can add more value to your PSL and connect you with better qualified people are those that are adapting their philosophies and resourcing methods. Unfortunately, a significant number of agencies on your PSL will still be stuck in the Spray and Pray Age, and won’t have recruiters with the skills or flare for modern recruitment, necessary to secure the top-rated candidates you need.

No better time than the present

While the volatile nature of recruitment agencies means that your PSL should never be fixed or go too long without being reassessed, with the massive shift to modern recruitment techniques that we are now seeing, there is no better time than now to shake up your PSL.

While it may seem preferable to lock yourself away from the never-ending swarm of recruiters harassing you on a day to day basis, you will be missing out on the modern agencies that have adapted to a new era of recruitment, and who are using the latest recruitment techniques, the ones that are going to give you and your organisation access to the top tech talent that you need, when you need them.

Calling on an out-of-date PSL filled with old school recruiters could mean that you and your organisation will lose out on the best talent.

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