CV Farmers or Hunters for Top Talent? what would you rather be?

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Just over three months ago I embarked upon #MyJobHunt and started to really learn a lot about the abilities and the attitudes that pervade recruiting.   I’d had my own experiences, been influenced by other people’s and formed my own opinions, but the 6 weeks of #myjobhunt and the subsequent 10 weeks has taught me so many more realities around what we do and how we do it.

During my six week journey and adventure whilst I was looking for my next employment option I had two clear thoughts  and have used them a number of times in discussions and in presentations.

1.       The number of companies that have dedicated in-house recruitment teams is the tip of the iceberg; the number of those companies that have a sophisticated in-house team represent  the pinnacle of the tip of the iceberg


2.       The second point is that no recruiter is as good as they think they are; no process is as good as it is meant to be.


I’m not going to comment on the sophisticated teams and structures because they really are very very  good at what they do and how they do it.

Anyone hear the expression CV Farmer?  I use it quite a bit. It can apply to agency and in-house recruiters alike.  A CV Farmer is a recruiter that posts job adverts on company web sites and job boards or gives an agency a brief then sits back and waits for the CV’s to come to them.  They then do basic screening and then pass them directly the Hiring Managers.  The vast majority of in-house teams or structures are made up of CV Farmers or as their HR colleagues call them and their customers refer to them; Administrators.

These structures and individuals generally lack the understanding of what it takes to be a Hunter, actively searching for the right individual, assessing their capabilities and competencies in line with the needs of the business and the culture of the environment, let alone be able to provide substantiated advice and guidance to the Hiring Manager.

Don’t get me wrong. Farmers fill vacancies. They can do it and save on fees that may be spent on agencies or search firms. However how confident are you that you have hired the best possible candidate rather than a convenient one?

I’ve had countless conversations with other in-house recruiters over the last few months, covering a wide variety of topics.  One common thread is how a recruiting team’s performance and its worth to the business can be directly influenced by or as a result of the attitude of the person at the top of the tree in HR.   I can relate to this, unfortunately.

I have only ever met a few HR Managers or Directors that know how to recruit, unless their primary role is recruitment.  I was given a perfectly clear example of this recently when speaking with HRDs from organisations of various sizes and markets.  I asked by a show of hands how many of them had personally recruited for people in the last year.  Most of them put their hands up.  When I then asked them to put their hands down if they had used an agency or search company, all but one put their hands down.  All they had proven was that they knew how to use a phone.  I told them so, which opened up all sorts of conversations.

One clear point from personal experiences during #MyJobHunt, as well as before and after, is that the majority of HR departments treat recruiters as Administrators, which in turn means that they tend not to be equipped well enough to give a candidate a proper experience and therefore don’t add any real value.  In fact in many companies recruitment is managed by HR Administrators.  Worse still, if they are treated like administrators, they will behave like administrators and not necessarily give the candidate the experience they will need or deserve.

What I find troubling is that we constantly read in the business or HR press, or are informed internally that attracting and acquiring top talent is a Top 5 Board level priority, yet it is rarely treated as such and tends to be treated with little respect and importance by HRDs.

I agree that I have generalised and  appreciate that there are many reasons why in-house teams are not as good as they think they are or could be, and I am pretty sure that this post will stimulate a few comments, but hey it I didn’t hear it or experience it I wouldn’t comment on it.  I think you know that about me.

The point I am trying to make is that recruiters can add significant value to your employer brand, your corporate brand, your reputation in the market, your ability to attract and acquire top talent and when supported, equipped and engaged correctly they will add far more value to the company balance sheet than any other part of HR…………..arguably.  I am biased of course

I’m in the lucky position to have joined a company as we go through a transformation, part of which is the creation of an improved and hopefully sophisticated team at the pinnacle of the tip of the iceberg with all the processes, tools and skills to add real value to the company – yeah that’s my goal and my job!







  1. Sounds like you got a peach of a role with all the right backing. Just two penneth of views from my corner on this – the vast majority of corporates I’ve spoken to in the past have only been prepared to PAY for administrators. A good recruiter in search/agency land can earn serious money – so regardless of the operational talent required, this needs to be recognised to get serious recruiter talent through the door in the first place. Like you, I generalise to an extent – but I think you know what I mean!

    • Actually I don’t know what you mean. I’m not sure I get the connection you’ve made there James. You seem to assume that the only way to get good in-house recruiters is to get them from the agency or search communities. If this were true then salaries would be a challenge yes, but thankfully this is not true and you make a completely wrong assumption and connection. I think you will find that the majority of In-house Recruitment Managers, certainly those who have service delivery focused and sophisticated teams will agree that agency or search types just don’t have the skills, competencies, and attitude to do the job to the standards required.

      • It’s certainly not the only way, but the last stats I saw suggested only 20% of corporates had any inhouse recruitment and 80% was handed off to agencies. As when you build any kind of team, you go where the fish are.

        Likewise, I wouldn’t suggest that someone with a history in agency/search is the perfect in-house recruiter – but in many cases, I’d suggest they have a number of skills that’ll give them a good head start.

        Finally, of course it’s not only about the money. But I know some awesome recruiters who excel at unearthing serious top-end talent. They’ve looked at in-house because they want to focus on that and not be pushed on cold-call sales stuff and find that in many cases, they can only achieve 40-50% of current earnings. That’s just too bigger a gap.

    • robnunn
    • December 9th, 2010

    Agree with James and with the post. Unless HR depts start recognising the potential of having a recruiting dept similar to those at the top of the tip of the iceberg and paying proper salaries, then farmers is all they’ll get.

    But it’s not just the right level of pay of course. It’s having someone at the top of the dept that empowers their team, and is open minded enough to explore their full potential, and not restrict them on the tools at their disposal.

    I worked for just such a person a few contracts back and it was liberating. And needless to say, we achieved 94% direct, all round hiring manager satisfaction (factual as well as anecdotal) and the head of the dept was continuously voted “Best Manager” in the whole company.

    Attitudes are changing in HR, but I fear too slowly.

    p.s. No tune of the day??

    • Great to hear you had that level of engagement and support, it’s a shame it doesn’t happen in all environments, or indeed the assignments you get there Bob.

      I’m not entirely sure salary has anything to do with it. Salaries are what they are for in-house and they are what they are for agencies. Mistakenly they are both called recruiters but they do entirely different jobs for different reasons and thus demand different salary structures. The only thing they may have in common is they use similar search techniques and tools. It doesn’t necessarily follow that one can do the job of the other, apart from maybe resourcing. Also don’t be fooled into thinking that all agency staff are paid well. The majority are not. In fact I would suggest that many agency staff are paid less than in house.

      But that still is not the point. Given someone with the right attitude and the right level of commitment we can develop them into a professional business partner. We shouldn’t think that to get good recruiters we have to buy them at inflated salaries from agencies or search firms. I kn ow you dont and probably agree with me that that’s just naivety and crap. I know most members of The FIRM would agree.

      thanks for the reminder – song of the day “Ten Years Gone” – Led Zeppelin

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