The PSL is dead, long live the PSL
Are PSLs a Broken Practice?
OK, so this is not a new topic area but the effectiveness of Preferred Supplier Lists is always being discussed. They have been around for years providing a level of surety to companies and the agencies included on the lists. Using effective PSLs, HR managers can streamline their entire recruitment process, ensuring their talent acquisition programmes tick over nicely.
So we all agree, PSLs work really well then?
When we look at the core reason to go to the trouble of implementing and managing a PSL, we have complex arguments as to why employers need them, but simply put a PSL is just an employer saying, “We have a need to find talent, but we don’t want the entire world sending us unsolicited candidates. We want a highly efficient, cost effective, consistent and managed process with selected assessed agencies with whom we build close relationships. They get to know our business needs well, and within the PSL we have all our areas of talent requirements covered.” That sounds like a good argument for the PSL.
So why do we hear some recruiters disagreeing with the entire PSL practice?
Let’s look a little closer. There are so many views on PSLs and many different ways to implement them. Some companies have them set up informally (agencies they know), but with no real structure or management, basically making it up as they go along. Then you have the other end of the spectrum, highly managed, documents on performance, detailed candidate submission data, detailed role analysis, conversion rates, quality measures, regular detailed reviews etc.
Now, the doubters don’t like PSL’s for a lot of reasons. Is that just frustration as after all, it’s not so easy to get on a PSL with so much competition, or do they really have a serious and valid point?
We hear stories of PSLs being huge, 50, 100, 150 agencies, they sound like a nightmare to manage. Is there really a need for that many agencies on a PSL? Are these PSLs in the hands of over excited companies or do the HR managers know something the recruiters don’t? With over populated PSLs consultants often feel there are so many agencies working on a given role that their quality time is best spent elsewhere.
And when it comes to a recruiter being told a company has a PSL, well that’s just a red rag to a bull in some cases. Getting your candidate considered without being on the company’s PSL has been turned into a fine art by some recruiters, but then you can always argue your candidate should be given a chance as even Wimbledon has a wild card.
We know when a recruiter gets past a company’s PSL they get a pat on the back from their line manager, for demonstrating the client’s current PSL was not fit for purpose after all, and now they know it. I see articles on the web like ‘10 tips to get passed a PSL or gatekeeper’, as if it’s a huge game of cat and mouse.
The real argument from recruiters is the fact that hiring managers never speak to them to know what they can offer. They argue “how can HR teams recruit the best talent if they do not understand their companies technologies deeply enough?” I am not sure if that argument is way too general. Most HR managers I know are very aware of their company needs, they know their stuff. I accept that some will be less effective than others, but let’s be fair, that’s the same of any profession. Many recruiters go even further however, and want to see the recruitment process taken back from HR departments and given to senior hiring managers.
They may have a point in some cases, but I am not sure there is any one perfect solution.