Imagine this. You’re wealthy (I know, I know – you’d never imagine that… but for the sake of argument, if you don’t mind just this once…) You’ve got a bunch of money you’d like to invest. You reach out to an advisor, and hire them to manage your fortune. They agree to provide you with regular updates on performance. Seems fair. Things percolate along. You’re not trained at this investing thing, and assume they must be an expert, because… well, because they told you they were.

Time goes on. The “reports” you get are pretty basic, simple Excel spreadsheets. Plus, they only show you “expected results”, not the actual returns. That’s weird. The team that is supporting you seems to change constantly – lots of turnover. That makes you a bit nervous, but you carry on. Eventually, you decide to dig in a little. You’d like to know more detail around how your money’s doing. Heck, you’d at least like more insight into where your money’s going. When you ask the consultants for detail, they tell you not to worry. This makes you worry.

You ask for some detail behind the numbers. They let you log in to the platform they use, and everything seems great. But… also weird. You see a line that shows where around 50% of the money’s invested. Turns out, they’re putting half of your money into their own product. And the tool they’re using to measure & report performance is that same product. The one that’s telling you how great it’s doing.

Ever been so full of yourself - Imgur

So, yeah: that seems off. You ask your consultant if you can use some other tool to measure your investments. They get angry, and tell you that will damage your entire portfolio. It feels almost like they’re threatening you. So you move from nervous to mad. You start researching alternatives. Turns out, every advisor you talk to seems to have a similar model: invest half your money in their platform, and then assume it’s giving you accurate reporting on its own performance. Oh, and you ask the advisors (both your current one, and the ones you’re interviewing) if you can talk to representatives from some of the investments you’re making. It’s sizable money, and you kind of feel like as a stockholder you’d be allowed to do that. They all insist that they know best, and that part of their “model” is that they’ll control all the conversations, and that you shouldn’t worry your cute little head about complicated things like this.


Because you’re an idiot, amiright?

At this point, you’ve got a decision. Stay with what seems like a really broken model, one where you’re pretty sure you’re being taken advantage of (or, best case, where your money is not getting the bang for the buck you think it should). That, or take on a task you don’t really have a lot of training in, nor bandwidth for. It feels lose-lose.

Here’s the thing. This is happening in our industry. When I look around at the, that’s what I see a lot of companies struggling with. Last week I sat down with a Fortune 500 prospect, that was using a career site & job distribution tool from the same agency they used for consulting and advisory services around… career site performance and job posting effectiveness. The agency really didn’t like them talking to vendors (ie, Indeed, Glassdoor, etc), and had been insisting that they could handle it for them and that this was standard practice. The prospect had told the vendor they wanted a new platform for their career site, and the vendor told them flat-out “if you do that, it will ruin your SEO, and you don’t want that, just trust us, we’re the experts here”. And, when the client would ask around metrics that went beyond cost-per-applicant, and that could show cost-per-hire (ie, what are the actual, not just projected returns on this investment), they were told the ATS wouldn’t support that. Which is BS, by the way.

That rang a bell. At a previous role, as a practitioner, I fired a competitor to the vendor I’m referencing above. Their line? “If you do this, it will kill your SEO, and you don’t that”. They were, I suspect, also still pissed off that I’d gone behind their backs to a few vendors to see if their data matched up with what I was seeing from my agency. It didn’t.


This is all kinds of messed up. You, as a talent acquisition leader, should be able to trust the data your agency gives you. Annnd, you definitely should be able to talk to your vendors. Not to mention, why do they think they can threaten you, and why in the world do any of them think they’re going to fall for the “our SEO is king!” line? Unless they’re named something like Indeed, Glassdoor, or, say… Google, your career site listings are not coming up first. It just ain’t gonna happen. Heck, your SEO is way more influenced by the activities of your corporate marketing team than they are by a recruitment marketing agency. That’s just how the algorithms work.

I’ve got a whole lot to say about bias and general bs in the industry – because there’s a ton of it. That said, I’m staying focused on the agency piece for now, for two reasons:

  1. I work for an agency, and we are deliberately taking  a stance that we’ll never make products. Because we think it’s an automatic conflict of interest, and we think our clients deserve better. We do take a percentage of spend per media site, but it’s a consistent percent across vendors as well as standard advertising industry practice (and something we detail to clients and prospects in writing and verbally).
  2. This junk has a huge impact on not just companies, but on the economy. When vendors put their own wallets ahead of hiring, obfuscate data in order to make themselves look better, they hurt all of us. Hiring slows down. Bad hires happen. People lost jobs, kids go hungry, etc etc. It, quite frankly, pisses me the hell off. It should do the same for you.

I don’t know if it’s a crusade, but it matters. Find out what platform you agency uses to track data. Ask them if they take referral fees when their clients buy products where they have a deal with a vendor (dollars influence – heck, we’ve had vendors off us “a free iPad to your reps for every deal they close for us”). Find some former clients, and ask them what it was like to fire the agency. Ask if they’d go back. That sort of stuff. Because it’s your money, and your company.

(Long rant ended – for now)