Love your coffee? Maybe you should love your recruitment agencies too

partnership (1)

One key realization that I had since I left the corporate world and started my employer branding agency was the importance of partnerships; Very often in the corporate setting, we tend to work a little more in silo to “defend our turfs” or have a “you vs. me” mindset. The result? We observe conflicts due to differing perspectives because we are unable to align towards a common goal that supersedes the individual team’s interest.

As HR, we often seek to become a strategic business partner. What does that really mean? It basically means that we need to up our game to deliver greater value rather than just become a mere order taker or postman at work. It is almost impossible to achieve it alone and that means, we need to work closely with potential partners. Who then can we count on as a reliable partner to help us scale up while we fight our internal battles? From a recruitment perspective, one key partner will be the recruitment agencies.

The following is an interesting narration by fellow HR practitioner, Lip Hua, who shared his perspective on how a Talent Acquisition (TA) specialist can work with and harness the potential of agencies to add value to our HR work.


The coffee lies still in the cup, sitting on the table as steam swirl slowly upwards. The afternoon turns pensive as long weekend, and the year draws to a close.

Being a TA specialist, suddenly seems pretty much like the coffee cup scene. And especially so with managing the agencies; whose messages keep beeping and interrupting my thoughts.

Like how coffee culture has evolved, the role of agencies has evolved over the years; from external resource to recruiter process outsourcing (RPO) to partners in employer branding and engagement with an employer branding agency. And depending on the size, shape of our cup and needs of our stakeholders – budgetary concerns and opinions differ about the use of agencies. Perhaps this cup of coffee deserves some closer inspection.

Collectors of information

Subject to the needs of their role, agencies speak to the market daily. They are collectors of information. They are connoisseurs who know the flavors of the day, price of rare beans and consumer needs by the season. These information serve well for the TA in crafting our Employee Value Proposition (EVP), as well as being able to advise the business on possible market conditions when planning for talent needs.

Transmitters of information

Just like how agencies advise the in house folks on candidate and market conditions, these connoisseurs transmit information (and opinions) of employers to candidates. What they cannot get from official sources, they will get from the market grapevine. And without quality control and proper dosage of facts, the grapevine often provides flavors beyond interesting.

Which is why I take time to bring visiting recruiters on a short tour of the company grounds. Seeing is believing, experiencing it allows the agency to relate and give more accurate information to the market. This improves the agencies’ standing and reputation, while the TA gets these information (EVP) transmitted, for free.

Meaningful partnership

But with so many good connoisseurs and a budget to account for, the TA risks an overdose if he takes all that comes. And spreading the aroma to many while actualizing only a drip of coffee into one connoisseur’s cup, is ultimately unwise. It is good responsibility to partner with the few and ensure that these get to fill their cups. A good consumer knows that he will not get good coffee by bankrupting the café through patronizing multiple competitions.

Work with those who deliver and improve on mutual success. Spread the aroma wide, thins out the interest and scent.

Practice your cuppa

And finally, practicing good agency management is an opportunity to practice and improve your team management skills. The feedback sessions serve well as practice for performance appraisal, and deciding who to give more assignments to, is similar to deciding which team member to promote. After all, TA can get quite lonely for those of us being a single contributor. So why not just stir in the hot water and taste the coffee?

Now if I could just ignore those beeping messages…

Closing thoughts


It’s easy to hire vendors and pay them for the service that they provide. But forging a partnership that creates good value is one that requires time and effort to build. Just like what Lip Hua shared, there are many things that a good partner can deliver but that starts from establishing the right expectations i.e. knowing what you want to achieve collectively, and building a good relationship.

Are you working with vendors or partners at this moment? Do you still think you can achieve much with your lone effort? How do you want to better collaborate with strategic partners to deliver greater value to your stakeholders? Start thinking differently and work on creating a win-win situation for all.

Together we can create a better workplace for tomorrow.

6 thoughts on “Love your coffee? Maybe you should love your recruitment agencies too

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