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Time to kill the PSL?

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Preferred Supplier List. Three words guaranteed to make every recruiter on the planet lean back in their chair and stare open-mouthed at the ceiling. You have to forgive us, it’s not that we don’t see the value in formalising a relationship with a company, it’s just that deep down every recruiter knows that PSLs (as they’re known) are at best an obstruction in a company getting the best talent to work for them. And our job is to provide the best talent for a company. Honestly, it really is. I’ve been part of no more than four PSLs in my career.

So why have them at all? Well, from what I’ve seen over the last 10 years in this game, they can be good sometimes. For example, if a large company is hiring 50+ people and needs a select number of pre-vetted agencies to work on filling the roles, then I can see the value. However, the humble PSL has been hijacked by almost every personnel department worldwide as a useful tool to keep agencies in check and to say a firm “no” to new ones working with them.

To remind us all, recruitment is a two-way street where the customer and the agency have to work together. A candidate joins a company because of their career prospects, the company’s story, leadership, projects and many more reasons. Having an impersonal set up whereby a job description that doesn’t reflect the vacancy is shot out to an agency because they are on some “list” will not, and never will, result in the best talent joining the business.

Recruitment should be driven by value, not just financial, including marketing the company in the very best way and managing the recruitment process in a controlled and professional way. The best agencies to partner with are specialists and PSLs very rarely attract specialist agencies and when the rubber meets the road, those generalist agencies cannot deliver on your vacancies. Moving outside of the PSL for very niche candidates is not just necessary but can add tremendous value to a business.

So what’s the solution? Abolish the archaic PSL? Probably not. However, for a company to get the best value out of a recruitment partner, the PSL is possibly the worst set up. Flexibility with which agencies fill the roles, on fees and on processes will ultimately make those companies win, a crucial victory in this recession.

Jon Styles is the CEO of Northcote Group and has over 10 years of Microsoft recruitment experience under his belt. Need some help? Click an icon below.

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