A better approach to engineering recruitment? Home > A better approach to engineering recruitment?

The importance of skills recruitment

With our dedicated programme of investment, two up-to-date sites and an ever-growing portfolio of state-of-the-art production machinery, Denholm Rees O’Donnell and sister company C E Edwards continue to expand. We are proud of our highly skilled team and recognise that maintaining our exacting standards and ethos as it grows in size is challenging but crucial.

We are delighted with the successful introduction of our own apprentice schemes, which, through proper training with the promise of a good job for those who make the grade, are helping to build a fantastic workforce going forward. However our growth has also meant looking externally for experienced candidates. That inevitably brings us, like all engineering companies, into contact with technical recruitment agencies – something which has made us question whether the current accepted way they work within our industry is really the best option for any of the parties involved, and seek a better solution.

At their worst, recruitment agencies play Shylock, demanding their pounrecruitment_feesd of flesh while delivering little of benefit to either employer or candidate.


Indeed, agencies can sometimes hinder or even block a potentially successful ‘match’. Agency fees can turn an otherwise promising candidate into an unjustifiably expensive one, effectively pricing them out of contention.

Focus on value

At Denholms and C E Edwards we will only ever pay that premium for a truly exceptional candidate – an outstanding individual who will add such value to our team that the agency fee will very quickly be paid back in full (and many times over going forward). However, such candidates are, by their very nature, few and far between. In our experience, the potential employees put forward by agencies generally meet our criteria to a decent level but are very rarely outstanding.

It is regrettable for both parties that many able candidates simply do not realise the disadvantage they may be putting themselves at by going through an agency. Understandably, agencies tend to be very quiet when it comes to what they demand from an employer.

The recruitment risk

Even in situations where a good match seems to make the agency’s fee a worthwhile investment, an appointment may not work out in the early days for a whole multitude of reasons and, if the agencies have their way, it is the employing company that carries the full burden of that risk. Again, that is not an arrangement that we at Denholms or C E Edwards are prepared to accept. It does not make business sense on any level to pay a large lump sum to an agency, only for the candidate in question to leave within a matter of weeks of joining or turn out not to be the fit for our team that we were expecting. The way we see it, if an agency is playing matchmaker (and being paid handsomely for it) then it should certainly share the responsibility should the relationship prove unsuccessful in the early days.

A better approach? – Flexibility delivers opportunity.

The best way we have found to alleviate this risk is to work on a ‘semi-permanent’ basis over a 13-week period, during which time the candidate takes up their new role with us but is paid through the agency. Its costs us more in total but that sum is spread over the 13 weeks and not paid in full if it emerges that the person isn’t a good fit for us after all. At the end of that time, we have had a good chance to assess the candidate, and they us, and we can all proceed with confidence to a permanent contract.

If this model were to become standard practice among recruitment agencies in our industry, with no additional cost associated with it, many firms like ours might look more favourably on working with agencies and indeed begin turning to them as their first-choice route when looking for new staff. As a result, a lot of perfectly decent candidates would not be inadvertently missing out on jobs simply because they have decided to sign up with an agency rather than go it alone. Opening up the process in this manner could only increase the chances of the right companies and individuals finding one another. And having a committed, skilled and happy team on board obviously benefits everyone – not least, of course, our customers.

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