Working Transitions

Comparing Apples with Pears – Recruitment Agency vs Outplacement Specialist

Choosing the right approach for your organisation’s leavers.

Out of crisis comes innovation. To survive and thrive, many sectors and industries are adapting – operating in new markets and developing new and innovative ways of working. At Working Transitions, we have quickly and deftly amended many of our offerings – ensuring that we equip our outplacement participants with the tools and resources needed to navigate the current complexities and succeed in what can be considered a challenging landscape.

The recruitment industry is no different; some agencies are thriving because they work in sectors where demand is strong, whilst others are focusing on developing new services and new approaches as they adapt to the changing market and the emerging needs of clients and candidates.

We work closely with a number of recruiters and have great respect for the industry. We know that good recruiters make an enormous difference to their clients’ businesses, using specialist skills and market knowledge to provide them with the very best talent.

Fewer vacancies and an increase in unemployment has seen some recruiters offering their own version of outplacement support . At first glance, this may seem like a cost effective – or even free of charge - solution for employers looking to support leavers. However, It’s important to understand that the services delivered - and the results obtained - by recruiters and outplacement specialists are very different. It’s important for service buyers to understand these differences, especially when it comes to providing effective redundancy support that has a lasting positive impact - not just on leavers but also on meeting organisational objectives.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the questions that our clients ask:

Recruitment Agencies and Outplacement business appear to have many similarities; after all don’t they both help people to find jobs?

Well that’s only partially true.

To be commercially successful, recruiters must satisfy the requirements and demands of the hiring managers who pay their fees by finding exactly the right candidate for their vacancy. Often, this is done on a ‘payment on results’ basis, with fierce competition from other agencies. In most cases, this means striking a very careful balance between the time invested in identifying and preparing a candidate for interview against the probability of the candidate being successful. In a challenging and highly competitive market, the commercial model inevitably dictates that recruiters can only focus on those candidates who most closely match current vacancies.

This commercial pressure is not a bad thing - for those candidates who are “market ready” with a clearly defined skill set and a CV that is well matched to recruiters vacancies (or can easily be adapted) working with a recruiter can be highly successful. Recruiters usually have the inside track on a vacancy and often can provide great context about the hiring organisation and the role that can give a candidate the edge at interview.

However, most candidates - especially those who have unexpectedly lost their job - are not “market ready”. A candidate with no current CV, out of date skills or who hasn’t had an interview for many years is not an immediately attractive prospect for a recruiter or hiring manager.

Suddenly losing your job can have a profound impact on confidence – to move on successfully it’s vital that an individual comes to terms with and deals effectively with the change. Understanding the skills, strengths and value that they bring to a new organisation, as well as their personal career motivators is the only way to truly find a new career that suits – without this stage, success may be very short lived!

Outplacement companies on the other hand, help each candidate to identify the best role for them by focusing entirely on their own personal objectives, investing considerable time and resources to equip them for long-term and sustainable success in the employment market.

To succeed at this time, people need more than just basic job search advice and online resources. Recruitment agencies can certainly give good advice on CV and interview technique, after all, it’s in their interest for candidates to both secure and succeed at interview.

Good outplacement support is about much more than CV and interview advice - it’s about helping people come to terms with what’s happened and make the transition to the next step in their career by exploring the full spectrum of options open to them.

It doesn’t matter how good your CV is, or how well matched your experience is to a role - if you haven’t been able to make the mind-set shift that ensures you are motivated and capable of engaging with the job opportunities a successful outcome is unlikely.

People made redundant just want to get a job quickly and recruiters have the jobs so surely it makes sense to work with an agency?

Not everyone impacted by redundancy wants a new job. Our statistics, gathered over 27 years, show clearly that well over 20% of all outplacement programme participants do not seek another job. Many decide to start a business, others re-train to make a career change, some decide to semi-retire, others look for alternative career options. Recruitment agencies cannot support these people. There are a myriad of paths that people may wish to explore and so they benefit from working with specialist career experts who can provide tailored guidance and advice.

No recruitment agency has all the vacancies, some have exclusive arrangements with clients to handle vacancies, some act as their clients’ internal recruitment service, some are highly niche, others are generalists, some only work in certain sectors or geographies so it is usually beneficial for candidates to work with multiple, carefully selected agencies, who most closely meet their needs.

It’s estimated that roles registered with agencies represent at best less than 25% of available vacancies. A high proportion of roles are never advertised – our 27 years of working in this market indicates that the majority of new roles are actually secured through networking, social media and research. Working only with agencies is likely to severely restrict opportunities.

Recruitment agencies only have a small proportion of the overall vacancies in the market at any time. When recruiters state that they have access to the vacancies that will support employees impacted by redundancy back to employment quickly, in the main this is only true for a small number of candidates who closely match the available vacancies. Outplacement providers will help candidates search across the whole agency vacancy market, as most of these vacancies are easily visible, as well as support them to explore the lucrative hidden job market.

Around 86% of the UK recruitment industry turnover is comprised of contract placements (OnRec 2019). It may be beneficial to work with an agency to find a temporary role that pays the bills in the short term, gives you flexibility or even allows you to explore something new. If you are looking for your next long term role, then you are less likely to find it via a recruitment agency

Like any industry, there are good and bad recruiters and it pays to understand how to work most effectively with agencies. Good outplacement providers have unique insights into how agencies operate and can provide impartial, objective advice on how to gain maximum benefit when working with recruitment consultants.

Surely Recruitment Consultants are the experts when it comes to securing new employment?

There are some excellent experienced and highly knowledgeable recruiters in the market. It’s likely that if you are a senior manager or have specialist expertise that you will work with a recruiter who is a specialist in your field. Its acknowledged though that the recruitment industry experiences high staff turnover with research showing 45% of recruiting professionals leave a role after 9 months (OnRec survey 2019). This means that many participants in outplacement programmes may be working with a recruitment consultant with limited experience and are unlikely to get the level of continuous personal service that a specialist career coach will provide.

Most outplacement Career Coaches have considerable business experience, around 10 years plus of continuous career coaching experience and have usually supported hundreds of people impacted by redundancy to make a successful next step. They know what works and what doesn’t and their knowledge of multiple sectors, role types, re-skilling options, job search techniques, networking and social media is invaluable in ensuring a successful outcome that truly meets the individual’s needs.

Experiencing redundancy is an individual process requiring a personalised approach

In our experience, most outplacement participants require considerable help with motivation and planning. A recruiter simply will not have sufficient time, or perhaps the skills, to dedicate to this. In an industry driven by quotas and KPI’s, recruiters must prioritise their time so they can focus on the candidates that they can easily place - this will always represent only a small proportion of registered candidates.

If you are offering outplacement support to leavers then you can be sure that those who remain within your organisation will hear about how effective – or not –that support has been. The grapevine back into the workplace from leavers is usually very loud following redundancy and any bad news will travel fast. Using a recruiter rather than an outplacement specialist to provide redundancy support is never “free”. Although it may work for some leavers, there is almost certainly a cost associated with the risk of negative feedback from the majority who do not benefit and the subsequent negative impact on those who remain in terms of morale, engagement and reputational damage.

In short it always pays to use a specialist - if you want to fill a vacancy, use a specialist recruiter. If you want your leavers to have the best chance of moving forward into a bright and progressive career, a specialist outplacement provider is the best option.


To find out how Working Transitions can support your organisation to offer the very best support to leavers - whilst respecting your budget - get in touch.


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Working Transitions
27 August 2020
Supporting effective and successful organisational change


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