PSLs (or PPLs) for recruitment services – how to make the most of them

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I prefer the term Preferred Partner List to Preferred Supplier List, but whatever it is called, it may surprise you to hear that I think that if you have a medium to high recruitment requirement and you haven’t got one you should! The benefits to such relationships should easily outweigh the time investment required.

So why? Efficiency should be the guiding principal. Often PSLs are put in place for cost cutting, but if that is the only purpose, costs saved in the short term may be lost later. The reason I prefer the PPL title is that if these relationships are optimised it really can be a “win-win” for both provider and consumer of such services.

So how should you optimise it? Here are some simple points that you can consider:

  • Choose carefully your partners

What reputation do they have, and how well is partnering with such a company reflect on you as a brand? Are they ethical? What track record do they have in your sector? Have they placed similar roles to your requirements? Most importantly, how confident are you that their staff will properly sell your opportunities consistently?

  • Keep the number of companies on the list relatively small

If there are masses of companies on the list it is not a PPL/PSL! Companies that are on the list should see a clear benefit to being on it and should know that they will receive a good proportion of the vacancies that become live. This is very important if they are contingency recruiters. The good ones will only work hard on vacancies where they have a good chance of completing.

  • Ensure your line managers stick to the list and are willing to invest the time to ensure your PPL partners prioritise your assignments

Line managers must be engaged with the process. They need to give good information and fast communication. Again, the better the info and comms the more likely the recruitment partner will make your vacancy a priority. If your recruiter knows interview dates and target dates for on-boarding this will ensure greater priority

  • Keep your door open, just!

When you have decided on your list it is very tempting to close the door to all newcomers for the next three years! This may be seen as a tempting way of stopping business development calls from pesky recruiters! It is far better, however, to occasionally open the door to an unknown supplier as a “trial”. This should not be on the most difficult vacancy, but should be on a standard one so that their efficacy can be properly evaluated. Some PSL systems have A, B, and C tiers. The problem with this is that those on level C have already had the candidate pool muddied by A & B. How can someone on level C really be evaluated as an alternative?

  • Evaluate regularly

Decide on factors that can be measured and make sure your partners know them and start measuring them. Give them factors that they can control and that have real value to you the client. If open vacancies are costing you sales, work with the partner to bring down time-to-fill times. Look also at where line managers endorse the partner’s screening, e.g.: how many first interviews develop to second?

  • Look at true cost

If there is increased volume to be had, PPL processes will often incentivise recruitment companies to reduce per placement fees, provided that the opportunity to increase business is real rather than illusory. Reducing the number of providers to fewer specialists may provide economies of scale. There is, though, a “tipping point”, where better companies will walk away from business rather than reduce below a certain level and the PSL will be owned by companies that take greater times to fill vacancies (and sometimes fail to fill) and use up disproportionate time of HR and line management staff, or causing poor hiring decisions due to lack of choice, thereby more than negating cost savings.


In summary, PPL/PSLs can be a real win-win for both recruitment company, client and candidate, if the main driver is to enhance quality and efficiency as well as cost control.

By Nigel Job, CEO, Remtec Search & Selection Ltd (This article was first published March 2014)

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