by Ben Batten
An interview is like a first date. Maybe it lacks some of the awkwardness of a date, but there are still many of the same elements. The initial impressions based on the way someone looks, what they wear, how they have their hair and how they smell. Assessing the way someone answers a question, are they being truthful or holding back? Is there chemistry and can we spend our waking hours working together? Do we share similar values, beliefs or passions?
I read an article today about how recruitment has changed in the last few years with the rise of Linkedin and other social networking sites, and indeed it has. This got me thinking about all of the changes that have occurred since I joined the industry in 2002. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon to fax shortlists to clients, job boards were still in their infancy, and at that time, deemed to be a threat. Recruitment firms feared their databases were not as valuable as they once were, if clients could advertise and source themselves. This of course, despite the hype and fear-mongering, turned out to be a false alarm.
Back to the future? We have gone full circle, technologies have changed and improved. We are faced with new tools that create avenues for companies to source themselves through not only Linkedin but aggregators and a multitude of social channels to push job opportunities out. Whilst some of this can be targeted by geography in terms of reach, or specific searches (Linkedin et al), the reality is, the effectiveness of this is still entirely reliant on the capability or creativity of the person running the search or campaign. Not to mention, brand perception and lack of confidentiality directly impact the level of engagement a potential candidate has with an organization direct. Of course, there are always the few hundred applicants that are not at all relevant that will still apply to every opening that need to be sifted through!
One of the key elements of our industry has not changed, and that’s relationships. Human, person to person relationships, not just likes and connections. Hard earned relationships with clients, and the network of candidates built up over many years. Technology cannot replace that. More than ever, Recruitment Consultants need to earn, demonstrate and justify the Consultant part in their job title. In good markets or times gone by, it was possible just to be a good salesperson. I’ve worked with people that lacked a detailed understanding of the roles they recruited, who got by simply by flinging CVs around, hoping something would stick. Some were lucky, others not so, they were found out very quickly.
Wikipedia defines consulting as “an expert or a professional in a specific field who has a wide knowledge of the subject matter”. Generalist staffing (in which I’d include internal recruiters) certainly doesn’t fall into this category. If you recruit, for example, 10 or more different job types over a year, let’s say you meet on average 6 candidates per week or 300 per year, that only 30 candidates or less per job type per year. A specialist meets on average 300 within their niche in a year! A profound difference, providing huge amounts of data with which to consult, make informed views, recommendations and in the case of external recruiters command higher fees!
Just like generalist job boards are losing market share to boutique boards, so too there is an increasing trend and demand from companies to work with specialist firms, who have expert consultants, that can consult and advise on everything from salaries, market trends, competitor intelligence to candidate attraction strategies. Using this knowledge, the consultants have the ability to truly engage candidates and elicit interest in positions using that same knowledge for influence, that more mediocre consultants would fail to do, and in doing so command premium fees!
I’m excited by the pace of change and the opportunities it is creating for our industry to prove our value. It presents an opportunity to lift standards, to stand out through differentiation in service levels, and quality of consultants, and of course ability to attract niche talent.
Less first dates. More meaningful relationships.