After 20 years working for, what I believe, is one of the best specialised staffing groups globally, it was around this time last year that it was my time to move on. A glorious career working in 20+ offices across 15 countries (in every role from tea boy to MD), finally came to an end and it was time to embark upon my next adventure.
The usual questions arose; similar role in a bigger company? Bigger role in a smaller company? Or should I start something up and do it myself? After a few months of deliberation and bottoming out my risk/reward appetite, joining my old peer John Dyson on his FJR Adventure fitted the bill perfectly. That being said, setting up a new office from scratch, while not looking to borrow any money meant it was time to put the business on my back and make sure I lead from the front (or at least get near to it) when it came to making placements.
“Placements? Owen making placements? It can’t be done. The gaffer last made a placement when DJ Casper was doing his ‘Cha Cha Slide’ on Top of the Pops.” I heard my band of trusted cohorts giggling behind my back. And I’ll be quite honest, they might have had a point.
It had been about 15 years since I last ran a 360 desk and most of my client and candidate network were well rid of the city – either in new ventures, out on the golf course or nicely retired enjoying their 30-years-in-the-world’s-finest-financial-centre pension. But the biggest challenge of all was the way clients recruit. It felt like everything had changed… or had it?
After 9 months back in the saddle, here’s my take on what’s changed and what hasn’t…
Your network is no longer King. Yes, it is important. As can a database. But from a standing start with no London specific network or database, we have paid the rent, paid the wages (plus a few bonuses) and even started to build a chest to carry on investing in the business. With technology tools available ranging from source breaker, LinkedIn recruiter, Idibu, Innovantage, Lusha……you’re spoilt for choice. Pick the right ones and you can source relevant people very quickly. It’s no longer about who is on your books but more about how you engage with your community.
Life is harder for the candidate. Is working with a candidate on an exclusive basis still in the best interest of the candidate? It seems the candidate has to do so much more than they used to. The market is catered for by so many different solutions. Big banks have RPOs, FTSE 100s have followed suit, mid-size firms use direct recruiters, scale ups use talent managers and start-ups use their network. Take all this and couple it with somewhere in the region of 39,000 recruitment firms in the UK (thankyou Joe Jones), add in automated responses and chatbots and you see that it has become a full time job for candidates to deal with the multitude of recruiters that constantly approach them.
The phone is not my only friend. You still need one, but the days of 20 outbound calls before 12noon are long gone! Yes, it’s good to talk, but people are at their desks less and there are new mediums to communicate through – frankly, unscheduled calls seem to be a distraction. Using technology to diarise a time to speak is the new common courtesy, but more importantly, you seem to get significantly better quality conversation when you do. I’ve even heard of one forward thinking recruitment firm that doesn’t have landlines in the office – now that’s change for you!
Lead generation from candidate conversations is now frowned upon. It used to be a significant part of the job, and when executed the right way was helpful to the whole ecosystem. And while many candidates understand the rationale – if handled in an ethical and honest way – get it wrong and you’ll be thrown under the bus and slandered as an underhand, crooked piece of recruitment toadlife. And if you think you can fix the damage with a bit of schmoozing, you’re wrong. It’ll be all over social media, Glassdoor, Feefo, Reevoo, Trip Advisor…you name it. So why risk it? Jump on LinkedIn, Indeed, or a company website and you have all the information you ever need. Simples.
Clean shaven, dark suit, pastel shirt, bold tie is the standard recruiter uniform no more! These days you can dress to get the job done rather than just to keep your boss happy. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a sharp suit with a crisp collared shirt; but with such a plethora of start-up clients embracing tech chic, wearing smart jeans, collar and blazer works just fine. That being said, if a bulge bracket bank invited me in again, I might just dig out the old pinstripe!
It’s clear some things have changed but none of the above has been particularly painful in adapting to. Next week I’ll be updating on the things that remain unchanged – many are the reasons why I still love this industry.