From the Ivy-league educated to the stereotypical used car salesperson and everything in between, the recruiting and staffing services industry attracts all.
The recruitment and staffing industry is one I immediately fell in love with and when I joined it way back in the “power 1980s. and after receiving specific recruitment training, it was a perfect complimented to my natural sales ability.
It very quickly became a passion.
It is a very simple business model that has grown into a global industry worth around 490 billion dollars. and one that plays a vital role in the global economy.
Most CEOs including myself when I was running four companies will tell you that finding the right people remains one of the toughest challenges in business.
Over my thirty-five year association with the industry, I have had some very good, bad and downright ugly experiences and it always pains me when I read information and hear stories as to how the industry is “broken,” how recruitment consultants are the lowest of the low, and how the latest disruptive technology will revolutionize the world.
There is nothing conceptually wrong with the industry and it’s not the industry that’s broken, it’s some of the people and processes operating within it, that has created in my opinion, layers of complexity that have detracted from the true purpose:
To act as an intermediary between two parties and to represent their best interests accordingly — those who are looking to hire people to grow their companies and people who are looking for new career opportunities.
It is that simple.
Recruitment consultants are the backbone of the industry and I truly sympathize with many of them in today’s world and that is because they simply do not have enough training.
I am not talking here about recruitment training — that is the easy part, I am talking about training in the area of commercial awareness, in order to be able to converse in the language of their clients beyond recruitment terminology.
It is through this ability to be able to understand exactly what client companies need and want, that recruitment consultants will be able to immerse themselves in the culture of their clients and truly understand their commercial commitments, or deliverables.
From here it is a matter of finding the right people to help them
From the perspective of the job seeker, it is the role of the consultant to again, to not just understand on face-value, what people are looking for in their next career move, but to drive deeper and find out not so much the “what you know” part, but the critical “who you are” aspect.
People have different drivers and motivational criteria when it comes down to changing jobs or careers and it is again critical to understand these if you really want to represent the best interests of both parties and as the role demands.
Technology has taken us a long way from the days when I first started in the industry where cellphones were not easily affordable, when we had no computerized systems, when you had to meet candidates personally in order to represent them and when you physically had to post CVs/Resumes to clients.
But we were trained hard…and well.
I received my first formal recruitment training when I joined an information technology (IT) agency based in South London back in the 1980s and we had a very strong work ethic and had to adhere to rigorous standards or face being fired for non-compliance.
Yet we produced revenues that would light up the faces of the most miserable sales directors and agency owners today!
I believe that recruiters today are too bogged down with technology and many have lost their way, leading to falling standards and the numerous complaints you will see if you simply search on google.
This is a tragedy for me as it doesn’t need to happen and working as a consultant to a company recently, I had o deal with various recruitment companies and consultants in order to rationalize costs.
I approached this fairly as I understand there is little motivation for consultants to work with a client that has beaten them down in price, but on the other side of the fence, there are simple economic forces that bring prices down and recruitment services are not exempt from this, especially with the ability to find candidates on the various social media and other platforms that exist today.
But the value of the recruitment consultant is really in their ability to reduce the time-to-market of the service and reduce the lost opportunity costs of not hiring fast or efficiently enough, plus the obvious value that the right person in the right place and at the right time will pay for any hiring costs several times over.
But the ability to articulate that value is lacking and I want to give you my perspective of how a recruitment consultant should be trained and it is the training I used to build my own global technology staffing company from zero billings to $65m in six years and with a handful of recruitment consultants in comparison to my counterparts.
I started that business from my living room in South London in the early 1990s and when it was extremely difficult for someone like me to get finance to build a temporary or contract recruitment business and especially when the majority of the business would be conducted outside of the UK.
I have subsequently trained hundreds of recruitment consultants around the globe and many who have gone on to enjoy great careers and established some extremely successful agencies.
You can read my story here.
Thankfully today there are numerous finance options available and if you are looking to start your own agency, whether as a one-man-band or to grow it into a multi-million dollar business, you should talk to David Vizard, whose company offers specific finance and back-office support function to recruitment entrepreneurs.
I have no affiliation with David by the way.
My training program is designed to operate more as a framework to operate within, rather than a definitive process working through each stage of the recruiting lifecycle and I leave that part to others.
My aim is to harness the real value of the recruitment consultant and deliver it to the clients who will ultimately respect and want that value on a long-term basis.
I will warn you that it is a vastly different approach to what is regularly taught to recruitment consultants and one that most people will avoid because it requires hard work and dedication, but one that will pay dividends.
I will go through the steps in this long article — it has to be as there is a lot to cover and please understand the need for background information before I get to the meat of the subject.
If you want to look at a comprehensive recruitment and training program, then you should listen to someone who has “been there, seen it and done it,” survived a few recessions and will be equally happy to talk about the bad and the ugly as well as the trappings of success in the good times — Mike Walmsley is one such guy.
Mike offers recruitment training through an innovative learning management system (LMS) and it’s one of the most comprehensive learning platforms on the market — it’s a multi-million dollar piece of software with around 700 videos that people can access for under a couple of hundred pounds so take a look.
Like with David, I have no affiliation to Mike, his companies, or his products.
My method is based heavily on research, is pro-active in nature, and offers a personalized marketing service to the top 20% of talent working in the industry sector of choice — in my case, it was the technology industry.
The objective of my method is to drive and deliver the top 20% of talent within an industry, to the companies that can best utilize, develop, and challenge their skills and to work in anticipation, to work proactively to predict needs, rather than react to what has already happened.
And when you have to react, you react with speed, knowledge, and precision that will be the envy of your competitors.
For recruitment consultants, it will remove you from the day-to-day scramble for vacancies and give you a forward view of the dynamics of your industry.
It will allow you to work ahead and create more predictable revenue streams whilst demonstrating to your clients and candidates that you truly understand their businesses and needs.
Please don’t think that you can learn this overnight and if you want any further information or you want some ideas on how to apply these strategies, then please get in touch with me.
I was reading this article by Mitch Sullivan, where he talks about recruiters being disliked and explains that IT recruiters are more disliked than executive search consultants because the search consultants are more commercially mature and go into more detail, whereas for the most part, IT recruiters are simply “spot traders” of CVs and keywords.
My wife was a trader for an international bank and I have always been fascinated by financial markets.
Traders and trading have actually played an important role in the development and refining of my method — the spot trader example is an excellent one and on the other side of the fence is the “futures trader.”
I don’t know Mitch, but for years I have explained to my clients in those all-important first meetings when you are asked the standard question as to why you are different from your competitors.
I used to explain that most recruiters and their agencies have a “broker” mentality and they are concerned with the “now, “simply buying and selling to earn a commission.
I went on to say that I am more concerned with the future and I think like an investor who is trying to predict the market ahead and invest accordingly — my agency is an investment agency, with a future view and yes, I will deal rapidly with the problems of today, but would rather anticipate the problems of tomorrow and deliver against them before they occur.
Clients loved it.
Later in my agency career, I co-founded a telecom software company and received my first taste of mathematics in action!
Like most children, I hated maths at school and ran as far away as I could, but later in life, I was to learn the importance of the subject, when applied commercially.
We were using operations research, to create a model of a telecom network, in order to predict and prepare accordingly, in relation to likely outcomes and especially problems.
Later, this would evolve into basic artificial intelligence (AI), and this further shaped my thinking into not just the application to my recruitment agency, but to business in general.
I was now hooked and have remained ever since, on the premise of prediction and proactiveness in business rather than reaction.
It was liberating and it completed the link between my early recruitment training and the research that was needed to both support and drive it.
My method was all about refusing to play the established game of recruitment — endlessly calling and harassing clients in order to pick up those precious vacancies that would require you to compete with on a contingency basis.
And then calling every candidate under the sun to try to fill them!
Recruitment consultants are not only responsible for attracting candidates and matching them to temporary or permanent positions with client companies, but they are also trusted advisors — they are the eyes and ears of the market and should be continually advising and representing the best interests of both parties.
Or they should be allowed to be!
I wanted to primarily represent one party in the equation and if done rightly, it would take care of everything else.
Recruitment — the future of work
The economy today is the most uncertain and volatile of ever — we are in the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic at the time of writing this, but before the pandemic, it was not easy.
Hypercompetition is the name of the game.
Automation will threaten repetitive jobs and there will be a new movement towards people who have a high degree of emotional intelligence (EQ).
People who are agile, adaptable, and have the ability to empathize with others as the world becomes a more machine-dominated and decentralized world.
Think of this:
Scientists and mathematicians are now going to leave their home territories of labs and cubicles to educate C-suite and executive leaders as to the benefits and applications of the work they have been doing for decades.
Not only that but for the benefit of customers as well.
Executives will demand it, simply because:
- They don’t truly understand the work.
- They will have no choice because technology will be the driver of all things operational.
Now also consider the marketing executives who are creative by nature — they will now have to use data to determine their very existence.
CEOs will no longer be able to simply rely purely on the say-so of their marketing executives — they will need hard data to support them and shareholders will demand it.
In my software company, I was trying my hardest to get the executive leadership to recognize the front-line importance of putting the “technologists” in customer-facing roles and I faced resistance.
The best people to articulate what you do and how you deliver the outcome of your efforts as a company are the very people who design what you do.
There is an underlying honesty to the process, not to mention a sound rationale for it.
We have also firmly moved away from a sales culture and into a buying one — just look at amazon and then think about the failure of other companies to recognize the importance of changing their “ego-system.”
Ego has no place in a buyer-dominated market and you have to rapidly understand that you are now in a war…a war for hard-earned dollars and one that consumers will ruthlessly fight.
It is going to be exactly the same in the talent world moving forward.
Companies will cease to call the shots and the ones that will thrive will be shaping their companies to the people that work for them.
Or they won’t and will be left by the wayside.
Candidates will be king and will not tolerate the antiquated hiring processes that many companies operate today — multiple screening processes, long delays, and a lack of transparency throughout the process.
This is a recruitment consultant’s dream and it is really where you earn your money by delivering fast, precise solutions and accelerating the time-to-market in the hiring and onboarding process.
Many people will talk about the lack of need for recruitment consultants in the new economy and they couldn’t be more wrong.
Let me put it to you this way — I can train anyone as to how to land their dream job and I can advise any company as to how to build a talent pool and use internal resources to recruit from it…but are they going to do it?
Yes in some cases and no mostly — it’s not that they can’t do it, just that most people are in a time-starved world and one that pays the bills and most corporations are not agile enough bold enough to challenge the status quo and break down what they believe to be time tested and reliable processes to get faster and more efficient results.
I have seen all of the statistics where people talk about insourcing their recruitment function and the savings they have made with regard to outsourced agency spend.
The figures look good superficially, but what are the real costs in terms of the time taken and the loss of opportunity and very few companies will look at these more important statistics.
Plus with insourcing in this example, recruiters are still too attached to the company culture to truly give an unbiased, third-party view to candidates, both active and passive ones.
If you want to really focus on finding your dream job directly, then this article is for you because all you have to do is to follow the same steps and equally, if you are hiring, then you can simply reverse-engineer the process and get the result, but is it your core business and do you want to rally spend the time.
Only you can answer that question.
We are in the throes of a “human + machine environment” and ultimately I am sure that we migrate to a full-on machine one, but we have a seriously long way to go.
For now, we should all look at technology as an “enabler” and use it to augment what we do.
My recruitment training overview in a nutshell
There you have it — four very simple steps to recruitment masters, at least in my opinion and before I break each component part down in detail, I will share a story with you that illustrates how they all come together, but before the story, here are a few things you can expect to gain from such an approach:
- No more canned sales pitches
- No more “chasing vacancies” and competing with the masses.
- No more hunting down candidates in desperation to fill those vacancies.
- A structured and focused approach to placing people in the jobs they desire.
- Delighting your clients by providing a compelling value proposition that makes them want to buy from you.
- The ability to build a solid pipeline of future opportunities with both clients and candidates.
- The ability to be a key influencer in your industry who is a respected authority.
Here is a real-life example of how those parts all came together:
I was sitting in a restaurant in Latin America, with a very high-level executive of one of my global clients.
He was not from the region but his mere presence in the region indicated that he was “parachuted” in to sort out some serious issues and I had managed to get a meeting with him because I wanted to make sure that we were aligned with the strategies for what was surely going to be a drastic overhaul within the region and also that he was a significant executive in the company overall.
I also knew that many of my competitors would more than likely have never met him, so it was a real chance to showcase not only what I and my company could do for him and the organization, but also to give him an idea of my overall recruiting philosophy.
After the dinner, which involved several other members of his staff he requested that he and I move to another table to discuss some of the points that were discussed over dinner, in more detail.
He explained that he liked my radical ideas as to how we could make the all-important process of hiring key individuals more efficient and more profitable and after making sure he was “Franklined,” (a term invented by people who were amazed at my ability to drink my dinner guests under the table and remain sober, while they were far worse for the wear) we said our goodbyes after making plans for a series of follow-up meetings with key members of his team.
He was also extremely instrumental in my company securing a major global deal with his company and one that I describe in my article “Stop selling and start influencing,” where I describe my two-year journey to get to the board of the company and board-level sign off for the deal.
Over dinner, the matter being able to put the right people, in the right place and at the right time was academic — there was no need for this guy to hear that sort of message, as he had teams of people to perform that function, but what gave me the opportunity to speak to him was the strategic elements of doing so and how it in simple terms, made his life easier.
For example, I had introduced him to someone who would make an exceptional country manager within the region as he was extremely familiar with the local customers of my client and also connected at the government level.
The guy in question was also extremely frustrated with the number of recruiters who would call him incessantly, trying to either pump him for information or put him forward to vacancies that were totally unsuitable.
I had spent a lot of time with this guy and that was not only to understand implicitly what he did but to find out what drove him, what were his passions, hobbies, interests and most importantly who he would like to work for, who he would not like to work for and why.
This is why he was a natural fit for my client, who was obviously facing problems and challenges within this operational region.
Now this is a recruiter’s dream and the deal was concluded very swiftly — the first stage was a phone conversation between my client and the guy in question, followed by a face-to-face interview after which the guy was hired.
Technology systems didn’t matter, there was no job description for the role because the role didn’t exist (at least not formally at this stage, but I am sure it would have been created due to the problems in the region), no “preferred supplier list” — I was approved in other regions, but with this company, it counted for very little as each region had supplier autonomy and I was not approved formally in Latin America at the time.
The deal came about because of:
- My deep understanding of the industry.
- My deep understanding of the company in question.
- My knowledge of the top 20% of the talent in that industry.
- My ability to connect with companies at the highest level.
- All of this was done on a “human to human basis” with little use of technology.
The deal concluded itself — as all deals should and simply because I was able to very quickly understand the predicament my client was in, as well as his company and to provide a solution to the problem commencing with one strategic hire, plus demonstrate an understanding of some of the problems and challenges that they might also face in the future.
Now let’s break each part down…but there is one step you absolutely must take right now and wherever you are in your recruitment journey and in fact everyone should take this step…
Start a blog
There are many reasons to start a blog and I go through them in this article which talks about why I started this blog and why I chose WordPress to do so.
And if you have one, then great and if you don’t get started.
A blog is an essential tool in the recruitment industry and the key point I would like to make here is that regardless of whether your company has a blog, it is essential that you build your own.
A blog is a place where you can showcase and sell yourself to the world and ultimately, it could prove to be the most efficient marketing tool you have.
You don’t need me to tell you that recruitment is very much a people business and people love to know about people.
To learn all you need to learn about blogging take a look at what my friend Fernando Raymond has to offer.
A blog is a very valuable tool done correctly and Fernando and his team will take you through the correct steps and is the person that inspired me to start this blog and after all, that’s where you have found me and this article.
Now to each step.
Recruitment training — research
I will bet that most of you in today’s uncertain and volatile economy wouldn’t make a significant purchase without fully researching and reviewing — from the price to the users who post reviews on social media o ascertain whether you are going to get value for money.
I know I do and this research can take a fair amount of time and a few agonizing moments before I finally take the plunge and buy the product or service concerned.
Why then, do so many recruiters simply call their clients and candidates without having any real plan or research to back up the call?
One of the most common complaints I hear from both sides of the fence in the industry is that recruiters simply don’t have enough understanding of the industry they operate in and are too eager to try to tie up a deal to earn their commissions.
Going deeper, I have spoken to many clients who explain to me that recruiters simply do not understand what is being asked of them and fail miserably by sending the wrong profiles of candidates for job roles that are completely unsuitable for those candidates — the amount of time wasted by clients sifting through resumes/CVs that are unsuitable for the roles concerned are staggering.
On the candidate side, there seems to be a lack of understanding exactly what job function that the candidate performs, and this leads to agony on their part, because of the sheer amount of calls that they receive from recruiters each day, plus the amount of time that is wasted.
In my training, I decided to focus on the steps that would make each recruitment consultant commercially aware enough to make sure that the above mistakes were avoided and to cover the knowledge gaps that I had, when I first started in the industry by giving enough knowledge for recruiters to understand the language of the industry they operate in, plus to understand how to piece it all together.
There are three distinct phases of research:
1. Global markets
The objective here is to understand global economic and geopolitical issues.
You are not trying to be an economist, you are merely starting at the roots of all commerce and familiarizing yourself with what is going on in the world.
You need to start at the source of everything and if you have a mortgage, for example, you are automatically in the financial world and you should really understand the impact of global interest rates and if you are supplying people who are working in countries where there could be a potential conflict, then forewarned is forearmed!
Take the airline industry — it is directly affected by fuel prices, currency, and interest rates, so you would be keeping an eye on the price of oil, plus looking at global currency and interest rates and how they, for example, affect tourism.
The goal here is to start thinking more like a hedge fund and to start to predict future trends and position yourself accordingly.
Hedge funds have the ability to profit in all market conditions and require more specialized thinking than more traditional investment models.
It’s all about thinking at least six months ahead — that allows you the time and space to make more informed decisions and take you away from the rat race.
By spending some time each day looking at global economic and geopolitical issues you will soon get an overall feel for the terminology and you will be able to see the interconnection between commodities, currencies, job figures, and so on.
Your confidence will increase and you will be able to have not only more meaningful conversations with clients but understand how this information directly impacts their industry
2. Your Industry and clients
Now we have to get more specific and see how the global picture affects your particular industry and the clients you wish to target or who you are working with.
For me, I specialized in the technology industry and I further narrowed that down into telecommunications and then further again to the following three categories of companies:
- Network Operators — companies who would supply and deliver services such as AT&T, British Telecom, and Vodafone for example.
- Equipment Vendors — companies such as Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei, who innovate and provide equipment to the Network Operators
- Strategic consulting companies like Accenture and McKinsey, who provide advice to the above as well as others
Today, it is relatively easy to search a company’s financial performance, share price, and find its mission, vision, and values.
Back in my time, it was a long and laborious process involving calling companies around the globe, contacting key people in marketing, sales, and technology to get their opinions of the companies I was going to work with.
I would use a couple of strategies here — one was to explain that I wanted to invest in their company and I would like to speak to the people in the company and hear facts from the “horse’s mouth.”
The other was simply to explain that I wanted to work with their company as a supplier and I wanted to find out as much information as possible and again, from the people that worked in the company.
Both strategies worked and in some ways, it was much better to go through the harder process as it is more personal, but today, you can access most of this information by pressing a few keys and you will find a plethora of information on the Internet about people — there are blogs, groups, and associations that you can connect with and get all of the information you want.
Here are some examples of the information you need to obtain:
- The company’s share-price and industry analysts views
- The Chairman and CEO’s statement
- Their financial performance and also in relation to their competitors
- The competitive advantage
- How diversified they are in order to survive any economic downturns
There is so much to cover here and I go further and look at the compensation package for the executive leadership team — are they incentivized for the long-term performance of the company and what are the backgrounds of the executives in question.
The more I know, the more I can talk about and that is always a good thing.
But information is one thing and in today’s world it is easy to obtain — now you have to turn that information into profit and this is what I call “intelligence.”
Remember you are trying to work in anticipation and to predict the needs of your clients before those needs arise…that can set you way ahead of the competition, so make sure that you start to form opinions and not just be an “information gatherer.”
3. key people research
OK, so now we have completed the company side of the process — it’s now time to research the people who make things happen with those companies and there are 3 key objectives here:
- To establish what exactly each person does — never assume from the job title as they can be misleading and simply ask the question.
- Establish both “hard” values — what they know and “soft values” who they are.”
- Jointly create a compelling value proposition that relates to revenue improvement, cost savings, or both.
I once had a very conscientious cleaner who made our workplace so happy by simply making sure there were fresh flowers in the office each day and that each person had a cup of tea or coffee before she left and she created a happy working environment.
A happy working environment is a more productive one and increased productivity leads to increased revenues.
In the vacancy-filling world that so many recruiters are absorbed in today, it is common to bombard platforms such as Linkedin and I speak to so many people who constantly tell me they are called so many times by recruiters in the hope from the recruiter’s side that they will allow them to be put forward to a position, or provide a recommendation concerning another person.
More often than not, the recruiter has very little understanding of the industry or even the position and this, of course, can be infuriating.
Now I am all about working in anticipation and in the recruiting world this means, from the candidate perspective, finding passive candidates — those who are currently employed or who are engaged with a project, but who would also be open to the right opportunities and this is where we need to focus on the word “right.”
Recruiting is the process of having the right people, in the right place and at the right time — this trilogy is the key to success and the best people may not always be available for the best positions.
This is where you need to build deep and meaningful relationships with your potential candidates and it starts by building your talent community — one that is specific to your industry and in relation to the future and in-demand skills that your clients will need and want.
I was lucky in the pre-Internet days as I was approached by a person who ultimately helped me build a respectable database of talent — my own talent community.
In today’s world, it is much easier to do, but also people are far warier and many recruiters are not helping the situation by contacting all and sundry in the hope of filling their vacancies.
So you have to do this intelligently.
I divided my clients into three broad categories as I have explained, but then I broke the companies up into technology divisions.
I would then sub-divide each division accordingly:
- Future skills — what would be required in relation to future technologies
- “Must-have right now” — skills to fill the knowledge gaps in their organization and could be across all sectors
- “Commoditized” skills — skills that were needed, but that are in abundance
I focussed on the first two of the above but would make sure I react to the third.
From here and back in the day I would simply call anyone who could help me find those skills and more often than not, it was the clients who gave me the best advice.
But…I never, ever try to sell anything to anyone I spoke to.
I simply explained that I was looking to build a talent community that I would drive to the best companies in the industry and at the highest executive levels and would they be interested in becoming part of that community.
They could also remain anonymous if they chose to and then I would explain to them the problems I thought they faced as candidates being hounded by recruiters.
I further explained that this was going to be a service that was totally optional and again, re-iterated the benefits.
Very few refused.
The aim is to build a specialist talent pool in your chosen industry — the top 20% and to create a compelling value proposition for each of them, or to identify their single point of difference from other similar candidates and this can be attached to a hard skill, soft skill or both.
You will then be directly marketing them to high-level decision-makers in a specifically targeted list of companies and articulating this value in commercial terms — how it impacts revenues, reduces costs or both.
You are going way beyond the CV/Resume.
For those interested parties, it was now a matter of learning each and everything about them — just as I conducted the same research with companies, it had to equally be applied to the people who would ultimately work the magic in those companies.
There is a great saying in the world of recruiting — “you hire people for what they know and fire them for who they are.”
It was relatively easy to find out what these people knew, but the challenge was to find out who they were as that would be exactly what I was going to be selling to my clients.
Many recruiters out there are familiar with how to register and profile a candidate, but most do so from a script and set of pre-determined questions to build a picture of the candidate they will probably never meet. Sure you can have a Skype or Zoom call to do so, but even then, you are limited if you do not know how to ask the right and probing questions.
I am not going to go into too much detail here, but I will cover the main points.
You are looking to divide the process into two parts and what is termed:
- Hard skills.
- Soft skills.
The hard skills aspect is the easy one as many people document their educational achievements and work achievements, so this is a process of making sure you cover everything relevant to those.
The soft skills aspect is much more difficult to supply — you have to dig deep, question and evidence the presence of soft skills which in today’s’ world is termed emotional intelligence or EQ.
I go much deeper into the subject in this article — “How to become a linchpin at work and be the best employee.”
When you spend time with a candidate and build trust, you can then talk about what we really want form clients, but in my world, I would have from candidates and that is exclusivity.
Don’t get me wrong, client exclusivity is fantastic and I love the concept of retained business, where you have a partial fee upfront and the rest upon completion if you are lucky and at worst, a fixed period that is extended to you to fill the vacancy without a fee.
I asked for the same from the candidates I represented, but I would do this on trust.
My reasoning was simple — if the candidate really believed in what I was conveying, then they would have nothing to lose and my level of commitment was to make sure that I would approach the companies on the targeted list within a fixed time period and let’s take a working week as an example, but feel free to adjust!
I had a few mess me around and I soon learned to read the warning signals which only you will be able to figure out once you learn the process, but you are trying to avoid people who are simply looking to establish their value in the market by “window shopping” for opportunities and those who are simply going to try to extract information from you for other purposes.
Ultimately as I have said, you are looking to build a community of talent specifically relevant to your chosen clients and once that is done, we move on the most important part of putting everything together.
Pro-active client engagement
If you have followed the process to this stage, then you will have more than enough information to hold your own on a call or in a meeting with anyone.
You will be far more commercially aware than many of your counterparts and you will have understood the key values of some of the top specialists within the industry.
The overall objective of this approach is threefold:
- To engage new and existing clients at the highest executive and decision-making levels.
- To articulate immediate value from the first interaction.
- To grow the internal client network with maximum efficiency.
From a recruitment perspective you will:
- Make your clients continually aware of the very best talent available and provide a clear value to your candidates.
- Ascertain the most in-demand skill sets across your industry.
- Be in the best position to react to the immediate needs of today.
And from an outcome perspective you will:
- Immediately place yourself ahead of your competition.
- Create job opportunities and identify new revenue streams for your business.
- Overcome objections before they arise.
- Be able to attain the highest margins because of your commercial awareness and ability to clearly articulate value.
All of the above is achievable by making a targeted call to an executive leader in your chosen client company.
Nobody likes to cold call and the pro-active client approach gives you a specific reason to contact a high-level executive in any company.
Now I want to explain what I mean by “high level.”
The best person to contact with regard to any sales proposal is the owner of the company you are targeting or the CEO.
They are the top line of all actions and responsibilities of the organization…but they also have a team of highly capable executives to support them and if you take the first time I ever called a CEO in my industry, it was a large multi-national corporation and I ended up speaking to his assistant, who then proceeded to guide me through the organization willingly and helpfully.
Here are some key points to bear in mind before you pick up the phone and make that call:
- They are extremely busy and usually fire-fighting and clients come first they are totally client focussed.
- You have to respect their time in respect of the above
- You have to tell them exactly what you can do for me and more importantly what you want from them.
- It is extremely beneficial to tell them what they don’t know or share with them how you can help with a particular problem or challenge that you know they personally have to face
- And if you have managed to get through to them, then I hope you have been respectful to their assistant when trying to do so as they are an integral part of their team and better still, run your idea before them first as they are more than qualified to assess the importance.
From that point, I decided to focus my attention on assistants because they are in place to protect the most valuable asset of their bosses…time.
Please ignore anyone who tries to tell you to smash through the gatekeeper or assistant, it is an old technique that rarely worked the first time, and even when it did, it left a sour taste in the mouths of the assistants concerned.
My approach was to ask the advice of the assistant and then send them a proposal explaining exactly why you want to contact their boss and what you want from them — these are two points to address.
Now in one of my examples, I was representing a small, highly specialized troubleshooting team that could travel across the globe constantly, addressing “hot” issues for this multi-national tech corporation.
I started with the CEO and spoke to the assistant, sent the proposal, and called back as suggested a week later. I was then referred to the office of the CTO, who then referred me to a senior vice president and we ended up concluding the deal, plus firmly establishing my company as a key supplier in the process.
There is one other key question that I asked the vice president in this example and every client I spoke to for that matter:
“What is the most desirable and important skillset that you would hire if they were available tomorrow?”
It’s amazing as to the type of answers you get from this question, but I have always found there to be an answer.
One of my highest billing consultants actually built his entire recruitment desk by asking this one question and one alone — he didn’t bother with the pro-active approach and just led with that question.
I wonder what would have happened if he went in with both!
In any event, you will log the answer in your system, and should you ever come across the skillset, you will know exactly where to put it and again, this becomes far more effective over time, as you scale the approach.
I could have gone directly to the CTO in the first place and it would have saved me a week, but I was trying to articulate the commercial aspects of a deal and see it from my perspective rather than the company — the CTO was more than capable of handling the commercial aspects as I was to learn and remember I was a lot less experienced in those days.
Do not be frightened to go right to the top — you will find it a lot easier to communicate at that level, but remember, time is the key commodity and you cannot waste a second of it at that level.
I always used the approach of personally representing talent — being that a high-powered individual, specialist team or both and I would explain on my initial phone call that the people in question, have expressed a direct interest in working for a specific list of companies in the industry and their company was on that list.
I further explained that I like to call key decision-makers as they were the ones who directly handled customer sales and problems and the people I represent have a significant commercial value.
Once you articulate the commercial value of your people and in relation to sales or problem solving with your clients, you will attract the attention of the most senior executives.
Stop playing the CV/Resume game and start to play the commercial value one.
If you have understood your candidates implicitly, then this will be easy for you and it is now a matter of following up your call with a short, succinct proposal articulating the commercial value of your offering and not just a bunch of CVs.
This is critical to understand.
You may well find that you get pushed down to other layers and there is nothing you can really do about it, but you must at least try to start at the top — in my early days when I was working with people only, this happened often, but it is much more powerful being referred down from the top.
As time progressed and my research indicated I needed to provide broader solutions and work on large numbers of people, then it was easier to keep the attention of the executive leaders, it was a matter of economies of scale.
I had proposals working on regional staffing solutions where I would offer long, medium and short-term solutions, with education services being part of the offering and working with the company’s education division and that led to the winning of a global deal where I was dealing directly with the board, but you have to work incrementally and continually keep your research up-to-date.
Internal client networking
From the first engagement with any client, it is imperative to engage with other key business areas and I always like to start with finance (as I want to get paid) and the legal issues and compliant issues that you need to adhere to.
Many recruitment consultants are too focussed on getting the sale and not aware enough about the other factors that can impact the process — I have seen many companies go bust over the years because they simply cannot collect the cash they have worked so hard to invoice.
Or they find that all of their hard work and effort gets pushed back by the legal department because they cannot be compliant as a supplier for whatever reason.
It is imperative that you connect with these departments from the point of initial engagement and start the process of becoming an approved supplier and that may be as simple as having your executive simply sign off your invoices because he has the authority to add you as an ad-hoc supplier (one customer worked on this basis with me for years) or you may have to go through hoops to become an approved supplier.
Now I hear a lot about recruitment consultants and agencies not being able to get passed preferred supplier agreements, or having to deal with third-party recruitment outsourcing companies or both.
This has happened to me on many occasions and most of the time, because of the first impression I have made with the executive leader, the process is expedited and in some cases, I was allowed to bypass the third-party supplier company by simply re-packaging the service from a people to a project one, but with exactly the same terms and conditions.
It often comes down to who you know!
Also at this stage, it is vital to look at other divisions of the company and ask your new-found contacts as to who else they would believe could benefit from your services — I have had a tremendous amount of success and business from this approach.
Client meetings and presentations
So you have made the initial high-level contact and you now have a meeting booked, so how do you prepare and what specifically do you do?
It seems to be an obvious question, but having both delivered a serious amount of presentations and been on the receiving end of so many “death by PowerPoint” slides I am well qualified to talk about it.
So many salespeople absolutely screw this part up and it can undo all of the hard work you have diligently prepared for in the first meeting.
I was very fortunate to meet a few creative directors who worked in the top advertising agencies in my career. One such person was a former creative director of the renowned agency Saatchi and Saatchi.
We were talking about presentations and the fact that so many companies simply throw together slides and then proceed to put their audiences through a running commentary of each slide.
The slides themselves are usually overcrowded and make very lame points, with the majority of the presentations devoting the first batch of slides to providing an overview of the presenting company.
You may think that you have to explain who your company is, what id does, where you are located, and give a huge great shoutout to your management team — it’s logical, isn’t it?
That is exactly what I would do before I met this gentleman and my business partner and I would agonize over each slide trying to work out the correct order and I remember the contents of my slide deck vividly and prior to receiving the expert advice I clearly needed:
- The opening slide had a nice big logo with our strapline
- The next slide showed what we did, our location, when we were established
- Then we had nice photos of our leadership team
- Then we put 3 key points of how we operated
- Next, we showcased 3 recent assignments
- Finally, we named some of our clients
I did move a few of the slides around over time and added a few more…but they were all about us, how great we are and as we became a bigger company, the greatness was showcased even more!
You see, I had actually “disconnected” my presentation slides from the initial engagement proposal, which was all about strategy, and I wrongly thought that if I was going to move down the leadership chain in terms of seniority, then I would have to change the presentation.
This was a mistake because what you actually do is build the presentation, layer by layer so that you eventually have a “master deck” for the entire organization, then you use, for example, the same 3 opening slides for everyone, but the rest is customized specifically to your organization.
Make sure that your presentations are client-focused and not all about you or your company because, in reality, nobody really cares about you or even your company…at this stage.
They will have plenty of time to review your company as you progress down the road and start to do business, so make sure you dedicate your first few slides specifically to your customer and the problems and challenges you have identified from your research and then have a slide that details your solutions.
As you progress and work through the client organization, you will keep the original slides and simply support them with relevant material.
And please don’t tell your clients what they already know, such as…
- XXX plc is headquartered in YYY and has ZZZ offices around the globe.
- XXX is a trusted brand in the field of…
- We aim to be the staffing solutions partner of choice by…
Instead, try something like:
- We predict a shortage of a very niche skillset — AAA.
- The shortage of this skillset will have a wide-ranging impact on BBB
- We have established recruitment, education, and training programs to deliver X number of these specialists within the next 3 months.
All that matters is that you talk in terms of solutions and in relation to a problem.
I once put together a presentation for one engineer, in a specific area of technology and focused on the single benefit of how the impact of his skills improved revenues and I led the presentation with the problem (the engineer in question provided the data) and then the implications of this problem (which was a growing one) and then how his leadership will help to build teams that over time, will provide a solution.
You can undo all of the hard preparation and engagement work in one meeting and even in a social setting, such as a client dinner.
It’s hard to believe but when you are operating at a high level, you are always being judged in totality.
What I mean here is that companies and executives want to know what your company can do for their organization as I have explained and also who they are dealing with.
Remember the old saying that “people buy people?”
Well, it’s totally true and if you cannot handle yourself over a client dinner, for example, but drinking too much or not being familiar with the correct dining etiquette, then it will be rightly or wrongly assumed that you do not have the required attention to detail of the presence to operate at the highest of levels.
So make sure that you cover these aspects and also look at how you dress and present yourself.
I have seen too many fashion-conscious salespeople lose the fact that the importance of the meeting is to showcase themselves and their company and not what they are wearing, no matter what style preferences you have.
I cover this in my article “Stop selling and start influencing” and you can get the idea.
When you do meet your clients face-to-face ake sure to avoid unnecessary small talk and try to get straight down to business.
Your client will have understood why you are meeting, so do not disappoint and make sure that your presentation is up to scratch and you do not, I repeat not waste time.
Your goal is to get the information out to your client, qualify the next phase of action and this is simply asking the question as to what the next stage is — there is no need to “close the sale” and every need to shut up and let your client do the talking.
At this level, you will have been taken seriously enough to be granted the meeting in the first place, so don’t blow it by trying to “close on the first date,”
Your “closing” began with the very first client engagement and you now have to let matters take their natural course and do not force anything, keep your questions logical if you have any, and show that you can deliver the value that you promised.
Recruitment training — remain candidate focused
It all started with the candidate and it will remain there.
If you are working on delivering the top 20% of talent to the industry, then you have no option but to be candidate-driven.
You have to keep growing your network and for me, it literally started with one engineer when I had to diversify from IT to telecommunications due to the IT recession in the 1990s.
But I did a good job with this candidate and that led to recommendations, which allowed me to grow my database…but I kept it deliberately small.
You have to if you are working with the very best in the industry and it negates the fact that larger agencies have larger databases.
Its a case of “specialists for a specialist world.”
While you are continually updating your big-picture research, your candidates, if you have built their trust will be your own eyes and ears in the market and one day, they will become your clients.
This has happened to me on many occasions and it will happen to you.
So you see how they must remain at the center of your attention.
You must always take a coaching view with your candidates and believe me, even if you are placing salespeople!
Your job is to extract the value of your candidates and then sell them into companies, but you will still be reliant on the ability of the candidate to well themselves — you cannot do the interview for them!
I know many salespeople who believe it or not, simply do not have the ability to sell themselves, just as I know many doctors, scientists, marketers and a whole host of people who are in the same boat (including recruitment consultants by the way)!
It’s more of a case that they are not used to selling themselves and this is where the “consulting” part comes into play.
Make sure you help your candidates to overcome this problem because everyone has a vested interest in the process and you want to make sure that your candidates can at least articulate their value in line with how you have presented them.
Don’t be afraid to set up role-play situations to practice this and never, ever assume that your candidate can articulate even the basic information that is on their CV.
I am a big proponent of technology simply because I have worked in it for so long, just as I am a big fan of future technologies and despite the ultimate threat to the human race, which I believe will occur at some stage.
But we must make sure we do not get bogged down with it.
Today, so many salespeople are fearful of technology, and rather than embrace it, they shun it, preferring to do things their way, which they will always argue is time-honored and proven.
However, you can do a lot with technology to alleviate the usual bottlenecks in the sales process and this is where it needs to be embraced.
I am fifty-six this year and it takes my children who are sixteen, thirteen, and then to teach me the real way to work an I-phone, simply because they have grown up with a device that I didn’t get hold of until I was forty-three years old.
And there are many like me.
So what do I mean by the term “low-tech and high concept”?
Well, I mean that we use the simplest and most efficient means of connecting with both our clients and candidates to give them the highest quality of advice and solutions.
And that means using the telephone or even meet them face-to-face.
Sounds old-fashioned in today’s world, doesn’t it?
But it is devastatingly effective, hence in today’s world it is low tech, but the results are high concept!
I remember going to Moscow in Russia to study martial arts, which I have been involved with longer than I have been in business and the training was intense, but so was the talking.
We learned that the Russian mentality was to simply get things done, rather than the Western world that would build something complex to get things done and then complain it didn’t work!
This is an oversimplification, but when I compare my learning of other martial arts, which require precise positioning, motion, and delivery of techniques to the Russian ones that simply told you to start with instinct and then work up, you could immediately feel the difference.
The same is true with physical exercises — people look for quick fixes and machines to facilitate those fixes when you can use your body weight and work functionally.
It was liberating.
Form the point of liberation, you have “found yourself” so to speak and from there you can add any technology you want because you have established the “human foundation.”
Food for thought!
It’s all about connecting with your clients and candidates in a human and not machine fashion — where the majority of your competitors are emailing, pick up the phone and again, this is an oversimplification, but you get the idea.
There you have it — my views on how I would train a recruitment consultant today and also how I have pretty much always trained them.
As I said, it is more of a framework for operation, than a definitive method and it does take a lot of work, plus a paradigm shift from the usual methods of getting consultants to pound the phones incessantly, in order to hit targets, which often serve to keep sales managers and directors employed, rather than face the real-world situation, which is often totally different.
For me, it was a liberating and refreshing change to not have to chase vacancies and simply play the recruitment game, forcing the usual competition between what tends to end up as the same old company names, albeit with different recruitment consultants.
Success in this industry simply involves following the true purpose of the existence of recruitment agencies and hat is to act as an intermediary representing both parties in the equation and acting in their best interests.
It is common to have agents in the worlds of show business and sports because the performers and players know they are not the best people to represent themselves in what has arguably become a more commercial environment, rather than the entertainment one.
But there is a vast difference between the operation of an entertainment agent and a recruitment agent.
And that is because of the various other activities such as sponsorships, appearances, and other deals that the entertainment agents are required to negotiate.
Maybe one day we will see the same opportunities afforded to key employees — and why not?
Many key employees are instrumental in the generation of serious revenue streams for their large, multi-national corporate clients, and can you envisage one day that they will be treated in the same light as their entertainment counterparts?
And that is why you have to remember that ultimately, it is all about the candidate!
Get in touch with me if you want to talk about what I have said here and I wish you happy recruiting!
Last modified: May 28, 2020