As agency recruiters, how do we differentiate ourselves?

Written by Jamie Webber

Jamie has been a digital recruitment specialist since 2000. He was employee number one at RedCat Digital and has extensive experience partnering long-term with some of the world’s leading brands - delivering top passive talent across all digital verticals. He's passionate about the recruitment sector and improving its perception within the market. Likes – telling bad jokes, his children (sometimes), his dog (sometimes), Harry Kane (all the time). Dislikes – people who walk slowly in London, raisins in a curry, his son changing his iPhone settings.

After seeing Alan’s shout out on LinkedIn for recruiters to contribute to ChatTalent, I thought I would throw my hat into the ring. I asked him what angle he wanted for the content and he merely requested anything a little different, whether it be a process, sourcing channel or tech that we use that sets us apart.

It’s interesting as we’re currently trialling full recruiter licenses on LinkedIn (which have some very cool pro-active tools, and the insight feature is brilliant to understand trends and to spot commercial opportunities), use various Google Extensions, SourceHub, Stack Overflow and much more.

Now, these tools are great, and when it comes to both identifying and being able to communicate with passive talent they are incredibly useful, but ultimately they are not a game changer.

With the rise of these tools and in-house talent teams attracting some exceptional recruitment talent, the agency model has changed. The majority of clients are sourcing 80%+ directly and then reach out to us with roles that they are either struggling with or don’t have time to fill.

This leads the conversation to how do we differentiate ourselves?

Interestingly, it’s not through tools or technology. I’m very conscious that we don’t just replicate the methods our clients have already adopted. Our clients have more traffic, more extensive social networks and it makes no sense for us to reproduce what’s already been done. We are not necessarily looking to reinvent the wheel, we are experts in our markets and simply implement rigour throughout every part of the process in partnership with our clients and candidates.

We differentiate ourselves through the service we offer. No magic formula, our approach is labour intensive, time-consuming, hard work. Our process relies on our attention to detail and depth of search; therefore, we are in control of the vast amounts of data we have access to (Internal Database, LinkedIn & Job Boards etc.) rather than being swamped by it. In effect, we have to work every role, regardless of level, as if it were an executive search. From a client perspective, they get all the benefits, i.e. market data and insight from an executive search, but its charged on a contingent basis.

I have been at RedCat Digital for 17 years, and the demand for top passive talent has never been more intense. Competition is fierce, demand outweighs supply and, as a recruitment consultancy, we have to apply the most pro-active methods; leaving no stone unturned as most clients cannot throw money to solve the problem.

We have had to ensure that our client’s recruitment processes are ruthlessly efficient. Time kills deals. We evidence the stats to clients, for example; if a client takes longer than a few days to feedback on CV’s, candidates are twice as likely to reject the offer (based on our stats from 2017). This fact is nothing new, but processes and urgency seem to have gone completely out of the window. You can use the most amazing tools and technology to attract talent, but you won’t convert them to employees with an inadequate process. We’ve had to go back to basics and, rather than getting frustrated, we have made a concerted effort to educate clients on an end-to-end journey that needs to be implemented for success.

Auditing, challenging and improving the recruitment process leads to successful recruitment campaigns, it’s simplistic, but so often overlooked.

Once the process is in place and we have the detailed client brief, we then produce detailed market maps for every role, regardless of level. Niche skills such as Big Data, JavaScript Framework, DevOps are much tougher to source at the 2-year experience level, as everyone wants them, and they are still incredibly loyal to their first employers. More time is dedicated to executive search in most recruitment firms, purely based on the size of the fee, but we offer the same quality of service for what we perceive as junior roles (c£40K-£45K in this space).

If there are problems with the salary banding or skill-set availability, we have the data to walk through with the client. This is not speculation nor opinion, so it enables us to gain agreement on the change of direction of the search, improve the process and ultimately deliver first time, often on roles that have been open for long periods of time.

Now don’t get me wrong, we use all of the latest tools and techniques to engage talent – but if your search isn’t tightly controlled, mapped and targeted you won’t even know who to approach in the first place.

In conclusion, I apologise to all recruiters in the market, we have to be organised (ouch), methodical (too much) and our attention to detail needs to be solid (so very un-wolf of wall street!).

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