Candidate-Focused Recruitment: Not all consultancies are created equal

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At Barron Williams, our ethos is centred around a ‘candidate brand’ philosophy. 

We are a candidate-focused recruitment company, and that candidate-centric approach is constructed to identify and place the right people in the right roles.

After recently reading an interesting article from Greg Savage, author of The Savage Truth and all-around recruitment enfant terrible, it got us thinking about the way we operate in a sector that’s often accused of putting profit before people.

Greg is plain-talking, sometimes bullish, and we greatly respect much of what he says. Occasionally, we will disagree with him, but it’s rare, and we share similar views on candidate care in particular.

Regardless, as one of the most highly respected voices in the global recruitment and professional services, speaking regularly to audiences around the world, agree or disagree, in our industry, it would be unwise to ignore what he says.

The article was in response to comments he’d made regarding the importance of customer service in the recruitment industry, and how candidates are essentially customers.

Much of the feedback he received to this statement from his peers was negative, and his assertion is flawed because recruitment consultants will be:  “Worrying about satisfying customers instead of focussing on making money.” And that: “Spending too much time on candidates is foolhardy because, in the words of one individual, candidates don’t pay your fees.”

We don’t agree. I find it astonishing that in 2022 there are still firms, consultants and/or headhunters out there that operate with this mentality? 

However, candidates remind us regularly that they still experience this attitude in our industry.

Like Greg says though: 

“Frankly, this kind of comment gives me tremendous encouragement. That competitors in the staffing industry can be so naive, and so blind to the power of referral, recommendation and repeat business, driven by satisfied customers, makes me very confident about the future of Aquent, and the careers of our staff.”

Hear, hear Mr Savage. The same can be said for the team here at Barron Williams. 

We’ve worked hard to differentiate our business from the pack and address the negative preconceptions in our industry (and we will continue to do so).

Are our competitors failing to do the basics?

The article goes on to discuss some desktop research conducted by Robert Godden, HR consultant with People Magic. 

He collected 85 job ads (50 with recruitment agencies, 35 with employers), and called them all.

Of those 85 calls, he was only able to speak to 7 people, all of whom were recruitment agencies (I think there’s maybe an argument about not hiring in-house but that’s one for another day).

The article goes on to say: 

“He left 76 messages for the remaining recruiters (after two numbers rang out). The “unbelievable” result of the experiment was that only seven recruiters returned Godden’s calls — less than 10 per cent. After ringing 50 of the numbers again a week later, he got through to two recruiters and only a further four (out of 48) returned his messages – again, less than 10 per cent.”

That 10%, whilst shocking, doesn’t actually surprise us. It’s a tale as old as time and one we still hear regularly. But like Greg says it is also extremely frustrating and a sad indictment of some parts of our industry. 

People can’t be looked at as a commodity. 

If we are here to facilitate putting the right talent in the right roles, then that requires building a relationship and earning trust.

A quick click-through of our nearest and dearest competitor’s websites and some don’t even have a candidates page?! 

They’re advertising roles and there’s a B2B section for clients or employers but nothing specific on what they actually do for their candidates!

Candidates are potential future clients

As a candidate-focused recruitment company, we see our candidates as clients. You can’t have one without the other. As we state on our Candidates page:

“As a Candidate, you’re a potential future Barron Williams client. It’s all well and good aspiring to recruitment best practice, however, times change, and so do the needs of our clients. We try to stay one step ahead. For us, good candidate experience determines whether we earn the right to talk to you in the future as a potential client.”

If you were to ask us why do those clients give us repeat business and why do many of our candidates become future clients? 

The answer would be because we are a candidate-focused brand. But that does not mean we are not a client-focused Brand. Far from it… 

As Greg Savage puts it:

“Talent is the only real currency a staffing company has. It’s what clients pay us for and it’s going to get increasingly difficult to access quality talent as the recovery takes hold. Job boards will become less effective and in any event, they only tap into the active talent market. The recruitment company that owns the talent market… Will own the market.”

A good candidate experience benefits our clients

Candidate experience has to be the driving force behind our brand. 

In the current climate, market conditions favour those seeking a new role. 

Greg also recently stated on Twitter that: 

“They say less is more. Often true, but not with candidate interaction. With candidate engagement, more is more.”

100%… We are in a war for talent. Talented senior execs are in high demand and demand is outstripping supply. 

The market is moving at a breakneck speed too. 

That puts significant pressure on both us and our clients to stand out from the crowd. 

Professional standards still need to be maintained without cutting corners.

Clients need to convince candidates that their company is the perfect fit for them. 

At Barron Williams, we can use our brand as leverage, and we can facilitate talent acquisition by differentiating from the big traditional recruitment firms.

That candidate experience we provide is fundamental to our brand ethos and what gives us that edge.

Longlisted candidates need to buy into a selection process and we do that through direct contact – often will all of us on the Barron Williams recruitment project team.   

Is Barron Williams a candidate-focused recruitment brand?

A truly candidate-centric brand requires honest and open comms. 

Those that know us will confirm that statement.

Being thoughtful and intentional about every interaction we have with our candidates is critical, and that is what will go a long way to convincing candidates with options that our clients are the best fit for them.

Ours is an industry that’s changing, and in our opinion, the old big agency models simply no longer work, particularly at the senior exec level.

A lot of the candidates we’ve placed recently weren’t actively searching for a new role. 

We had to go and find them. We have to sell the role to them. 

Brand perception is pivotal in this situation. 

Getting people to pick up the phone and have a conversation is harder than it sounds. But that’s what we do. Politely. Professionally. Persistently.

Ask any HRD what their CEO’s biggest concerns are and we’re confident Talent Acquisition will be in the top 5 biggest threats to their organisation.

Companies want their senior execs to come in and hit the ground running, the best people can do that, but that generally means the candidates they want are already doing a great job somewhere else.

The hard part is finding them and convincing them to make the switch.

Historically, the recruitment industry has focused on quantity over quality, and that’s twofold: 

  1. Winning as many clients as they can, often to the detriment of any B2B quality of professional service.
  2. Getting as many candidates into a funnel as they can and putting some of them forward for interviews, regardless of ultimate fit to the organisation and role brief.

It doesn’t work. In our experience, it fails.

The recruitment industry is changing, is your current provider changing with it?

A purely client-focused sales model isn’t a sustainable model at the executive level. 

It is client unfocussed in reality. Ultimately, you will only frustrate both candidate and client.

Together, as employers and recruiters, we must focus on candidates’ needs and experience.

Once we’ve engaged with the people you may want to hire, we need to work together to sell your role.

We must seek to build relationships with our candidates that last after the role search and go right through to hire and beyond. 

And when we say beyond, we mean protecting and enhancing your employer brand.

This must be done with good comms, transparency, and some genuine empathy.

We see it and hear it too often, that recruitment firms are only focused on filling a role to satisfy their clients’ immediate needs. It’s not enough!

We suppose a lot of that comes from the traditional recruitment consultant commission/target-driven framework that many of the big firms and headhunters operate in. It drives the wrong behaviours, and we see it often.

Of course, it is vital we find the right candidate for our client, that goes without saying. However, it is as much about the how as the what.

The top priority should always be to find the right fit for both and that comes from our approach. 

That’s what delivers long-term ROI for the client and a positive experience for the candidates.

A purely sales-driven search is doomed to fail. Recruitment can’t be cut and paste. True empathy can’t be faked.

Each search, each client, and each candidate is unique and must be approached as so. 

Candidate-focused recruitment for the benefit of our clients

Relationships with candidates must be built for the long term. We want to help candidates find the right role. We want to help clients find the right candidate. 

Our business/our model relies on our ability to build long-term relationships with candidates and have that pipeline of talent available for clients.

We build trust and it positions us to have honest conversations about your organisation and the role.

There’s a reason why every recruitment survey you read will highlight how job seekers will reject a job offer because of a bad candidate experience. Particularly in the current market!

In some strange way, we almost feel like what we’re doing isn’t unique or different to our competitors. As if this is the right way so everybody must be doing candidate-focused recruitment?  

It must be harder than we think? That’s clearly not the case though?! The way we treat our candidates simply matters. 

Not to the detriment of our clients’ experience but fully to their advantage in a highly competitive market. Candidate-focused recruitment always will improve the quality, time and cost of your next hire!

Why not work with people who treat candidates the same way they treat clients?

If you’re looking to work with a team dedicated to helping you find the right people to fulfil those crucial roles for your organisation, please use our Client Upload Form or call us today.

If you’re looking to find or apply for a new role, then please feel free to Upload Your CV or call us for an exploratory conversation.

And if you’re not already, please don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter!

Barron Williams

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