Rise Above the Noise
Do you stand out from the crowd?
Any £35 billion industry is going to be hyper competitive¹. With such a large market opportunity, there is little surprise that 9,000 new recruitment firms entered the market in 2017 alone², bringing the total number of agencies in the UK to over 25,000³ and the number of people working in the recruitment industry close to one million⁴.
This really leads to the question: How do recruitment consultants and recruitment firms stand out from the crowd?
To try and find an answer to this question I recently spent some time with Will Grashoff, owner of OX Seven. Will has a breadth of experience in the recruitment industry. Having been a consultant, manager and now agency owner, Will’s varied experience has provided him with a wide perspective on what works and what doesn’t work when trying to grow a recruitment business.
Here is a summary of our discussion about three topics affecting the recruitment sector and the opportunity for companies like OX Seven.
How difficult is it for candidates applying for jobs, and what are the challenges you face placing candidates?
In the most recent quarter ending in June, UK unemployment fell by 65,000, to 1.36 million, its lowest point in over 40 years⁵. At first glance, this statistic seems like a good sign for both recruiters and candidates, but how is it actually affecting the industry? According to a recent study, each job advertised in the UK receives on average 118 applications, of which only 20% successfully get invited to interview. Will stated that this number seemed a bit high from his experience and since the ever-evolving way technology is used in the industry it is becoming much easier for candidates to apply, which may be inflating this number. Candidates are ‘one click applying’ to a wide range of jobs, some of which are way outside their experience level or skill set. This poses a new problem for recruiters: how to sift through the high volume of applications. Will indicated that in his experience, consultants spend an average of seven seconds reviewing each CV, so they must become skilled at quickly spotting the most suitable applications. Think about that for a second, your life’s achievements and suitability for your dream role being reviewed in seven seconds.
OX Seven is trying to take a different approach, one of quality over quantity. According to Will, it is better to have 10 high-quality applications for his consultants to work with than 100+ which are not appropriate for the role. In order for this to work, the consultants at OX Seven take a personal approach with their candidates and clients, only adding people to the database who they have built a relationship with. These candidates will typically have been through a phone and video call with the consultant in order to best position them for suitable roles.
The increase in applicant numbers has coincided with broader adoption of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is one way companies could see the benefit of these high number of applications while still allowing consultants to focus their time on the more qualified candidates. AI would allow for CV’s to be scanned and routed to the most suitable consultant by pulling out key words or qualifications. That said, AI tools are primarily used by larger companies, due to the time and cost of implementing a working solution.
Digital: Is it all good news?
We discussed how technology has greatly improved the opportunities for business growth, but what about candidates? According to research, 1 in 3 recruiters have rejected a candidate based on something they found online⁶. I asked Will about his experience with online profiles, both professionally and personally.
Will began to answer this question with a very emphatic remark: ‘Everyone has a personal life.’ While this is true, Will did go on to explain that carrying out due diligence on candidates online profiles now forms part of day-to-day activities for consultants at OX Seven.
The main reason for these checks is not just to remove people from a job opportunity who have inappropriate views or unprofessional pictures but also to protect the recruitment firm’s reputation. Building the firm’s reputation with its clients is crucial, and putting forward candidates who could damage the client’s brand could also damage OX Seven’s brand.
Will went on to talk about the importance of a ‘personal brand’. Will spends time with his consultants to help and encourage them to continually improve their personal brand. One example is ensuring each job posting OX Seven lists is accompanied by a short video from the consultant explaining the role and their expertise placing candidates in this field.
Over 25,000 recruitment firms in the UK and 9,000 new ones since January 2017—How do you differentiate yourself?
Will believes, “All firms are doing the same thing, trying to get from A to B. The thing that makes us all different is the journey we provide to clients and candidates.’ The journey is what really makes candidates believe consultants can get them their dream job, and it’s what makes clients continue to pass business to firms. After all, where someone is going to work is one of the biggest decisions in their life, along with where they live and who they marry.”
In Will’s experience clients value the way firms manage their postings over the cost of the placement. This is something which we have seen run true in other sectors, for example, customers valuing customer service over price when purchasing products and services in their personal lives.
Technology is becoming increasingly important in providing a great ‘journey’. The number of tools available to firms is already considerable and is growing by the quarter. Will strongly believes getting the right mix of technology to support consultants in building their personal brand will help OX Seven stand out from the crowd.
Will has already implemented a number of tools to give his consulates the edge, including video interviews, online meetings, integrated applicant tracking system and advanced phone service. Making it easy for consultants to do what they do best, which is build relationships and support clients and candidates on their journey from A to B with OX Seven.
³ Office of National Statistics – SIC codes – 78101: Motion picture, 78109: Placement, 78200 Temporary Agencies
⁴ Office of National Stats – Full and Part Time Staff