The current job market for professional services is one of the most confident and optimistic markets we have seen in a long time, with many firms structuring and re-structuring their business development, marketing and communications teams. This is because the corporate market wasn’t as badly affected by the pandemic as predicted and because there has been a drastic change in the way organizations work. Business Development, Marketing & Communications functions are particularly affected with an increase in the number of newly created senior roles coming to us.
Here is our advice on how to scope out new roles, based on our experience working with clients.
How hard the ‘ask’ will be internally and how difficult it will be to sell it?
A new role generally requires a business case and it is here that you need to consider both the reputation of your current team and also the infrastructure that you currently have. Success breeds success and the best time to hire a new role is when the current roles are working well and there is an appetite for more. We see this more often in business development and strategic business winning roles (such as BD/pursuit management or industry/sector specialists). Roles that can more directly demonstrate return on investment are an easier sell internally but do require clarity from the start to ensure they deliver ROI quickly.
If stakeholders don’t understand the relevance of the role it makes traction harder for the person who you hire
We know that influencing skills are the bed-rock of ‘must-haves’ in a professional services role but there is a difference between influencing and convincing. Starting a new role is challenging enough, particularly at senior level when the risks of changing jobs can be risky.
Make sure the business knows what the role is for and why it is needed before hiring and include key stakeholders in the selection process. Ask yourself:
“Is this what the business needs next or what the business needs now?”
For example, it’s harder to hire a senior client specialist if you don’t already have a robust CRM system and access to research, analytics and client financials.
We often get asked by clients how their competitors structure teams. Whilst this can sometimes be a useful guide, particularly when looking at advances in BD & MC roles, not every firm has the same strategy. For example, we recently placed a Senior BD Manager with a national law firm who was not part of the centralised BD team and not included in the CMO’s budget. Instead, it was a “hunter role” focused on a particular niche market and working directly with partners. Another client of ours has no communications headcount but they rely heavily on an external agency. It’s apples and oranges in most cases so our advice is to make the business case for your own business and not based on what another firm is doing.
Will this role have impact quickly?
Similar to the example above it is important that the newly created role can make a difference from the beginning. We have often seen roles fail because the candidate had to spend months building infrastructure (that was invisible to stakeholders) before they could get any traction. This should be avoided at all costs and goes to the scoping of the role. Our suggestion would be that if you need to hire an experienced client facing BD manager, don’t also ask them to design and build a key account programme at the same time. Do the spade work on the latter first or have the budget ready to hire an additional resource.
Is the role a long term proposition or for a problem that needs to be fixed now?
The last 12 months has seen major disruption and change to the way in which firms do business, both internally and externally. Skills gaps have become evident (in particular there was a huge shortage of digital and internal communications experience when the pandemic hit to manage the WFH phenomena). However, most of these changes were temporary and reactive; they were better resourced via consultants, contract hires or by utilizing the skills of existing team members. At the beginning of the pandemic we placed several communications managers on contracts (that have interestingly been made permanent).
In contrast the massive injection of Government stimuli and spending on infrastructure has created a definite need for experienced BD professionals for firms who have significant profile in this space. These are long sales cycles and therefore require resourcing permanent positions that can build and develop business winning strategies a long way into the future.
We recently worked with two clients who wanted to hire now to protect and build pipeline for the future. In one case the CEO told us
“We have grown our firm without any BD on the basis of referrals but now the size of our business means we need to have a better lens on how we are positioned to win enough work to sustain the size we are now”.
We found them a candidate who had excellent experience in establishing a BD research function from the beginning but who also had frontline client development experience – tackling the problem from both ends of the sales cycle. In the other case our client was experiencing a huge influx of long term opportunities from the defense sector and they needed a senior BD specialist who had sector experience who good hit the ground running.
Changing an existing role
One of the quickest and easiest ways to create a new role is when an existing role in your team becomes vacant. This is happening more and more to reflect both the rapid changes in the market and the ongoing sophistication of BD&MC teams. We recently worked with a client to rescope a role after a BD Manager left. The previous role had been generalist and included 40% “low impact” tasks as well as 40% marketing/profile raising responsibilities and 20% on client feedback. The new job was more senior and included 50% strategic client development work with some of the low impact work being re-distributed across more junior members of the team (with increased junior resource also added), giving them a chance to broaden their skills.
Leave some room for the candidate to shape the role
You don’t have to have the job function 100% set in stone. One of our clients who recently worked with us to hire two new Director level positions said in the briefing
“I am 70% there with the scope of these roles – and the candidate can bring the extra 30% depending on their skills and experience”.
This is music to our ears as most senior candidates want to be able to bring something to the table and create something for themselves. How often do you see job descriptions where the kitchen sink has been thrown at it to make it look busy and important? Being too prescriptive at the beginning can put off candidates from applying.
Be realistic on salary budgets
A common mistake clients can make is to underestimate how much they need to pay to get the right talent. This is not because candidates are greedy but because if someone is leaving a great job to join your business they want an uptick in their current salary – and a financial reward for taking a risk, even if that risk is calculated. Examples of past placements show that in almost all cases the salary offered was at the top of, or above, the proposed salary band. We offer realistic benchmarks to clients and candidates, but to make an offer attractive (and to remove the threat of counter offers) you need to have adequate room in your budget. Alternatively we have helped clients structure signing on bonuses or additional holiday etc to bring candidates within budget.
Having put so much effort into designing and getting approval to hire a newly created role it would then make sense to approach the recruitment of that role in a focused and strategic way. Clients who work with us get a tailored campaign that always includes an ‘opportunity prospectus’ which is like a job description on steroids. Before producing a prospectus we work with each client to explore some key points like:
- What does the business do and where does this role fit into that?
- What is the team like that this person will be joining – and what key stakeholders will they be working with?
- What are you offering in terms of employee experience and career progression?
- What are the main responsibilities of the role?
- What does your ideal candidate look like?
- A Q&A with the person/s this role will report to?
For examples of campaigns that we are currently working on, or have successfully placed check out our new Finding Talent page on our website.
Don’t cast your net widely for candidates – go fishing instead
It may seem obvious but there are very few examples of a client finding the right candidate quickly using a catch all approach. Advertising your job on LinkedIn, job boards and your own website will only interest candidates who are actively looking. Most senior candidates who are currently employed simply do not have the time to apply for jobs, especially if there are several popping up on their LinkedIn feed; but this does not mean they won’t consider a move.
We have countless examples of placing candidates who had not even put a CV together until we called them. A current campaign we are doing proves this point. A newly created BD Director role which could be based in any of their key locations across the APAC has resulted in an exceptional shortlist of senior candidates with over 80% of them applying for a job for the first time in years.
Another example is a global search we conducted for a pivotal new role hired by a Managing Partner – the brief was very nuanced and we knew there were only a handful of people in the market with the exact experience he was looking for. The successful candidate later sent us a note to say:
“ Thank you again for finding me this amazing job. As you know I wasn’t actively looking for a new job – but this has turned out to be a perfect next step for me and a really good use of my experience to date. I don’t know how you guys do it; but I am glad you do.”
And so are we. As experienced recruitment consultants in this often weird and quirky professional services industry we feel that we have really been able to add value to our clients in this past 12 months:
- helping them navigate their way through the multitude of changes the pandemic has caused
- giving advice and sharing our knowledge when creating new roles
- ultimately giving them confidence that with our help they can find the best candidate and hopefully enjoying the process along the way
Talk to us about finding the best candidate for your next role.