At Seldon Rosser we often say that if organisations were good at recruitment, then we wouldn’t have a business; and there is some truth in that. It’s ironic that despite the growth of in-house recruitment teams and online job boards the demand for specialist recruitment firms, like ours, is higher than ever.
The impact of the pandemic has put further pressure on what was already a challenging recruitment market. As experienced recruiters we approach each placement with creativity where we mine our networks, often globally, to find the most skilled and experienced candidates our clients need to grow their business.
We often receive an exasperated call from a client who has tried and failed to hire themselves and with resources stretched to the limit they need a quick fix; and it’s not always there.
In this article we point to some tactics you can use to make your next recruitment process far more efficient providing the opportunity to maximise your chances of appointing great candidates sooner.
But first, if you hear yourself say “We are looking for a Unicorn” then stop. Unicorns do not exist, so stop wasting your time and resources trying to find one. Instead, if you think the recruitment is going to be very difficult look at what aspects of the role can be changed to attract the skills and experience you need.
We recommend that you review and assess each job vacancy using four headers. These are usually Required Skills, Location, Level and Salary Budget.
The next thing to look at is your recruitment process, as this is proving to be an increasingly important aspect of determining successful placements (read more on this later).
If the job is a replacement, then this is an excellent opportunity to review its place within the existing team structure and assess if changes can be made. We often recommend that clients review the CVs of remaining team members to see if immediate skills gaps can be filled or if there are opportunities to resource the gap from within the business. A recent example of this was when an engineering firm client came to us looking for a Bid Writer after spending months advertising the role on various job boards with no success. It required a very technical writing skill set and we suggested they promoted the role internally to see if any of their engineering staff would be interested in a career change / sabbatical. This is something we have seen law firms do quite well – using junior lawyers as bid writers – and on a rotation basis it can prove effective as well as having the added benefit of improving the BD skill set of technical staff. A key thing to consider here is that perhaps the role doesn’t need to be a permanent one – and could be resourced in different ways and by different people as and when the demand is there.
If the role is newly created, we recommend that you speak to recruitment experts like us who can help you shape the role to match market expectations. We see, too often, firms take roles to market with unrealistic budgets, rigid job descriptions and confusing job titles. We recently partnered with a consulting business that was hiring its first ever Head of BD & Marketing and after our first meeting with the management team, not only did they change the job title of the role we were taking to market for them, they renamed the existing team “BD & Marketing”, moving away from previously confusing language to describe that team. This not only aided us in attracting the right candidates to the role, but the business received very positive feedback from the existing team members who had long felt their job titles would not be understood by the market.
If the skills you are looking for can only be found externally then the other variables to consider are level, location and salary.
Much has been written about the WFH phenomena and many organisations are taking advantage of a more flexible work force. There are very few jobs in professional services that need to be entirely office based and removing location as a barrier automatically gives you much more access to candidates. This is particularly effective for more senior roles and in some ways can prove to be beneficial. We recently placed a Director of BD for a design firm who initially briefed us on an Auckland based role. Their reasoning at the time was that the CEO and leadership team was mostly based there, and that Auckland was a major market. The firm had offices across New Zealand and Australia and so we recommended that we covered all major cities in the search. This allowed us to secure a shortlist of exceptional candidates with on-point experience and led to the successful appointment being made in Melbourne.
Sometimes the level of role you are hiring can be more flexible, particularly at Manager level. We have seen clients hire more senior candidates (on budget friendly-reduced hours) as well as hire more junior candidates looking to step-up. Whilst both examples have an impact on immediate training & resources this is arguably better than having no resource at all.
Salaries are increasing for candidates with sector and skills in key markets and this is as much a reality as the increase in the property market. Whilst we recognise that parity and budgets are important this has to be weighed up against the time and expense it costs to discount candidates who are outside your initial parameters. We have worked with many clients to tackle and solve this issue offering incentives, sign on bonuses and share options, etc to secure candidates above the initial salary band. Our advice is to get a sense of the market before you start the process and involve HR in looking at how flexible and creative you can be. Some candidates are also happy to trade salary for hours and so it is worth considering reduced hours to stay within budget.
Improving the Recruitment Process
The most common mistake we see clients make can be summed up as “throw everything at it and hope something sticks”. This type of recruitment process invariably means that the job is briefed to HR / Talent Team (sometimes without them really understanding what the role is), placed on a multitude of job boards and LinkedIn, given to several recruiters and with no real time scale and no clear sense of who owns the process. Weeks pass, by which point the job feels stale and frustrations increase as resources are stretched and there is no sign of a solution.
So, before you go down that path, we recommend you look at your process with clear parameters of accountability and key milestones. We also advise you work backwards:
What is the offer/onboarding process?
During the pandemic many people have started new jobs in lockdown meaning it’s harder for them to feel connected to the organisation. Once an offer has been accepted it is vital to up the ante on communication before the candidate starts and after joining. We recently saw a firm send a gift to a candidate of a bottle of champagne with a stop watch indicating the time till the candidate was joining. The message, personally written by the CEO, read “counting down the days till you join us”. How’s that for a fantastic way to instil excitement and reinforce to the candidate that they’ve made a great choice by selecting your firm as their next employer!
How quickly can you turn an offer and contract around and can the basic contract be started in advance?
This may seem obvious, but we have seen and continue to see offers fall over because the contract took so long to be produced. Also, how friendly and inviting is the wording in the offer? Has it been personalised beyond job title, salary and conditions? Has the person the role is reporting to had an opportunity to add a personal, hand written message to the letter?
We once offered a Senior Manager her dream job verbally and her initial excitement was joyful. Fast forward 48 hours when the offer had landed and she sounded flat and disappointed with the unimpressive, clinical and unfriendly document that she’d received. She did take the job – but we had to “damage control” on behalf of our client.
On the flip-side, we’ve had candidates – who were still wavering in their ultimate decision being so impressed by the quality of the offer documents and offer process that it’s tipped the scales and they have joined the firm.
Ask to see some examples of your offer letters from HR and see if it aligns with the ‘voice and brand value’ you are selling. And never under-estimate the power in calling the person you have offered – to congratulate them on receiving the offer and to see if they have any remaining questions while they make their decision.
Does the role have sign off?
Again, another obvious question but this should be clarified at the start. Candidates can feel nervous if the role they are discussing with you is “subject to internal approval”, particularly as the process moves to latter stages – it doesn’t make a great impression does it?
What is the ideal start date?
With most recruitment processes now taking 8-12 weeks and then candidates having notice periods of between 4-12 weeks, you need to run an efficient process with clear milestones to fill the position as quickly as possible. We therefore recommend you agree a shortlist date before the search starts.
Who needs to be on the interview panel?
Using the above parameters can you secure the panel now and get the provisional interview dates in their diary? There is nothing more frustrating for candidates than a protracted interview process and you run the risk of losing candidates if your interview process is too long.
In addition to this, has the panel been appropriately briefed on the role and the candidate they are meeting? How engaged are they in the process and how can you support them to contribute to a positive interview experience? It’s worth remembering that any interview is also an opportunity to ‘sell’ your firm and team to the candidate.
In our experience the Partner interviews can make or break the candidate experience. If Partners cancel last minute or don’t show up; haven’t been briefed properly; are distracted during the interview; or fixate on say tenders when the role is a Senior Client position – these meetings create barriers and serve as detractors in securing talent. Selecting and briefing the right Partners is key – and often having the BD leader in the room with them to facilitate is a good idea.
One example of a great candidate experience was when we had a Manager level candidate under offer with a law firm. The candidate had options to consider and the firm really wanted to secure them. Within 24 hours a Global Managing Partner was having a 30 minute zoom with that candidate – who ultimately joined the firm.
Is the job description appealing and does it make sense?
In a competitive job market, it is more important than ever that your job description sells the organisation and the role. Think about it from the candidates’ perspective and try and answer these questions in the job advert and job description.
- What does your business do and what are the future plans?
- Why has the vacancy been created?
- Who does it work with?
- How does this role fit into the overall success of the business?
- What are the career benefits of this job?
- What L&D are you offering?
- What can you offer in terms of salary and benefits?
- What can you offer in terms of work/life balance and flexibility?
We have had a great deal of success working with clients on developing detailed and highly targeted job descriptions, that we call the Opportunity Prospectus.
Our Q&As with senior leaders talking to the vision and strategy of the BD team and the broader firm as well as the culture and experience of joining the firm really bring the role to life. Candidates regularly tell us that it was this information played a big part in their initial interest.
Senior candidates also often comment that it demonstrates the importance the business places on the role when the opportunity is presented to the market in this way.
Many of the points outlined will contribute to providing candidates with a really positive experience from the moment they read your job ad and job description to the time they join you (then the fun really starts!). We are here to help you along that journey and are always very happy to talk with you about any aspect of your recruitment needs to ultimately help you to find, secure and on-board the best candidates.
Please get in touch with us to discuss your next campaign. We’d love to help you!