The latest thinking, news and events from the world of Recruitment

Recruiter’s Sourcing Requires a Paradigm Shift


2013 has seen a major improvement in the economic climate in the UK and in the last 4-5 months the candidate market in most sectors has shifted almost 180 degrees.

There are now skill shortages in virtually every market sector, not only IT, Oil & Gas, Technology, Engineering and Healthcare, the ones so often headlined by me (Top Five Sectors be in for next five years), but now the traditional sectors like logistics, financial services and construction.

That’s right. Construction.

It has been a long time coming but my agency and employer clients in construction are noticing skill shortages for traditional skills like joiners, bricklayers and scaffolders. From Grantham to London, Birmingham to Blackburn. Given the lack of apprentice training in the sector over the past 3-5 years these shortages aren’t going to disappear overnight. Therefore the message to employers is resourcing the right staff to deliver your growth plans over the next 2-3 years is going to be the number one challenge you will face.

For many recruitment agents and in-house recruiters, who have joined the recruitment industry in the past 3-5 years however this is an alien environment. One they are not equipped to deal with. So often now their bland unimaginative job postings are failing to deliver any meaningful candidates.

High quality active candidates have left the market like migrating birds departing the winter breeding grounds. The terrifying thing for these recruitment agents and in-house recruiters is high quality candidates are not coming back in numbers.

The demand for skilled labour globally will soon to grow massively. In a recent study the EU estimate that by 2020 Europe will have a shortfall of 23m workers. By 2035 the IMF estimate China will have a 140m shortfall in skilled workers. (You might like to read my two blogs on the subject:

Third World War begins Now – Recruitment Agencies Mercenaries or Allies
Can You win the Global Talent War

These stats mean recruiters, you need to change your mind-sets and candidate sourcing methods, NOW!

Talent Directors & Agency MDs – what does this talent shortage mean for your existing business model, your sales teams skill capabilities and your ability to source scare talent in this new global skills market.

Right now the only thing that is making it relatively easier for UK businesses to source staff is that the Eurozone is still coming out of recession. That advantage may be short lived as this week unemployment in the Eurozone fell for the first time since early 2011 (Eurozone unemployment falls for first time since 2011). It may well take a while for this to impact the UK but during 2014 the old methods of recruitment are going to become obsolete.

What is needed now by recruiters is a Paradigm shift in your thinking and approach to candidate attraction.

One of the few advantages of age is in situations like this one has a wealth of market experiences and perspectives to draw on. For me it’s a return to a similar mind-set to the one that enabled my teams to develop the skills and sourcing techniques that we employed in the boom years of the 1980s, 90s and ‘noughties’.

The candidate is once again King and if you want to source the best applicants for your clients there are a number of tried and tested steps you need to follow.

So these are my pearls of wisdom.

The Secrets of Candidate Attraction in a Booming Market

So the first secret is:

1. Change your Candidate Perspective – Obvious you’d think but so many recruiters think they know the market has changed but have not fully grasped the consequences and implications to their ways of working.

This month the KPMG/REC Jobs Report led with the following three key headline fact and the Reed and Manpower reports reaffirmed them:

*Growing shortage of skills all sectors
*Vacancies rising fastest in 6 years since June 2007
*Salaries rising fastest in 6 years since Dec 2007

So accept it the candidate is now king, especially those with rare skills. Whether it’s qualified Care Workers in Healthcare, Subsea Engineers in Oil and Gas or Dot-net developers in IT, if you want to tempt the best applicants to work for your company (in-house) or clients (agents) the roles your offer them have to be special if not exceptional.

Ordinary job adverts wont hack-it! Bland voicemail messages or insipid candidate pitches won’t get a response.

After all as a top candidate I’m valuable, I know that because I am receiving 10-15 calls, emails and voice-mail messages a week. I don’t need to look on job boards the best jobs come to me via frantic, desperate recruitment consultants. Oh and by the way my boss has just given me a pay rise to keep me happy.

That is the perception that these premium candidates are gaining. Many are deserting LinkedIn or switching off their contact access such is the deluge of daily calls about mediocre jobs.

There is good news.

The CIPD’s Quarterly Employee Outlook Survey indicates that nearly a quarter of people in the UK are looking to change jobs. So for those of you who get it right the rewards are there to be had.

So Recruiters and Recruitment Consultants the first lesson requires you to shift your mind-set and your candidate perspective and ‘up-your-game’.

As Einstein says:

The definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  

So if mediocre wont ‘hack-it what will.

‘The second lesson therefore for is:

2. Know Your (or your clients) Employee Value Proposition (EVP) – What! That’s so often the response I get when I run sessions for recruiters on this.

A company’s EVP, as HR professionals like to refer to it, describes the characteristics and appeal of working for an organisation. It can include a whole raft of factors such as; salary, benefits, physical working environment, organisation culture, career opportunities just to name a few.

It forms part of the ‘unwritten contract’ between an organisation and employee in return for their contribution and performance. The EVP characterises an employer and differentiates it from its competition in the employment market.

There is evidence that a strong EVP:

*Can reduce an employer’s cost of hire
*Increase the likelihood of employees referring potential new hires
*Lower new hire premiums
*Raise new hire commitment

It goes a long way to making a company ‘an employer of choice’ within a region. If you want to attract the best talent you are going to have to engage those candidates not actively looking, the ‘Passives’.

So what makes a ‘passive candidate’ interested in an employer? Well sadly not much has changed in 25 years. The ranking of this list may differ from year to year but the list of the main reasons candidates change jobs is pretty much the same:

*Career Progression or Advancement
*Fresh Challenge – Latest Technology
*Learn New Skills – Training
*Great Environment to Work in – Creative Freedom
*Quality of life – Flexibility
*Poor Management or Leadership
*Improved Remuneration – (Top three criteria when looking but not reason to change)

It often comes as a bit of a surprise to recruitment consultants that remuneration is nearly always at the bottom of the list. That is because it is rarely the primary motivator but once candidates become active and decide to move it is nearly always in the top three. As recruiters tend to only deal with ‘active candidates’ hence why they give it so much importance.

In the recent economic climate redundancy and poor management are sadly a reasons people move and are what we in NLP call ‘away from motivators’. The top five however are all ‘towards motivators’ and positive reasons for people to change.

So if your client or company are looking to attract ‘passive candidates’ do a quick health check and ask how many of the top five reasons does your company/client offer?

If the list is small then don’t be surprised if your attempts to gain applications from ‘passive candidates’ fail.

In today’s market remember ‘passives want exceptional’.

If you have a weak EVP to appeal to the top highly skilled candidates, one strategy you might employ is to attract people with complementary technical skills but strong soft skills by offering additional technical training. Up-skilling people with lower skills sets often leads to attracting people who stay longer, show greater client commitment and employer engagement.

So Line Managers, HR and Talent Sourcing specialists take note, your adverts, LinkedIn mailers and telephone pitches need to be offering something special. If it does not you need to look at your talent attraction strategy because it is likely to fail with dire consequences for your business strategy.

Recruitment Consultants working with clients whose EVP is weak and who do not contain many of the above characteristics you might need to push back at your client. Become true consultants and advise them the reasons why they will not get the best candidates.

In 2006-8 there were many clients who failed to fill roles, it was a common situation with too few people chasing too many jobs. Those days are with us again so educate your clients and at the risk of offending some people, if they won’t listen then my advice is think twice about working their jobs.

Recruitment Agency Managers, Director and MD’s teach your consultants to be ruthless in qualifying roles otherwise you may find them resourcing jobs that are ‘unfillable’ in the current climate.

3. Match your Recruitment Strategy to your EVP/Market position – When pitching to candidates what is important is therefore for companies and agencies to accurately match an employer’s EVP to the candidates in the market for whom that EVP is attractive. There is no point in line managers demanding upper quartile skills sets, when they are regarded by those candidates, as having a lower quartile EVP.

You also have to deliver what you claim to offer otherwise you will create a poor reputation in the market.

In my career I have successfully managed several large volume recruitment exercises for companies by making sure we matched their EVP to their market position. In 2007-8 my team and I recruited 60-70 ITIL Service Managers and Solution Architects for the DWP which was a major challenge when their salaries were well below market rates but we succeeded through the hard work of my recruitment team, the realistic ambitions of the client hiring managers and a dedicated and committed HR Director.

To this day it remains one of the most demanding, challenging and rewarding assignments I worked on in 30 years in recruitment.

So recruiters, whether you are in-house or a recruitment agent the wind has changed and the time has come for you to take a long hard look at yourself and your ways of recruiting. If you can deliver on all of these three levels then your time has to come shine. If not then you maybe need to brush-up your skills.


Ian has had an impressive career to date spanning nearly 30 years in recruitment, talent acquisition, sales and training sectors.

Having worked as Sales Director for Hays Specialist Recruitment for 11 years, Ian understands the complexities of corporate resourcing and constructing high return client relationships. He has led the sale of Managed Services contracts with values of up to £20M per annum and delivered numerous long term high value partnerships.

As a strategic partner to many blue chip organisations, Ian has worked at board level to assist strategic decision-making in skills availability within regions, sectors and countries. The organisations Ian has helped with his innovative, solutions focused approach include Barclays Bank, Clerical Medical, NHS Connecting for Health, DWP, MoneySupermarket, AXA Direct and Leicestershire County Council.

As well as being a founder partner of Recruitment Training Group, Ian also runs the complimentary Selling Success business, offering consulting, coaching, training and education in business development and relationship selling. Ian’s enthusiasm for coaching doesn’t end there, as a qualified FA coach he enjoys motivating people to be the best in their sporting endeavours, as well as in business.

Using Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and management psychology, Ian is able to teach sales relationship skills that it takes others years to learn. Ian is a highly proficient user of social media as a sales tool, having generated over 50% of his business income via social media. And gives others the framework to use channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter to drive their own success.


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