How Easy is it to Attract High Calibre Talent in a Growing Economy?

I have been working in executive search recruitment for over 18 years and during that time I have been through several economic cycles including two recessions and a real boom period. The reputation of the recruitment industry has always been up there with estate agents as an unscrupulous bunch all living each day with only one goal in mind – to feather our nests with as much bonus as possible. I was once told that “there are as many recruitment consultancies as there are restaurants in the UK”, which if true, is a phenomenal indictment of an industry that has no barriers to entry and, therefore, attracts a real mix of what is good and bad about humanity! What I would say, perceiving myself as one of the good guys, is that if you have a bad meal at one restaurant you wouldn’t decide to give up on restaurants altogether. So my plea is for you to do your research when selecting a recruitment partner, don’t let a bad experience govern how you can gain a real return on investment from developing a long-term partnership with a value-adding executive search consultancy that starts with your needs at the heart of what they do.

When I first started as a graduate trainee in the recruitment industry in 1997, the landscape to attract candidates was very different to the one today. For a start, I didn’t even have a PC never mind access to the internet. The media used to advertise or attract candidates was very different from the job boards of today. Once upon a time, the only option was to place recruitment adverts in paper-based nationals such as The Daily Telegraph or Sunday Times, or in local press such as the Manchester Evening News or the London Evening Standard or for those involved in consumer products there was the unrivalled The Grocer. Recruitment back then was simple, listen to your client needs, translate it into an advert, place it in the right media, sit back and wait for a plethora of outstanding CV’s to be delivered by the postman. In those days there were not nearly as many complications or barriers involved such as employer branding, the endless fatigue candidates suffer from being bombarded by career opportunities via social media or emails, in fact, life, in general, seemed a lot simpler.

The reason I’ve taken you back to the pre-internet years in candidate attraction is due to a recent meeting I had with a potential client. We have been in discussions for around 18 months as they consider integrating our proactive executive search approach and reputation for “finding needles in haystacks” into their 3-year talent strategy. Their industry has been growing rapidly through the recession, helped in principle by a huge £multi-billion government investment, but with it, the pool of their sought talent has been shrinking due to the equally increasing demand from their competitors. Our discussions have been at a strategic level, helping to influence their board’s investment in talent and so our latest meeting stopped me in my tracks. Having, without question, failed to attract the numbers of high calibre senior engineering talent to their business during the last 3 years, the board have made the decision that “the recession has ended and if we tell the market we are recruiting and open our doors, our drought for talent will be over”. What a statement. They may have been correct in 1997 but sadly not now in 2015. The world of recruitment is a very different place. The recession is indeed officially over and the feel-good factor has returned to many industries, particularly in the private sector, but the “war on talent” has never been so apparent and the major barrier to companies achieving their vision. If only it were as simple as opening their doors and shouting aloud to the endless stream of candidates.

In today’s very competitive environment I believe organisations have to overcome, or at least consider, the following 8 potential barriers:

  • Poor or no employer brand
  • Remuneration based proposition, no visible career development plans
  • No non-financial rewards.
  • Company culture stuck in the 70’s
  • There isn't 1 single place to advertise a job - social media is vast and fragmented
  • Not reaching out effectively to your target audience
  • No understanding of the passive job market
  • No robust recruitment strategy armed to attract, entice, qualify and excite candidates

I am sure you wouldn’t take a £100,000 investment in capital equipment lightly and would really invest time to make sure you select the product and supplier that will provide a real return and precisely meet your needs? Time and time again employers fail to see the investment to attract employees in the same way and are endlessly disappointed when newly appointed managers and leaders fail within a short period of time.

Attracting candidates and filling vacancies with individuals who really will make a difference and deliver your company’s vision has never been so tough. It requires a little more thought than “opening your doors to the world”.