Prism’s plan for winning the war for talent in 2021

There are signs of the management consultancy recruitment market picking up and indeed some firms have continued to grow and hire throughout 2020.

Good candidates are as difficult to hire as ever but are the life blood of a firm and the key to their future success. So finding and attracting them is critical.

Here’s Prism’s 6 point plan:

1. Think strategically as well as tactically

There will always be projects to be staffed, attrition to be back filled and general headcount targets to be met. It is entirely sensible that tactical recruitment should be the priority. However good people who can enrich the gene pool, build business for you and be future leaders are so hard to find that you need to have a headcount model that can find space for A1 people even if there is no active hiring need.

2. Look at your recruitment through the eyes of a candidate.

Candidates who are, from the start, keen to work for you because you are a well known name may not be dissuaded by a horrible recruitment experience. However the non brand name firm doesn’t have that reassurance because they need to impress from the outset. And indeed the firms who may appear to have candidates always knocking on the door will of course still risk losing the best people to the competition and may never attract the real superstars. There is an illusion of popularity which may foster complacency but sometimes the largest employers have a different hurdle to overcome, namely candidate preconceptions.

This topic is an article in its own right but headlines include:

  • Write enticing advertisements and job descriptions
  • Make it easy to apply: does your website have a clunky off putting process?
  • Respond to all applications – direct AND agents. The candidate doesn’t differentiate.
  • Make sure the interviewers and the interview process will impress
  • Manage expectations
  • Try and add the personal touch

Your recruitment process is a showcase for your business and that applies not to just the one person who you get on board but also to the ten or twenty you don’t.

3. Assume recruitment will take six months and be pleasantly surprised if its quicker

Of course there are many variables but our experience is that from the first phone call to us to the candidate commencing, is typically six months, often longer. Of course hiring could be, and sometimes is, considerably quicker but you can’t rely on it. There are obvious “unknowns” – the time taken to actually identify a candidate even before the interview process starts and their subsequent notice period being the obvious ones but lots of other incremental factors can make weeks become months very quickly.

4. A good hire, especially at a senior level, could generate as much business for you as a good client so make it the same priority.

Consultancy firms quite rightly view client development and client servicing as top priority and devote a lot of time and resources to it. However if there is acceptance of the direct and indirect financial value of a good employee then getting good people should be the same, but how often are recruitment processes and decisions second fiddle to client work? This causes delays reviewing and responding to CVs, finding availability for interviews, cancelling and rearranging interviews. All of which extends the recruitment process and makes it less likely you will hire the best candidate.

5. Make sure your recruitment process helps rather than hinders hiring.

A clear process is critical to quality hiring but, like all processes, needs to be constantly reviewed to make sure it’s fit for purpose i.e. it does the job it’s supposed to. And on occasions it may need to be bent out of shape completely to get the best candidates. Nothing impresses a prospective hire more than knowing you are able and willing to be flexible if there is a good reason.

6. Last but not least: be smart in your use of external recruiters

Of course you want to save on recruitment fees but you also want the best candidates and that always has, and always will, present a conflict.

There is logic of course for the use of internal recruiters and direct applications if you can afford the fixed overheads but the sensible use of third parties however can make a real difference to your ability to find and attract good candidates.

Many firms employ a hybrid model.

But you do need to consider how to ensure recruiters will work hard for you.

There are two types of recruitment: Retained and Contingency. In the latter their fee is ‘contingent’ upon them placing a candidate with you, hence the name. It is also known as ‘success only’ recruitment

With contingency you are essentially saying to the agent – work for me for free in the hope of getting payment.

The behaviour of the recruiters reflects that – the time they devote to finding candidates for you will be directly proportionate to their perceptions of how likely it is they will get a fee, and the size of that fee, compared with other clients’ roles they are working on.

That may sound obvious but the implications may not be, not least that if you are using agents to fill the jobs you can’t fill yourself, they might not fill them either if they are picking lower hanging fruit elsewhere! Also if you take the view that using five agents will help you find five times as many candidates that’s not the case: they will all be devoting a much reduced amount of effort to your vacancy and probably fishing in the same pool of active job seekers. Many of the less reputable traits of recruiters can be directly linked to this recruitment model.

Finally don’t make the mistake of negotiating a big fee discount: all that means is that you will be bottom of the contingency recruiter’s priority list.

Retained recruitment doesn’t have to involve paying large amounts of cash up front in the hope of a return and it doesn’t even have to involve much larger fees – the cost might even be similar to hiring via the contingency route.

But even a small retainer fee, will still ensure that you are top of their priority list, over ALL contingency work because they are almost guaranteed a fee if they do a good job for you and find you an excellent hire. So both sides are happy!

To discuss any aspect of your recruitment process and strategy please contact: Chris Sale, Managing Director, Prism Executive Recruitment – [email protected]

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