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Three years, 100 placements: what I’ve learnt from my time in recruitment

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6 months ago by Matthew Gibbs

Three years, 100 placements: what I’ve learnt from my time in recruitment

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Okay, so I may be blowing my trumpet a little with the title, but it’s something I’m very proud of and it’s the reason I do this job. The call you make to a candidate to tell them they’ve just received their dream contract is what should get recruiters out of bed in the morning. If it doesn’t, they’re in the wrong job!

But, as we all know, no role, whether in recruitment, marketing and communications or anything else, is 100% hunky dory all the time. Alongside the highs inevitably come lows and it’s the most experienced recruiters that get themselves into a position to reduce those lows and increase those highs as much as possible.

I’ve listed some of my key tips and experiences below that could help budding recruiters and also give candidates and clients an insight into what it’s like to be on the other end of the application process.

1) Become an adviser, not an order-taker

The best recruiters have strong enough relationships with hiring managers that they can really guide and advise based on their thorough understanding of candidate’s skillset. If you truly believe a candidate you’ve submitted is the best person for the job, you should tell the hiring manager and explain why.

A recent example I have was when a hiring manager rejected a candidate I’d submitted; this candidate was my number one choice for the role so I pushed back and stressed the importance of speaking with him... two stages and less than a week later, he was offered the role!

2) Have a memory as good as an elephant: ‘recruiters never forget’

This is one which I do find challenging based on the sheer volume of candidates on the market. However, you should try and remember key points of each candidate you ever meet so that when you start to work on new roles, you can call the right people right straight away. You need to have your finger on the pulse and know a good amount of people currently looking for roles at different levels and locations so that as soon as you start to work on a new vacancy, you have 5 – 10 people at the forefront of your mind that you can call.

3) Know a good candidate when you meet them

When you meet candidates, you should be able to know quite quickly whether they have the skills and experience to be able to secure one of the roles you’re working on. It’s good to recognise a great candidate when you meet or speak with them so you can not only keep them in mind for current vacancies, but for roles 6 – 12 months down the line. When you do meet an outstanding candidate, keep in touch and run every suitable role by them! On the flip side, if candidates aren’t quite right and their experience falls short in a specific area, it’s a waste of their time and yours if you continue to pursue unsuitable roles with them. Introduce them to other departments in your agency or recommend agencies to them in different sectors.

4) You can’t help everyone, but you can acknowledge them

Job hunting can be the most frustrating and stressful time of anyone’s career. We’ve all been there and it’s not enjoyable. Putting yourself in candidate’s shoes is the best thing to do when reviewing applications. Generally, people appreciate honesty, so if you don’t think they’re right for the role, it’s best to acknowledge their application, explain why you won’t be putting them forward and keep them in mind for other opportunities. A lack of communication/acknowledgement of an application is never well-received.

5) Relationships are built face to face

Where possible, it’s always best to meet people in person over a cuppa or something stronger. From a recruiter’s perspective, you’re more likely to be able to paint a better picture of a candidate’s experience if they run through their CV in person. It also gives you a better understanding of their character and what team/ hiring manager they may gel with. From a candidate’s perspective, they’re likely to appreciate your time and will remember you if your service is valuable to them by giving them the time of day, helping with their CV and giving market updates. Even if you don’t end up securing them their next role, if the meeting goes well and they got something from it, they’ll remember you when next on the lookout or when they’re next looking to hire!

6) Never be afraid to pick up the phone

Not wanting to sound too much like my Sales Director (nobody wants that), it really is important to make those calls to candidates and clients alike. Market knowledge can be gained in an instant and you never know when your call will reach a ‘lapsed candidate’ who’s considering looking for their next role, or a client that may be looking to grow their team.

7) Always have a plan

It’s easy to fall into the habit of being busy without being hugely productive. It’s imperative to have a plan each day or week to determine what you want to achieve. Whether it’s to win new business, secure an interview for that great candidate you met last week or arrange a meeting with a client who you know may have opportunities in the near future. It’s imperative to have a plan; stick to it and review it on a regular basis.  

8) Knowledge is king

In order to be a specialist in your area and be trusted by clients, you really need to understand what you’re recruiting for. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have worked in the area you recruit for but you do need to gain that sector knowledge in other ways if you haven’t already. For example, VMA Group runs shadowing sessions with communications teams so consultants can see what communicators do day in, day out. We also create market reports and invite speakers to discuss trends and topical matters in the market. Another great source of knowledge is gained from contacts whilst in meetings and on the phone – the more you immerse yourself in a subject, the more you’ll start to pick up learn; before you know it, you’ll be advising candidates and clients on market trends!  

9) It’s a competitive market out there so think outside the box

With an increasing number of competitor agencies and in-house talent acquisition teams becoming savvier, it’s essential to keep developing and thinking outside the box. New business can be won in a variety of ways and relationships can start in many different ways (I met my fiancé on Tinder after all). Keep your finger on the pulse and follow the trends. Video advertisements, candidate-driven recruitment on LinkedIn, blogging and client events are all useful ways of getting noticed.

10) Be resilient and don’t dwell on the negatives

The amount of setbacks a recruitment consultant battles through on a weekly basis is huge; I could probably write a book about it, granted it wouldn’t sell many copies, but I have a lot of content! Withdrawn or rejected offers, budget cuts, cancelled projects, compliance audits and people issues are just some of the problems recruiters deal with, but it’s those that can navigate through it and not let it get to them that will have the most success.

I hope this helps any aspiring recruiters out there either make the decision to go for it, or run and never look back! If it prevents at least one recruitment-bashing post on LinkedIn then I’ve made the world a better place. Recruitment is challenging but hugely rewarding, and I can’t wait to work with many more people in the coming years and hopefully hit the double century.

Matt Gibbs is a Managing Consultant in VMAGROUP's Interim Internal and Change Communications Team. To find out more about how we can help you develop your career, please contact us today. 

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