Why do you exist @Jim Marshall?

5 months ago Paul posed me this question: recruiters, what attracted you to being a recruiter and how does it measure up to that? Honest answers please.

I have clearly given this too much thought! … but that is partly because, after over 15 years in recruitment, the question felt like ‘Why do you exist?’

Honest answers only:

Nobody, as far as I am aware left school in 1991 being determined to pursue a career in Recruitment. It always felt like an industry you ‘fell into’. (Things have changed and certainly the latest Graduate to join the Marshall Wolfe Team graduated determined to join the industry).

My original career was as a Teacher (Geography). It was my destiny. It was a genuine vocation. I was rapidly promoted, received outstanding reports from OFSTED and was nominated by my first school for ‘Teacher of the Year’. After 6 years I limped out of teaching – stressed and lost. (I sometimes retro-fit that story and say I left because I never intended to teach forever and that I was worried that I would become unemployable in another industry if I spent too long teaching. That is partly true, but the real truth is that I was not emotionally resilient enough. I was suffering from panic attacks and uncontrollable anxiety (not that I realised at the time) it was making me mentally unwell.

I sometimes flippantly say I joined my first recruitment firm for the money. My wife worked in recruitment and on occasions her quarterly bonus was over half my teaching salary. … but actually I knew Sanchia’s boss and she liked me. She saw something in me and gave me a chance when others wouldn’t. I repaid that with a terrible first year – the fees I generated in the first 12 months were a long way from even covering my basic salary.

In time I worked out a way to survive and even thrive. The better question for me – might be:

‘Why did you stay in recruitment?’

… and that is an easier question to answer.

I love surrounding myself with interesting and intelligent individuals. I have loved building teams and building companies.

I love changing and improving lives when I have the opportunity to do so. I met Paul in 2007 when I placed him in his first role back in Norfolk and have stayed in touch ever since. This week I spoke with the Director of a ‘Fintech darling’ I placed him in his first position at Alliance and Leicester nearly 20 years ago. These long term relationships are important to me.

How does it measure up?

It measures up, but I always worry about the reputation of our wider industry and the value exchange we offer.

At Marshall Wolfe I believe we add great value to our contractors and our contract clients. Whether we are supplying Statement of Work Development Teams or individual time and materials expertise. Our client-customers get well known, well skilled and properly vetted professionals to fast track their projects. (Similarly, some of our contractors have worked with Sanchia, Dean, Vaughan and I through long careers in recruitment. That long term trust is important to us). For our contractors, whether they are new, long-term or repeat customers, they get the personal touch. They are well looked after. They are always paid promptly and accurately.

… but in permanent hiring the Value Exchange seems more opaque. We can work for months on a tricky assignment, carry-out extensive research, conduct multiple interviews, extend networks and advertising campaigns, present our clients as ‘employers of choice’, extend their branding in the candidate market, support the whole end-to-end recruitment process in a consultative manner and if we do not place the required individual we end without any financial reward; and yet, I can introduce one candidate by email and with some process and admin charge 1000’s. Some justification in that the client is paying for our reach, reputation and expertise, but the value change does not seem right.

As an industry we need to move at a base level from commodity recruitment – ‘advertise select and send’ (simply throwing out the lobster pot and seeing who might respond).

To putting greater value on ‘who you know’. … but in an increasing well connected Digital world this is still a long way from enough.

The genuine value is who you have really got to know and what you know about them. A collaborative view on ambitions, the right sort of organisations for them, the colleagues they would enjoy working with and the leaders they would enjoy working for. … and more than that introducing roles and organisations they were not previously considering, but are great ‘fits’ from your network.

The value of those trusted networks also open out numerous recommendations and referrals. Not just the great individuals you know, but all the great individuals they know. …. but great networks aren’t exploitative, they are about reciprocation. How are we adding value to that trusted network. Are we the ‘go-to’ people for careers advice, for assistance in setting up as a freelancer, for considered opinion on IR35 and for joining people for mutual benefit (outside of the recruitment lifecycle)

… but I think there is more

We set-up Marshall Wolfe to challenge part of that value exchange. Our consulting offering is designed to help clients build great internal hiring functions, develop hybrid inhouse-agency functions or turbo-charge existing internal teams. ‘Hiring by Design’ is about working with our clients to design and create effective Hiring Solutions and great candidate journey experience. We have a 100% recommendation from our work,

…. but sadly the default remains for customers to pursue ‘a no placement no fee’ traditional recruitment buying model and associated value exchange.

The Recruitment Industry measures-up to expectation in many areas, but it could be so much better. I strongly urge decision makers to work with Hiring Consultancies and their agencies to work in partnership to create something awesome!

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