Demand More From Your Recruitment/Search Partner

I’ve always felt social media channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter provide a platform for grandstanding.  As I scroll though my feeds, it irritates me to see opinions stated as fact, sweeping generalisations and often arguments devoid of balance.

One of the topics that comes up time and time again is recruitment, regardless of level and type.  We all see the negative posts and I’m sure each of us have had our own experiences of bad recruitment/search “consultants” or poor recruitment practice.  But, here’s the thing, recruitment means different things to different people, and there are significantly diverse ways this discipline is viewed by the business community and tackled by employers and recruitment/search firms.  So, I want to present a different perspective and discuss the value recruiters and search firms could, and many do, provide.

But isn’t recruitment dead in the digital age?  Well, like many, I do believe that automation will eventually replace transactional recruiters regardless of level and niche, but there will be an increase in demand for high value, consultative, human-led but tech-augmented, independent recruiters.  A recent CIPD survey found that almost two-thirds of HR professionals think it will get more difficult to recruit senior and skilled employees over the next three years highlighting the need for specialist support.  There is no doubt that this is a challenging and highly competitive industry and hiring-well is critical for success.

As a senior-level consultant, the output of making a placement is not enough in isolation, it’s how one goes about it, the process, and critically having razor-sharp focus on ensuring you can make a significant contribution during the recruitment cycle.  This “value” comes in differing forms but shouldn’t just be limited to “filling a role”.  A positive legacy should be created with each assignment.

To illustrate this in practice, many recruiters start by taking a job spec and matching candidates to this.  However, the starting point should be understanding the company’s business objectives and the part the role should play in achieving them.  Only once this is confirmed will a consultant be able to identify the skills and character traits required and use their expertise to challenge the brief, so the search is focused on the key elements.  This intelligent and consultative-based approach should be demonstrated throughout the process from research, engagement strategy, employer branding, candidate assessment and role fulfilment to ensure a focused, and unified programme.

I work on low volume, high impact senior appointments.  However, even at this level you see search companies using basic or outdated recruitment processes and taking a transactional, “hit and miss” approach to these business-critical roles. But who’s at fault? The recruiter usually bears the brunt of the criticism, but should those choosing recruitment/search firm also share the responsibility? Are their benchmark experiences and expectations too low? Do they know what to look for? Or have clients simply given up, disillusioned by their experiences to date, which is understandable.

As a client, what can you do when engaging a recruitment/search firm to change the dynamic? Well firstly, think differently, don’t be complicit in mediocrity.  Don’t accept poor recruitment practice and poor value and allow that to be your frame of reference for all search firms.  Demand and expect more. Look at value not just cost and certainly not just a fee.  There is a better way and there are agencies who can deliver the value you desire and, more importantly, need.

So, what should you look for from your recruitment partner?

  • Individual credibility and integrity
    • Proven credentials and experience of the market in which the client operates
    • Ability for consultant to represent the business, its values and goals effectively and knowledgeably
    • Transparent and consultative approach which builds trust with and on behalf of the client
    • Appropriate experience and skill-set of all individuals engaging with candidates for level of the role being recruited
  • Domain expertise  
    • Thorough understanding of the respective disciplines and industry trends
    • Research-led approach tailored to role, client and market
    • A focus on the outputs of the role rather than duties, and an understanding of how the role-holder would fit into, and where relevant, drive business objectives
    • Input strategically throughout the recruitment process
    • Constructive challenge to ensure job and candidate profiles are valid and focused
  • Client focus
    • Knowledge and appreciation of the multiple elements that impact recruitment, both the positive and negative bi-products of the recruitment process and critically how to influence them specifically for the client
    • Systems in place to reduce management time on recruitment, ensuring the client is investing their time in the right candidates and in the most effective way
  • Candidate focus
    • Established engagement strategies to improve candidate experience of both client and search firm
    • Role is rigorously-qualified and client is invested in the appointment, improving prospective candidates’ confidence and engagement in the role
  • Thorough assessment and insight
    • Utilisation of multiple assessment tools early in the process to provide increased accuracy, better matching and provision of critical insight for decision making
  • Effective networking
    • Well-developed and effective network combined with well-honed, proven networking capability
    • Ability to build and demonstrate long-term relationships to the benefit of both clients and candidates
  • Quality focused fee structure
    • Commercial structures that support successful outcomes for the client and candidate

Where reputation is crucial for future business, good consultants will not engage on opportunities that will have a detrimental impact on how effectively they can work and their credibility.  These consultants will only work on qualified roles with companies exhibiting a professional approach which raises their stock with candidates and attracts the strongest talent.  This doesn’t mean free reign, but it does require working closely in partnership with your search provider to get the right result.

There is a proportion of the industry that haven’t evolved, and many are still being propped up by clients who are getting little value, taking a risk with their brand, time and commercial objectives.  But I’m not advocating change.  Why would I want more competition?  But what I do want, is to change the perception that all recruiters and search firms are the same – the good ones are different.

The main barrier is certainly trust with a healthy dose of scepticism, but we need to tackle that one conversation, and one appointment at a time.  As a client, look for those firms who are deliberately different and are demonstrating the real value recruitment firms can provide.

If you would like to find out more about Virtuo Executive’s innovative approach to executive search, click here:


James Goff is the founding director of Virtuo Executive a boutique executive search and recruitment services business with a focus on board, finance, bid, and commercial leadership appointments. James is passionate about helping businesses achieve a competitive edge through the recruitment and support of senior executives.


A boutique search firm, helping technology and outsourcing companies navigate complex, challenging disciplines and senior employment markets to ensure they hire the best talent that will positively impact the business.  Operating as a strategic recruitment partner and offering expertise across executive leadership, finance, commercial management, pricing and bid management.