What can recruiters and leaders learn from this unprecedented market?

Well, it turns out… quite a lot.

And to prove it, last week the SourceBreaker team headed to Hishem Azzouz’s LIVE podcast, to network in real life and take stock of the year, whilst looking ahead to 2022.

So, what did we learn?

Well, aside from how wonderful it is to experience a networking event again, we learnt enough to detail everything from the evening in this handy article. So here it is.

Discussions were led by Toni Phoenix-Coles, Managing Director at Digital Gurus, and Chris Sheard, Owner and Managing Director at Socially Responsible Recruitment who were answering questions about their respective journeys through the troublesome waters of the pandemic.

What did COVID teach us?

The general tone from the event was that COVID instilled a diligence and hardworking ethos.

A strong ethical practice will mean high value people will always be on your side. And they’re generally important allies to win.

There appears to be a cultural shift towards hiring and training quality consultants who want to deliver an exceptional service to your clients.

Communication and transparency can be key to winning business and placing the best candidates. And if you’re not able to work with the best candidates in this market, you’ll struggle.

During the hardest part of the pandemic, many agencies had a choice. Either cut commission entirely, or sadly make people redundant.

Some agencies went for the latter.

Those in the camp of the former created a culture shift whereby transparency became a key attribute.

Retained vs contingent recruitment… how have recruitment solutions changed?

Whilst there may be an increase in retained work across the industry there’s lots of candidates being placed on a contingent basis.

Socially Responsible Recruitment are also still largely contingent but have launched a subscription service for clients who do more than 10 hires.

This change of pace, in a payment sense, may be something the industry moves towards.

We’ve already seen a huge amount of businesses look at either retained models or embedded work and that shift protects the recruiter’s effort to some degree. Perhaps an important shift in a hugely candidate driven market?

For some, as Toni pointed out, perm recruiters are working as fast as contract desks. And sometimes they can turn round in 48 hours.

How do you make sure people aren’t burning out?

Burnout’s always been hugely important to protect against and a lot of recruiters don’t see the signs on the way.

But organisations on the whole are now doing more to protect their staff. Whether that’s giving wellbeing or mental health days or increasing holiday allowance.

There’s an importance on building the right support network and looking at who and how you hire as a business.

Building your culture to make sure employees feel supported, especially when the market’s as fast paced as it is at the moment, is absolutely crucial.

Have we made progress and changed the perception of recruitment in the last 18 months?

Whether there’s a general relaxation of hostility towards recruiters is a tough thing to say outright.

But those agencies who’ve seen a change put it down to the social responsibility which has come into the industry. Chris believes so, and not only in his agency but across the sector.

Things like volunteering and charity contributions are far more important to individuals now. And rightly so. It’s now more important businesses stand for something. A moral compass is deemed so much more than a ‘nice to have’.

Many recruitment companies are more proactive in how they help the world around them. And that may be changing the landscape in terms of reputation.

Is doing something good a differentiator and how does it resonate with people in the market?

A key observation on the night here was that if you’re trying to win business by leveraging charity it won’t come across as forthright.

Being genuine is hugely important. But that’s true whether you’re trying to win business or hire staff for your own agency.

Being able to attract staff is obviously key to growth in recruitment and if you get the right people, those who have accountability and are good people, you’ll be able to hire well and retain clients.

What's the biggest obstacle agencies might face in the future?

The availablilty of top candidates is obvious for everyone to see.

That might change depending on the impact of ‘the great resignation’ but candidate control could be one of the biggest challenges for the next 2-3 years.

So, how well can you sell your business? How good are you at building rapport? How do you juggle a huge variety and breadth of roles and candidates?

It’s not easy but the best recruiters will manage to pull it off.

There’s also an element of investing in general.

If you haven’t got enough staff, life in recruitment may be very difficult. But there’s a lesson here in that some organisations will value headcount over values, there’s lots of negative ramifications to that.

There’s a statement you can make in hiring by a ‘quality target’ as opposed to a ‘headcount target’. Businesses will always make bad hires, if you can avoid being one of them, that’s already a competitive advantage.

Could a 4-day work week could increase productivity?

If, as a business, you’re considering going for a 4 day week, you need to ask yourself ‘Why would a 4-day week be better than a 5-day week?

On the face of it, it sounds like there’s more time for life outside of work. But 4 days might be just as restrictive.

The deliverables on the whole don’t change. So could you be working longer hours in the day? Will it mean you just squeeze the same hours into a tighter structure?

That might be counter productive, but it’s a decision for each business to consider.

Any advice for recruiters and management alike?

The general tone on the evening was: the market’s never been this good. Or certainly, not for a long time. And so the obvious point made was… make the most of it, while it lasts.

If you can maximise opportunities now, you stand a much better chance of sustaining great business even after the majority experiences a slight downturn.

That won’t be easy. But finding those businesses who have longer term requirements for growth and hiring and you’ll be better equipped for the long game.

Which should coincide with consultants who’ll fight the corner of your candidates. Do that and you won’t go far wrong to maintaining strong numbers for the foreseeable.

Toni believes recruiters sometimes get off the phone a little bit early. And that drop-outs happen because recruiters don’t hang around until the true end of the process.

That’s not just when they’ve been placed. It’s at the end of the rebate. And sometimes after that point. How is your candidate feeling about the role after three months? If you don’t know the answer to that and they leave, can you really blame anyone else.

Ignoring instinct is folly too. But you don’t have instinct to go on if you have a massive knowledge gap.

This means building a proper rapport. Having extra conversations, engaging on a deeper level than ‘do you like the job?’.

How are the kids?

How’s the other half dealing with the move?

How are you?

How’s your week been?

Recruitment’s hard.

But the rewards in this industry can be amazing if you perform well. And that’s made easier by loving what you do. So having a genuine interest will set you up for success.


So there you have it.

That’s the state of things in recruitment according to two inspirational leaders.

And a glimpse of what’s to come in 2022.

Thank you again to Hishem for hosting a wonderful event, we’re already looking forward to the next one.

SB.