Everyone wants to recruit the best and brightest for their business, but you need to be realistic about how attractive your business is to potential recruits. If you think you’re Apple, but you’re actually Argos then you’re going to find it very difficult to hire and retain the talent you’re hoping for.
We worked with a client who was looking to add a senior leader to their team. They interviewed some really strong candidates who ticked every box of the brief and would have been perfect for the role, but quickly rejected them on the grounds that they weren’t “cool enough”. This would have been completely understandable if the company itself was “cool”, but they really weren’t. They were an excellent business with a strong knowledgeable board but nothing about their people, culture or branding was, or would appeal to someone who was “cool”. They were completely unrealistic as to what sort of candidate they could attract.
We sat down with them and had a very awkward but frank conversation about their image of themselves vs their external image. We experienced the grieving process; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Once the truth had been accepted, we could put a plan in place to get them to where they wanted to be*. In their instance it was how to have a trendier image, but one could easily substitute this to wanting to hire more experienced candidates, higher performers, increase your grad intake, retain more of your staff etc.
These are some of the questions and points that we challenged the client on:
- If you interviewed your existing workforce, how many would you take on? Depending on this answer you may have to make some changes internally so that the business is more aligned to the hires you want to make.
- What are your future plans (be honest); if it is high growth then you will appeal to ambitious, hungry candidates. If you are going to stay the same then that profile will very quickly leave the business. Are you better hiring ‘steady eddies’ (and vice versa)?
- What does your current basic salary and package attract? Do you need to increase it? What budget do you have for this? Can you afford a recruitment fee on top, or use that fee to add to the base directly? Would this be a false economy if it takes you away from fee generating?
- Do you only take on graduates? Why? Have you considered ex industry professionals?
- Have you considered allowing people to work from home or part time? You can attract candidates that may not have considered your company before, or may normally be above your budget, but would be flexible if you offered this.
- Is there someone internally that is stopping you getting your ideal profile? If so, how can you manage this?
- Do you need to change the person that conducts first round interviews? Is there someone that will sell the business better, or someone that will connect with your desired profile better? Could the current 1st round interviewer put your desired profile off (too aggressive, too generic, not engaging, not enough gravitas etc)
- Do you split new business and delivery? Will this open up a new pool of candidates?
- Are you based in the right location to attract the people you want?
- What management/leadership team is in place and is this adequate? Do you need to change it?
- What training and or/expectations are in place for trainees, consultants, managers, and Directors? There is no point taking on a junior if there is no one to train them and expect them to bill £400K in first year. Similarly, do you have unrealistic expectations for a Director hire, and do you offer training for them to plug their skills gap?
- Understand where the glass ceiling is and plan around this (or move it). I.e. there no point hiring a principal if there is nowhere for them to go in the business. They will leave within a couple of years. Either recruit at a more junior level to enable them to progress, or structure the business differently to enable the principal to progress.
If you have a business that is perfectly aligned to the kind of hire you want to make then that’s fantastic, but in my experience even those firms consistently take a frank look at, and reinvent themselves throughout their evolution. The ideal profile in your first year of growth is likely to be very different to the one you need now (and the type of person your business appeals to would have changed dramatically) and so it’s vital that you recognize this and adapt.
*In the case of the company we were working with they moved their office from a basement in the city to one with windows in a vibrant part of the west end, they introduced flexible working and removed one of the leadership team who was holding the business back from becoming who they wanted to be. The culture didn’t change overnight, but they had showed enough intent through these actions that they secured a Sales Director who was “cool enough” and could see the journey that they were on, and the opportunity this presented. The Sales Director had an excellent senior level network and has become the main rainmaker for the company which has meant that they can be more open to hiring candidates that focus on delivery if they fit the new company culture, which has increased their potential hire base.
About the author: Michael Bowden is Partner at Bowden Mayes – a specialist recruitment company focussed on helping recruitment businesses attract senior management and next generation talent.
Image credit: Shutterstock