Talent Acquisition

How a Direct Recruitment Model Saved Epsilon £430,000

It is likely that before reading this article you would not be aware of the company “Epsilon”.  This is despite Epsilon’s status as the world’s largest permission-based email marketers and a leading marketing services provider with over 4500 employees and revenue just shy of $1 billion.  The figures may not necessarily stand out, but as a leader in one of the largest “growth sectors”, the Epsilon brand should be a familiar name.  Here lies the first challenge!

Based in London I have been managing Epsilon’s direct recruitment on the international side (EMEA & APAC) for less than two years, and in that time we have seen some fantastic results.  Like many in-house recruiters, my remit was to implement direct recruiting to save costs and improve the quality of hires (so nothing too demanding then!).   My brief agency background certainly helped with this, but the tools and methods used have contributed to the overall success.

To a lot of recruiters, the volume hired will seem very low, hiring around 50-60 vacancies a year (though 2013 is on target for about double that).  However, the real challenge comes with the difficulty of each position. The talent pool we need to recruit from is quite small due to the hyper-tight market that Epsilon operates in, that also has an extremely low unemployment rate. Couple this with some difficult office locations and multiple languages requirements, and you have a real challenge on your hands. Most of our vacancies are for marketing professionals, whether email, database, direct, digital or creative. There are also some very technical roles, client services and sales positions ranging from junior to VP level.

Implementing a Direct Recruitment Model

Obviously, there are many other benefits to an internal recruitment model, but the cost is always going to be a major reason for a business to shift to this model.  Large sums were spent on agencies and we wanted to reduce fee expenditure, especially on the more senior positions.

From the beginning, this was a very ‘hands-on’ role where I was sourcing multiple positions directly, especially in the UK where I decided to cut the use of agencies immediately.  Initially, the tools at hand were pretty basic.  I had a career site, a kind of ATS, access to a Monster CV database and LinkedIn “Talent Finder”. There was a referral scheme already in place that was proving very successful in the US.

As I was cutting the use of agencies it was important to talk to the business, assess their requirements, talk about key competitors, sources of candidates etc, to ensure they received the service levels they had been accustomed to.  After filling some initial key vacancies I focused on a more structured and strategic approach to internal recruitment, using a variety of tools:

Tools & Methods I Use to Recruit:

Currently, the key methods I use for sourcing and attracting candidates include:

  • Professional networking Sites – LinkedIn, Xing (Germany) and Viadeo (France)
  • CV Databases – Monster, Brand Republic & CWJobs
  • Job Board Advertising – A couple of generic sites (Monster & Totaljobs mainly), but I make use of many niche sites dependent on the positions such as Only Marketing JobsMarketing Week, Jobserve & Design Week to name a few
  • Epsilon Careers page
  • Employee referrals
  • Events (not so much in the UK but we made a key hire  in Germany via the DMEXCO event)
  • Social Media – Basic use of Twitter

I admit LinkedIn has been an amazing tool for targeting staff at competitors that fit seamlessly into the business.  This made the initial transition from an agency model to in-house model much easier.

The volume of applicants we were naturally attracting online when I joined was quite low.  This has significantly improved since using the various niche boards as it helped to increase brand awareness in the sector.  Job boards primarily attract active candidates but we try to be smart with our job postings mixing things up with postings that have added features to attract or target passive job seekers.

Recruitment Technology, Process & Talent Pooling

When I joined Epsilon too many candidates were dropping out of the process with our existing recruitment/ATS system.  The candidate experience was pretty bad so I needed an alternative to quickly improve how we managed applicants.  Also, moving to an in-house recruitment model inevitably means more administration. In line with the theme of general cost-cutting, I opted to experiment with a new free recruitment system called It’s a pretty intuitive system so didn’t take long to get to grips with.

The application method is much simpler for candidates who can also apply with their LinkedIn profiles.   This simplified candidate experience solved the ‘drop off’ problem; instantly we saw an improvement in the numbers of relevant candidates completing applications.  Our jobs are displayed on search engine optimised ‘mini-sites’ which has helped attract more direct applications (there’s a lot more we can do around SEO in our wider recruitment strategy).

One of the things I’m looking to develop further in 2013 is to create a larger pipeline of future candidates.  Qandidate has a talent pool function which allows me to match interested applicants against different roles within the business either now or in the future, but I’m also looking at other methods/technologies to complement this such as newsletters, social media etc.

Results – 100% Retention & Savings of £430,000+ to date

Our key results from the switch to direct recruiting include:

  • In the UK, no agencies have been used since I kicked off the in-house model back in April 2011
  • In 2011 we achieved a 70% reduction in our cost per hire (approximately £140,000 in savings overall) compared to the previous year.
  • In 2012 no agencies were also used in France, Ireland, Singapore, Hong Kong or Spain.
  • In 2012 ‘hypothetically’ we saved approximately £350,000 compared to using the old agency model.  This figure was calculated by the cost of if the direct hires had been completed through agencies at the PSL rates.  Our spend on job boards, LinkedIn etc is relatively low, so taking into account all factors and salaries, the savings are closer to £290,000 which is still pretty substantial.
  • We still use agencies in Germany, Japan & China where recruitment can be a bit trickier; although this will decrease as we gather more local expertise during 2013 (Japan is especially difficult, any tips here greatly received!)
  • Furthermore, the above has been achieved with a 100% retention rate of UK direct hires since April 2011.  This is a metric a lot of people ignore but a ‘bad’ hire is often responsible for a large portion of recruitment costs.  By ensuring the right cultural fit, we’ve managed to recruit great people who want to stay in the business.

The Future – Employer Brand, Video & Stories

Although we are happy with the results of switching to an internal recruitment model there is still a lot of work to do.  It is essential to further increase the general brand awareness of Epsilon as a place to work. We are currently exploring different strategies such as a more effective use of social media and the creation of video content to give a better insight into life at Epsilon. Developing a mobile-friendly careers site & job adverts will be crucial moving forward, as more people begin to spend their time viewing jobs on a mobile device.  Getting more out of our referral scheme is another aim. Overall I’d like our attraction strategy to be more brand and ‘story’ focused. 2013 is looking to be an exciting year!

If you’re an in-house recruiter and you have any specific questions on any of the above, or tips you would like to share with me, I’d love to hear from you.

By Jacob Kimber

Jacob Kimber is a Talent Acquisition Manager at Epsilon, a leading marketing services provider. Loves to learn about innovative resourcing strategies and employer branding.