180 vs 360 Recruitment

The 180 model. Or “The American model”. You see more of it these days.

Markets are getting crowded. There’s a need to stand out. Magnified by a Recruiter’s innate desire to whittle down their specialism further and further.

It’s not enough to be a dab hand at winning business and filling jobs anymore. To be good at 360 recruitment you’ve also got to be good at marketing.

Project Management.





And the rest.

Think about it like this: if you were to spend all day, every day practicing golf, tennis, and football, chances are, after a while, you’d be reasonably good at all three.

But if you were to focus exclusively on just one sport…

Which is why, one day, some recruiters somewhere decided to drill down on one side of their service offering.

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Wasn’t 360 recruitment working fine?

As Tom Wish writes, one of the most obvious advantages of the 180 model is time:

“It’s pretty hard to get on the phone quickly to available candidates when you’re en route back from a meeting. Certainly on a contract desk, that can make or break you. In reality any desk that’s contingent is always going to be about speed to market to some extent.”

The other is depth of knowledge.

If you’re devoting 100% of your time to one half of your market, you can reasonably argue you’re twice as knowledgeable, and therefore capable, as your 360 competitor.

Half the remit. Twice the focus.

Dividing a process into smaller tasks to be carried out by separate individuals is supposed to make the whole thing run more efficiently.

Think of a production line. Lots of people completing their one little action over and over in order to make the bigger picture manifest smoothly.

Each person becomes a specialist in their area, allowing them to complete their task faster, and ideally to a higher standard.

The more complicated the task, the less chance you’ll have of being great at every aspect of it.

So why hasn’t 180 recruitment been adopted across the board?

Because that’s “not the way we do things round here”.

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It’s rare to find someone with both sides of the recruitment skillset – sales and sourcing – nailed. So the traits and abilities required if the role’s focus is narrower, in theory makes them easier to find and develop.

It’s a way of working that could allow grads to upskill faster, if they’re exclusively focused on one area. And it’s obviously not permanent: you can always change.

For the recruiter, the benefits of working 180 are a less splintered day plan.

There are benefits to the candidate in that the person they’re interacting with won’t be worrying about BD, or power hours, or dashing between meetings. Hopefully.

Their job’s to focus on the candidate journey. So the candidate knows, or should know, if it’s explained to them clearly, how recruitment works and why this is different.

They should know that they’ll get a better standard of service. The more candidates that do, the greater the reputation of individual recruiters is likely to be, and subsequently the broader reputation of recruitment in general.

BD-focused Consultants should be well versed in coaching their clients on industry best practice, new trends, diversity and inclusion in the hiring process, but also swapping industry insight.

And the benefit to the client is they’ll have a more dedicated service. From someone who absolutely loves what they do. 

Either way, internal communication’s an absolute high priority. As is cultivating a culture of collaboration, teamwork and shared responsibility.

Obviously quite rare traits in 360 recruitment, which has typically required strong solo efforts, and for each Consultant to be solely accountable for their own results.

Recently, there’s been a trend with 360 recruiters moving out to the states, into a predominantly 180 environment, and doing extremely well. Because they come equipped with a fully rounded skillset.

But is one way of working better?

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There are too many variables in recruitment to decide accurately. Ultimately, it will boil down to individual clients and the style of service that best suits them.

What we should be considering is whether one of those models best represents current trends in the recruitment industry.

Niche specialisms, a focus on personal branding, a more consultative approach, greater effort in the candidate journey and better entrenched, multi-faceted business relationships.

180 would certainly be pointing very strongly in that direction.

Maybe 360 recruitment’s doing well in America at the moment because it’s new.

It’s a fresh option for clients. A different level of service for candidates. And a novel way of working for recruiters. And so maybe the rising prominence of 180 recruitment over here is for the same reason: it’s new.

Although it could reveal itself to be a more appropriate way of working as a whole, as recruitment continues evolving.

I often wonder whether having the 180 option would’ve saved a recruiter’s career.

Say someone finds BD thoroughly unenjoyable – not exactly a unique position – but loves placing candidates, and has little or no option to focus on what they like doing in their current business.

Could recruitment’s retention issues be pinned, at least in part, on the way of working?

Are we losing good people because the industry’s merely been resistant to change how it operates?

Could the most average 360 biller on earth turn out to be a 180 titan, given the chance? Or were those people just not cut out for it in the first place?

Are individual brands suffering negatively because of a poor candidate journey? Would working relationships with certain clients be improved with one dedicated point of contact, rather than one whose priorities are more varied?

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I’ve never worked in a 180 environment myself. But Executive Network Group do. So I spoke to ENG’s MD Matt Ellis to find out how it works there.

“The real key is getting the dynamic right between your front-end consultants and your delivery consultants. When you get this right, there’s no better model in my opinion.”

This year, Executive Network Group rewrote their academy to get trainees into a delivery role first. Then, once they’ve built credibility in their market, they have the option to move into a BD role. Or 360. Or stay delivery side.

It’s whatever suits the Recruiter best. And this way, new starters aren’t waiting weeks or months for their first placement.

“The other benefit of running both models is it allows you to scale your business to greater heights. You now have the ability to attract and retain great people who have strengths in any three of the main disciplines.”

“I’m not saying 360 or 180 is best. A lot will depend on the markets you operate in and, most importantly, the people you work with. What I am saying is if you have both within your business, you’re creating a lot more opportunity for your people to do the things they ‘love to do’ and not the things they ‘have to do’.”

So where do you stand?

Has 360 recruitment had its day? Is 180 the answer?

I’ve asked enough rhetorical questions throughout the course of this article. Hopefully some of them have given you pause for thought. But in closing, I’ll simply say this:

If you’re angling towards a different way of working, open up this link to Executive Network Group’s Hunted page and take a longer look at what life’s like on the other side.