Something A Bit Different

Recruitment companies like to say “We do things a little bit differently round here”. 

Which, historically, would’ve at least raised an eyebrow. Maybe even dropped a jaw or two. If the ‘different’ on offer was more than ‘a little bit’.

Then everyone started saying it. And now it’s just one of those things businesses say to try and set themselves apart apart from the herd. Invariably, however, it often has the opposite effect.

Now I can’t completely discredit the phrase. We’ve used it ourselves from time to time. Although it’s becoming something you shouldn’t need to say, like “cloud based CRM”. Because it’s implied as a minimum.

We also say “recruitment’s the same job whether you do it at company A or company B”.

Not to be disparaging. But because it’s the things that make recruitment companies unique that are their real differentiator.

At the end of the day, you’re still picking up the phone and filling jobs. It’s the way you do it that makes a difference.

Recruitment companies tend to mimic their market in subtle ways. 

I used to recruit in the Life Sciences sector, where things can be quite clinical. Almost a scientific brand of recruitment.

I understand working a tech market’s not only fast paced, but also comes with the benefit of long hours as well. Nice.

In insurance, your word is your bond. And for centuries, it’s been a sector based on integrity. Where if you become known for doing what’s right, your career will soar.

As a sector, insurance covers home, contents and car insurance. But the really interesting stuff happens away from price comparison websites.

It’s Amazon needing per-second insurance when their servers are down following a hack. Specialist insurance to pay a ransom in case your CEO gets kidnapped. Insuring the limbs and other bodily parts of attractive Hollywood stars.

Or, between you and I: the essentials.

So perhaps it’s understandable that any brokers caught being conservative with the truth won’t need to look for a new employer. They’d generally have to consider a new career. Because trust is absolutely integral to the profession functioning.

“Our clients trust us to help them identify and appoint leaders who are ultimately going to lead their business to success, mediocrity of failure. This is a great responsibility. 100% trust in the integrity of each party is at the core of this relationship.”

I spoke to James Cooper, Director of Damhurst & Co, an executive search business within the insurance sector, to find out how that attitude’s influenced doing things ‘The Damhurst Way’.

“We believe you should be able to do business on the strength of a handshake.”

In recruitment, this means deep, complete, ongoing trust between you and your client. As an example, ask yourself:

Which of your clients would you happily enter a long-standing relationship with, without any signed terms and conditions in place?

Now ask yourself the same thing again, but answer honestly this time.

The concept’s a relatively alien one to the majority of recruiters. But really, it’s the ideal strength of any great business relationship. It’s probably how you’d work if you were recruiting for your mum.

So why shouldn’t the same standard be applied to your clients?

Because it’s unrealistic? Great in theory but impractical in practice? Or is it merely a question of how far the relationship that’s been developed?

Actually, with a concerted effort, you could probably get to that level with your own clients. Not all of them, perhaps. But then you might not need all of them.

When you’re talking about really meaningful business relationships, and the exclusivity arrangements and crossover into lateral markets that come with it, you might only need a handful to bill more than you’ve ever billed in a calendar year before.

A departure from KPI’d environments is a hot topic at the moment.

Would recruitment work without them? Do KPIs have a bad rep and need a rebrand? What’s the alternative?

It depends on how they’re used. Partly inspired by the volume you work to.

Certainly for more senior level recruitment, it’s less of a numbers game. So a lot of the old rules don’t apply.

And that handshake between recruiter and clients is one that extends to recruiter and manager too.

In the two years I’ve been out of recruitment and writing about it instead, I’ve seen a lot change and a lot stay the same.

Personal branding was a key trend for 2019 and it’s unlikely to go anywhere, for now.

It’s currently seen as one of the best ways to get your nose in front of your competition. And it’s all about attention. Both creating and funneling it, in order to win it.

Only let’s say your objective’s the opposite.

Let’s say your job as a recruiter is to go to market, do you what you need to do to fill your client’s jobs, and get out without attracting too much attention.

How would that change how you operate?

There’s rocking up to industry events. And there’s hosting them yourself.

There’s being active in your market. And there’s earning industry accredited qualifications. Letters after your name that spell out I Know My Sh*t.

There’s kicking down doors during power hour. And there’s advising clients on what’s best for their business using your birds eye view of the market.

And when it comes to making placements, a different approach means sending a candidate from left of field every now and again. Difficult to do, again, without trust.

You’d still send the 4 or 5 people your client expects. But you’d balance that with someone the brief didn’t ask for. Someone your competition won’t be presenting.

And if you’re going to do that, you need to be able to coach hiring managers on how to interview candidates with different skills and more diverse backgrounds. Do that, and you’ll truly be a consultant to your clients.

Does a different approach to recruitment mean a different level of reward?

Maybe. Reward structures outside conventional commission schemes do exist, believe it or not.

“We pay out a percentage of growth each year. It’s clear for everyone and the reward is shared equally across Consultants and Associates.”

“We win together and share in that success together.”

“In addition to this we have another bonus that is based around the individual, their living and breathing the Damhurst values and their success in performing their role. This two bonus system splits financial success and individual performance. After all, we all have different parts to play and our goals are not all motivated by top line and profit.”

To some, this kind of approach will seem a little bit different. To others, it’ll be completely radical.

“There are no rules in this business, only guidelines.”

“We have an aspiration and somewhere to aim for. How we get there will look different for each project, client and context. If you accept each situation is unique, then you cannot have rules. We only have one non negotiable: is the work a quality you are proud of?”

Recruitment companies saying they do things differently are a dime a dozen. Those that do are a genuine rarity.

Ultimately, the reward from adopting a different approach to recruitment is that you’ll unlock a whole string of unseen benefits. A different skillset. A different approach to autonomy. A different level of career longevity.

That’s where the real reward is.

Well actually, it’s here.