The State Of Recruitment In 2019

It’s tough to find one agreeable source of clarity on the state of recruitment today.

There are plenty of dissenting voices, ours included. And so the challenge becomes cutting through the noise.

We went to the Recruitment Agency Expo in Birmingham last week. Plenty of free merch, product demos, and keynotes flying about.

I went to as many talks as I could, and felt like I came away with a pretty decent snapshot of where the industry’s at currently. And where it’s going.

The State Of Recruitment

Depending on who you ask, there are about 40 thousand recruitment businesses in the UK. A third of which sit inside the M25.

There are hubs everywhere. In Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Brighton, Birmingham. And thousands of new companies registering every year.

What’s the one issue affecting all of them?



The word echoed round the expo rafters, snuck into small talk, and took up a remarkable chunk of almost every seminar I saw.

Politics aside, the general consensus was that recruitment’s been through periods of uncertainty before. It will again. This just happens to be the next scheduled one.

Skills shortages will always be high on the agenda. And contending with that’s the nature of what we do.

As a Consultant, you have to look at contractions in recruitment markets – like a potential economic downturn, or any barrier to talent – as an opportunity to solve those problems for your clients.

But cold calling’s dead isn’t it? And winning business has never been more competitive. The rise of personal branding’s everything. Agree?

Think about recruitment four decades ago. 

Rolodexes and fax machines in the 80s. PSLs cropping up in the 90s. The advent of MSPs and RPOs. And now we’ve got fully embedded talent management solutions.

The humble agency’s been through a lot. And Recruiters have historically been quite sceptical of new technologies. First it was “job boards will be the death of us”. Next, it’ll be robots.

Currently, video interviewing’s saving a ton of time in the hiring process: 20 minute video interviews are replacing screening calls and some first stages. They significantly reduce issues with scheduling, allow hiring managers to watch videos in their own time, and revisit 50/50 candidate profiles.

Whether that’s a benefit or a hindrance is likely to become recruitment’s VAR debate.


There was a lot of talk about “Rec Tech” this year. And a lot of speculation on where we could be in the next decade or so.

Imagine, for instance, waking up tomorrow and your day plan’s automatically done for you.

Web crawlers have scoured the internet for vacancies while you sleep. So you get to your desk in the morning with a full list of names and numbers to call.

You’ve got automated email marketing, chatbots, and a CRM that logs and transcribes every conversation you have. How much more would you be billing with access to that kind of tech?

It’s not news that the technology already exists.

The image we have of recruitment in the near future is actually much, much closer. And currently, technology’s being used to free up the time you spend doing admin, so you can be on the phone more.

And when you are, how should you be approaching prospective new clients?

We all know cold calling’s vital to developing business. It’s just not the most effective way to do it.

Good luck pinning down any reliable stats to back this up but I’d say with confidence the vast majority (maybe 90%) of cold calls don’t work. A small percentage of the ones that do, get you a meeting. And an even smaller percentage lead to a deal being done.

So it’s not that cold calling doesn’t work. Just that there’s a huge amount of wasted time and effort in getting to your end goal.


Cold calling will never die, but it’s the opposite of smart working.

Your customers are more likely to google you now before deciding whether to take on your business.

Which means every touchpoint – your LinkedIn profile, company page, portfolio of video content, Instagram, Twitter, company website – needs to be engaging and, crucially, approachable.

Converting obliviousness to curiosity, and complacency to commitment. That’s how to position yourself to win business in 2019.

Find something that sparks interest. Because flogging jobs and candidates isn’t cutting it anymore.

You’ve got to add value before you send a CV. 

So it takes longer. The only real downside is you’ll need to reset your expectations as to how quickly a sales process moves.

Attracting the right person, or winning the right client, could take a month. It could take longer. But it’s unlikely to take a five minute phone call in this day and age.

Staple recruitment activities – cold calls, InMails, meetings – are effective, but limiting at scale. Simply put, there’s only so many people you can reach.

So why not have your market come to you?


Personal branding’s the best way to get yourself noticed. As Hishem Azzouz says “it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room” that counts.

“What do you want to be known for in your market? What don’t you want to be known for?”

If you’re stuck for ideas on what content to put out, take the insight your candidates and clients give you every day, and put those opinions back out to your market.

Ask a question. Start a discussion. Ruffle the odd feather. But get talking about the issues affecting your industry and its ability to hire. You’ll mark yourself as more of a specialist than you already are.

So rather than reinvent recruitment, the secret to personal branding’s simply about taking your offline reputation, online. 

And with the advent of new tech to do that comes a new way for businesses to interact with one another.


This year’s buzzword is ‘ecosystem’.

Multiple, individual businesses working harmoniously together. It’s giving a name to your extended network of competitors, partners, and service providers.

Using cutting edge tech, outsourced processes, consultancy services, and your bird’s eye view of the market to tell you which tools and services offer the most value to a recruitment process.

The goal’s to shape your own modern talent ecosystem. Inhabit the middle of it. And cherry pick the best services and tools to offer your clients.

To do this effectively, you have to be working in parity with them. Recognising, but not kowtowing to, the supplier side of your relationship.

You’ll need an in depth understanding of what their core problems actually are. Otherwise you’re just chucking flashing lights and buttons at them, which doesn’t add value.

I overheard an interesting parallel between recruiters and boxers. Specifically regarding the amount of time spent in the ring, and on the phone:

Even though that’s the only place you’ll get a win, you shouldn’t be in there all the time.

You’ve heard the quote about how if you had eight hours to chop down a tree, you’d spend the first six sharpening the saw?

The same principle applies in recruitment. Spend more time in the office doing your homework. Mapping your market. Reading articles. Scheduling content. Partnering with service providers that add value.

Then show that phone the time of its life.

Recruitment in 2019’s been about adaptability.

Inhabiting a more consultative role. Advising your clients on how to really attract the best candidates. Coaching them on diversity. Encouraging flexibility. Educating businesses on what they can be doing to make the most of the skills that are actually out there.

And then yeah, next year: robots.