Retain, reach out and recruit
Why forward-thinking employers are turning to retained recruitment models to secure the brightest tech sales and marketing talent
Channel sales and marketing professionals have rarely enjoyed such a prolonged and intense battle for their talents. Good people can expect to land a lucrative new position within less than a fortnight of starting to look around.
Employers who are anxious to not miss out on the best people need to be quick off the mark to secure a candidate’s interest. They then must maintain the pace throughout the process, right through to offer acceptance.
It’s because of this that more employers are switching from no-placement-no-fee contingency recruitment to retained models, featuring a part-upfront fee and a host of built-in added-value services.
A first-choice option: evidence that speaks for itself
Retained recruitment isn’t new. But for many years, it’s largely been the preserve of executive search firms managing one-off boardroom appointments. Today, it’s the first-choice option for an increasing number of tech companies, right across their channel sales and marketing teams, often regardless of seniority.
Charlotte Hallam, sales director at specialist IT sales and marketing recruiter Robertson Sumner, says, ’Whether they’re replacing leavers or creating brand new roles, employers want to have confidence they’re accessing the widest possible talent pool. Retained recruitment gives them that peace of mind.’
The evidence speaks for itself. ’We’ve found that the average success rate for retained assignments is 98 percent,’ says Hallam. ‘For contingency recruitment, that rate drops to less than one in five, or 20%’
Covering all the bases: extend the reach, widen the appeal
While each recruiter-employer relationship is unique, the retained model might typically include:
- Priority consulting and search time, with a dedicated consultant assigned to coordinate the entire process from initial screening through to start date
- Market reviews and competitor analysis to assess the likely availability of candidates with the required skills and characteristics
- Database searches and marketing to ’passive’ candidates (such as those on LinkedIn who meet the criteria and might welcome being sounded out), as well as strategic targeted searches, approaching specific individuals whose track records and reputations make them hot commodities elsewhere in the channel or market sector
- Targeted advertising and associated marketing materials
- Initial screening of all candidates against objective criteria
- Bespoke psychometric testing to identify character traits, motivations and fears, sales style and management style, and to pinpoint issues that merit exploring at second interviews
- Detailed shortlists with supporting commentaries
- Verification of salaries, bonuses and performance of top candidates, and verbal reference checking (at offer stage)
The combination of value-add extras and a part-upfront fee invariably produces faster, better results. ’Retained recruitment removes the race-to-place factor that can compromise the effectiveness of multi-agency contingency-based hiring,’ says Hallam.
A case in point: Robertson Sumner and Jabra
But it’s not just about tactics. The success of any retained recruitment partnership relies on a deep understanding of the hiring organisation’s employer brand, business objectives and working culture.
Take Jabra, the headset vendor. Nigel Dunn, managing director for the company’s UK and Ireland business, says, ’Retained recruitment allows both parties to work in partnership to get the right people not just for the role in question but to suit the company culture and ethos. That can’t help but result in saving both time and money.’
’We’ve developed a recruitment model with Robertson Sumner that mirrors the processes I would use myself to find and assess candidates. It means I can trust their candidates to be second-interview calibre or better. There are no hit-and-miss CVs.’
Thinking alike: judgement and insight
That value extends to knowing when to look beyond the traditional confines of a job or person specification. For instance, it’s too easy for a novice recruiter or someone whose unfamiliar with the preferences of individual line managers to assume only sector-specific candidates will be considered. But Dunn – who has made a number of successful senior appointments in his corporate account management and channel marketing teams over the last year – prefers a more open-minded approach.
’Sector knowledge is important,’ he says. ’But for me, what’s paramount is that candidates really know their stuff. I smile if I see firms recruiting only people with sector-specific experience, when it’s attitude and sales experience that really determine success. For Jabra, using the retained service has not just brought us the best candidates; it has by extension helped fuel our growth and win more business.’
Hallam says retained clients rely on recruiters exercising a degree of judgement that only comes when enormous trust has been earned. ’They don’t have time to repeatedly justify or explain each time a new role arises,’ she explains. ’We’re always keen to impress on clients that they can’t afford to hang around when good people respond positively to the approaches we make on their behalf. Retained recruitment cuts out a significant proportion of time from the overall hiring process, leaving clients well-placed to steal a march on their competitors.’
Mitigate risk: counting the cost of unfilled vacancies and wrong hiring decisions
As competition for IT spend intensifies amid wider economic uncertainty, plugging gaps in sales teams is taking on a greater urgency. And the risks associated with bringing the wrong people on board can’t be underestimated.
’Ultimately, bad recruitment is the biggest hidden cost to tech sector organisations,’ says Dunn. ’It represents wasted opportunity and can mean considerable damage to the business.’
Hallam says retained recruitment mitigates those risks. ’Migrating from the familiarity of contingency-based hiring is a big commitment to make, and often needs a change in mindset as much as in long-term planning and day-to-day practicalities. But after being walked through the process, the question many of my clients end up asking themselves isn’t whether they can afford to make that shift – it’s whether they can afford not to. For many, it’s an investment made with the bottom line very much in mind.’
Dunn believes the retained model represents the future of tech talent attraction. ’To my mind, contingency recruitment is something you could pay an intern to do,’ he says. ’As a favoured recruitment strategy, I don’t see it lasting more than a few more years, at least in technology-led industries.’
And he concludes: ’Retained recruitment helps me not just to find candidates who match a job or person specification – but people who become great employees. It’s a key difference.’
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