The benefit of using a specialist recruiter vs a generalist

Simon RoderickHiring and recruitment process, Resources for hiring managers

Why use a recruiter?

Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure who coined the phrase that in a service business “your assets leave in the lift every evening and you hope that they come back in the morning”, but it’s a phrase I hear quite a lot when out and about in the City. It couldn’t be more true. In a market of few differentiators, your only real assets are your staff and therefore attracting high quality people is key to a successful businesses growth.

Over the last few years, a number of firms in the Wealth Management sector have included hiring experienced client facing staff as a key part of their growth strategy, but so few have really invested in it. Firstly, salaries and payouts to managers have been less attractive than in previous years with firms asking the individual to take more and more risk to move. They have also been less willing to invest in the services of headhunters, but in my opinion (and I appreciate that I am biased) it is one area that they should have invested more in, in order to really steal a march on their competitors. The approach of some seems to have been using a range of firms hoping that in casting the net wide that it will generate more candidates, but this approach is often misguided and can actually defeat what they are trying to achieve.

Firstly, most “true” contingent or generalist firms can’t get access to the right people. They don’t understand how to initially approach them, the right questions to ask in interview, but mostly they struggle to get in front of the candidates. Specialist recruiters have spent years and lots of money developing their networks. Helping an experienced individual or team move employer requires specialist market knowledge.

What are the main differences between a contingent recruiter and a specialist:

  1. Contingent recruiters set out to work with as many firms as possible – this limits the amount of firms they can headhunt from. Headhunters strictly limit how many firms they work with to ensure they have a large talent pool to search from.
  2. Agencies mostly rely on candidates approaching them via adverts. Headhunters use research and proactively headhunt people.
  3. Generalist recruiters send good candidates to as many firms as possible giving the client no exclusivity. Headhunters only send CVs to the firm that has engaged them and maintain that exclusive arrangement until the talks conclude.
  4. Agencies often focus on support roles and have limited front office recruitment experience.

Secondly, by working with a number of firms on an ad hoc basis firms really are leaving their recruitment to chance. Finding teams and experienced individuals needs to be managed in a structured and methodical way, and is best done by working closely with a specialist. This approach also allows the client more control over the message that is taken to the market place. Recruitment is also a form of marketing, and having multiple generalists speaking with candidates can do damage to the perception of a brand as an employer.

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