09 February 2010

Role specialisation - the new frontier for recruitment agencies to win

Role specialisation evolved slowly in the recruitment industry. The first significant step was separating temp and perm recruitment. Smart business owners realised these two aspects of recruitment required slightly different competencies and as a result the more process, detail and transaction-oriented people were better suited to perm and the faster paced, more emotional and relationship-focused people were better suited to temp.

The person who saw the biggest opportunity for specialisation within the recruitment agency world was Denis Waxman who took the specialist role of accounting recruiter and swiftly built a mass market accounting specialist recruitment business. That business, Accountancy Personnel, became the dominant specialist recruitment business in the UK and then, re-branded as Hays, Waxman took his hugely profitable business model into 24 countries. Even though Waxman retired in 2007 the mantra of specialisation (rebadged as ‘expertise') lives on through Waxman's successor, Alistair Cox.

The next evolution in specialisation was separating the functions of client-side work from candidate-side work.

The role of para-consultant or candidate resourcer started appearing in the 1990s. This occurred as recruitment company owners and managers realised that individual recruiters who were able to attract, build and retain high-fee generating clients were, to put it indelicately, ‘wasted' when they spent time interviewing candidates.

This demarcation did not necessarily suit some recruiters who liked their 360 degree role. TMP/Hudson Australia's Project Rose, undertaken a decade ago, was probably the most high profile (and less than spectacularly successful) attempt to implement a greater degree of role specialisation within a large multi-branch, multi-discipline recruitment organisation in this country.

The most recent evolution in role specialisation is still making its way through the recruitment industry. This specialisation is candidate sourcing, a quite distinct role shift from that of its cousin - the aforementioned para-consultant/candidate resourcer.

The most simplistic way to differentiate these roles is to describe a candidate sourcing role as overwhelmingly a pro-active one as distinct from a para-consulting role being predominantly a re-active one.

I now believe we are on the cusp of another huge market opportunity. The spoils available to those brave enough to break from the pack and create a new range of specialised roles within a recruitment team, will potentially gain a whole new level of productivity, credibility and profitability.

Here are 11 specialist roles I am prepared to argue a case for over 2010 - 2012:

Background checker is responsible for verifying every referred candidate's academic record, professional qualifications, right-to-work, employment history and job performance.
Why? Given how easy it is to falsify resumes and replicate official transcripts this role would be a huge point of difference for agencies in answering ‘why should we use you?'
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Copywriter would edit or write all ads, website copy, newsletters and other marketing material.
Why? Have you looked at recruitment advertising recently? Have you scoured a dozen or so recruitment company websites one after another? The general standard of copy in the recruitment world is mind-numbingly dull, unoriginal, error-strewn and predictable.
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CRM Manager is responsible for candidate and client service questionnaire delivery, return and collation, ensuring the status, billing history and specific service/contract requirements of each client are up to date, monitoring consultant compliance with company ATS/CRM system data input and compiling and reporting on company ‘league ladder' of client billing year-to-date and previous year/period comparisons.
Why? Most clients go elsewhere due to perceived indifference of their supplier or they get ‘lost' when consultants leave the company. One ‘saved' client per annum together with half a dozen disgruntled candidates won back, would easily justify this role.
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Events & Sponsorship Manager arranges client and candidate functions, books tickets to the theatre, sporting events and appropriate restaurants, identifies appropriate industry conferences, cocktail parties or other external networking events worth sponsoring and/or attending.
Why? More event and sponsorship possibilities are available than ever before. Twinned with more discerning, sought-after and niche candidate and client markets means specialist knowledge could easily mean the difference between success and failure when assessing the return from your annual entertainment/sponsorship spend.
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Media Monitor sets up Google News Alerts, scours specialist websites and trade or association journals, subscribes to client newsletters, collates relevant electronic media news and reads all major metropolitan daily newspapers.
Why? Organisations outsourcing, insourcing, starting up, closing down, down-sizing and expanding, all create opportunities for recruiters. Government policy announcements can mean substantial shifts in the demand for skills (eg ‘a computer on the desk of every Australian school student' creates enormous demand for more Level 1 help-desk skills) for which pro-active recruiters can take advantage of quickly.
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Programmer/Search Guru sets up Boolean search strings and is a master at using the World Wide Web to find candidate and client details that basic Google searches would never reveal.
Why? Finding a candidate that a competitor cannot find simply because you have high internet search skills available on demand, could easily make $25,000 fee X 12 months = $300k per annum difference.
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Job Analyst works with the client and the recruiter to build an accurate job description for every role and then correctly identifies the necessary key competencies for success in the role.
Why? Key selection criteria that lists competencies as distinct from non-competencies (eg age, gender, years of experience, country of birth, etc) significantly improves the pool of eligible candidates and dramatically increases the chances the candidate selected will be successful in the job.
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Videographer films ‘day-in-the-life' videos to promote the recruitment company as an employer of choice as well as being available to do the same for clients (for an additional fee), records video blogs and video resumes and co-ordinates the company's YouTube Channel or other video hosting account.
Why? Currently video is still a vastly under-utilised resource in the recruitment world. This provides a huge opportunity to gain a competitive advantage for those recruitment companies who work out how to best leverage this medium.
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Social Media Strategist is responsible for advising the company and individual recruiters on the most appropriate social media sites to use (eg LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc) and how to use them.
Why? Building a distinct company and personal brand within target communities requires specialist knowledge for both strategy and for tactics. Ill thought-out or fly-by-night efforts by clumsy or lazy recruiters stick out like the proverbial to regular members of online communities.
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Industry & Opposition Analyst reviews all public information about your competitors such as job ads, website content, social media presence, sponsorship, PSA/contract wins and losses with a view to identifying competitor strengths and weaknesses. They also monitor and review overall recruitment industry products, information and trends such as ATS/CRM products, job boards, trainers & speakers, legislative changes, court decisions, overseas trends, outsourcing/RPO providers and employment branding agencies.
Why? Ensures supplier purchases as well as strategic and tactical decisions are overwhelmingly proactive not reactive and are evidence-based rather than based on a single opinion or ‘gut feel'.
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Candidate Interview Coach ensures candidates are correctly briefed and fully prepared for every interview they attend. Role-plays, both over the phone and live, together with the use of interactive video technology and well written briefing documents ensure all learning styles are catered for.
Why? Knowing a certain fee has been snatched from you due to your candidate's underwhelming interview performance, is a sinking feeling no recruiter wants to have occur a second time. It's many times worse when you knew your candidate's interview skills were lacking and you ‘didn't get around to coaching them on what improvements to make.
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A tiny minority of recruitment companies employ people in some of these specific roles now. Others have two, or more, of these roles combined into one position. Others have some of these roles outsourced. However a vast majority of recruitment organisations still operate with their recruiters doing ‘everything' and see no reason to change.

History demonstrates that, in a vast majority of cases, increased productivity, job satisfaction and ultimately profits results from role specialisation.

Courageous specialisation or safe generalist- what's your choice?

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