the future of recruitment
Posted on 05 February 2020 In Uncategorised

The ‘Future of Recruitment for Agencies‘ was the theme of the latest conference hosted by Recruitment International. I joined a number of speakers from across the agency spectrum talking to around 60 businesses about upcoming trends and how they could best navigate the changing landscape.

My session covered what the large corporates were doing, how talent acquisition was changing, and what role there might be for agencies in the future. I wrote on a recent Broadbean blog about the the reasons for using recruitment agencies, and during this presentation I expanded on that.

Here’s an overview of what I said:


I started with a look at how the recruitment industry is performing now. Recent insight reports show an improving sector with confidence returning, even if the volumes are still below 2007/08. Total turnover value is almost back to pre-recession levels, with one difference. The perm/temp split has moved further towards the latter. In fact perm fees are down by nearly 45% from 07/08 whilst the number of consultants working solely on permanent business has reduced by a similar percentage. The average perm fee has also dropped, from £5,800 in 07/08 to £4,000 in 12/13.

I also used current Broadbean data on volumes of permanent job adverts over the last 18 months compared to those in January 2008. In most sectors we now have higher relative volumes (very high in the case of manufacturing and engineering) whilst the three sectors still lagging behind 08 were secretarial & admin, call centre & customer service, and recruitment consultancy!


It is often assumed that the growth of in-house recruitment teams, together with a proliferation of CV databases and the rise of LinkedIn, have combined to squeeze the recruitment agency out as a primary supplier.

Whilst this might be partially true, to look no further would be to miss certain key underlying trends that may erode business even faster, but can also throw some light on how to develop. The four main trends are:


Are we at a ‘talent tipping point’? There is certainly a belief that most companies are already connected to everyone they ever need for recruitment, and it is the identification of those connections that are key. Current employees, alumni, people who have previously applied for a role, customers, clients, suppliers, collaborators, social media fans – all have networks to leverage, and their networks have networks too. US research indicates that around 50% of roles are filled by internal moves, whilst a global business such as Sodexho can report up to 20% of recruits as re-hires. A ‘talent shortage’ is usually a ‘finding problem’ as we have the connections but need to find the best way to interpret and analyse the volume of data and interactions.

Candidates vs Applicants

First we need to make the distinction between them. Candidates have been matched to the role and are worthy of consideration. They now have a connection to us which we may need to utilise in future, as there could be a better fit for them at a later date. Applicants have applied for a role, and have no previous connection with the business. They are live until they have been matched to the role and are then either rejected or become a candidate. Most corporations are moving away from purely attracting applicants and instead are identifying candidates. One key differential is that the applicant relationship is short, whilst candidates have a much longer term relationship and it is they, not the hiring company, who effectively determined the length of relationship.

Sourcing not Resourcing

This follows on from the previous trend. Resourcing tends to identify volume, creating a long list of applicants who then will have to be assessed and measured against the role requirements and other potential candidates. Sourcing is much deeper and concerned with finding the candidates who match the requirements and can be considered for the role.

Employer Branding and Culture Matching

The corporates have an army of employees and customers to talk about how great they are, whether it’s on social media or in conversation. Employer branding didn’t start with the internet (there have always been iconic, aspirational brands and businesses), but they now have a much more visible platform and budget with which to showcase. Some large brands can attract over 2 million global applications a year, without even advertising a role, and we now have technology capable of identifying patterns in communication to help provide insight into personality and culture fit. Whilst smaller businesses don’t have the reach, they still have a pull and can fill many roles without external help.


Move up the Supply Chain

There is a danger that agencies could languish as a ‘supplier of last resort’…a channel alongside CV databases and LinkedIn. Cost effective when the role calls for a large volume of CVs to be attracted and sifted, but not the primary channel. To move to a ‘supplier of choice’ we need to be able to offer something that can’t easily be found elsewhere – something of value that helps the internal recruiter with their time/cost of hire metrics. We need to focus on finding candidates not applicants.

Expert Knowledge & Insight

Many in-house recruiters are generalists, whilst hiring managers can often lack current knowledge of the recruitment market. If we are true market, sector and skill specialists then we need to be able to offer that to clients. Be their eyes and ears in the market, with knowledge of trends, availability and perspective on particular niches. Talent mapping and insight reports could be part of the service, partnering with clients on the talent acquisition.

Extended Reach

Producing reports is only part of the answer. We need to be able to find the people that clients cannot, so will need consultants who are able to do this. Some talent is scarce, some skills unavailable, so we also need to be business advisors, able to provide alternative options to help clients find a way to solve their problem.

Content Marketing

Any research on workplace disruption will ultimately conclude that phone calls, emails and meetings are the three biggest distractions, costing a huge amount in productivity and efficiency. Yet how many agencies still rely on these three forms of communication? Many clients and hiring managers may drop calls and ignore emails so we need to find other ways to reach them. Using content to establish authority and thought leadership within our sector is a perfect way. Create a body of written and visual content that demonstrates our level of insight and perspective, knowledge of our niches, and it can also attract candidates looking to deal with someone who understands their market. Host some small client events, maybe roundtable discussions, and use the content to create a downloadable report. It could do more for you than endless cold calling!

Differentiate through Consultants

The need for differentiation can best be achieved through your consultants. The future recruiter will need a different set of skills to be really effective, as the role gradually evolves to incorporate a varied mix of duties – connector, networker, marketer, sourcer, business adviser and project manager. For a consultant to take time to understand and become an authority on their sector – incorporating the key people, major businesses, upcoming trends and right contacts – may well require a different mindset and behaviours, and most probably different reward schemes too.

Thoughts From Other Speakers

Amongst the other presentations at the event were ones from Steve Ward, founder of Cloud Nine Recruitment, and Belinda Jonhnson, director of industry analysis and research consultancy Worklab.

Steve talked about how he grew his niche recruitment business and embedded himself in a growing community. He talked of being the go to recruiter in your niche and how to understand the audience. His 10 point guide is on the slide below, and he left us with the thought that a great candidate experience is when you get recommendations from people you never placed.

Belinda gave us a very thought provoking insight into employment trends and the impact that these could have for the industry. She left us with two thoughts about the future of the industry which all agencies will need to consider:

  • If workers are increasingly rewarded on outcome, why should a recruitment agency continue to charge for the introduction?
  • Task oriented working eradicates the need for vetting, checking and validation, in which case what else can agencies charge for?

It will be interesting to see how recruitment agencies evolve and adapt to changing recruitment and employment trends.

Tell us what you think or if you have implemented any changes within your agency to make you An Agency For the Future!

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