Hi Dave here,
Today I am going to talk about a subject that has been close to my heart over a number of years, recruitment. If you’ve read my “About” page, you’ll know it’s a business that provided me with some notable highs and lows. It’s quite an incestuous business so I was surprised that, many years later, I came across two people who I would have expected to know…but didn’t.
It was a market I supplied for many years very successfully, as did Douglas Bates and Chris Mason of Intelligent People. Now, I got out of the market because I came to hate what it stood for and I knew I was “burnt out”. However, there were fundamental changes happening in the City market that were making it more difficult to do business.
The Intelligent People Story
Doug takes up the story.
“You’ll know yourself Dave, that HR departments were becoming “all powerful” in the City. This was quickly followed by the birth of the RPO model (Recruitment Process Outsourcing), and all of a sudden you could be “removed” from a supply situation just for talking to a line manager”.
Indeed, I remember this situation well. A good recruiter will always need a dialogue with the hiring manager, otherwise he or she is unable to provide exactly the right skills / soft skills set. If you don’t have a full briefing how can you possibly find the right person.
A Game Of Chance
Chris continues “It was rapidly becoming a game of chance, there was no skill, no relationship building and no contact with ultimate decision makers. We could see it in our figures. Our CV send to interview ratio quadrupled as more and more RPO companies took position in our client”.
Unlike myself, Doug and Chris decided recruitment was where they wanted to be, but knew they couldn;t survive as a boutique agency supplying IT to the City despite their considerable knowledge. Indeed, they very much backed up my own thoughts when Doug commented…
“It was like the RPO companies actually wanted to “dumb down” recruitment”.
They did just that, making it very difficult and far less profitable to supply into the Banks, unless you were the RPO company running the account!
So, ten years ago, they undertook a massive market assessment, looking for some specific traits.
Chris takes up the story. “IT to the City was becoming less and less worthwhile, so we knew we needed to change. We had some specifics we wanted in our new market. They were as follows:- The market needed to be growing, we wanted something with at least a technical bias, that had good salaries in order to maintain fee levels and finally we wanted a market where we knew decision maker contact would be allowed in most instances”.
“The search was detailed”, Doug recounts, “We left no stone unturned. However, the direct dealing with line management and a market growing into the future were the key factors”.
“Indeed”, added Chris, “in the end we came up with Digital Marketing, which at the time was in its infancy. If you go back ten years the Internet and Online Marketing were embryonic”.
Wow, that was a brave decision – going in to a market that was not anywhere near fully formed!
“Yes, it was somewhat” Chris nods. “We made a slow transition away from our IT clients. Indeed, in some cases we got referred through to the Digital Marketing teams which gave us a slight advantage. However, looking back, it was definitely a gamble to a large degree. We really didn’t know the market and we also didn’t have any idea that it would develop to be the huge market that it now is”.
Massive Change In Ten Years
Working in Digital Marketing myself I can confirm that in the last ten years there has been massive change and advancement in the market. Driven by technology we have seen huge strides in the way search algorithms work, massive improvements in eCommerce software and also an incredible increase in the sophistication of PPC platforms. All major components of digital marketing.
“The one thing making the chnage at that time did give us was an open market. I think we were really the first truly digital headhunter recruitment agency”, Doug says with some pride.
“In all honesty”, adds Chris, I don’t think anyone was doing eCommerce Director Recruitment or Head of Product recruitment at the time. But, these roles were not as defined as they are now, I guess. It was much more of a digital “mish-mash” at that time”.
“But, being an early adopter has given us a depth of experience in being a Digital Recruitment Agency that few can match. Chris and I have been working this market for ten years and we now have an intimate knowledge of the roles and how it all works. We have an extensive, historic database that is the envy of the market and we have managed some of our client’s careers for that ten years” says Doug.
“Indeed, and most of our team have worked in the Digital markets as well, so we do offer an unparalleled level of digital marketing experience”, concludes Chris.
It’s great to see people make a decision like this and make it work. It was a bold leap, but it has allowed Intelligent People to build a dominant position by being one of the first major players in the market.
If you want to check them out you can find the website at http://www.intelligentpeople.co.uk
Here’s Chris Mason demonstrating part of the unique Intelligent People appraoch.