Claire Trevien: You have over 17 years of experience in Executive Search, what’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in that time?
Doug Mackay: I started in the recruitment industry when the internet was still very young, LinkedIn did not exist and there was no opportunity for communicating with aspirational clients or sought candidates via social media or even emails. Online CV databases didn’t exist and, instead, agencies had huge paper based filing systems. In those days we had a landline phone and the Royal Mail to deliver letters and that was in the late 1990’s which really isn’t that long ago!
Recruitment was done either by proper proactive Headhunting (picking up the phone and approaching candidates) or by placing adverts in quite expensive “paper” media (Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times etc…).
The biggest change, therefore, has been the availability of the internet and the plethora of social media channels that have popped up providing all sorts of options for employers to raise awareness of their companies (Employer Branding) and the vacancies they have to fill. LinkedIn has also been a huge change in the industry and has increased the number of companies creating internal talent acquisition teams to fill roles themselves instead of using recruitment agencies. It has also increased the number of “lazy” recruiters who use it as a candidate database wrongly believing that everyone uses it.
The biggest impact of these is that, because there are so many available options, recruitment strategies need to invest in several to ensure all bases are covered.
CT: When people think of the recruitment sector, there can still be quite a negative perception. I know that this is something that Collingwood is keen to change, what advice would you give recruiters to alter this image?
DM: I was told early on in my career in the recruitment industry that there are apparently as many restaurants in the UK as there are Recruitment Agencies and I believe the figure 17 years ago was around 90,000! Our industry has no barriers to entry and overall doesn’t have the best reputation in the world for ethical behaviour. In business development I have met so many organisations that have had such a bad experience of recruiters and have also endured paying significant fees for no or very little customer service. It has always been a real bug bear of mine as Collingwood’s focus has been to develop long term partnering relationships with organisations that add real value and a measurable return on their investment.
Although we enjoyed significant growth every year through the recession, 18 months ago we sat down as a team and identified that we weren’t enjoying working with all the clients we had secured. Many of them had found us on the internet and approached us as their last resort to fill really difficult senior leadership or technically difficult roles. If the truth be known, they just wanted CVs forwarded to them and had no interest in engaging with Collingwood and developing a partnership for the future. The working week is far too long for it to just be about money and so we are really focused on identifying and building partnerships with clients who align to our values, really want all the value we provide through our Executive Search services and who we are passionate about helping to find a solution. As a result our customer experience has been enriched, we are delivering assignments 100% right first time and our market intelligence is helping our clients to strengthen their Employer Brand and differentiate themselves against their competitors.
My advice would be to invest time to understand the companies you would love to work with and take time to gain their trust before securing their investment in your services. Don’t be a transactional recruiter that measures your success based on the fees you generate.
CT: You’ve created nearly 80 pieces of content in under 3 months since using Passle, a number many people would be envious of! What’s your secret?
DM: We are really focused on personal learning and we find that whilst searching for great content to share with our audience, we are learning a huge amount about our specialist industries as well as areas that we want to improve around our own skills and knowledge. Passle has been a superb tool that has really reignited our teams’ passion for learning which has resulted in the high number of shared articles via Passle. The reminders sent by Passle if we have not achieved the number of articles we have committed to has also been motivating!
CT: Can any modern recruiter ignore social media entirely?
DM: In short, no. Social Media affects every aspect of a recruiter’s job and we really need to stay on top of it and understand all the new innovations being introduced on a daily basis. From Employer Branding and being aware what employees are saying about our clients before devising successful candidate attraction strategies through to social channels that will specialise in certain industries or certain disciplines. A deep understanding of social media is critical to recruiters.
CT: Finally, what are some of your favourite tools or tips for creating content and/or using social media?
DM: Since our inception in 2005, Collingwood has always been very focused on Digital Marketing for both raising our profile with aspirational clients and bringing them to us and for attracting sought candidates. In recent years our focus has been on creating great content, however, the team aren’t a natural bunch of writers and so our “Hero” blog posts have been few and far between.
Funny that this interview is with Passle but I must say the platform has been a revelation for Collingwood. We have suddenly been able to get every employee blogging relevant content to their audience and have also seen a significant rise in the number of contacts coming back to our website and engaging with us.
Pre-Passle I invested a lot of time on Flipboard to find relevant articles to share on my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. The major downside was that I wasn’t commenting on the articles I shared and didn’t give the reader an opportunity to come back to the Collingwood website. Passle is a real winner for us.