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Specialist Recruitment – Invest in the Best or Budget for Brand?

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Its an interesting debate as to whether the general consensus in recruitment terms is always go big. If you are recruiting a Marketing Director/ Sales Director / Head of BD are most clients more comfortable in the knowledge that their role is in the hands of a big well known brand or a smaller niche specialist? The jury is out evident in the diversity of recruiters out there and the wide range of recruiters that clients engage for senior roles or indeed volume campaigns.

Recruiters are designed to manage the recruitment process from start to finish. The majority of Recruiters hold large databases of candidates and can advertise and undertake search projects on clients behalf. Advertising methods include both print and online mediums although the latter has become more common in recent years. The key to a recruiters use however is the quality of information that their database provides and the quality of the relationship the consultant has with those particular candidates. How able is a recruiter to maintain strong relationships with all of the candidates they register if they are receiving applications in the thousands on a daily basis. Arguably most major brands will maintain that they put this at the forefront of their consultants operations however candidate research begs to differ. Roughly 25% of the candidates one particular Professional Services niche firm registered had experienced poor service levels form major brands and had subsequently decided not to work with that particular firm again.

I spoke to a BD Director of a major law firm who maintained that the key deciding factor for them in finding the right people was working with someone who knew their business and their sector and was able to be consultative and advise them on the market as a specialist within their particular area. His concerns with a major brand was how much time will this individual dedicate to me when they have 20 other clients they are concurrently managing projects on behalf of. Another Marketing Director felt that a big Brand was imperative in attracting the right people, especially when recruiting at a senior level.

Large consultancies claim they provide a more cost-effective service through consolidated reporting, invoicing and overall charging the bigger the client, the greater the proportional savings and the better the quality of candidate they claim to attract. They also claim to have spending power to devote more investment to candidate attraction.

Smaller consultancies also claim that, while large consultancies may deliver to a large client’s overall branding and culture, they find the exact individuals for roles by a better understanding of niche markets, and in consistency of contact by having less staff turnover.

A resourcing manager at retail giant Blacks Leisure, says while her business uses large and small consultancies, its preference is for the latter as “we’re more likely to get that direct relationship with a smaller firm. You can hold a smaller one more to account”.

Its interesting when applying the same theory to animals, Generalist animals are those adapted to a wide range of environmental circumstances and food sources, while specialist animals are really good at one narrow thing they do. An example of a generalist would be mice, which can adapt to practically any environment and consume a variety of seeds, grains, and nuts. An example of specialist animals would be the koala, which lives in eucalyptus trees and exclusively consumes eucalyptus leaves, one of the only animals capable of doing so.

In general, generalist animals appear to be more successful than specialist animals, as they can take advantage of a wider range of circumstances. The downsides of generalism are stress and competition — because they compete in crowded biological niches, generalists have to elbow other generalists out of the way to survive on a fixed amount of nutrients. Meanwhile, specialists can pretty much enjoy their narrow niche without much competition. Possibly the specialist therefore has more time to dedicate to the quality of what they are doing. Whereas the generalist competes aggressively in a volume driven environment.

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