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Choosing a recruitment consultant

Recruitment is a competitive industry, and nowhere more so than in Singapore. Whenever we pitch for new businesses, the same question prevails – ‘How are you different from your competition?’

It’s valid question, particularly in an industry where we don’t have a unique product that we manufacture ourselves. At its core, recruitment consultants are people brokers and it’s our ability to identify the right talent and engage them in an opportunity that we’re measured on and to do this consistently.

In the not too distant past, probably only a few years ago, one of the key differentiators would be a recruitment firm’s database. Size mattered, as on the surface, a large database meant that you had access to a lot of candidates. However, what really mattered was the quality of that database and your ability to engage with the right people.

To be frank, nowadays with the emergence of social media (in particular LinkedIn), the rise of job boards and aggregators and their online databases, anyone can have a huge amount of resource at their fingertips. So what then is the differentiator?

In my experience, there are only 3 things that separate a good recruitment firm from an average or poor one;

  1. The ability to consult
  2. The ability to build relationships
  3. A commitment to quality

Yes, I know that virtually everyone in the recruitment industry is called a consultant. In my view, in the vast majority of cases, this is one of the most misused titles in any industry as the majority purely transact and don’t actually consult.

To consult, it means that you need to know your market in order to provide credible and objective advice. You need to understand your client or candidate, their market position, their opportunities and their challenges. You need to understand the specific requirements of the role , the person type and from there, the cultural fit. Only when you have this information can you begin to consult. You cannot truly do a good job solely from a job description or a CV. Your job is to consult which means honest, candid and frank feedback with the goal of finding the best possible talent or job opportunity for your client or candidate even if it’s sometimes not what they want to hear.

To consult, it means that you need to know your market in order to provide credible and objective advice.

Any person in the recruitment industry who is worth their salt has to be a relationship builder. This doesn’t mean having an extensive network on LinkedIn, but it means good old fashioned relationships. People that you know who are experienced and networked in the area you recruit, who will pick up the phone to you, who will refer you business and refer you clients because they also believe that you are in a position to help them and ultimately, they trust and like you. That is the meaning of a relationship- not just adding everyone that you think looks good through a social media channel. 

As a recruiter, your value to your client is getting access to the best possible talent and influencing them to consider the opportunity. Social media is making the recruitment industry lazy, and Linked In, more than any other channel, has highly effectively, turned what was meant to be a professional networking platform into the modern day directory of talent. On the one hand this is positive in that every person on LinkedIn can be found, on the other hand, it also means that every person is quickly being commoditised and can be hounded, and unfortunately there are many recruiters that use this as a transactional channel, not a means for building long lasting relationships.

The final critical aspect is a commitment to quality. At Ambition we have a central purpose, to build better futures and also talk a lot about ‘moments of truth’. These are the cornerstone of what we do, and that’s to understand and appreciate that every conversation and interaction we have can have a significant impact on our company and individual reputation, and we have to be committed to quality. In order to do this, it doesn’t just mean saying ‘Yes’ to everyone and every situation, but it does mean trying to do our very best in any engagement we enter into. We aren’t perfect and have learnt from mistakes that have been made, but having a consistent focus and purpose is important when we are engaging people and building relationships.

When you are choosing a firm think about the relationships they have in the market and keep in mind that relationships do not directly correlate to a large network.

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