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Wheel of Function!


by Anita Caldwell

Retained Recruiters – Generalists, Specialists, or your company dictates?

When you choose to take on an external retained search or selection route, what type of ‘specialist’ or ‘generalist’ do you choose?

You may answer, that it’s easy, you go to ‘your preferred supplier’, or the ‘same’ recruiter who has known you or your business for years, or you have no choice but to use your PSL Master Vendor or your internal resourcing team for every role as it is ‘cutting costs’!.......really?

Or if you are in the lucky position of having the freedom and autonomy to consider which route or consultancy you can use, to acquire top talent for your team…….perhaps, think of the ideal………? …That every campaign or piece of work that you give to a recruiter, is tackled from ‘afresh’ from a clean sheet, and the work is delivered and completed with passion as if it is the first time the consultant is proving themselves to you and your business, even if a long-term contact? (…And the person briefed will be the hands-on person actually doing the work for you …not the front-facing salesperson only!) I believe choosing a consultant with the understanding and a passion to understand your actual need, plus your overall business needs, is key.

I’m not advocating by any means, that a company ditches their trusted supplier, or should assess new suppliers each time they are recruiting! I know the benefits of a long-term, effective partnership are obviously the ‘icing on the cake’ for any company or recruiting manager, if your recruiters are consistently delivering you excellent people within your functional team or wider company.

Having working experience of both sides of the ‘functional specialist’ or ‘generalist’ debate during my 30+ years career, I understand the different benefits to a client of alternative styles of recruitment approaches…and it goes much deeper than being capable of delivering a good candidate to you. No functional role is isolated, or silo’d (or shouldn’t be, hopefully!) from the overall business needs and wider cross-functional teams, so if you do choose a pure functional specialist recruiter, they should demonstrate their gravitas and wider-focus by questioning you about strategic, commercial and wider company operational reality too.

Within any external recruitment process it is obviously essential that all functional and hard factual requirements are grasped and met in the short listed candidates, besides overall cultural fit to the functional team and business. But these points are what ‘any good’ recruiter should be able to assess for you (whether generalist or specialist) from understanding your brief, from reading CVs, screening and assessing candidates at interview and having the emotional competence or ‘nous’ to be able to assess a match to your functional team fit and overall culture. It often ends there though and a position isn’t concluded, because the consultant hasn’t matched all of those needs to their shortlisted people, and even more critically assessed if the person will actually accept the offer of your role when it comes to the crunch, regarding expectations, real motivations and in comparison to their current situation. Besides also needing the ability to act as your company’s advocate in the market, and to actually be capable of ‘selling’ your role, company and opportunity to the highest calibre candidates, (there’s more than meets the eye! A 360-degree consultant needs to be able to sell to people and deliver!) 

But the difference, the USPs of a good supplier in my opinion, is deeper than even all those essential needs. There are layers deeper of why a retained campaign is successful or not.

And fundamentally it is about the scope, freedom and ability a consultant has within their ‘arena’ to search ‘beyond the obvious’, to be able to dig deeper to source ‘unique’ candidates; to find and attract the best candidates and ensure their genuine interest in your role…to understand how to research more deeply and be able to successfully find people in different avenues, in new arena’s linked to the particular functional or your technical market needs.…not to just go back to ‘fish in the same pond’ or give up when their database or network does not deliver any candidates for them easily. (This ability to ‘search’ deeper, equally applies if you are using a functional specialist or generalist it is dependent on the consultant’s own abilities and experiences, and importantly, how limited or restricted they are to act within timescales and the techniques or actual processes advocated to be used by their own company!)

Just food for thought – I have enjoyed working for RMG – I have found RMG's approach to be uniquely different as we are both ‘sector specialists and search (headhunting) generalists’. Our work is stimulating as we offer full circle functional expertise and in depth sector knowledge. We have the flexibility to use our proven processes to search deeply into appropriate markets (either functional or sector focused) and have the experience to search from afresh for each campaign we undertake. We are not looking for high volume work and to help with ‘every’ role our client needs to recruit, far from it. We seek to work in a dedicated way with our clients when our specialist ‘search’ ability is needed to source high calibre candidates (across any functional discipline) for key management roles or maybe ‘difficult roles’ that our clients have been unable to fill to date.

If you are about to start a recruitment process to appoint a key person, why not talk to us first, we will always be happy to initially meet to discuss your needs and offer our advice on our best recommended 'recruitment approach' solution, in case you wish to take advantage of this.


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