In The Start Up of You by Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha (Crown Business, 2012) the real gold is in Chapter 7. The chapter opens thus:
A decade ago, Bill Gates wrote: 'The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition, the best way to put distance between you and the crowd, is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose'.
Those who saw Glen Cathey's presentation, The Moneyball approach to recruitment: Big Data = Big Changes at the Australian Talent Conference 2012 know exactly how right Bill Gates was/is with respect to information in recruitment. Glen spoke about the rapidly rising importance of Data Scientists in being able to collect, analyse and deliver actionable information.
In The Start Up of You, author Reid Hoffman offers his thoughts on the power of people within your network being an indispensable source of information;
'... because people offer private observations and impressions that would never appear in a public place ... People offer personalized, contextualized advice. Friends and acquaintances know your interests and can tailor their information and advice accordingly...People can filter information you get from other sources. People can tell you which books to read; which parts of the article are important; which search results to ignore; which people to trust or not trust. People help focus your attention on the intelligence that's actionable and relevant. In an age of information overload, this is an incredibly valuable benefit.'
In these few sentences, the man whose company's registered S-1 Statement (January 2011) contained the line, 'We believe our solutions are both more cost-effective and more efficient than traditional recruiting approaches, such as hiring third-party search firms, to identify and screen candidates', has articulated the best possible reason for the ongoing relevance and value of agency recruiters.
I'll demonstrate that by substituting the word 'recruiter' wherever the word 'people' appears in the sentence above, as follows:
' ... because recruiters offer private observations and impressions that would never appear in a public place ... Recruiters offer personalized, contextualized advice. Recruiters know your interests and can tailor their information and advice accordingly ... Recruiters can filter information you get from other sources. Recruiters can tell you which books to read; which parts of the article are important; which search results to ignore; which people to trust or not trust. Recruiters help focus your attention on the intelligence that's actionable and relevant. In an age of information overload, this is an incredibly valuable benefit.'
Further on in the chapter Hoffman goes on to say;
'The bigger advantage is gained by network literacy; knowing how to conceptualise, access and benefit from the information flowing through your social network.'
This sentence, in the context of the previous paragraph quoted from Hoffman's book, goes to the heart of where the profitable future of recruitment agency recruiters lies. I'll explain.
Agency recruiters have access to a vast, constant and unique flow of relevant and valuable information through their everyday interactions with clients, prospects, candidates and colleagues. This information is generated from reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, telephone prospecting, reviewing the internal database, searching online for information about candidates and organisations, meeting with prospects and clients, and so on.
As a disorganised, unanalysed whole, this information has little commercial value however if it is segmented, evaluated and communicated to an interested audience it takes on a very different value.
Although I am no longer an active recruiter, my approach to differentiating myself in my market, utilises precisely this approach to data.
In my job as a coach, trainer and speaker, I come across a whole range of information about effective and ineffective recruitment practices used by agencies, internal recruiters and RPOs, all over the world.
I have a very deliberate approach to capturing that information, evaluating it and disseminating it out in a form that is interesting, relevant and useful to my target audience. It's called the RossClennett.com blog, and you're reading a piece of it now.
I benefit from having a big network (blog readers, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, clients, prospects, friends etc) from which I gather raw data and that same network benefits when I provide the processed data back to them in newsletter/blog form.
There are plenty of coaches, trainers and speakers in the Australian marketplace. I don't want to compete on price, which I would have to do if I wasn't able to clearly differentiate myself from my many competitors.
I use information in a way that (I hope) creates a niche in the market for trainers, speakers and coaches that is solely occupied by me.
Agency recruiters have exactly the same opportunity available to them - the opportunity to create a place in the market for recruiters in their niche that is occupied by them alone.
But this doesn't happen by accident. It happens because there is a clear and consistent approach to gathering, analysing and disseminating relevant information. This dissemination can occur in any number of ways, the most common being;
a) At prospect/client meetings
b) At interviews
c) Through newsletters/blogs
d) At boardroom lunches/select client briefings
e) Through salary surveys or market reports
If you are not gathering, managing, and using the unique information you have access to then you are letting a genuine market differentiator go to waste.
How network literate are you?