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This article originally appeared in ShortList on 1 September, 9.51am


Growth in online sourcing could see mid-market recruiters take aim at executive search territory


Online candidate sourcing techniques are increasingly being used by recruiters at varying levels, a trend that could help mid-level agencies to muscle in on the territory of the traditional executive search firms, says recruitment trainer and expert Ross Clennett.

Clennett, a presenter at the recent ATC Sourcing Conference in Melbourne, told
Shortlist that as deep internet candidate search methods became more widespread, a gap was opening up in the market for savvy middle market recruiters.

The techniques, which were outlined by another speaker at the conference, US sourcer Glen Cathey, are based on Boolean search terminology, but take the concept further.

"The search firms have traditionally charged a premium - 22% to 35% - for senior jobs, because they employ people to do research which takes a lot of time, and so the price reflects that resource," Clennett said.

Once a recruiter acquired the skills, he said, either through a workshop, books or information freely available on the internet, there was no further cost.

"Once you've learned how to do it, then off you go."

This would put increasing pressure on the pricing models of traditional search firms, Clennett predicted.

"You've now got middle market recruiters who can do internet sourcing and can confidently pitch to the decision-makers of the traditional search-type roles. Those middle market recruiters could lift their fees from 15% to 20%, which is typical for middle market roles, up to 23% to 25% - which is still lower than traditional search firms, but they could potentially do just as good a job."


Executive search firms still hold a key advantage


Clennett noted that the people who made decisions about executive hires were usually the types of senior managers earning $400k and above.

"The genuine search recruiters are people who tend to mix in the same social circles and old school networks and golf clubs as those decision-makers.

"The question is, can the middle market recruiters actually get to meet those people, and put a compelling pitch to them?"

For those agencies that could, he said, the emerging discipline of deep internet search would provide a chance to "set their sights on a market they wouldn't have been able to get into in the past".


You can't just be a "pointy head"


No amount of internet sourcing could replace the broad market knowledge that a recruiter developed over years of specialising in a particular niche, Clennett said.

In order to exploit sourcing techniques to their full potential, the recruiter had to know a lot about the types of skills they were looking for, the different ways they might be expressed and how various keywords might be linked to each other, as well as companies that candidates might have worked for.

"You can't just be a pointy head, and only good at pointy head stuff," Clennett said.

Fortunately, he said, it was probably easier for a good recruiter to learn advanced online sourcing, "than for a really good technical person to learn about your market space".