The retention approach to executive search

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Over the last 10 years there has been an undeniable and marked shift in recruitment. The rise of technology has brought about a quiet revolution in the jobs market, with the digital space now beginning to dominate executive search.

Recruiters themselves are also adapting to the way technology itself is changing market conditions: where once a recruiter might take the rather untargeted approach of placing ads on online jobs boards, the emergence of professional social networks like LinkedIn and a growing tendency of clients to in-house their hiring function have forced recruiters to become smarter and more agile in the way they approach their clients.

“The days where the starting gun goes off and we all rush in to beat the competition to find a candidate are, for me, over,” explains Nicki Denholm, Chief Executive of Edinburgh-based marketing search specialists Denholm Associates.

“The old scattergun techniques are no longer fit for purpose. You could argue there is still a role for it but there has definitely been a squeeze, and we’ve largely withdrawn from that model; things like LinkedIn, in particular, have been a game-changer so companies like ours have to demonstrate that we know the candidates better than anyone. You can easily send a message randomly to someone you might want to target on LinkedIn, but if they’ve never heard of you, and with many other organisations doing the same, especially in the competitive digital market, where is the leading edge? I think it’s far better to create a relationship with that person.”

In that sense Denholm Associates thinks it has hit upon the perfect solution. With its BrandBox tool – a resource which allows companies to create their own profiles on the recruiter’s website – candidates registered through the site are matched to clients looking to hire. And when the who are either ‘near misses’ or ‘ones for the future’ can opt into continued contact with the organisation, which allows the company access to a permanent, expanding talent resource as more and more people join.

“The digital market, particularly in Edinburgh, is very heavily fished and I think anything we can do as a recruiter to enhance the experience for firms hiring and the candidates is all the better,” says Denholm.

“With BrandBox we are applying consumer marketing techniques to the candidate market, creating a nice eco-system or ‘talent community’ who are engaged and warmed up about that company by the time we send out information on them. So yes, there’s a place for LinkedIn but we are a specialist in executive search, which can source the kind of candidates companies are struggling to find. Those candidates still need to be sold by someone who has a specialist, and therefore credible, voice in the sector.”

The emphasIs on selling is perhaps one that organisations looking to hire might often struggle to understand expectations rise towards and above the six-figure mark. A candidate with the right skills for a Head of Digital Marketing role in an established Scottish business, or even a fast-growing tech startup, might not necessarily be located in Scotland. They need to be identified from a global talent pool, and then persuaded to move to Scotland.

“We are doing well with digitally native technology firms in Scotland, but we also need to improve candidate perceptions about opportunities here,” Denholm adds.

“Although there may be fewer companies for a digital candidate to choose from than say in London or Los Angeles there are a grow-ing range of exciting vacancies in digital marketing, and tech generally, amongst clients like Skyscanner, Blonde, Tesco Bank, Standard Life, DigitasLBi and many others.  But amongst candidates from down south and beyond there may still be a perception that, ‘There’s not many companies doing what I’m doing in Scotland. What happens if I relocate and it doesn’t work out? I’ll be left high and dry’.

“We have to address that and make candidates aware of the exciting developments happening in places like Edinburgh, which has become something of a case study for Scot-land for tech companies, but it’s very dangerous to assume anyone south of Sheffield is even vaguely aware of it.”

For Denholm, the emphasis more and more has become about not just the salary bracket, but the wider ecology of a place. The lifestyle options in Scotland, the proximity to the Highlands, the startups themselves being a conduit for new learning, are all points that a recruiter should be trying to get across to candidates considering roles north of the border.

“Lifestyle aspects are featuring much higher than they previously did,” she says. “People want to live and learn in a nice environment with access to the mountains, fresh air and golf courses. These are the things that people increasingly want when they look for a new opportunity – companies need to be much better at getting that across as well as the details of the vacancy and the positive aspects of their brand.”

Find out more at Denholm Associates


DENHOLM BRANDBOX

Among organisations to use BrandBox are VisitScotland and Maxxium, which won last year’s Employer Brand of the Year at the Marketing Society Awards.

Companies who sign up (it comes as part of the fee charged by Denholm Associates) get control of their own web page hosted on DA’s site, which acts as a information portal for potential recruits. Users who apply for roles at that organiSation then become part of a ‘talent pool’ attached to that company, and if not successful on the first occasion can be retained for future roles that they might be suit-able for.

The web user stats for the service prove engagement levels to be high with open rates on BrandBox email up-dates – announcing a new marketing campaign or brand launch to interest potential candidates – at 90%.

Denholm Associates is increasingly active in the digital market and has recruited for executive roles including: Head of Digital Marketing, Head of Digital Strategy, Digital Account Director, SEO Content Specialists and Social Media Managers.