Ken Brotherston in Conversation (and On Screen!)

By Julia Briggs

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The recruitment world is absolutely fascinating - why the agency model has lasted so long given the huge changes in technology can seem mysterious (why has rightmove not spelt the death of estate agents either?).  As the technology pervades then new opportunities arise - and one of these is the 'aggregator' in its various forms. As someone who runs an 'agency' (albeit in an innovative form) and is on the small side (but perfectly formed), TheJobPost is a rather interesting opportunity.

So I recently interviewed their Chairman, Ken Brotherston, known to many of us in the recruitment and HR world. He has been in recruitment in various guises throughout his career, including President at Korn/Ferry and CEO at Kinsey Allen.  I went to see him recently to find out his views on the future of recruitment….. food for thought for us all.   And uncovered a rather cool secret shared as well…..


Julia: What does TheJobPost bring to a pretty crowded recruitment market?

Ken: These days most medium and large sized companies will have direct sourcing strategies and strong PSLs which will typically fill the majority of their professional level positions.  However, when these channels don’t work the employer has to identify other relevant recruiters, forge new relationships and negotiate new terms, all of which can take an enormous amount of time.

TheJobPost is a unique recruitment tool with pioneering technology that helps employers fill their vacancies faster, more efficiently and at lower cost. It does this by allowing an employer to access the whole recruitment supply chain using a single contract.

An employer sends through a brief for an active permanent role, which is then introduced to all the relevant agencies signed up with TheJobPost.  If they have relevant candidates, they pay a modest access fee (typically £100-£200) to submit CVs directly to the client. Only the first three agencies who engage on each role are allowed to submit CVs, ensuring that they are not one of many and ensuring that the employer isn’t inundated.  The successful agency will pay an admin fee of £200 on placement, which, given the average placement fee is £7000, is not high but does discourage time-wasting.

We are also launching a solution for interim assignments, where we will be handling all the contractor payments seamlessly for employer, candidate and recruiter.

So far the feedback from employers (who include Nestle, Next, Xchanging) has been hugely positive as they can access the whole recruitment supply chain with minimum hassle.  In fact, one client loves it so much they are thinking of transferring all their external recruitment to this model. It also means that line managers can engage with recruiters not on the PSL when they wish and yet still ensure that procurement and/or HR terms are automatically adhered to.

Agencies love it as we enable them to engage with the client directly. Given that the vast majority of recruitment firms have fewer than 20 people, TheJobPost facilities introduction to major employers that they would not be able to work with as part of a PSL.

J: A current hot topic, social media – what is the real impact on recruitment?  

K: The initial impact when the first job boards came on the scene some 16 years ago was that they ‘hoovered’ up a lot of easy-to-fill jobs and year-by-year there has been a relentless drive to move higher and higher up the value chain.  For recruiters (both in-house and external) who are not adding value to the recruitment process it’s akin to the frog in the pan that doesn’t notice the water is becoming increasingly hotter…..until it’s too late.

And although in-house recruiters are able to fill a wider range of roles more effectively than before (especially using social media), as the economy recovers they will need to work harder than ever to build up trust and credibility with candidates – just because everyone is visible doesn’t mean they are going to talk to you.

But technology will never fully replace the good recruiter;  changing jobs at any age is an emotional process and people are not ‘square pegs’ or ‘round holes’ and having someone in the middle to facilitate effective introductions to new employers can be very valuable to all concerned.

J: What advice would you give to client organisations to make them better at recruitment?

K: I would always encourage an HRD to have a small number of strong relationships with good recruiters and not be a fair weather friend.  So many say they want to develop a genuine partnership but then won’t commit the time and effort to enable this to happen.

J: What does the future look like for UK recruitment companies?

K: Just because you have survived the downturn does not mean you will survive the upturn.  Although most agree that the UK economy is recovering, there are a number of other factors that will be challenging:

- Most FTSE companies will grow much more rapidly outside of the UK rather than within it, so having a strategy for engaging effectively with SME’s will be more important than ever.

- Market expertise and knowledge - combined with strong relationships - will be the key differentiators. A model purely based on the ability to ‘run faster’ (beloved by many recruiters in the past) will be increasingly outdated.

- Most mid-sized recruitment companies are still over staffed in the UK and it is will feel counter intuitive to shrink in a growing market.

For those recruitment companies that have the right attributes and can stay true to their DNA there are still opportunities for growth and there is no doubt that there will be a resurgence in the ‘war for talent’ in a number of sectors and functions.

As to the challenge from procurement, most employers understand that procurement is more than just price. Don’t be afraid, as a provider, to say that you expect to make good money for providing a good service.

J: Finally, tell us a secret about yourself.

K: As the Chair of Mad Dog Casting, I managed to get cast as an extra in the James Bond Film, Skyfall.  You can see me walking past Javier Bardem!

This article also appears in the Interimity community.


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