For anyone who has decided to look actively for a new position through the recruitment agency or consultancy channel, they would understand many of the advantages, pitfalls and frustrations that come with the territory. It can be tough work!
The industry is challenged by a lack of regulation and a low cost of entry, meaning anybody with a phone, laptop and a LinkedIn license can get started pretty quickly. No experience is required, although ‘time in market’ tends to differentiate the good from the rest.
The result of these conditions has led to a very high volume of recruitment shops opening up all over the place. Typically the frustrations of management, targets and commission-led living drive those with the nerve to do it themselves, to jump ship. What’s the difference, they say; they will still live a life filling job after job, but perhaps it is better to do it under their own business.
If you search Google for “accounting recruiters in Sydney” you will find 17 different recruitment firms listed on the first two pages, and this is only scratching the surface.
While the low cost to entry persists, the fragmentation of the recruitment industry will continue across the world. Small boutique recruiters will continue to leverage their relationships and knowledge with a small number of staff, while the larger houses continue to train and develop the inexperienced.
So what does this mean to the accounting and finance professional who needs to navigate through the hundreds of options?
Let’s face it – if you are currently working in a job and based in Sydney, it would be difficult to spend time meeting with and speaking with all 17 recruitment companies on Google in an effort to maximise your chances of finding the right job. Equally, you certainly can’t guarantee that a Google ranking is a reflection of the quality of the company or the nature of work they manage.
How do you navigate through the mess to find the right recruitment consultants to work with in any market?
The first question to answer is, who is right for you?
- What types of organisations are you targeting?
- At what level of the organisation do you expect to join?
- Is your skill set ‘niche’?
- Where do you see your career evolving?
The answers to these questions will help you distinguish the type of recruiters you need to partner with.
Let's explore an example to show how to find the right recruiters to help find your next role.
Imagine you are a management accountant with experience in the media industry. You plan to maintain a career in this sector and are targeting a role that will allow you to manage staff, but probably maintain most of your existing skill set. You are ambitious and see yourself as a CFO in the future. Your skill set is currently not ‘niche’, in that you have some experience across a broad range of areas (management reporting, budget management, forecasting, management of month end procedures, some experience with tax).
A) Which recruiters do I want to find?
In this example, you want to find recruiters that:
- know the media sector
- know CFOs in the media space, and have actively recruited positions for them in the past
- recruit positions that are at the level you are targeting (management accountant or finance manager), and are heading toward CFO level
- are unlikely to be a specialist in a very niche area (such as those that focus on functional specialisations like tax, payroll, audit and risk), but will probably specialise in media or the accounting and finance space.
B) Diluting the selection of recruiters
In this process, you are aiming to reverse engineer the outcome you are trying to achieve. In this example, you would examine:
- Who is your current organisation using to recruit (given you are in the media space) and are they specialists in media?
- Who has placed your peers or any of your team into the business? (they will know your business and presumably your competitors)
- Which recruiters are advertising work in this space?
- Who has placed roles in the sector at a layer or two above your role? For example, the recruiter who has placed your manager will most likely have a credible relationship with the company
- Can you be recommended/ referred to a credible recruiter by someone you trust (and someone that has a good reputation with the recruiter)?
This process will narrow down your list very quickly, but there are points to watch out for.
WATCH OUT FOR....
Recruiters love to use the term ‘relationship’. They all have a relationship with someone, but what does this really mean?
A true relationship in the recruitment space is defined by a consultant who manages and completes a recruitment service with a person or company as a starting point. At least, that's the relationship that matters. There are many ‘nice’ people out there that are happy to maintain relationships with recruitment companies for their own benefit, but the proof of the relationship is in whom they select to manage their recruitment processes.
Always assume the truth of the relationship to be in the result. Who did they place and what knowledge of the organisation does this provide?
The other challenge evident in the recruitment agency space is the ‘hot air’ that is spat out in interviews and meetings on a daily basis.
“We can place you at X company – we do all of their work! We can introduce you to all of our contacts – which ones are you interested in?”
Beware the sale!
The best recruiters that are usually trusted by their clients tend to have a balanced and honest perspective on how you can work together. They know what doors they can really open, and which doors are less likely.
They also take a genuine interest in understanding you. Granted, there are recruiters who could know nothing about you but do some good word matching and introduce you to the perfect recruitment process, however understanding you, your plans, the value you can add and where it can be more effectively used, will allow a smart recruiter to make an educated decision and give you a better result.
While the recruiter with the best job might be the winner in your eyes, the honest recruiter with a passion for your achievement will be the one that will serve you best in the long term.
Sadly, a recruiter with a ‘hoppy’ career is usually in that place for a reason. Sometimes they have had a bad run with a couple of average employers, but the common feature is that they are underperforming and under pressure due to their ‘billing’ performance.
Most recruitment companies are driving by incentives reflected on recruitment output alone, so the behaviours you see on their LinkedIn profile can tell a story.
Look for recruiters that have managed to maintain a sustained career and are invested in the space that you work in. At early stages of your career in the accounting and finance space, this can be a little more difficult, as the recruiters that focus on this career level usually develop relationships with their market in time (thus recruit at more senior levels in the future).
There is a great deal to be said about working with a recruiter you like. It is a very practical strategy. The reason you like them is usually a balance between trusting them and appreciating the way they communicate with you.
If you like working with a recruiter and you can see they have credibility, then invest time into the relationship. It is likely the feeling is mutual and they will represent you to potential employers in a more positive way, and attempt to find the best outcome for you as a matter of respect.
Sometimes recruiters are hard to like, but try to work with those you do.
The Caveat - Take a long term view
Unfortunately there are hundreds of recruiters operating in any market at any given time. Even when there is a recruiter that seems to have a good thing going in a niche, the competition will soon sniff their success out and want a piece of the action. As a result, you need to use your instincts and take a longer term view on your career and these relationships.
Allow relationships to develop. Plan ahead and avoid being reactive when you can, to put yourself in a position of control. Even recruiters with a great track record and the experience to deliver may make mistakes or simply not meet your expectations. Appreciating that finding the next role is not always straight forward and tempering your expectations is important.
The recruitment industry is a channel that you should manage if you take your career seriously, and whilst there are numerous pot-holes to avoid, know that there are many that have gone before you and partnered with recruiters to achieve great results.
Good luck and watch out for snakes...