Retained Recruiters Wait for the Right Wave

Believe it or not, I worked in recruitment for a few years before I started to write about it.

I hope that I am a better writer than I was a recruiter – recruiting is a damn tough job!

I had just come back from a stint opening a retail business in Russia for B&Q owner Kingfisher, and, having caught the start-up bug, I thought that I would help my newly-found Russian contacts to source some much needed (European) talent to supercharge their growth. At the time, this was very much in demand, so I managed to somehow ride out the 2008 recession.

Every single assignment that I took on was on a retained basis. I know that there are a lot of extremely proficient contingency operations out there, but personally speaking, I found the thought of contingency recruitment devastatingly depressing.

You try, you fail. You try again, and you fail again….

If you are fantastic, you might fill one out of three roles, but just the thought of working for no guaranteed reward takes a special type of person to be at peace with their place in life.

I definitely wasn’t that sort of person, and as the voracious demand for retailers subsided, I realised that my fragile ego couldn’t cope with the constant near misses.

Contingency recruiters, I salute you.

These days it is far simpler, I write a blog, and I get paid for it. Bliss.

I am currently writing this in the Stable restaurant on Fistral Beach in Cornwall. My kids and my wife are visiting my in-laws in Russia, and I am on my habitual “writing break.” There is no better feeling for a work-at-home Dad to get some thinking time to myself.

There is something about the ocean that I find fascinating – in particular when the swells are coming in from an Atlantic storm. There will be 16ft waves tomorrow, so it would be rude not to do a spot of surfing, but I digress….

The thing is that in surfing, you have to wait for the right swell to roll in, and then you have to wait for the right wave. You can, of course, try to ride every wave, but if you are not picky, it will often be the case that you miss the bigger one following a few minutes later.

For me, there is an interesting parallel with retained recruitment here.

Waiting for the perfect wave is an art. When you can pick and choose your projects, when you commit to helping a client, you know that you can do the job. Contingency recruiters might be flailing around, jumping on every wave in the hope that one of them turns out to be the ride of their lives, but the retained guys are happy to wait and pick their moments.

That is the sort of existence that I (personally) welcome.

I am in an interesting place with my writing business at the moment. I am nearly at capacity with ghostwriting clients, but as it is the start of the year, there are tonnes of people who want to “have a chat.” I am, of course, happy to talk with everyone, but I need to find a way of understanding which waves are worth riding. Who is in it for the long-term?

For the last four years, I have worked on a ten-blog rolling basis with my clients, but I am now changing things up. Now I am asking my clients to commit to 20 blogs at a time. At £150 per blog, that is a fair investment, but I am worth it.

Retained recruiters know that they are worth it too.

It will be interesting to see who wants to ride the bigger waves with me.

The recruitment market is slowly but surely turning towards an exclusive / retained model. Everyone will vehemently deny it, but as technology starts to do all of the admin, the recruiters who can add the “human” value will thrive. But they will only want to do it if they are guaranteed a return for their efforts.

It is somehow so much more satisfying waiting for those big waves.