The SME market is your market, recruiters told

Source: Shortlist
Rather than chasing business with big employers who give out less and less work to agencies, recruiters should sharpen their focus on SME customers, according to a panel of recruitment leaders from the big players.

Speaking at the RHUB New Zealand conference last week, Air New Zealand head of recruitment Keith Muirhead said that 10 years ago about 50% of the airline’s roles went out to agencies, and now that figure was less than 3% and “ever diminishing”.

He pointed out that those 3% of roles had already proven extremely difficult to find, “so the ones the agencies are getting are kind of rubbish anyway”. Muirhead (who has had stints at TMP Worldwide and Adcorp, and was head of Trade Me Jobs before joining Air NZ in 2010) said the question needed to be asked, “do agencies see a future with corporates, as their in-house models reach a state of maturity?”

He said he believed that “from an agency perspective, the SME market is increasingly your market”. Auckland University HR solutions and recruitment manager Alan Ward said SME clients were “easier” for agencies to work with, put up fewer barriers, and allowed consultants to “engage with lead decision-makers”.

He said agencies should be asking whether they were “branding themselves correctly” to target SME customers.

So what can recruiters still do for the big companies?
Fulton Hogan national talent development manager Matt Pontin said agencies targeting the big end of town should focus on up-to-the-minute knowledge of candidate markets.

(Like Air NZ, Fulton Hogan is currently sitting on 3% of recruitment volume passed out to agencies.)

“What you do, we pretty much do. You advertise, we advertise; you source, we source.

“But what we don’t really have a lot of time to do is market mapping. We try, but we’ve got other bits and pieces to get on with all day long… succession planning and mobility of talent, designing assessment centres, leadership development, looking at competencies. All those sorts of wider HR things that are sometimes boring, but very important,” Pontin said.

“So we don’t really have that in-the-market knowledge that we would like to have – but you guys are in the market 100% of the time.”

Muirhead agreed that deep market knowledge was attractive to Air NZ.

He added that, “the thing I value in the [external] relationships that I’ve got is the crusty old recruiters around the place, who’ve been in the market for 20 years… who’ll look at my shortlist and say, ‘Chuck those [names] off, put those on.’

“I think that’s the thing in-house can never replicate.”

Bank of New Zealand talent acquisition manager Victoria Hayward said diversity recruitment was another area the agency sector should be taking seriously, as pressure increased on employers to change their workforces to more accurately reflect society.

“There’s a niche in there to tackle, not just around ethnicity but also gender diversity.”

Sourcing the top priority
Hayward said BNZ (which is owned by National Australia Bank) had been reinvesting in its recruitment function over the past 18 months, with a strong focus on building up internal sourcing capability.

She said following “some significant cutbacks” to the in-house team after the GFC, the bank had been running “a highly transactional, low cost low touch model”, but this was now changing.

“It’s about getting a lot smarter with using the resources we have at our fingertips.

“We have a huge recruitment database which historically we haven’t done very much with, and we have 20,000 unique candidate applications a year. So there’s lots of talent in our midst.”

Hayward said the bank was becoming “more clever around how we reach out to [the talent in the database], thinking about target roles we want to be building talent pools for, and how we recruit for specific roles”.

And Air NZ’s Muirhead added that for a large, attractive employer such as the airline, particularly one whose candidates were its customers, a lot of sourcing was about getting “fewer, better candidates”.

“In the last month we had 35,000 applications. And what we don’t want is 15,000 to 30,000 candidates whose only experience with Air New Zealand is: ‘Sorry we don’t want you to work for us’.”

He said he didn’t want his team spending their time giving constructive feedback to unsuccessful jobseekers – “I want them to be sourcing”.

Social media was big part of the airline’s strategy, he said, including a LinkedIn careers page, a YouTube channel, and Facebook and Twitter presences.

He said the long-term objective was to build “an organisational skillset” based around developing connections, networks and communities of talent, that was shared by everyone in the company, not just the in-house recruitment team.