I interviewed Christopher Slay who discussed Succeeding with Recruitment in the Digital Age.







Today we're speaking with Christopher Slay, and the topic is Succeeding with Recruitment in the Digital Age. And Christopher is a Managing Director at Skills Provision. It's great to speak with you today, Christopher. Can you first provide a brief background of yourself?



Well, my background isn't recruitment. I spent 25 years in the City of London as a banker. I sat on the board of a couple of banks and then decided that I wanted to get out and left, retired once, couldn’t hack retirement, so built up a [inaudible 00:00:43], and that's how I got involved in recruitment. And that's in the early part of this century in the United Kingdom.It was very hard to find low-skilled workers, much the same as it is today.And I tried various recruitment options and arrogantly decided that I could do it better myself.


So from that springboard, we've developed, in just satisfying our own business needs, into, first of all, a national and then an international recruitment agency.


Can you talk about succeeding with recruitment in the digital age?


Yeah. Sure. In many ways, the digital age confuses a lot of people in that it creates an awful lot of noise around all processes. But if you strip away the noise and actually look at what is going on, there's a French expression, “plusçachange, plus c’estlamêmechose,” which, roughly translated means, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."


And our argument is you have to place your recruitment on very solid foundations. And the way that recruitment has been handled for many, many years, you don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater by getting suckered into beliefs that you can do everything through social media and by sending out sound bites to various sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, whatever. Yes, it is part of the mix, but it's relatively a small part of the mix.


Fundamentally, any form of recruitment depends on the preparation. We argue that a good 80% is based around getting it right up front. And that means extracting the information you need from the employer so you've got a thorough understanding of what they need. And then 10% of it is perspiration. 5% is probably in the selection processes you need. Yes, the noise generation I referred to earlier plays its part, but we wouldn't allocate more than 3% to this part of the activity. And then, to be honest, you've got to be in the right place at the right time. So there's a bit of old-fashioned lady luck involved.


Now, dealing with the employer, they really do need to know what they want. Now, in that sounds so obvious, but it's amazing. We obviously keep statistics on these things, and 86% of employers who are not employment ready. This could be anything from basically not knowing whether they have a telescopic range skills or whether they just want someone operating on the shop floor, because very often, mixed messages come through from employers. Someone in operations has told somebody in HR who doesn't know a forklift truck driver from a flower arranger, and therefore they have difficulty in specifying what they want.


We're a huge believer in what could be considered quite old-fashioned these days, which is job searches. Now, when I use to run businesses — and I've sat the other side of the fence as well — we used job descriptions throughout our recruitment process from getting [inaudible 00:05:08] to actually going to hire to using it throughout the recruitment systems we adopted, leading to the point of on boarding with the candidates. And then the review process. So, it was the central part of the way we operated.


We can obviously help employers with their definition. But we have to start from something. We can't really start from a blank piece of paper. We need some clues as to what they're actually trying to achieve. And you may be surprised to learn that in the international environment. Many employers have not even considered basic things such as will this employee require a visa to enter my country to work for us. And sometimes you have to go backwards and forwards as part of an education process.


Other times, the big multi-nationals, obviously, have got themselves very well organized, and it's pretty straight forward. But the middle market, which is probably where most of the demand comes from, where they use third-party recruiters, there's still a lot of grayness in what they actually want.


Now, this also goes into what are they prepared to offer. You know, Baghdad is competing against Barcelona. London is against Lisbon. New York is against Newark. So, we're talking about a global market these days for recruitment, and candidates are much shrewder than they used to be, and they understand their market value. A lot of that is thanks to the internet and by being able to google very quickly and to find out their value in that marketplace.


Now, you do have certain areas that think that they can apply their domestic rules into the international market. It never works. They usually try, fail, and then they come back to the table. But they have to learn the hard things themselves.


The Middle East is a good example of where an area of the world had [inaudible 00:08:01], exclusive demand to top talent from 2008 to 2012, because the rest of the world, other than Australia, was going through the global recession. And they became accustomed to being able to do things in their market manner, spending weeks making up their minds, going through endless interview processes, nickel and diming candidates and so on and so forth. Well, that has completely changed.


We've moved from an employer-lead market to a candidate-lead market. And if people are not prepared to come up with the right package -- we're not just talking about basic salaries. We're talking about pensions, healthcare, [inaudible 00:08:53], accommodations, flights, what is a claimable expense, all those sorts of things. And they need to make these decisions before they start recruiting. Otherwise, they won't have time to actually assess the candidate. This candidates won't hang around.


The top past candidate expects to be interviewed within 48 hours of being introduced and to have a job offer in their hand [inaudible 00:09:22] 48 hours. That's quite a tough [inaudible 00:09:26] when the marketplace has been used to getting things in a matter of weeks and months, not hours and days. But that's where we are in 2016.


As to the use of digital within the process, I don't want to belittle it, but I want to place it in context. How many chief executives do you know that hang around on a Twitter feed or a Facebook page? Who many key decision makers do you find investing their time on LinkedIn?So, a lot of the noise that goes out there and a lot of people spam things to death, and I'll put my hand up and say on occasions, we would be guilty of doing that as well.


But you're basically going fishing for a very small transient audience. It can work. When it does work, you think, "Isn't it magnificent?" But then, you have to reflect back on the thousands of times you've tried to use it previously when it hasn't worked.


So we believe in melding together an old-fashioned solidity with new techniques and keeping a sense of proportion and realism when we're going through the process.


Well, thank you, Christopher. Did we cover all the points you wanted to make today?


I think so. Yeah. How did it sound?


This was great. Thank you. I look forward to us staying in touch. If you ever want to share more with the community in the future, we could do follow up interviews.





About Christopher Slay






Christopher Slay


Managing Director Skills Provision



LinkedIn Profile