All-In Recruitment is a podcast by Manatal focusing on all things related to the recruitment industry’s missions and trends. Join us in our weekly conversations with leaders in the recruitment space and learn their best practices to transform the way you hire.
This week, Mike Walmsley of Recruitment Training shares why soft skills and continual learning will remain important for recruitment businesses to unlock the potential for success, and how recruitment leaders can think incrementally about improvements and mentorship for their teams
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Lydia: Welcome to the All-In Recruitment podcast by Manatal, where we explore best practices, learnings, and trends with leaders in the recruitment space. If you like our content, please subscribe to our channels on YouTube and Spotify to stay tuned for our weekly episodes.
I'm your host, Lydia, and with us today is Mike Walmsley, Co-Founder of Recruitment Training.
Thanks for joining us, Mike.
Mike: My pleasure.
Revolutionizing Recruitment Training with AI and Reality Videos
Lydia: So, tell us a little bit about what inspired you to start Recruitment Training, and what is your vision for this company?
Mike: Well, I was quite unusual in that I was a big billing recruiter, who build a million pounds in my best year, became managing director of a fast cross-business, and saw the impact of me personally developing people. It became a big success story in the UK, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, and actually in Bangkok, also. And so I knew that the material I had was special, and it worked.
So, I spotted a gap in the market and built a recruitment training company that was built around world-class techniques. In regards to my vision for it, I mean, there’s so much happening in the world now, in terms of AI that is incredible, so we’re at the forefront of that. And we’ve been building what I call reality recruitment videos, which are truly unique. I can explain a bit more if you’d like on that point. But basically, I’m really building reality videos, which are based around real conversations that recruiters have had with candidates or recruiters have had with clients - reenacted, of course - and then challenging an experienced recruiter to think hard when they watch those videos, are they making the same mistakes? Are they missing really simple techniques? So, my vision is to grow that further.
And to move more towards what’s happening in the HR world, If you think of HR apps, now, they’re very common. A recruitment company might have an app where you can book holidays and claim travel expenses, or whatever it may be. But more and more of them have now cottoned on to the world of a learning management system to manage the complete L&D infrastructure. So, my vision is that more and more companies will have a properly tailored L&D infrastructure using an LMS.
Lydia: In creating this methodology, or this syllabus, if I may say so, what did you use? How did you build that methodology?
Mike: It started some time ago. When I first started doing this, I filmed six DVDs and sold each one for 699 pounds. That was quite a feat. Of course, DVDs are pretty much obsolete nowadays, but we sold thousands of them. I realized that video learning had a big impact. It started with me as the single expert. That catapulted me onto the world stage and I spoke at all the top recruitment events in the USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and Asia.
I thought this is really fascinating. I realized that if I were running my recruitment company, I might want more than just Mike Warmsley on video. I might want several other people. So, we expanded that and now we have 60 different presenters that my production team has filmed and produced.
Lydia: So, you had a bit of a head start, I would say, right? You were coming up with the video and sharing your expertise, and this is on training and upskilling recruiters. How do you keep up with that momentum?
Mike: You have got to be a self-learner, really. You have got to be staying ahead of the curve all the time. Take AI, for example. I’m astonished at how few people know about AI tools. I’m on YouTube regularly. I enjoy it. I enjoy learning these new things that give me a competitive edge. And in recruitment, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There are so many recruiters who don’t even think of putting a complex job description into ChatGPT, one that they don’t understand. One that a few months ago, they would have had to Google or go on YouTube to try and understand it or ask their client. And now you just put: create six interview questions to assess the capability of this candidate and give me six best practice answers that a candidate would give to those questions. That means I can ask those questions very precisely, impress my clients, and so on. So, we’ve built videos and AI for recruiters’ courses, as you may expect. And yeah, I find it fun to see an idea and then think, ‘Right, I can grab hold of that and use it for my customer base.’
Integrating AI to Fast-Track Recruitment Training and Measure Learning
Lydia: How do you find the input from ChatGPT that comes from the kind of queries that you have versus the results versus what you've done in the past? And then do you see if there's a large gap or similarities?
Mike: The key is the prompt. There are tools that help you craft the best prompt. This is a simple example. Let’s say I’m a recruiter and I place full stack developers in Frankfurt, I might say, “You are an experienced full stack developer recruiter based in Frankfurt and you have 20 years of high-level experience.” So, I prompt it. Give it the persona of that individual. And then I say, “Read this article about full stack development jobs in Frankfurt and comment on it through the eye of an expert full stack developer recruiter. Write it as a post that I can put on LinkedIn in 300 words.”
The key is you have to give AI the right instructions and the right prompt.
Lydia: Definitely. So, this means that what was once known as the key skills and qualities for a successful recruiter might change totally. What are your thoughts on that?
Mike: Yeah, it’s changing for sure. And the soft skills are going to be very important now. With Boolean search, you can create using ChatGPT. So, why would you invest time in doing that now when you can do it in seconds?
There’s no doubt that the job changes. So the real skill is the soft skills, which ChatGPT can’t really replicate in the same way. Not right now, anyway.
The ability to ask the right questions in a sales conversation, the most powerful questions there are, you can use AI to help you with that. For example, I use ‘fireflies.ai,’ which is a tool that I can integrate into Teams or Zoom and it gives me an exact transcript of the meeting with the summary points and the actions. It’s 90% accurate by the way, so it’s pretty good. So nowadays, a recruitment business owner could use that transcript for training purposes. It’s much easier to read a transcript than it is to watch a 30-minute video of one of your staff making mistakes when interviewing a candidate, for example. You can see it word for word, which means you can intervene.
So, sharpening those soft skills is key. And it’s not done that often, to be honest. You get a recruiter who has five years of experience, but in reality, they have one year of experience repeated five times in a row and they’re doing more or less the same things and getting the same kind of results. And you can boost people’s productivity and revenue by three or four times just by sharpening a few skills in the way they say things or the way they use a technique.
Lydia: In terms of the LMS, the learning plan is a journey for the recruiter. How does AI play a role in the LMS?
Mike: We’re integrating AI into the LMS. You can put your brain into the LMS, just like you can put it into a chatbot on your website. It can answer with your voice. The LMS is a software that lets you create learning pathways for recruitment business owners. I’ve helped some of them exit successfully. For example, one grew from 6 million to 100 million pounds turnover when I was non Exec and then chairman of the board.
One of the key things I advised them on was internal development. It helped them fast-track because they could hire rookies and train them quickly. With an LMS, you can reduce the time to bill. I’ve seen many businesses that tolerate underperformance. They have recruiters who don’t generate revenue after three months and they don’t do anything about it. With an LMS, you can manage and measure the exact learning that you need. You can include live training, recorded meetings, videos, documents, or anything in an organized plan. And you can use our learning accountability tool, which is essential for induction. You can’t just ask people if they enjoyed the induction. You need to know what they learned. So, building an LMS with the right software is critical.
Lydia: Have there been many success stories out of this LMS or the learning pathways that you've designed?
Mike: Yes, there have been. One business won the award for best recruitment training in Australia using the LMS as a key part of their award submission. We’ve had businesses achieve spectacular successes.
For example, one recruiter increased their billings from 300,000 pounds per annum to 1.8 million pounds. He is now one of the biggest billers in the world. And believe it or not, it was due to one technique from the 700 videos in the LMS. It’s called senior candidate tracking. It’s simple, but he wasn’t doing it before. He wasn’t asking the right questions when interviewing a candidate he couldn’t place and finding out how often that candidate interviews in their own business. For instance, I’d say something like “Jenny, one of the key things employers look for in people at your level is the ability to build teams. Could you please tell me about the teams you’ve built over the years and how you went about doing that?”
Now, if she tells me that in her current company and the previous one she recruited 20 or 30 times a year, any recruiter who doesn’t stay close to that candidate even if they can’t place them would be a fool because they’re a client or a future client. That was the technique he latched on to.
It was a spectacular result and he’s now one of the biggest billers in the world.
Lydia: On that note, are there any setbacks that come into play that you use the LMS to rectify? What are some other common mistakes that recruiters might make during the hiring process?
Mike: There are many, I’m afraid. So, many people are stuck at $100,000-$150,000 a year in billings when they should be doing three times that. But it’s not just the recruiters, it’s also the managers. A big weakness is not having effective one-on-ones. The one-on-ones are not done in a coaching-led style and the person feels small after the one-on-one. They don’t look forward to it and the manager doesn’t enjoy it, so they stop doing it. They’re often measuring the wrong things.
For example, as a manager, I measure candidate referrals. Yet hardly any businesses I come across measure the number of candidate referrals their recruiters get every week. I don’t know why you wouldn’t do that because you fill jobs through candidate referrals if you’re good at it. So, there are mistakes on the management side.
On the recruiter side, I think there is often a lack of sales training. Whether you’re a delivery consultant or only talking to candidates, if you understand the principles of selling professionally, you don’t push, you pull. That’s about asking the right questions.
For instance, if I’m interviewing you, I’ll ask, “What are the five most important things to you in your next career move?” Once you’ve told me it’s a, b, c, d, and e and I have a vacancy that has a, b, c, d, and e and describe it to you, you’re interested straight away.
You’re less likely to let me down and there are many other reasons why that’s powerful. But that’s a sales technique called establishing a need. So, I find out what you need before I sell you anything and then sell the solution to your need. Therefore, you welcome it because it helps you in your career journey.
Lydia: Would you consider that part of soft skills or technical skills?
Mike: It’s technical selling, but it’s also a soft skill in terms of how you deliver it. There are all kinds of different ways to get results. I’ve seen people use humor and I use humor from time to time in conversations. I tend to be a bit more conservative when I’m selling, but if someone has a cheeky sense of humor, I’ll have a little bit of fun with them. I’ve seen people get away with that.
But if a manager uses that style, their staff will want to replicate it and they can’t because they’re not the manager. So, they’re not built on solid foundations. You have to train people how to sell in this job, whether they’re doing delivery or not. People who say, “Oh, 95% of salespeople do it badly by pushing and trying to sell the wrong things to people.” The superstars who make big money find out and uncover the candidate’s problems and the client’s problems and then give solutions to them. The customer pays them for that service (not the candidate, of course). So, it’s a real skill and it’s sorely lacking, unfortunately.
LMS and Peer-to-Peer Learning: Teaching and Inspiring Recruiters
Lydia: You talked about mentorship playing a big role here, right? And the delivery of that mentorship is critical. So, going back to that topic, what role does mentorship play in this training process? And what should recruiters look for in a mentor and vice versa?
Mike: Well, there are different kinds of mentoring. If you think about the pressures on recruitment managers, they often have to generate revenue themselves. So, they’re under pressure and they’re not looking after their staff as effectively as they should. One simple fix for that (it’s not really mentoring but it has some elements of it) is running weekly development sessions.
We’ve built the reality recruitment videos specifically for those sessions. So, we have traditional training in a classroom with an audience and a presenter talking through things. But with the reality videos, the manager can sit down during the working week and play one of the videos with the team. Then they have to critique it and say how they would have done it better before a better version is revealed to them. That goes deep into the brain. So, as a manager facilitating that session, you’re kind of mentoring them.
But a proper mentor will go deeper than that. I would have one-on-ones with you and be available for you at certain times. I wouldn’t just be working on sales skills; I’d be working on attitude. This is where an LMS can come into play because if I have 100 staff (which I did at one point), finding time for everyone is impossible. But what I can do in today’s world is be recorded. So, on a Teams meeting, if you’re my colleague, you could ask me 10 questions like, “Mike, give me some examples of people who’ve really succeeded in recruitment that surprised you.” I’ll give you my answers based on my experience and I’m kind of mentoring you. So, recording that and putting it in an LMS is gold.
The power of an LMS is that you can integrate it into the full learning plan and measure the results properly. Another way to do it is through peer-to-peer learning. I built and sold the first peer-to-peer learning company for recruitment in the UK. We grew it to about 110 members and once a month we got 12 CEOs of recruitment companies around a boardroom table. I chaired the meeting and we did multiple meetings with non-competitors (an IT recruitment company, engineering, architecture, etc.). We had a business speaker there. Peer-to-peer learning isn’t really mentoring but it has elements of it. You’re learning from others while with mentoring you’re learning from a single person.
So, if it’s a single-person mentoring, they have to be a good coach. That’s a skill a manager needs to learn in order to play that part.
A mentor doesn’t just tell you what to do. They ask you what you want to do and how you plan to get there. They ask questions and the difference between training and coaching or mentoring is that with training, the trainer is teaching things while with coaching or mentoring, you’re teaching yourself. The coach or mentor asks you the right questions to draw that out of you and get you inspired before giving you a bit of gold at the end where you say “Wow, I never would have thought of that.”
So, I think a mentor also provides inspiration. When someone can’t see the future or where their job might go, you can open their eyes.
Take me for example: when I came into recruitment, I had no idea I could become a managing director of an international business. It never crossed my mind. But once I got there, I think I could pass that thinking on to people because there will be others like me earlier in their careers who thought the way I did.
I used to say to everyone who joined the business on day one, “If you’re better than me at my job, take my job. I’m good. And you’ll have a hard task taking it but take it. I want you to take it. I’ll do something else for the business like open a new division or something else but the sky’s the limit for you, so go for it.” So we try. A mentor inspires people as well as teaches them things.
Promoting Diversity in Recruitment: Education and Reinforcement through LMS
Lydia: Moving on to technology, it’s the backbone of any recruitment business today. It’s important for process efficiency and being data-driven in its approach, as well as in the approach towards metrics. So, what kind of modules do you have to prepare for this or has it already been implemented?
Mike: The thing is, there are so many different pieces of software being used by recruitment companies that it would be impossible to do it for every single one of them. If you’re using a good CRM, you’ll be able to input data and then extract, and analyze it. You’re looking at things like effective KPIs, making sure you’re measuring the right things, and then reviewing them and doing something with the data. You also have sources of information like where the candidate came from. Was it an InMail? A search on LinkedIn and a message? An advert? A referral? A peer reference? Some other sourcing techniques? Then you can analyze that and invest more money in the appropriate areas.
AI is changing the landscape and what we’re talking about today may be different in three months because there’s going to be a new tool. It’s really that quick. I talked about Fireflies which I use but in a month or two, I might find something better. So it’s difficult to stay on top of tech but you have to.
I would encourage business owners to inspire their staff to go on YouTube and start finding things that can add value to the business and test them. If that’s not your thing, find someone in the business who’s a champion for that and they can bring the best ideas into the business.
Lydia: Speaking of training, upskilling, and staying on top of things, how can you ensure that a training program or module promotes diversity within the recruitment industry or in the practice itself?
Mike: Well, you have to start at the top and make sure the person is educated about diversity. With diversity, it’s generally about education. There’s unconscious bias, for example, and a lot of people don’t realize this. So, there’s an education process to it. I would advise getting it into the LMS early. Nobody wants a racist in their business, for example. So, if you have a module (it could be from YouTube or something you find from a guru), put it in the LMS and use learning accountability to assess the person’s alignment with the thinking of that material. Everyone who joins a business now needs to be educated along those lines and it has to start from the top.
Lydia: And the buy-in as well. We were talking about education and persuading and convincing, and ultimately, the practice of having more awareness around unconscious bias and issues concerning DNA and improving that as well.
Mike: Absolutely. And it’s important to reinforce it. If you just do it once, it gets forgotten. It’s like having a referral fee for bringing someone internally into the company.
Diversity gets talked about during induction and then never mentioned again so no one does it. It’s similar to diversity training. You could train someone in it but you need a champion in the business who lives and breathes it and reminds people.
Get it in the mission statement. If it’s important to you, put it on the wall. Talk about it and celebrate diversity and successes. Get testimonials from people you’ve placed who fall into those categories of race. So I think there’s a leadership element to it.
Lydia: Going back to HR technology, as you said, there’s a new tool coming out every other week. We’re seeing more and more of that and HR technology is definitely massive. So, what kind of impact do you think these technologies and tools such as an ATS like Manatal will have on recruitment alongside AI?
Mike: They’re enablers that make the job easier. There have been so many things that have come along in my career in recruitment. When LinkedIn first came along, for example, employers were able to find candidates themselves. But the recruitment industry is bigger than ever now. So, these are enablers. The real skill is working out how to use them to create efficiencies. I introduced one client in Australia with 70 staff to ChatGPT and a few weeks later, I asked how they were getting on. He said he realized what a monster it was and that it was the biggest training initiative he’d ever had in his business. I thought, “Good on you,” because he’d actually grabbed a hold of it and was driving it into the business because he could see the efficiencies. Others have heard of ChatGPT but haven’t made any effort to test it out or check it out. So, I think some businesses will have tremendous gains from it.
For example, a recruiter in the UK got ChatGPT to write an advert from a job spec and she said it was the best response she’d ever had to an ad on LinkedIn. ChatGPT wrote it entirely. Another example is writing LinkedIn articles where you get more likes and so on. These are things that aren’t difficult so I see it as very positive. There will be some people who are no longer needed in jobs. it’s already happening. But that’s why I say soft skills are key and there’s a big opportunity there for someone who embraces not just AI but also soft skills.
Adopting Technology in Recruitment: The Role of Curiosity and Innovation
Lydia: It’s interesting how you talked about the spectrum of those who have immediately adopted AI and ChatGPT and seen its massive potential and then those who are more reluctant to even test it out because of apprehension. Is there a correlation between the size of the company or the scope of business in relation to the adoption of technology?
Mike: I don’t know for sure because I’m not privy to all that inside information. But I think it’s just the person’s curiosity. Isn’t it great to be curious in life? When you were a child and saw a flower with an insect landing on it, you wanted to have a look. I think we all need a bit of that as grown-ups. Take some time to check things out. I found another tool earlier this week called Browers.ai that can monitor your competitors’ websites and send you real-time information. It can monitor LinkedIn and send you information as things change and update. We haven’t started using it yet so I can’t endorse it but when I saw it I thought, “Wow.”
As an MD, I used to get periodic reports on my competitors but someone had to go and do that. Now I can get a report every five seconds if I want from my bot which just sends it to me. Of course, I won’t do that. I’ll time it so it sends me once a week or something. So yeah, I think it’s curiosity and you need someone in a business who’s curious.
Lydia: You’ve given us a lot of insight into a whole range of training and how recruiters should be thinking about training and upskilling. What advice would you give new recruiters starting out today? You’ve covered this a little bit but how can they continue to develop their skills and advance in their careers, especially right now?
Mike: I can give lots of advice but to be succinct, I’d say you’ve never been trained. You haven’t been trained by Mike Warmsley or anyone else. This is a journey to mastery. The reason I’m saying that is because people often think after a year, “I don’t need to learn that; I’ve been trained.” No. If I try to overcome an objection like, “I’m too busy to meet you.” If a prospective client says, “Can I stop you there, Mark? I’m really too busy to meet at the moment,” I close them at least seven times out of 10 in my diary before the phone call ends. I’ve done lots of research on this at events and one in 100 say they close seven times out of 10. Most people say, “Okay Mr. Client, thank you. When should I call you back?” and they call back in two months and the client says they’re too busy so they call back in two months.
So, you’ve never been trained; it’s a journey to mastery. If your success rate with that single objection is one out of 10, get it to two out of 10 and then three and four, and five. Even go beyond me if you can and let me know the technique so I can learn from you. But I’m around seven or eight times out of 10 in my diary metronomically whenever I hear, “I’m too busy to meet you,” not on the second call but on the same one. That’s important.
So, one key piece of advice would be to keep learning, developing and improving. Listen to your calls, use a tool like Fireflies to record your meeting, and review it afterward. Look for improvements.
Lydia: Thank you very much, Mike. It’s been great to have you on the show and interesting to find out about the different ways you can devise a learning journey for yourself using YouTube videos and an LMS. If anyone from the audience would like to connect with you, where can they find you?
Mike: Just find me on LinkedIn. My moniker is ‘The Quarter Billion Dollar Man.’ Sadly, I don’t have a quarter billion (people sometimes think I do) but I have testimonials for a quarter of a billion dollars that my business has helped recruitment companies generate. So, if you look for me on LinkedIn, I’ll happily connect.
Lydia: And we have been in conversation with Mike Walmsley, co-founder of Recruitment Training.
Thank you for joining us this week and remember to subscribe to our channels to stay tuned for more insights on All-In Recruitment.