EP93: The Savage Recruitment Academy - Sustainable Recruiting

May 15, 2024
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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 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 to our weekly episodes. I’m your host, Lydia, and with us today is Greg Savage, author and Principal of the Savage Recruitment Academy. Thank you for joining us, Greg.

Greg: Thank you, Lydia. Thanks very much.

Navigating Four Decades Through Recruitment Evolution

Lydia: Greg, I understand you’ve had over four decades of managing, owning, and even growing staffing businesses across the world. So, what has your experience been like during this time?

Greg: Well, you’re right. I mean, if this podcast is going to go on for a few weeks, it’s going to be hard to cover 40 years. But I guess one of the interesting aspects of a career that spans a period of time is that in a way, my career has almost spanned the history of the recruitment industry.

I’m embarrassed to say, in the sense that I started in recruitment 16 years before the internet was invented. So, what I have been very fortunate to see is how the industry has evolved with technology. However, that provided wonderful opportunities but also created huge obstacles, actually thought for outputs. Also, I’ve been through quite a number of recessions. And there are a number of people now a bit nervous about the economy, quite rightly, I would say.

I’ve had the opportunity to learn and make plenty of mistakes about how to deal with a downturn in the recruitment industry, because obviously, in the recruitment industry, the staffing industry, we are very sensitive to economic downturns, because the first thing that companies do is stop hiring. So, that has been the end for many recruitment companies.

I guess, to sum up, your question about what’s happened in the 40 years, is that I’ve started several businesses, some of which have become quite substantial. I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege to work in many countries across the world and run businesses in countries as diverse as the Czech Republic, the UK, and India. So, that’s three out of about 25.

That’s been a real learning because recruitment itself, stopping at its core does not change anyway. But the way it’s delivered, the local nuances, the expectations, the way a meeting will run even, is different from country to country. So, that’s been fascinating.

Lydia: And that definitely has an impact on the way recruitment agencies run and how it’s operated on a day-to-day basis. I mean, the recruitment industry itself is changing as we go along. But there are also changes to the landscape of the recruitment industry, as we were talking about. So, could you give us an overview of the current landscape of the recruitment industry, and its potential for newcomers, in your experience?

Greg: There are regional differences and sector variations. But if you step back and take a more expansive view, one of the things that made me smile when I realized how predictable it was, is how many times the experts have predicted the demise of the recruitment industry. The internet was going to kill the recruitment industry, job boards were going to kill the recruitment industry, and LinkedIn was going to kill the recruitment industry. We’ve never made more money since LinkedIn came along with social media. Now AI is the latest thing that’s going to kill the recruitment industry.

Well, the fact is the recruitment industry has grown every year for the last 20 years, in terms of sales. What sales means is use from customers. And it’s now up in the vicinity of 600 billion US dollars globally. It grew rapidly out of COVID. It might slow now, but it’s not declining. The growth has slowed. More and more people are using the recruitment industry because of talent shortages and changes in technology make it harder for organizations to find the staff they want. While they build internal teams, the interesting thing is they’ve all got access to the same tools that recruiters have, such as LinkedIn and job boards. But that’s not a differentiator.

Great recruitment companies, we can talk about this later, have significant differentiators that allow them to deliver candidates that clients can’t find themselves. So broadly speaking, the recruitment industry continues to grow. Actually, the contracting and temporary aspects of the industry are larger than the permanent aspects.

Having said all of that, it’s an industry as we’ve touched on before that it is very susceptible to cyclical evolution and it’s slowing. It’s not a recession. It’s still good. People are still hiring. In this country, for example, it’s only three and a half percent unemployment. So, there’s still a shortage of clients who are more fussy, and more demanding.

Candidates are more tentative because they’re nervous that interest rates are rising. Is there a recession coming? So, that makes the job harder. But overall, it’s still an extraordinarily successful industry that is growing rapidly. I would still consider two things. It is for the right person with the right temperament. It’s a great career option for people who have the skills to run a business in a highly competitive environment. I mean, in Australia, there are 12,000 recruitment companies, and we only have 26 million people. It’s a business that can be a lot of fun and highly profitable. But it’s not easy.

I mean, of all the recruitment companies in the world of which there are hundreds of thousands, 80% have less than 10 staff. So, it’s actually an industry made up of a few giants, and a vast majority of what I would call lifestyle businesses. But what I mean by that is they’re not running in some casual way, but they depend on the owner and the owners every day. They’re not sustainable. So yes, lots of opportunities but you’re going to need particular skills to thrive.

Forging a Path in Recruitment Entrepreneurship

Lydia: Now, what does it take to survive in such a competitive environment and the whole disruption that comes along the way with it? The survival rate for a recruitment company is also then put in question, right?

So, what are some skills or qualities that are essential for someone who is looking to build a successful recruitment agency or someone who is looking to be a successful recruitment consultant?

Greg: Well, those are two different questions, right? So, building a recruitment company or being a recruitment consultant are two different things. Let’s start with building a recruitment company.

First of all, it’s not an industry that you could wake up one morning and say, I think it’s a good industry, so I might start a recruitment company. That would be like me saying, “I think the law would be a good thing. I’ll be a lawyer tomorrow.” I mean, apart from the fact that you can’t do that because you don’t have the qualifications, you’ve got no chance, right? Because you don’t have the knowledge, networks, your credibility.

So, to start a recruitment company, almost inevitably, a recruitment company is started by somebody who already has networks and expertise. You very seldom get someone saying, “Look, I run an architect firm, I think I’ll run a recruitment company.” That does not happen. Occasionally, people might, but 99% of the time, it’s somebody who’s got deep networks, and deep expertise.

The problem with that, if I could put it that way, and it plays into what I said earlier, is that a lot of people who start recruitment companies end up doing good recruitment because that’s what they are. But they don’t have the ability to build a business, which is a totally different skill. That’s why so many recruitment companies stay small.

Now, they could be small and successful and they could make the owner a lot of money in terms of monthly income, but they don’t build an asset, no one will buy it. Because if you’ve got eight or nine people, and if I come along and want to buy your business, and you are the owner, or two owners are going to leave, well, those people who got allegiance to you, they might leave. I’ve paid millions of dollars for something that doesn’t really exist.

So, the challenge is to build what I call a sustainable recruitment company and the characteristics of a sustainable staffing organization are multiple revenue earners. So, more than 10 [recruiters], a second tier of leadership, that does not dependent on the owners, sophisticated technology and infrastructure that is beyond the expertise of the people.

What I mean by that is a brand, a marketing system, and technology that keeps all the data of candidates and clients all that has to be in place. Preferably 50% of your income or your gross profit actually comes from contract and temporary, because that’s more resilient than permanent.

So, if somebody can do all those things, and it’s a very difficult thing to pull all that together, then they’ll be building a company that will be very profitable, but also have a value, but it’s got an asset value that somebody might buy in the future, and that’s the minority of recruitment. So, we can dig into how you do those things that are getting quite micro, but it often doesn’t happen, because the person who starts a recruitment company, in many cases, is a great recruiter, a good salesperson builds a nice little huddle of people around them, but can’t scale it, because they don’t have the expertise, sometimes not even the desire. So, that’s why we have so many recruitment companies staying small.

Lydia: What mindset do you need to start a recruitment agency like this? Thinking about scaling it and turning your consultant mindset into a business?

Greg: Well, you have to actually swim against the tide of your inclination. What I mean by that is, mostly when you start a recruitment company, you hire people around you, you are a recruiter, and you’re probably the best recruiter on the team. But if you stay recruiting, and even if you build the most, and sell the most, that is a cap on your company’s growth, because who’s going to grow the business if you’re placing people in jobs? So, you have to swim against your inclination and say, “I’m going to pass my clients on to other capable people. And I’m going to spend my time on strategy and implementation, like developing a second tier of management, hiring some recruiters to build a temporary business, whatever it might be like scoping out the best technology.”

For example, when they talk about AI and other types of automation that are going to impact the industry, it will continue to do so. But so few people understand which part of the process you should automate. If you try to contact your insurance company with a query, they’ve got all the automation in the world, but you just can’t speak to anybody, you can’t get anything done. So, you end up frustrated and disappointed with those organizations because they’ve automated the wrong things, or the automation doesn’t work.

So in recruitment, you don’t want to automate all aspects of candidate care for example. Some of it can be automated, but some key parts cannot, for example, you can’t automate or you shouldn’t, you can, but you shouldn’t automate the message to a candidate who didn’t get the job they want. You could send out a lovely email, but that’s not the part that should be automated. The person should call them and tell that person and give them confidence and build them up.

So, when technologists look at recruitment, they try to automate the wrong things. I know I’ve got slightly off-topic, but it’s still relevant. I think the mindset of a person who wants to grow a recruitment company is to concentrate on the key planks that will grow the business, and that is hiring the right people, paying them in the right way, building a second tier of management, putting the right technology in place that supports those recruiters and all the technology implemented in a recruitment company needs to have a final check. Does this improve the candidate experience? Yes, it saves us money, it’s more efficient. When people say that to me, I say, “Good, does it improve the candidate experience?” If the answer is no, don’t do it. But most people do it.

There’s a marketing aspect to it, there’s a training and development aspect to it that I think a leader would need. You asked about mindset. So, you would need to have that top of mind, you would need to have a candidate acquisition strategy. Because at the end of the day, clients are clients, I mean, employers come to recruitment companies to access candidates that can’t find themselves. If recruitment companies can only come up with the same candidate, as they can find themselves, you don’t have a business.

So, you need a very sophisticated strategy around candidate acquisition, and that then plays into how you service those candidates and make sure they don’t end up being disillusioned about your company’s treatment of them.

That’s just some thoughts about what an owner would be thinking about if they’re going to grow their business and scale it.

Expanding Strategically to Maximize Potential in the Recruitment Market

Lydia: So, that is looking inward and also looking at how you would fortify your recruitment agency as it stands, maybe the nucleus, right? As the first one.

So, when you’re looking out to expand, or looking into different markets, to set up your agency elsewhere, what might be some factors that you might consider in terms of the market or the economy or the demand?

Greg: Well, the first thing you should do is not expand geographically, unless there’s an extremely good reason to do so. I’ve seen countless companies decimate their profits by expanding for geographical footprint. It’s extraordinarily hard. If you’re running a business in Sydney, thinking of opening an office in Bangkok, and assuming it’s going to fly. It’s extraordinarily hard.

My question whenever people suggest that is, and it may not be Bangkok. We’re in Sydney and we’re in legal recruitment, let’s open in Melbourne. My question is; why? Well, Melbourne is a big city, and there’s a lot of market. Then I will ask the question, what percentage of the market do you have in Sydney? And the answer is like, 0-5%. But why would you go into the risk, and the cost of opening an office in Melbourne, or anywhere, unless you have really considered whether you’ve captured the share of the business that’s outside your front door?

Now, it’s not as simplistic as that. But plenty of times, it’s proven over and over again, that putting the resources that you would have put into a Melbourne or Bangkok office into growing your Sydney office will lead to a much stronger business, with much higher profits and much less risk. So, I don’t think opening offices for the ego of having dots on a map is a very good idea at all.

So, for example, I’ve got a client of mine in Brisbane, you’d have to know a bit about Australia to get this in the mining industry and embark on opening an office in Perth. Now, that is logical because it’s the biggest mining state in Australia and many of the company’s head offices are there. I can see leverage and I can see a strategy and I can see improved service and that makes sense.

But he also wants to open an office in Dubai and I’ve encouraged him not to do that. Because what’s the benefit of that? When you haven’t even got your Brisbane and Perth offices fully functional?

So, if you are going to open in another location, you’ve got to find out if there is a demand, you’ve got to understand the local nuances of that location, how competitive it is, what the laws are, it’s another country, understand the laws.

I mean, I opened an office in Kuala Lumpur once, and as we were about to start off, the manager said, “We have to have a license in this country to practice.” And I was like, “Okay, go and get one.” He said, “It is going to take a year.” So, that was a disaster and we did speed it up. I won’t tell you how. But it’s extremely important to have done your due diligence on the local environment.

Then who is going to run your office? If you have somebody on the other side of the world running your office, the level of trust, the level of transparency, and also, if it does get tough, what’s to stop that person from just leaving, which happens countless times? [They are] all excited about starting, and then it gets tough, they leave and go to a competitor. Then you are in Sydney with six recruiters in Kuala Lumpur, and you don’t even know anything about them. Inevitably you lose all your money.

So, I’m sounding negative about it but having said that, I started the business and we ended up with 15 offices, we had 35 offices in 17 countries. So, it can be done and it can work. But even in all those cases, I made massive mistakes and I learned from them. I wouldn’t enter another market if I hadn’t done the research and had the right leadership.

If I’m going to invest half a million dollars in opening this office, what’s the long-term benefit of that rather than half a million dollars, right outside my front door? Hire another five recruiters in my own office that I can manage directly, maybe that’s going to be much more successful.

So, it’s about making intelligent commercial decisions, which include, “Will the value of this business be more if I open this office in another location?” Because anyone who’s running a business has at some stage, an exit plan. At some stage, they say they don’t, but at some stage, they’re going to sell. So, if that’s your plan, you obviously want to sell it for a significant, rewarding amount.

Lydia: What might be an alternative to setting up an office elsewhere in a different location? For instance, what might be an alternative for a recruitment agency wanting to scale or hire more people?

Greg: Well, I mean, the first question is, why do you want to go cross-border when you can be highly successful within your own jurisdiction? If you’re going to, for example, clearly, you can place people in New Zealand. If you’re operating in Australia, you don’t need people in New Zealand to do that, or in Singapore, or anywhere for that matter.

But if you believe that recruitment is a relationship business, how do you really know your clients and your candidates if you can never engage with them face-to-face, especially clients, and candidates? It’s important, but everyone accepts the video conference these days. So, you need the right technology, you need the right strategy.

Lydia: How can a new recruitment agency differentiate itself from others in the market and build a strong presence?

Greg: Well, as I mentioned, typically a new recruitment agency will be started by people who already have some momentum. But I think the important thing to bring to the table would be the quality of your consultants or your recruiters. I would absolutely start there because no amount of PR, content, or pretty words on a website will make up for a poor candidate and client experience.

So, you need quality recruiters who understand the commercial reality of what they’re doing, but also the human reality of what they do. That means recruiters who understand that they place people in jobs, but also how they have treated the people that they didn’t place in jobs. What is the experience of the clients whose jobs they didn’t fill? That would be step number one.

Secondly, if you want to differentiate, you need to have a very clear plan about how your technology is going to improve the experience for everyone, especially for consultants, but also your external customers. That’s why you need a great ATS and CRM. But there are many other tools that are making recruiters’ lives easier, and also improving the experience of candidates and clients.

Then, you need a very sophisticated and real candidate acquisition plan. As I said to you before, Lydia, at the end of the day, most people who use recruitment companies don’t do that because they wake up in the morning and say, “I must go to a recruitment company, that’s the most exciting thing I can do today.” They go to recruitment companies because they can’t find the candidates themselves. So, you must have a very clear differentiation about how you are going to be able to access candidates and deliver them fast. Now, on top of that, you need a marketing strategy.

People in recruitment often misunderstand marketing to equate to branding, but it’s not. Marketing is only helpful in recruitment in as much as it opens the door for your consultants to sell.

And that’s actually a smarter thing than it sounds. If you’re Nike, you’ve got a lot of branding because you want people to remember your brand the next time they go into a shop, right? That’s not how it is in recruitment. People aren’t going to wake up and say, “Hey, I saw that logo, I must go to that recruitment company.” They’re never going to do that in a million years.

What marketing needs to do in recruitment is encourage candidates to apply and open the door for your consultants to engage with prospective hires. Actually, at the end of the day, marketing is only important in as much as it leads to sales. Even branding, the whole point of it is that people buy stuff, right? Sometimes we get people saying things like, “We’re not sure if that campaign worked, but it helped our brand.” I’m like, “I don’t care. What do you mean? Do you mean we can walk down the street and someone’s going to recognize our logo? That’s not helpful. It’s not true, it’s not helpful.”

What is helpful is that it attracts candidates to apply for jobs, and opens the door for our consultants to engage with decision-makers.

Tapping into Talent Shortages to Leverage Niche Markets

Lydia: Now, recruiting agencies obviously built for profitability, and they need to be sustainable. So in terms of finding a niche to specialize in, how does a recruitment agency identify a profitable and sustainable niche?

Greg: Well, it’s kind of the other way around. I mean, the people who start recruitment companies, as I touched on two or three times, are already in that niche. They know it’s profitable; they’ve already got it. Honestly, 95% of recruitment companies are started by people who leave a recruitment company and start their own. They’ve already got five years of experience. So, they know their niche, they know the margins, they know the clients, they know the issues.

More generally speaking, I think if you’re thinking about that question, it does come up if, say, you’ve got a successful recruitment company that wants to expand into another niche. Or they’re worried about whether that niche is profitable. I think the first thing is you’ve got to have a look at the sectors and markets you’re in and ask yourself, whether those sectors and markets are growth areas for the future from a hiring point of view.

So for example, Artificial Intelligence is going to impact the labor market; some jobs are going to grow, and some are not. Even in my recruiting lifetime, some jobs, like secretaries and PAs, used to be a huge employment category. They hardly exist anymore. They do, but they’ve got different roles and a much smaller number of those sorts of people. When I first started in business, almost every person had a PA, a secretary, or any sort of high-ranking senior person. So, there were thousands and thousands of those jobs, and there were recruitment companies that just did that. So, that has disappeared, obviously, and there are plenty of those sorts of jobs that are going to wax and wane. I think, as best you can, you would assess the future of a sector. That’d be one thing.

The second thing is, ironically, this is going to sound kind of crazy. But a sector where there’s a shortage of talent is a great sector to focus on. You might say, “Well, why would you do that?” Well, the reason is, if there’s a lot of talent, then clients won’t come to recruitment companies. They will hire them themselves through their own talent teams, etc.

So for example, I’m not recommending this for anybody who listens to this podcast, but there is a logic to say, “I want to start a recruitment company that’s in cybersecurity professionals, or AI developers.” There are very few of those people around. But if you have a strategy that allows you to capture that talent market, you will have something that clients will come to you for because those sectors are growing. Cybersecurity is a major problem. So people who are experts in that area are in demand. AI is a booming sector. So people who are experts in that area are in demand. Those would be good sectors to get into. But I would only encourage you to go into them if you had a very sophisticated plan on how to attract those candidates. So, those are some of the considerations.

You would also look at how saturated those sectors were. For example, somebody might say, “Okay, Greg, there’s a lot of white-collar, administrative assistant-type people. Yes, it’s not a growth area. But there’s a lot of people in those jobs, we’ll start our recruitment company in that.” And my question would be, “Sure, but there are also thousands of recruitment companies that do that. How are you going to separate yourself from the masses? How are you going to lift your head above the crowd? To differentiate what is compelling when you go to a company so I can provide you with admin assistants? Like, yes, we’ve been dealing with three companies for 20 years.”

But if you made this, somebody said, “I’m an expert in cybersecurity professionals, and I’ve got access to candidates,” you are going get people’s attention if you speak to the right people.

Specialize and Personalize: Navigating Recruitment in a Competitive Environment

Lydia: Now, in the early stages of starting a recruitment agency, there must be many common challenges, and many of them you've already outlined earlier. So, what are some common challenges that recruitment agencies might face, especially when they've identified a niche, they've got the business plan, and now they're going out to market in this sort of environment?

I mean, people are, as you said, nervous about an economic downturn or recession, possibly hitting them anytime soon. So, how can recruiting agency owners or those who are running the business overcome these challenges?

Greg: Well, you’re not going to overcome the fact that there is a decline in demand. What that’s going to mean is you’re going to have to knock on more doors and do more sales than you would in any other environment. Right now, it would be a challenging time to start a recruitment company, not impossible, but challenging, because the market is shrinking a bit. That means that the established players are spending more time networking and developing the business with their clients. They’re getting closer to their clients out of necessity. So if you’re starting cold, you’re going to be just one of a big number that are approaching companies. But again, as I mentioned, most people who start recruitment companies have some leverage, some network, and you’d be focusing on that.

The second thing is that there are a lot of people who think, and they’re wrong, that marketing and business development can all be done digitally and online. It’s important, and it will bring inbound inquiries, but the ability to actually step in and sell is crucial. I use the word ‘sell’ in the most positive sense of the word. I think selling is an outstanding thing to be proud of. I consider myself to be a salesperson. If what you’re really doing is solving your customer’s problems, you need to have the skill to understand their problems, ask the right questions, be a very active and intelligent listener, and then be able to position why what you bring can solve their problems.

Now, that is a very hard thing to do well, and that’s what recruiters need to be able to do. The vast majority come from a background where they’ve never really developed any sales skills or relationship-building skills. They don’t really have the credibility and trust. Now the wheel’s turning, and they’re finding clients don’t really want to engage with them.

So, to answer your question, if I was starting a recruitment business, I’d go niche, I’d go personalized, yes, I’d definitely use digital marketing. But I would try to engage on a human level and I’d have a very strong plan to access candidates, but even in this market, clients can’t.

For example, in Australia, and it’s probably true all over the world, but certainly in the UK, there are some sectors that are not affected by the economy, healthcare for example. So, healthcare recruitment in this country is very strong for healthcare recruiters. The big issue is a lack of skilled healthcare workers and the economy doesn’t affect healthcare, people are going to get sick and old regardless.

So, that’s an example of something that is resistant. An example of one that isn’t is IT and tech, which have bloomed for the last five years but have now hit the doldrums. They’re still hiring, but not at the same rate. So, those IT companies who’ve got a little recruitment company, they’ve got a little bit ahead of themselves and thought that it would never change, they’ve been caught out because the demand has waned.

All those things need to be taken into account when you’re starting a recruitment company, and certainly, in this environment, I’d start with a low-cost base and a high-value proposition. I would definitely only go into a niche where there was a temporary and contract opportunity. To go only into permanent would be tempting because it’s low cost to do and the rewards when you make a placement are high. But it is the area that’s going to get impacted by an economic downturn the most.

Enhancing the Recruitment Process with Technology

Lydia: In terms of technology, meeting the clients and getting to know them, understanding their business, and being in touch with them is crucial, especially when you’re trying to move things digitally. You’re trying to attract more people to come to your business digitally. So, what sort of technology do you think recruitment agencies should be thinking of investing in?

Also, what is the impact of AI? Again, these are two different questions, but they can come together in terms of the tools that are out there.

Greg: Well, you need to ask yourself, when you ask that question, what problem are you trying to solve? And then, what technology? Okay, so one of the problems is the generation of customers, right? So, then what we’re really talking about is a digital marketing strategy and a sophisticated content marketing strategy. Most people get that wrong. They think content marketing is like LinkedIn. Recruiting companies do this all the time; they have pictures of their biggest pillar, and they celebrate a record month.

Content Marketing must be predicated on what you give to your audience, not what you take. So, it’s somewhat counter-intuitive, but if you’re going to sell online, you do that by providing value. Typically, if you’re a recruiter, that’s around expertise and insights. If you do that, people will build trust and engage with you. That theme is easy to say and hard to do. Because you’ve got to have insights, and you’ve got to have the ability to position them. Then you’ve got to have the ability to distribute them.

You really don’t have great insights if you’ve got six LinkedIn connections. So, you have to have the ability to build audiences in the right places, which might be LinkedIn. I mean, one of my clients places people in the interior design area, her biggest social media platform is Instagram, because you can see pictures of interior design, that’s what her customers look at. So it’s not always LinkedIn, it often will be, but it could be LinkedIn. It could be building an email marketing list and other sorts of engagements so you need all the technologies around that.

But another problem would be assessing candidates and when I say assessing, making it easy for them to apply. So for example, when talking with a chatbot, people say, “Well, candidates don’t want to speak to a chatbot, they want to speak to a person,” that is not always true. Often, the candidate will be happy to speak to a chatbot, because they can do it at 10:30 at night with a beer in their hand.

They can ask the chatbot four or five questions to decide whether they want to apply for that job. But when they do want to speak to someone, a smart recruitment company makes sure that people are accessible. So, that’s the blend of the technology and the human. In many cases, we’d love to just talk to a chatbot, “Is this job in Brisbane? Does it need a degree? Is the company paying 150,000 dollars a year? Has it got two days of working from home? Yes, yes, yes. I would like to apply now. I’d like to speak to them.” That’s fantastic. Or if the answer’s no, the person can just move on.

Then there’s technology to improve your business development and there’s a lot of sophisticated things. For example, there’s a piece of technology, not even very cutting edge anymore. If I, as a recruiter at my desk, I’m working with my clients and I’ve got a shortlist of two candidates that have been interviewed three times with the same client and the client is going to make a decision between these two people. They’re both excellent. They’re superb, they’re specialist cybersecurity professionals.

The client hires one that obviously leaves the other one. Well, there’s a technology that you can just click a button and the search will go out into the internet and find all the jobs that are advertised out there on job boards and directly that suit that person’s background. It then brings them in and says to the recruiter, these five companies are recruiting this exact person, that makes it easy. That’s the technology doing the grunt work, then the recruiter does the sophisticated work by calling a company and saying, “Hey, you don’t know me. But I’ve got something very important to talk to you about, I have an outstanding person for that role.” And now that may or may not work, but that’s business development in the staffing industry.

So, those are just examples of some very unsophisticated technologies in terms of the whiz-bang stuff you can get. I mean, even things like the more sophisticated versions of ChatGPT and other technologies of that type that will help a recruiter come up with the questions, they should ask a candidate based on a job description.

What it really boils down to, and this is probably the most interesting, anything I’m saying is, the real competition is that at the end of the day, all recruitment companies of any substance are going to have access to the same technology, they’re all people forget that technology in itself is not the competitive advantage. Unless you’re Apple who can invent an iPhone that no one else has got, we’re not going to do that.

We’re all going to have access to the same technology, we are using it for the right things. What you want with your technology and recruitment is to automate everything that machines can do better than people. Because it’s going to happen anyway but make sure your people are excellent, be part of the job that machines can’t do as well as people. There are plenty of those and that is the future of recruitment for the next five years. Just understanding those companies that digitalize the part of the role where human influencing skills can play a role in making a massive mistake.

Lydia: Technology brings about data and for a recruitment agency owner or someone running a business in this industry, how important is that? I mean, obviously, it helps you make decisions faster than you would have about 10 years ago, maybe 20 years ago, when you didn't have those real-time insights into your performance or your metrics.

Greg: I don't think recruitment companies that I'm aware of are using that sort of sophisticated stuff at all, because they don't have the data of a person's performance.

Lydia: Performance in terms of sales, or in terms of candidate engagement, or how many applicants are coming in.

Greg: Oh, that sort of data? Absolutely and I think using that smartly is a potentially massive competitive advantage. So, it’s even something as simple as this. Simple but problematic. Often a recruitment company owner will say to you or me that one of their big differentiators is that they’ve got 150,000 candidates on their database because they’ve been going for 10 years. They’ve got 150,000 accountants on their database. That might be true, but they never engaged with them, and they don’t know where they’re up to at all. They don’t know whether they’re looking for a job. They don’t even know if they’re alive anymore. I’m not being facetious.

That’s literally why I rather unkindly say to a lot of recruitment companies that their candidate databases are actually candidate graveyards, they’re full of dead people. I don’t actually mean passed away. I mean, they’re just dead to the recruitment company, even though they logged them as an asset. They’re not engaged, so the technology that engages with them, and there’s plenty of good ones now. For example a smart recruiter could be sitting their desk and go, “I’ve got a contract job, six months, need these skills.” Click, click, click, the database brings up 14 names.

In the old days, the recruiter would call 14 people, now they can send them a text saying, “Got a job. If it’s not right for you, my apologies for the interruption. If it is, just press Yes and I’ll call you.” Four yeses come back, four phone calls. Now, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s good technology. But the making of the phone call is where the magic happens because the candidate has a choice. The recruiter is going to need to sell that job to the candidate and assess whether they are currently the right fit, all that sort of stuff. So, it’s that blend of tech and human skills.

Hone Candidate and Client Skills

Lydia: You recently published a book called “Recruit the Savage Way.” Obviously, it is for recruiters wanting to become better at what they do and wanting to become leaders in the field. So, what are some key points from this book? I see you have 128 chapters in there.

Greg: Yes, some of them are short. Frankly, what I was talking about with two of the chapters in the book; one was about resilience, and the other was about self-belief. So, that book is the second book I’ve written. The first one was mostly about how to build a recruitment company and what I’ve learned about being a great recruiter. Personally, I was like a good recruiter, but not the best. There wasn’t a single company where I worked where I was anywhere near the best. But I learned a lot from great recruiters that I’ve worked with over all those years and I’ve also learned a lot from the ones who failed and why they failed.

So, I’ve written this book for agency recruiters, anyone can read it, somebody in sales will probably get a benefit from it. But mainly, it’s for agency recruiters, and it has 128 chapters. Each one of those chapters is a skill, attitude, or competency that I have learned, [skills] you need to be great at this job and it’s broken into six sections. The first is attitude and mindset. The second is the behavior and the activity that you have to employ. In each of these sectors, there are 20-30 chapters, the third is selling and it’s defined on the premise that selling is listening, not talking. You sell by listening to the client’s needs and the candidates’ needs and then there’s a long section on candidate skills and a long section on clients skills. It’s very detailed and then finally on managing your career.

It’s very practical and it’s not the sort of book that I would recommend, although people do. It’s not like a novel that you can read from page one to page 300. I would just go two or three chapters at a time, think about them, and how you’re going to implement them in your businesses. Actually, when you write a niche business book, your publisher is happy if they sell 2000, this book has sold 5000 in the first seven weeks. So, people are buying it in recruitment, which is good because I didn’t do it to make money. I did it because I just wanted to have it written down so people could access it and because I’ve been so fortunate to learn so much.

Lydia: And where is it available?

Greg: When you go to my website, under the Savage books, there's a tab for this book. There are a dozen links depending on where you live. Mainly here in Australia, you can get it from the publisher, but most places in Amazon. So, you can get it virtually on my website.

Lydia: Okay, great. I wish we had more time to really explore what it takes to set up a recruitment agency and expand that and the challenges that we face in terms of staying in business in this competitive field. Thank you very much for your time and your insights, Greg. It's been wonderful having you on the show.

Do drop us your contact details. I don't believe that you've left your email or your website on this podcast just yet. So, drop us your contact details so people can contact you and maybe even pick up a conversation.

Greg: Okay, thanks very much. It's been a pleasure being on your podcast. My website is easy to find, gregsavage.com.au.

Lydia: Thank you very much. We have been in conversation with Greg Savage, author and principal of The Savage Recruitment Academy. Thank you for joining us this week and remember to subscribe to our channels and stay tuned for more weekly episodes of All-In Recruitment.

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Manatal is the best ATS we worked with. Simplicity, efficiency and the latest technologies combined make it an indispensable tool for any large-scale HR team. Since its adoption, we've seen a huge increase across all our key recruitment metrics. To summarize. it is a must-have.
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I've been using Manatal for the past couple of months and the platform is excellent, user-friendly and it has helped me a lot in my recruitment process, operation and database management. I'm very happy with their great support. Whenever I ask something they come back to me within minutes.
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Manatal is a sophisticated, easy-to-use, mobile-friendly, and cloud-based applicant tracking system that helps companies achieve digitalization and seamless integration to LinkedIn and other job boards. The team at Manatal is very supportive, helpful, prompt in their replies and we were pleased to see that the support they offer exceeded our expectations.
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International Director - JB Hired
Manatal has been at the core of our agency's expansion. Using it has greatly improved and simplified our recruitment processes. Incredibly easy and intuitive to use, customizable to a tee, and offers top-tier live support. Our recruiters love it. A must-have for all recruitment agencies. Definitely recommend!
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HR Manager, Talent Sourcing & Acquisition - Suntory PepsiCo Beverage
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