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The Resilient Recruiter

Jan 5, 2021

As we begin a new year, are we justified in feeling hopeful and cautiously optimistic about the market?  Where do we go from here as a recruitment industry?  What are the trends, challenges, threats and opportunities?  

To answer these questions, I invited Neil Carberry to share his perspective as the CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC). Neil’s role gives him a unique vantage point to provide insights on the recruitment industry especially on what the future looks like for recruiters. 

The REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation) is the leading membership organization for recruitment/staffing firms and individual recruiters in the United Kingdom.  With a massive membership of around 3,300 companies and 10,000 individuals, the REC publishes industry analysis on a regular basis, including their Annual Recruitment Industry Trends Survey. This means that Neil’s insights are grounded in empirical research combined with anecdotal evidence based on hundreds of conversations with recruitment business owners.   

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [3:35] Neil shares his insights on where we are now as an industry and what the future looks like for recruiters in 2021.
  • [10:28] A big challenge for our industry is making a VALUE based, rather than a price based, argument for what we do 
  • [11:10] Recruitment industry trends; how recruiters can deliver more value as the labour market recovers.
  • [14:45] Delivering more value - Neil shared a really good story on how one of their members added real value to an employer and its employees.
  • [20:30] Current practices and innovations that are being driven in our industry.
  • [25:30] Improving client relations: What advice would Neil give to REC members on helping our clients?
  • [31:05] How we can recruiters rethink service offerings and stay relevant.
  • [42:01] What’s the biggest challenge Neil faced recently in his career?
  • [46:50] Both Mark and Neil love running - here’s why...
  • [48:00] Battling with impostor syndrome and self-doubt.

“A Genuine Professional Service”

Discussing the real value that the industry brings to the economy, Neil highlights why recruitment is highly different from other sectors and industries and why we should be proud of what we do. He also mentioned a few aspects that also enables a recruitment business to provide a genuine professional service versus just being a transactional and price-driven type of business.  

  • Helping the client to get it right (the wrong hire can cost a client/business hundreds of thousands of pounds)
  • Recruitment plays a vital role in employees’ long term goals 
  • Providing advice and having deep client relationships 
  • Leading the way on diversity and inclusion.

As this is easier said than done, hear real-life examples shared by Neil on how this can happen and how it changes people’s lives. To conclude this part of our conversation, Neil said that “I think we should be really proud of what we do as an industry. I think it is easy to hide away or incorrectly compare recruitment to other sectors. We change lives.” 

Thoughts on Resilience, Challenges, and Kindness

When Neil and I discussed resilience, I had to ask Neil to talk about one of the biggest challenges he had to face in his career. Neil revealed, “You know when we talk about working at home? My experience in spring was not that. It was living at work. I know many, particularly recruitment business owners and operators who have felt the same. I think I had about 4 days off since March 12th.”

Neil added, “But I think the thing that I learned... is we all have a fuel tank and we need to remember that sometimes it’s pretty close to empty. So I think making sure taking time for self-care, even when it feels like there are 101 urgent things… Getting a sense of what’s important… Making sure that we’re carving out thinking time, actively throwing stuff off the back of the lorry that doesn’t need to be on the lorry … I think increasingly focusing on human relations as well because we are not seeing people everyday… We are, after all, human beings and kindness is the first thing we should start with. Kindness to ourselves, and kindness to each other.” Very valuable insights indeed!

NB - a “lorry” is a truck, for those listening outside the UK :)

Neil Carberry Bio and Contact Info

Neil Carberry was appointed as Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation in June 2018 has been managing director at the Confederation of British Industry.  In 1999, Neil began his career in recruitment working for executive search firm Fraser Watson before doing a post-graduate degree in Human Resources at the London School of Economics and joining the CBI in 2004. He is a member of the council of the conciliation service ACAS and of the Low Pay Commission where he helps guide pay policy in the UK. He is also the chair of a small primary academy trust in Oxfordshire.

Connect with Mark Whitby

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