Why Recruitment Is Like Gin
Seemingly the worlds most tenuous subject for a blog? But bear with me. Gin really is the same as recruitment,….. As anyone who knows me will testify, the only thing that can challenge my family and my business for space in my life is Gin.
Gin is my Kryptonite, what started as a means to drink and maintain relative fitness/clean eating (the fourth quartile of my life), quickly became a passion.
Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius, has been credited with the creation of Gin in the 17th Century, but almost 200 years earlier than that, it’s forebear Genever, was cited by British Soldiers based in Antwerp, fighting the Spanish during the Eight Year War (and where the phrase ‘Dutch Courage’ takes it’s name).
Leaving aside Gin Vs Distilled Gin Vs London Gin Vs…..etc, For most people, Gin is Gin. London Gin or Dry Gin. Gordon’s Gin has a near 40% market share, a comfortable monopoly. Add in the various supermarket own label brands and that becomes almost 70% of the market. Add in the other mass produced brands (Greenalls/Tanqueray/Bombay Sapphire/etc) and you get to well over 95% of the market. The UK is the home of Gin, and accounts for 70% of the global Gin export market, birthplace of London Gin and dominating the near £1bn market. Gin has also been the only spirit that has bucked the global downward trend in the sales of spirits witnessing an 8% increase in volumes, but tellingly, a 14% increase in value in 2014 alone (22% and 32% over the last three years). But here’s where it gets interesting…. Ask any connoisseur or Gin fanatic what the Gin market really is, and it is unlikely you will get any of the above 90%+ of sales mentioned. They will talk about the Specialist Gin market. The Specialist Gin market is not new. In the early 18th Century, the Gin Craze saw hundreds of micro-distilleries across London. They were soon under the coch however. The early drunkenness and misery caused by unregulated impure Gin was at odds with the perceived well-fed workers and their foaming beer tankards (as starkly highlighted in William Hogarth’s 1751 “Gin Lane” and “Beer Street”). Add in advancements in distillation allowing mass-production of pure spirits coupled with the discovery that quinine was highly effective against malaria, the then ‘Officer Class’ adopted ‘Tonic water Enlivened With Gin”, volume, pure spirits were in demand, the impure ‘back-street’ distilleries were soon no more. Following the Cocktail boom in the Jazz age, Gin was further raised to the top of ‘Fashionable Circles’. 15 years ago, there were very few small distilleries, but modern desires for more complex products…and the globalization brought by the internet has seen a huge resurgence. There are now well over 1,000 specialist Gins available in this country alone, but they account for just 2% of the Gin Market. They all conform to the Gin alcohol content (min 37.5% — most are 43–48%), methanol content (5g/hl max), distillate percentage (70% min), added sugar content (<0.1g/l). They are also really quite different from each other, and very different from the big market leaders. Why/How? Botanicals. The small flavouring elements added to the gin before redistillation. Some will have one or two Botanicals, some have 45–50 and more. Some are very scientifically added, some are foraged from Forest floors (Macclesfield’s Forest Gin). The outcome is a product which is technically the same, but with subtle tweaks to make it really very different indeed. More on that later. Recruitment. The recruitment sector has not been around for anything like the times of the Eighty Year War. Whilst public employment agencies can date back to 1650 (Henry Robinson’s proposed “Office of Addresses and Encounters” that would link employers to workers, was rejected by the British Government) the first Private Employment Agency was established in the US in 1893 by Fred Winslow. It has likewise had its share of legal status challenges. At the same time as Gin was being affected by Prohibition, the 1933 Fee-Charging Employment Agencies Convention formally called for the industry’s abolition, the small allowable element being those businesses that were licenced by the government and where fees where agreed upfront. Today the recruitment market is worth £28.7bn (2014) in the UK alone. Both Forbes magazine and Crains estimate the global recruitment market will exceed $450bn in 2015. Today though, the developing recruitment market is very much following the developing Gin market. For most people, Recruitment is Recruitment. A handful of Global Recruitment Groups lead the market with the 10 largest firms commanding a near 40% market share. Add in the next 100 international firms, and that becomes almost 70% of the market (with a third of those businesses turning over $1bn). You can see the similarity to the dominant forces in Gin. But there’s more….. Recruitment is Recruitment. Agencies, Recruiters,…..all the same. They hold a large database of job seekers, they get jobs to ‘work on’, and trawl their databases for relevant matches and send them over as quickly as possible. Round pegs into round holes. All boast of 10,000s of candidates on their databases, bigger ones boast of 100,000s of candidates on theirs, some will no doubt exceed that. They will also report stats of 1,000s and 10,00s of live jobs on their websites to attract active jobseekers to swell the numbers to in turn sell to their client base. It’s a perfect model…a hugely successful model! This style of Database recruiter accounts for 98% of the $450bn recruitment market. Much like the generic recruitment market, the 98% of generic Gin manufactures make big volumes of consistent products, bought in huge volumes by huge swathes of the population. So what of the 2%? If the 2% of the gin market is the domain of the Specialist Gin, what is the remaining 2% of the recruitment market? Retained Executive Search… a.k.a HeadHunters. The AESC quote the Executive Search market as being worth $9.74bn, 2.1% of the total recruitment market. The Exec Search market, like the Specialist Gin market, is made up of 1,000s of small businesses. Like the Specialist Gin market, they in principle provide the same product, but their method of doing so is very different, as is the satisfaction it brings….and as is the requirement for it to be a Labour of Love and Passion above outright commerciality and economics. Retained Executive Search businesses and HeadHunters don’t get the volume of instructions, scale of turnover, nor of profitability that the large generic recruitment businesses attain. But they do attain far higher in service metrics. The average fill ratio, the number of jobs filled, for the recruitment sector is 22% (12% higher for temporary/contract placements) [source Staffing Industry 2014]. The Executive Search market averages 73% with plenty of firms attaining 100% fill ratios, like ours. [source AESC] The big difference from Exec Search to Generic Recruitment is not wholly dissimilar to that between Specialist Gins and Generic Gins. The core product is the same, but the execution and components are very different, and make all the difference. In Gin it is the distilling process, the raw materials but most of all, the Botanicals. In recruitment it is likewise the finer details that make all the difference. One of my favourite Gins is Monkey 47, so called because it has 47 different botanicals. Yes that right, FORTY-SEVEN. Wine has one ingredient; beer has four ingredients. This gin has 47 ingredients ADDED to it. HeadHunters have one very big difference to generic recruiters. You won’t find us talking about the size of a database. Because we don’t have one. Yes, we all have 15–25,000 contacts tucked away in the modern version of Little Black Books (iPhone/iPad/iMac/iEtc), but we don’t have databases of candidates. We don’t hold/retain CVs. Why? Because we don’t focus on active jobseekers. It’s a sweeping generalisation, but on the whole, the best, top quality talent is not only employed, they are very well engaged, rewarded and have no need to look for a new role. They have no reason to look outside their current employer. Their employer will be more than satisfied with them, will reward them and ensure their career is as fulfilled as possible. But that’s why we, or rather our clients, want them. In the law of averages, someone who is actively, very actively seeking a new job has a reason to do so — especially someone who is SO actively looking for a job that they stick their CV on a recruitment database, or even worse, internet job board. If leaders want the best talent for their business, they have to poach the best from someone else’s…they have to HeadHunt them. Or get me to. But what of the Botanicals in Executive Search? Before setting up my business, I worked for 3 different search firms, and 3 different generic database recruiters. All did broadly the same for their market. The Recruiters had large databases, they all talked about the database being XX,XXX in size and/or being built over XX years with more live jobs that the guy next door. The Search Firms all had research departments, all had structured selection criteria. All had very prestigious offices to wow and woo their targets. …..But yet they were all different. Much like the specialist gins. I have yet to find the specialist gin I didn’t like, and there are too many favourite to list, but the stand out ones include Elephant, Monkey 47, Gin Mare, Fifty Pounds, Bathtub, Caorunn, Sipsmith and last to the fold, Four Pillars. Their botanicals range from: Elephant Botanicals: Orange Peel, Cassia Barl, Ginger, Lavender, Fresh apple, Elderflower, Pimento Berries….plus Baobab, the Buchu plant, Devil’s Claw, Lions Tail, and African Wormwood Served: Just with premium tonic — this has enough flavor Gin Mare Botanicals: Juniper and Olives Served: with a sprig of Rosemary Fifty Pounds Botanicals: juniper, angelica root, coriander, liquorice root, grains of paradise, lemon and orange rind, and savoury Served: Squeeze of Fresh Lime or an Orange Wedge Bathtub Botanicals: juniper, orange peel, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and cardomon Served: Shave of Lemon Rind Bloom Botanicals: Floral chamomile, honeysuckle. underpinned by juniper Served: With a few Strawberries, Raspberries & Blueberries Caorunn Botanicals: Coul Blush apple and rowan berries Served: with a slice of Apple or a (thin) slice of Red Chilli Pepper Sipsmith Botanicals: Juniper, citrus (mostly lemon peel) and spice Served: with a squeezed Lime Wedge Four Pillars Botanicals: Juniper, lemon myrtle and Tasmanian pepperberry leaf Served: With a large Orange Wedge Monkey 47 Botanicals: types of pepper, Acacia, Acorus Calamus, Almond, Angelica, Bitter Orange, Blackberry, Cardamom, Cassia, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Citron Verbena, Cloves, Coriander, Cranberries, Cubeb, Dog Rose, Elderflower, Ginger, Grains Of Paradise, Hawthorn Berries, Hibiscus Abelmoshus, Hibiscus Syriacus, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Kaffir Lime, Lavender, Lemon, Lemon Balm, Lemongrass, Licorice, Lingonberries, Mondara Didyma, Nutmeg, Orris, Pimento, Pomelo, Rose Hip, Sage, Sloe, Spruce Served: Just straight (plenty of flavours already) or a Cinnamon Stick. The difference is technically (and chemically) minor, perhaps miniscule, but it makes all the difference. BUT…..It doesn’t make one better outright, it just makes them different, and thus better for some people, and certain times, with certain objectives. Likewise with Executive Search. I can put a great argument forward why my business is best. Our risk free/cash-back guarantee on delivery timescales. Our unparalleled 12 month post-placement guarantee. Our focus and ability to assess Chemistry Fit… …..But my blend of services, style and methods; my “Botanicals” will appeal to some, at the right time; but not to others; and other times. The blend has to be right for them, at the time, for that role. Much as we can all choose one gin one night, and another gin the next night, depending on our mood, location, etc…so a client company, or an executive open to a new role and challenge can understand and chose what Botanicals are right for them. A key aspect is to try the specialist, rather than just automatically settling for a Gordons because you don’t know what else is out there. Epilogue — Origin of the Species? A bottle of Gin I got given this week develops the theme, and the experience offered one step further. Origin Gin is a Juniper ONLY Gin, but it comes with a small vile of Botanicals so that the drinker can tailor the experience to their own palette. I floated the same concept past a former employer, a larger search firm. More accurately tailor our approach, our service and our terms to our clients’ wishes. The response at the time was that our heritage and proven methodology meant that we knew our industry best. If a business wanted to work with us, they bought into our service, our methodology and our terms. Origin is the boutique HeadHunter — small and lithe enough to tailor the approach and the product base (and the terms) to client requirements. Three times this year, I have been engaged not to run a full process, but just to fill in the part of an in-house process that the businesses in question didn’t feel perfectly suited to do. For two it was interviewing, for the other it was sifting through 300+ CVs and compiling a longlist for them to process.