Hiring has changed. Over the last three years, candidate expectations have evolved dramatically, and many hiring teams are not keeping pace with this disruptive rate of change.
So what can employers do to ensure they properly engage with the talent they need, and how can technology support this process?
My guest this week is Gavin Speirs, CEO of Solutions Driven. Solutions Driven have done a huge amount of research to ensure they have the right strategies to help their clients thrive in the current hiring market. In our conversation, Gavin discusses their Hiring Enablement methodology and shares valuable advice to help TA leaders with their recruitment agency relationships.
In the interview, we discuss:
• The current state of the hiring market
• Changing candidate behaviour
• The three phases of candidate engagement
• Fit, Freedom, Fulfilment, Family, Fortune and Future
• Educating hiring managers
• Hiring Insanity, Hiring Execution and Hiring Inequality
• Are recruitment agencies evolving quickly enough?
• What questions should TA leaders be asking the agencies they work with?
• What is technology enabling?
• What will recruiting look like in the future?
Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 2s):
Hi there This is Matt Alder Welcome to episode 535 of the Recruiting Future podcast. Hiring has changed. Over the last three years, candidate expectations have evolved dramatically, and many hiring teams are not keeping pace with this disruptive rate of change. So what can employers do to ensure they properly engage with the talent they need, and how can technology support this process? My guest this week is Gavin Speirs, CEO of Solutions Driven. Solutions Driven have done a huge amount of research to ensure they have the right strategies to help their clients thrive in the current hiring market.
Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 47s):
In our conversation, Gavin discusses their Hiring Enablement methodology and shares valuable advice to help TA leaders with their recruitment agency relationships.
Matt Alder (1m 59s):
Hi Gavin and welcome to the podcast.
Gavin Speirs (2m 1s):
Hi Matt. Thanks for having me.
Matt Alder (2m 3s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please, could you introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?
Gavin Speirs (2m 8s):
Yeah, no, sure at all. So, Gavin Speirs, CEO of a business Solutions Driven. We’ve been delivering global talent solutions for the last 20 years or so, primarily supporting clients in the STEM sectors. And we do two things. We fill business critical roles for clients and we also embed our team for specific TA projects.
Matt Alder (2m 29s):
Fantastic stuff. Now talk us through what you are seeing in the market at the moment, because you’re kind of working in STEM and technology and all these kind of things. What’s going on with the clients that you’re working with?
Gavin Speirs (2m 40s):
Yeah, it’s a very good question. I mean, I think if I go back the way to, to come forward. I mean, I think there’s no doubt we’ve seen a lot of changes in the last three year or four years. You know, even before COVID we could see candidate expectation, hiring manager expectations changing. But that’s certainly, you know, pushed forward since COVID. I think we’ve then seen periods of candidate driven markets to then more client driven markets. But I think the core of it is, for me, I think a lot of hiring teams don’t realize how much hiring has changed over that period. And as a result, I think that’s where some disconnects can then happen around hiring expectations, candidate expectations. So I think the summary for me, Matt, would be a lot of changes just around expectations and making sure that both hiring teams and candidates are aligned in what they’re looking for.
Matt Alder (3m 30s):
Let’s dig into that a little bit further because I think you’ve got some fascinating insights around this. Let’s talk about candidate behavior to start with. How are you seeing that changing? What kind of new cycles are we seeing? What do people need to be aware of?
Gavin Speirs (3m 47s):
Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, I think even when there’s the perceived downturn, yes that means there are more candidates in the market, but also there’s candidates who are still in roles that still want to make sure if they’re making a a change, it’s the right change. And even candidates who are actively looking equally want to make sure that the next move is the right move. So we’ve done a lot of research over the last six, nine months. Really looking at candidate behaviors. You know, looking at our team and saying, “What level of engagement are we getting? You know, what types of questions are candidates asking?” And we’ve kind of categorized it into three phases of candidate engagement. So the first piece for us is really around, how do we get candidate curiosity? So from our own reach, from what we’re saying, from where we’re seeing it, from who we’re seeing it to, what are the things that we need to talk about to get the candidate curious?
Gavin Speirs (4m 33s):
And that’s usually giving them enough information on the client on the role, but also translating that in a way where it resonates with what’s important to the candidates. And I’ll talk about that in a moment. We then move to what we call phase two, which is candidate comfort. So getting the candidate more comfortable and willing to talk to us as recruiters about the role, but only also about, you know, what’s missing in their current role or what they’re looking for next. And then the last piece for us is getting true candidate commitment. And I think that then means where the candidate engaged and willing to move forward in the process. I think the challenge is too many recruiters sometimes think they have that candidate commitment when in actual fact the candidate thinks they’re still only curious and wants to know more.
Gavin Speirs (5m 17s):
And that’s where we are spending a lot of time, not only as internally as a team, but with our clients to really make sure that also the hiring teams that are aware of that. So, you know, when we are interviewing on the hiring side or the client side, are they also making sure that they’re getting the candidate really engaged in the process. We talk about six factors relating to candidate engagement maps. So we talk about fit, freedom, fulfilment, family, fortune, and future. And really the reason we use that is, again, looking at research candidates typically move for two or three of those factors. We have a concern if a candidate is only thinking about one of those factors, i.e. Fortune or you know, i.e. Fit because sometimes that then means they’re not a long term fit and hire for the client.
Gavin Speirs (6m 1s):
So I think really in summary, getting that curiosity to comfort, to commitment, but also translating that in a way that makes sense to what’s important to the candidate.
Matt Alder (6m 11s):
And I imagine the challenge with hiring managers is with so much talk of downturns and redundancy and all that kind of stuff, is there an expectation that candidates are desperate for work and easy to come by?
Gavin Speirs (6m 25s):
I don’t know, even if it’s an expectation, I think some hiring managers just fall into the trap of thinking if a candidate is an interview that then means they’re really interested in the role. And you know, I think that interview as you know is very much two ways. So I think it’s just the making hiring teams really realize what’s going on out there and as a result making sure that they play their part in that process as well.
Matt Alder (6m 49s):
Talk us through the sort of the hiring challenges that you are seeing. Because I know you’ve done some research around this in terms of what’s going on and what employers need to be aware of.
Gavin Speirs (6m 60s):
Yeah, I mean, so we again, we like to research what’s important to our customers because our view is if we are talking about things that’s not important to customers, then we’re talking about their own things. And again, we’ve spent a good bit of time really digging into why do customers use external recruiters, first of all. Why do they then consider solutions driven? And also, what’s the factors that they consider when making an external recruiter choice? I think then we got a lot of information from that. We started to look at the micro level. It was the things you would expect. It was capacity or access to technology, or access to markets or improving diverse hires, et cetera. But when you actually take it to macro level, we looked at three hiring problems as part of this and we talked about the first one being hiring insanity.
Gavin Speirs (7m 48s):
Now, you know, some of our clients and prospects laugh at that, but then also look and think, “Yeah, I get it.” And really in our mind, hiring insanity is quite simply hiring teams, whether it be hiring managers or TA teams who are doing the same things that they were doing two, three years ago and hoping and praying for different results. And really going through the same cycles, asking the same questions, getting the same hiring manager commitment, doing the same things from a candidate engagement point of view, not getting the level of engagement that they would expect and scratching their heads as to what’s going wrong. And I think, you know, we’re not trying to be smart here because at the end of the day, you know, we also have challenges like that with different clients from our side.
Gavin Speirs (8m 30s):
But it’s about just taking a step back and saying, we are actually experiencing hiring insanity. And we need to do, if nothing changes, nothing changes, right? So we need to do something different in this process to get the results that we hope for. I think the second one we talked about is hiring execution. And quite simply that is, are we confident we have a model, whether it is the partners we’re using or the internal team that we have that can deliver the talent we need when we need it? And again, across the people that we spoke to and it was a significant amount of people, that is a challenge. You know, that is an ongoing challenge where getting the talent that you’re looking for, when you’re looking for it is hard. And I also then that results in many internal teams and external recruiters becoming that reactive resource rather than that proactive, how do we get ahead of the curve?
Gavin Speirs (9m 20s):
So we’ve really tried to build a model which I’ll talk about later that really supports that proactive execution. And then the last one is hiring inequality. Now, interesting name for it. And I guess we can see over the last three, four years that the importance of diverse hiring has increased it and rightly so. And you know, we’ve hired, and a lot of diverse roles for clients and we see a lot of clients saying, “This is really, really critical, which is great.” I think the issue then they face is how do they find the diverse talent they’re looking for? How do they embed that into the process? How do they ensure there’s no unconscious bias that creeps in?
Gavin Speirs (9m 59s):
And really that’s where we try and support through the process that we’ve built to enable hiring teams in that area. So those three hiring insanity, hiring execution, and hiring inequality, we think that covers the majority of challenges that hiring teams are having at present.
Matt Alder (10m 17s):
No, absolutely. And I think that makes perfect sense and really kind of resonates with what lots of other people have said on the, on the, on the podcast this year. Just picking up on that thing about hiring insanity doing the same thing, not changing to reflect the market and the way things have shifted. Do you think that is something that lots of recruitment agencies suffer from as well? Are we seeing evolution in the agency market to deal with the very dynamic time that we are living through?
Gavin Speirs (10m 50s):
I don’t want to speak bad of any competitors. It’s not my style. But I do think the external recruitment agency sector does suffer from that. There’s no doubt. You know, I mean, I think that there’s a lot of technology out there, there’s a lot of recruitment agencies buying a lot of technology, but meanwhile back at the ranch, are they using that to change the process that they’re using? And that, and I’m not sure. You know, and if I give you an example, I mean one of the things we do anytime we take a an assignment on from a client is spend more time talking about what they’ve done so far to ensure that we just don’t do the same. Because if we just continue to do what they’re doing, there’s a much less chance of us being successful and also a much higher chance of frustrating the client because they say, “You know, guys, you’re just doing what we do.”
Gavin Speirs (11m 35s):
So, I think sometimes e external agencies do fall into that trap of using technology, you know, making themselves look slicker from an external perspective. But actually in the day to day, what are they doing to change that process to make the outcome better?
Matt Alder (11m 52s):
So you mentioned the challenges there. How can people meet these challenges? You know, what are you doing as a company to deal with some very big issues that we have in hiring and talent acquisition at the moment?
Gavin Speirs (12m 6s):
So maybe, if I take, I’ll give you a kind of snapshot of what was been on internally solutions driven over the last three, four years. So, we recognized four years ago that we could become that kind of jack of all trades, master of none, i.e. You know, we do everything for clients. And we had no way of really defining, how we do things? So, we created our own internal methodology that we just called RPI, Recruitment Process Intelligence. Because for us, we believe the best hiring results come through the right recruitment process, but also then providing that intelligence to both candidates and clients. And we’ve used that and we’ve utilized that and we’ve honed that over the last three, four years I think, you know, similar to few — so about 14 months ago, I do some crazy things of buying lots of domain names and hoping one of the ideas work.
Gavin Speirs (12m 55s):
But 14 months ago we bought quite a few domain names around hiring enablement. And my logic at the time, Matt, was we as a business have our own internal sales enablement team. And we could see how impactful, you know, having that enablement focus, making the team more collaborative, making them more sharing best practice, making sure that processes were used and repeated, you know, where applicable. And I think, you know, we’ve seen a lot of talk over the last six months around recruiter enablement, which I totally agree with. I think it’s a good way forward because I do think there’s parallels between sales enablement, recruiter enablement, et cetera. However, for me, you know, I think there’s a level above which is hiring enablement that really looks at the end-to-end process and really makes sure that what we are delivering.
Gavin Speirs (13m 39s):
Yes, first of all delivers results because that’s what the client wants, but also leaves hiring teams in a better place in terms of their education and candidate engagement. In terms of making sure that they realize what’s going on in the external market. Making sure that they position themselves correctly. Making sure that they can ask the right questions and the most relevant questions at interviews, et cetera. So, we really, we recognize the external recruiting partner that we are measured on our results, but what we’re trying to do in parallel is really, you know, empower and enable our hiring teams to be more effective at hiring at the same time.
Matt Alder (14m 18s):
Lots of people who are listening engage with variety of third party agencies to do various aspects of hiring for them. As we’ve said, things have shifted. We need new solutions, new ways of thinking. What would your advice be to heads of TA listening in terms of how they can use an external supplier, but also the kind of questions that they should be asking their suppliers?
Gavin Speirs (14m 42s):
It’s a really good point. I mean, I’m really passionate about this. I mean, we internally, and I’ll answer that question absolutely. But internally, we don’t talk about KPIs. We talk about customer impacts because I think that too many external recruiters think about how many people did I speak to today? How many people can I speak in et cetera? And they have no relevance to the end customer or the head of TA. So from our perspective, we focus a lot on true customer impacts and looking at right first time hiring. Did the candidate come from the first short list? Was the offer accepted? You know, what’s the quality of the candidate? What’s the quality then of the performance in role, et cetera.
Gavin Speirs (15m 23s):
So really things that make an impact to the TA team. I think the advice I would give is make sure that your partners are thinking about what’s important to you. Make sure that they are adding value to your process rather than adding value to their own process. And also make sure that you’re picking partners that can represent your brand and articulate your brand in a market that is more challenging than it was two, three years ago. And making sure that they understand journeys like the curiosity, the comfort, the committed, et cetera. And they know what’s important in that regard.
Matt Alder (16m 1s):
You’ve mentioned technology a few times and the importance of really understanding how it can fit in your process and really kind of help address the markets that we find ourselves in. Where do you think technology is taking recruiting? What are you seeing in terms of the capabilities that we have? What’s enabling for agencies and the employers?
Gavin Speirs (16m 24s):
So, I mean, I think obviously the whole one of the last six months is what everyone’s talking about around ChatGPT. I mean, I think we are using it internally. and my message to the team is, I don’t think AI will ever replace recruitment, but I think our recruiter using AI will. And really it’s about mapping out and optimizing where is the best use. I mean, I think one of my concerns is that, you know, the application of it already is starting to make reach out messages feel very semi. And as a result it’s actually, whilst else it may save you time, it’s also making you look more like every other recruiter out there. So I think going back to your point around where to use technology, I think it’s where it can make a process more efficient, but it also doesn’t reduce the personalization.
Gavin Speirs (17m 12s):
Because we can see the best engagement we have with hiring managers and also with candidates is when there is that level of personalization and there is that level of understanding of the specific problem that they have. Whereas, If we generalize that and just talk about, you know, these are the typical problems that we see, it just becomes not as personalized and I think that’s where it’s going to have a negative impact. But there’s no doubt, I mean, again, going back to the sales enablement, recruiter enablement, we’ve heavily invested in technology to support that process. So for example, we use a tool called Gong that records our calls, but also gives us insights into, you know, are we asking the right questions? Are we talking too much? Do we listen to the candidate enough?
Gavin Speirs (17m 52s):
Do we listen to the hiring manager enough, et cetera. So, I think there is no doubt. I am a big advocate of technology, but I am also concerned that the speed is moving. And I think people who are not using it effectively could actually make themselves look even worse than they if they didn’t use it at all.
Matt Alder (18m 7s):
No, I completely agree with that. And I think it’s such a great point about if everyone is using the same tool in the same way to automate their outreach and their communication, how do you stand out? I think that’s a massive issue that people need to look at, definitely. Final question. Where’s all this going? What do you think recruiting will look like in three years, four years, five years time?
Gavin Speirs (18m 32s):
I have to say, I don’t know, right? Because if I said that I did know I would be lying. I mean, I think what I am very aware of is it’s moving quicker than we realize. And because this time last year, I don’t think anyone expected a tool to be, you know, writing your job specs, writing your outreach messages, et cetera. Where do I think it’s going? So I think for me, the reason we are really keen on hiring enablement is it’s a strategy, not an end goal. And it will continue to evolve. And I say to the team internally. The things we are doing just now are not going to be things that we’re doing in two years time. So I think recruiters need to be, you know, and I don’t want to say the kind of cliche words, but really agile, you know, and willing to change. I, I think from a TA point of view, again, no doubt TA teams are becoming more intelligent from the technology they’re using, the processes they’re using, et cetera.
Gavin Speirs (19m 22s):
But I think they need to almost leverage external support in areas that make sense either through the knowledge or the skills or the technology. I do think that, I do have a feeling that given the amount of change that’s happened in the TA world over the last nine, 12 months. I’m not sure businesses first priorities are going to be, you know, let’s scale a TA team again. You know, when things get back to normal. So I do think that kind of agile TA environment is also gonna be important going forward.
Matt Alder (19m 55s):
Gavin, thank you very much for talking to me.
Gavin Speirs (19m 59s):
No worries. Thank you for your time, Matt.
Matt Alder (20m 2s):
My thanks to Gavin. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Recruiting Future Feast, and get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.