Maintaining lines of communication in a changing world - comment

It’s good to talk: the phone is back, and video is on.

Digital has been front and centre when hiring during the pandemic, the recruitment boss says (file image). Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

How do you hire in a pandemic? You need three things – reliable Wi-Fi, mobile phone and a good relationship with your clients. The first two are easy to acquire; the third takes time and experience to get right.

As seasoned recruiters, one of the biggest and most important arsenals in our armour is basic human interaction – face-to-face communication. The personal element has always been key. This time last year we would never have sent a candidate for a final interview with a client that we hadn’t indeed met ourselves and shaken their hand.

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Face-to-face "chemistry” sessions have always been crucial. Perhaps the handshake was the bare bones of headhunting pre-2020, we just didn’t know it at the time.

Ken Morrice is founding managing partner at MM Search. Picture: Matthew McGoldrick.

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The pandemic has forced every business into a new era. Pivot, spin and stand on your head – we’ve seen everyone try to make it work this year. Digital has been front and centre when hiring during the pandemic. We like to think we have been fortunate with our digital switch; we had started the wheels of digital recruitment turning when we launched in 2018.

We embraced digital platforms, video tools and software from the get-go. This was originally to break through the noise of the congested recruitment marketplace. This way of working enabled us to support our international clients and reach out to candidates across the world. But now, this tech is truly crucial to every headhunter’s day-to-day operations.

As Scotland’s business landscape continues to flex and bend, some surprising trends are emerging, particularly in recruitment. Firstly, the growth in the executive recruitment market has continued at a strong pace. The wave of demand for senior executives remains high but we are also witnessing a similar demand for interim professionals at a senior level.

The business “need” for interim professionals has risen in line with the demand for permanent executive positions. We haven’t seen this as an emerging trend before where demand for both permanent and temporary senior positions are as strong as each other. And we don’t think this is a short-term ripple effect; we are predicting that it will continue to be an emerging trend over the course of the next 12 months.

Why is that? Because interim executives are good for businesses on many levels. They provide an opportunity for firms to lay the foundation of change and challenge the status quo. It is more often than not the case that the future leaders can be found with the support of proven individual interims.

What we are also finding is that organisations are already seeing the benefits an interim can quickly bring to a business. Tried-and-tested senior executives are much more than a safe pair of hands, they bring new viewpoints and opportunities.

As the year is coming to an end, we are always being asked what the face of recruitment and executive search looks like in 2021. Will job interviews ever be face to face again? Can you really recruit for senior positions without meeting in person?

Global reach

For us the proof is in the pudding – since April 2020 we have placed a varied mix of candidates in top jobs across every sector across the globe; from head of sales roles in London and New York to sales managers in India, HR professionals in China and finance directors across the UK.

The noticeable point is that these are across many industries and differing sizes of business, it’s not just plcs that are jumping on board with digital recruitment. Traditional and family-owned businesses who were reticent last year to work remotely have flexed to recruit this way too. We don’t see this changing.

However, we don’t yet know and neither does anyone else when face-to-face opportunities will arise. We predict that one-to-one communication (virtual interviews, digital meetings, voice calls) will continue to be more important than ever. We are already emailing less and talking more.

The simple act of keeping communication lines open and keeping up with customers, clients and old colleagues is opening more windows than closing doors. We know that video calls have taken over the world and will surely continue, but many of our clients would prefer to just pick up the phone. If we can’t meet in person an email no longer cuts it – phone calls feel better to many of us.

Ken Morrice is founding managing partner of executive search firm MM Search

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