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    Why getting a job has never been easier (or harder!)

    Remember when getting a job involved looking through a newspaper or responding to an advert in a shop window? Probably a lot of people reading this won’t remember that, but it was still certainly the norm when I started working in the recruitment industry almost 15 years ago. Writing your CV out carefully by hand or borrowing a word processor was the norm until the early 90’s. Posting and faxing was the normal method of getting your CV out to employers, and you always received a nice rejection letter in the post on return, signed by a human! Compare this now to the humble jobseeker who’s CV has passed through the mincer of some faceless ATS (Applicant Tracking System), which has taken 40 minutes, only to receive an immediate automatic curt “Thank you” and we will be in touch within 8 weeks if it is of interest to us but please note we get millions of applications so please don’t feel aggrieved if we never come back to you.

    You may be one of the many who go through the recruitment agency route, applying to something on a job board, where your CV now goes into the dark pool of the agency world. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good agencies out there, who understand what you do and will do their best to match you up with opportunities that actually match. What happens in the agency world is this – Agencies fight for good CV’s, attracted by job boards mostly, for a relatively inexpensive advert. They’re looking for a few things normally, length of employment, calibre of clients you’ve worked for, and skills. Once they receive a good one, they will email it or pass it through the ATS to the employer. Eventually you may get word of an interview, by which point you’ve probably given up hope or moved to Australia. If you do get a job through the agency, they will charge the employer typically anything from 15-30% of your starting salary; unfortunately this makes employers reluctant to use agencies if they can help it, as you would imagine. A tech start up needing to hire an average size team of 4 developers, 2 QA’s and an Agile PM, is potentially looking at fees of upwards of £60,000.  On the contract front, an average day rate of £400, will incur a daily fee of circa £60-£75. Over the course of the year this adds up to a potential cost of having that contractor of £18,000; that’s fee’s to the recruitment agency for supplying the contractor.

    In recent years technology has been changing the way people get found. There is a lot of talk around “Social” being the way forward; there are numerous sites offering to tap people’s social networks for referrals, which may be an interesting route to jobs/people. Personally I don’t want my employer asking me to send jobs out to my friends/network all the time; OK once or twice but I don’t want to be seen as a spammer and besides it takes me away from my day job. A big site that tried and failed this recently was called Zubka; they had millions in funding and died a death. LinkedIn offers an interesting route to jobs but as a jobseeker you’re not going to want to share sensitive information on an open social network, especially not when your current employer could see it! Jobseekers are now faced with literally hundreds of job boards, sector specific, tech specific, aggregators liked Indeed.co.uk which scrapes content from over 40,000 sources including corporate homepages, but again, where do you start? The problem the jobseeker faces today is information overload; around 500,000 new jobs found on Indeed in the past 7 days when this article was written. Breaking this down and just looking for developer, programmer, engineer or coder the jobseeker is still faced with a potential 227,000 jobs in the UK!

    What LinkedIn has done is change the mind-set of everyone; the idea of having a searchable profile online that anyone can see didn’t exist before LinkedIn, although people tried. So now, most professional people have a profile on LI, not everyone but most. It’s quickly become a fertile hunting ground for the professional agency recruiter, so much so that people are now switching off. Our CTO receives an average of 5-10 irrelevant approaches a day from recruitment agencies on LinkedIn. For the corporate recruiter it’s one of many tools that they now include in their armoury and the switch from using agencies to direct sourcing has definitely been helped by emerging social tools like LinkedIn and Twitter.  It will be interesting to see what Facebook do in this space as they are keen to monetise away from advertising.

    There won’t be just one winner in the technology platform space for how people get work, it’s a huge market and there isn’t one solution that will necessarily win out over others. The sensible corporate will use multiple routes to finding good people, continuing to reduce dependency on 3rd party recruiters as technology enables easier and slicker access to talent pools. The “War for Talent” isn’t something that will ever be won; there will always be a shortage of skills in certain areas and quite frankly as a technologist that’s the way you want to keep it. It means your skills are always in demand and you’ll be able to continue to earn in the higher earnings bracket.

    Tech City UK recently stated that there are over 1500 tech start-ups in London, a real competitor to the Silicon Valley is emerging, right here around us, with hubs like Skillsmatter right in the thick of it all.  As an engineer how do you find out easily which firms are looking for your skills, or doing cool stuff that you want to get involved in?

    With so many routes to a new job out there it’s never been easier to access opportunities. This has had the unfortunate side effect of making life very confusing for the jobseeker; especially in today’s uncertain climate, where costs are king, the way to get a job is to go direct, if you can get through the gatekeepers!


    Elevate are co-sponsors of Find Your Ninja @ skillsmatter and are putting together an initiative to connect jobseekers and start-up employers for free – You can find out more information @ elevatedirect.com

    Dan Collier is co-founder and CEO of the Elevate Platform.

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    The Start-up Enthusiast Blog from Nidhi Kapoor

    I am writing this blog post not to refute the purpose of higher education but as I have already spent two months with Elevate Direct (ED) and I do get down to thinking how it disconnects from practical learning.

    My MBA specialised in entrepreneurship and I did rather well in the business plan competition where I got an opportunity to pitch to some of the most well-known VCs and BAs. That was definitely a confidence boost and made me think that if I could pull it off once (of course as team effort), I could replicate the success again. Logical, isn’t it? But unfortunately, the answer is No. As me and my friend started working on a business idea, we found ourselves refer back to the process that brought us victory in the business plan competition. As we went on, we began to realize that it was the same day after day with us being stuck trying to make better documents containing our research. The alarm bells rung that we were not doing something right.

    Simultaneously, at my full time job with ED, I began to notice the difference between my approach and that of the team and co-founders. I began to realize sooner than later that I tend to wear a consultant’s hat which is detrimental to an entrepreneur. There might not be sophistication with processes or with the way stuff is documented and maintained. But who cares really?! The most important thing is that they did it! Processes and sophistication are bound to come of their own accord and (more importantly) when you know something either works or not!.

    And that’s what really changed my mindset from that of an MBA consultant’s to a doer (a synonym I like to use for an entrepreneur).

    So I applied the learning from this environment to our idea and there we go! Just by making our thought process ‘lean’, here we are ready with a first un-sophisticated prototype in almost 2 weeks’ time. If I compare this timeline to what I learnt on the entrepreneurship workshop, I should be still doing my market research & trend analysis ;).

    So, what’s the moral of the story? If you are really contemplating making your own mark in this world, keep structure and processes at bay. They limit and just delay actual action required of you. Don’t get me wrong; I still love my excel sheet and well maintained docs but just a bit of diligence as to what works when can take you miles closer to your goal sooner than you would expect!

    Whether you are working for a start-up or thinking about taking the leap on your own, we would love to hear your story in the entrepreneurial world.

    Whether you are working for a start-up or thinking about taking the leap on your own, we would love to hear your story in the entrepreneurial world.

    Keep watching for more….

    Start-up Enthusiast

    (Nidhi Kapoor)

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    The Drive for an Agile and Lean Recruitment Process

    The ‘war for talent’ demands a shift in the contractor recruitment industry. Both sides are losing out as a result of traditional third-party processes, which are time-consuming, ineffective and expensive in relation to other service industries. Employers pay huge fees to hire from fragmented, vendor-driven talent pools which often fail to meet their needs. Contractors lack access to the majority of open, relevant roles in the vacancies market while facing ever increasing amounts of recruitment ‘spam’. It’s no surprise that a fifth of all vacancies for professionals in the UK remain persistently unfilled1. Taking inspiration from the Agile and Lean mentality as applied to software development, we believe that the recruitment process can be improved, through automation and smart technology, to reduce reliance on third parties.

    The Traditional Recruitment Model and the War for Talent

    When you hear the terms ‘recruitment’, ‘recruiter’ or ‘in the recruitment process’, what words come to mind? Common responses include ‘slow’, ‘long-winded’, ‘unreliable’, ‘expensive’, ‘unavoidable but necessary’, and even ‘laborious’. All of these adjectives are in some way correct. Certainly the processes that surround traditional recruitment haven’t measurably changed for a long while, despite changing needs. As a result the industry has generated mixed feelings, many of which are not positive.

    The recruitment industry has given rise to a tangible war for talent, and the evidence suggests that the war is not going well. Existing strategies are failing both employers and candidates. Employers are paying huge fees while not getting a view of the whole market; instead they see a vendor-driven market and those candidates more likely to make the third party a good fee. Similarly, candidates do not get access to all – or even most – of the roles in the market at a particular point in time; they get a view dictated by agencies and other third parties.

    The impact of this market failure manifests itself in many ways. Talent leaves the UK market, while employers postpone or even cancel projects, relocating them to labour markets which can deliver the talent they need. A fifth of all vacancies for professionals and associate professionals in the UK remain persistently unfilled, an astonishing statistic revealed in the UK Commission for Employment and Skills Survey 2011 – one of the largest skills surveys in the world – alongside a wealth of compelling evidence of an increasingly hard-fought war for talent between UK organisations.

    New strategies are required that maximise the prospect of victory for both of the allies – employers and candidates – in this on-going war. It would be fair to say that in many cases employers and candidates would rather deal with their target audiences directly; that is, without reliance on third parties or recruiters. Yet the task of efficiently and securely connectly highly skilled talent with clients whose needs are pressing is a difficult one. So, can the recruitment process be streamlined to make it leaner and more direct? Can we create a visible improvement in process for this multi-billon, strategically significant yet, highly un-governed industry? We believe the answer to this question is a resounding yes – in fact, the change is already happening!

    Applying the ‘Agile and Lean’ Mentality

    In the software world, development cycles are becoming increasingly agile, as companies try to operate in a lean manner to minimise risk and to realise efficiency gains. ‘Lean and Agile’ in terms of technology and development broadly means ‘adaptive, lively, responsive and nimble’. Agile development is helping dynamic software teams to engage federatively and ultimately be more productive; our question is, can these trends be applied to recruitment, and if so, what is the outcome?

    So what is meant by a ‘Lean or Agile recruitment’ strategy, and how does it impact on the parties involved? Currently the industry is reactive and fairly stagnant. Employers list requirements and follow traditional routes to fill these them. What is required is a more pro-active and iterative approach, and this means nurturing and understanding the mentality around how users handle personal data and what technology we use in our daily lives as enablers.

    The recruitment industry is shifting and there is a visible desire for a more Agile and Lean recruitment process. This desire is primarily being driven by employers due to austere times in the global economies, but candidates are also clambering for alternatives to the current time-consuming and inefficient traditional models. The key third parties contributing to this step change are those fractions of the recruitment industry who understand a change is required, and seek to provide a viable service that is both sustainable and profitable.

    Every day we are using online services like Linked-In, Twitter, Facebook and other social and business tools for greater efficiency. Similarly we see a drive for recruitment and talent engagement to move further online, often using the same tools. Technology, and specifically software platforms and SaaS based tools, help both employers and candidates improve their recruitment through automation and by offering direct access to a wider online market-place and community.

    Significant problems remain, however, and although in much of our personal and professional lives we are used to taking the lead on our data and the way we interact with those offering services, recruitment stays very much ‘post and pray’ – employers post requirements on job-boards while contractors upload their CVs or respond to adverts, and a number of recruiters contact both parties and try to convince you that their particular offering or opportunity is better and more suitable than their competitors’! This process can be automated as long as the data exists in a structured, accessible format online, preferably in specific and closed, recruiter-free environments.

    Of course, there are some excellent recruiters out there who have built their businesses with partnership and effective delivery in mind; however the mainstay of recruiters and recruitment firms are driven by profit and the relatively simple business model they operate within. These are not strategically aligned drivers; if anything they fragment the market further as the market becomes dictated by those agencies and job-boards with the largest, most fluid and effectively mined pool of data.

    Direct Engagement through Online Services

    Introducing software and using cloud-based tools as part of the Agile and Lean mentality can decrease the dependency on biased third parties. Automation of the process can cut costs for employers dramatically as dependence on the human element depreciates; there are key elements in the process that can be completed and in fact enhanced by smart technology. Automation and an Agile/Lean approach to recruitment can deliver access to a wider market, and we have seen the first manifestation of this mindset through employers re-introducing direct sourcing teams onsite to increase control of third party suppliers and tools used to source relevant candidates.

    ‘Agile’ and ‘Lean’ can actually mean using less resource to achieve the same – if not better – results, and although introducing technology and intelligent software can massively assist both candidates and clients, the actual human mindset of those recruiting also has to change. Sustainable recruitment models, such as a corporate empowering their internal recruitment team to use tools that external agencies have historically owned, thereby effectively sourcing from the same – if not a wider – candidate pool, is a massive step forward. What is required now is for the tools that these on-site teams utilise to become more focused on specific niche pools frequented by closed pools of relevant people. Linked-In have realised that a recruiter not paying for access to their data and mining on behalf of multiple clients is much less powerful than a single corporate paying for no-holds-barred access and targeting candidates with their branded opportunities; of course, the later also provides a significant revenue stream!

    Professional networking sites were once hailed as the panacea for mapping clients’ needs onto available talent, directly linking organisational hirers with a pool of experts. But as a result of the law of unintended consequences, many networks have been hijacked, becoming slaves of process-driven ‘sausage factory’ volume recruitment. This has resulted in highly specialised candidates with the right profile keywords being bombarded with unsolicited recruitment spam.

    It is worth pointing out at this stage that there are clear differences when considering the contract and permanent marketplaces within this context. The contract market is more fluid by its very nature and much more defined by fixed candidate parameters such as rate, skills, availability and geography, as opposed to the permanent market place where a candidate’s personality and ‘softer’ skills are almost as important to an employer for longer-term, more strategic hires. As on-site recruitment teams take further control of all of their sourcing, they can utilise those tools that give them initial access to the candidate pool and then conduct the softer based screening in-house where necessary.

    The point is that the shift in the market is seeing recruiters being substituted by technology and Agile/Lean models. If a recruiter sends an employer ten CVs and attaches the average market fee of 18%-20%, while software can provide these CVs having used algorithms and social referencing to do the first stage qualifying and vetting just as effectively and at a much lower fee, then the choice is clear. Widely used existing models of recruitment, those that see agencies throwing large volumes of CVs at a client organisation in the hope that some stick, can no longer deliver the talent that clients require. Yet these processes persist as long as clients remain unaware there are fresh Agile/Lean models to adopt.

    It’s a reality that there will be less recruiters adding significant value as employers and candidates look to use technology to engage directly. Those recruitment firms that will survive will do so by become more niche and more specialist, to truly partner with their clients, rather than trying to fill as many roles as possible from as many different sources.


    1 Based on the UK Commission for Employment and Skills Survey 2011, one of the largest skills surveys in the world.

    2 A term coined by McKinsey & Company in 1997. For more information, see their 2001 report, The War for Talent

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    Ensure an open dialogue in the recruitment process

    We are in recessionary times and here at Elevate, we can well understand an employer’s reluctance to commit to recruitment spend unless sure of making a return on investment. Why waste money if you don’t need to? However, it is disappointing to notice just how many employers engage with contractors on a purely speculative basis rather than with a clear road map to engagement.

    The reputational damage that this can do to a company is far greater than you can imagine. If an employer gets a reputation for being a tyre kicker when it comes to recruitment the word does go out across the contractor community. If you have spent time and money on your recruitment branding then don’t jeopardise that investment. Candidates are people who in turn tell their peers, friends and other networks about poor experiences they have with certain brands. Recruitment is no different. With the plethora of social networks instantly available these candidates can potentially reach a network of tens of thousands from their mobile phone the moment they feel frustated with your recruitment process.

    That said there is no harm in talking to contractors about a possible contract provided that it is made clear at the outset that there is a possibility that it will not materialise. If everyone enters negotiations with their eyes open then that is fair to all parties. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. For some reason many employers feel that they have to pretend that every job they are recruiting for is 100% certified and that they will fill it. Too often this is not the case, for example the employer may be sourcing a back up in case they fail to recruit a permanent person who is urgently needed. If they do manage to recruit the permanent employee, of course the need for a contractor disappears. Why not make this plain at the outset?

    Perhaps the employer feels that the contractor who hears that a role is more speculative than assured is likely to carry on looking elsewhere for his or her next project rather than pinning hopes on the role in question. I can let you into a little secret here: until a contractor has actually signed the agreement that commits them to a project they are always going to look at any opportunity which comes across their path.

    But if you want to make sure that contractors really don’t take you seriously then go on letting them down at the last minute, having led them a merry dance through the engagement process only to pull out before you get to the altar of contract signature.

    Remember you define the recruitment process, it’s yours, so be sure that candidate experience and reputational integrity are maintained at all times. Transparency in this area is less risky than the alternatives.