Such an important word in all lines of business. How do you make the largest possible margin, whilst at the same time offering value so that your customer is happy to buy?

But margin in recruitment is a bit more complicated. When you go to a restaurant on a Saturday night, and order a ribeye, you don’t ask for the wholesale price and negotiate the mark up. But in modern day recruitment, agency margins are almost always open, and they are under attack.

It’s strange to me that businesses complain about a lack of professionalism in recruiters, and simultaneously try to bring down margins. This creates the incentive to cut corners… But this is the Recruitment Clinic. For Recruiters. And whilst I’m happy to talk to anyone who may be reading this about how to get a better recruitment service (hint: pay more, demand more), I want to focus on my recruiting brethren.

So we’ll look at how you should defend your margin, and ideas that you may find useful when your client is asking for another discount.

Before we get into that though, it’s important to make sure that your mindset is in the right place. If you agree to drop your margin from 20% to 17%, what discount are you applying?

That’s right, calculator owners, it’s 15%. A 15% discount on your fee. A very successful recruiter I worked with in the past used to defend his margin in 0.1% segments. It’s a healthy mindset to be in.

So, you’ve got your game face on. How about a few ideas.
Know your market- if you’re going to negotiate anything, then you really need to know what’s happening in your market. What are your competitors doing? Not because you should copy them, but you need to know if you’re offering lower than market margins (price disruption), or higher than market numbers (feature service).
Know your limits- before you get into a negotiation, it’s good to set your own parameters. I can tell you from experience that you’ll give way too much away if you haven’t defined your own limitations before you start. So define your walk away points, and stick to them.
Set expectations- it’s perfectly reasonable to tell your client or your candidate that you’re going to expect something specific in return for a discount. For example; my margin is 20%, but if you want to discuss any kind of discount, then be aware that I’ll need more favourable payment terms, or a level of exclusivity on the roles.
Show them where the magic happens- I saw something last week in one of my feeds discussing the ‘hourly rate’ for a recruiter. I.e. You charge a client a £12,000 fee, but you delivered the candidate 2 days after getting the role. Therefore your hourly rate is at least £500 per hour. This might seem ridiculous (because it is), but this will only be an issue if the person you’re negotiating with has no idea what you actually do all day. Invite them into your office. Or, at the very least, explain in detail what you actually do, and how. That should help them to value you a little more. Most of the recruiters I know work very hard for their living, doing a job that can be brutal. Maybe your client hasn’t seen that.
Give structured, professional discounts- rather than just agreeing to drop your margin by a few points over the phone when you’re trying to close, try to be a bit more corporate with your approach. Create a discount proposal, with a structure and conditions. It will reflect well on your professionalism, and should secure you better margins and better relationships.
Understand Value vs Cost- I remember, as a student, I once bought a 2 litre bottle of a supermarket, own-brand cola. I was thirsty, and it was cheap. Surely a match made in heaven? Except the taste was so unexpectedly horrendous that I couldn’t bring myself to drink more than a couple of gulps. The lesson in there is about value vs. cost. When value hits (Coke) zero, it doesn’t matter how low the cost is, it’s still wasted money.
Of these things though, the most important is definitely mindset. Don’t be defensive about defending your margin. And don’t be embarrassed about trying to make money. Having a profitable business isn’t something to be ashamed of, unless you’re Snapchat.
Remember; if you really are a special snowflake, then you can charge special snowflake prices.
Martin Jones is a Recruiter. From 1999 onwards, he’s worked across multiple sectors and geographies, generating revenue and leading teams. He is a Partner at KnownFour, where recruitment and life can co-exist...

Published in Blog

Welcome back to the Recruitment Clinic. This week I’m talking about socks.

I used to wear odd socks every day.

Why? Because I’d pull out the first two clean socks, stick them on, and get on with my life.

For anyone that asked, I’d explain away this little eccentricity with a bit of simple maths: If you’re posh like me and wash your socks after each use, you would have at least 7 pairs of socks to sort each week.

Let’s say you’re like some kind of Laundry Ninja, and you can successfully marry these couples in only 10 seconds per pair. That’s 70 seconds per week. Which is just over 3 days in an average lifetime.

Worth it?

And, yes, I know I could have just bought identical socks and solved my ‘problem’, but I’m somewhat of a peacock when it comes to socks.

Anyway, this article isn’t about socks, it’s about distraction. And time. But mostly distraction.

As a Recruiter, I find it’s incredibly valuable to put myself in the middle of as many feedback loops as possible. The more concurrent conversations I can maintain, the more efficient and effective I become. But it doesn’t come without problems.

Distractions Are Everywhere
And that situation is amplified now that I work remotely. There’s the obvious stuff. Facebook, WhatsApp, Ed Hunter etc… then there’s the less obvious stuff. Emails, colleagues, habits…

I like to use something called the Eisenhower Matrix to help make appropriate decisions, and also to try not to get unwittingly pulled away from the most important tasks.

Eisenhower Matrix

When I’m planning my day, I’m thinking almost exclusively of the B tasks.And then as the day unfolds, there are inevitably going to be some A tasks arise that need an immediate reaction.

The key to managing distractions is being able to recognise if something is a C Task or a ‘task for the dustbin’. When you’re working across e-mail, LinkedIn, phone, your CRM, and maybe a couple of other media too, you’ll get large volumes of urgent but not important input.

There are plenty of these tasks that don’t need to be done at all, and plenty that can be done later.

For a moment, perhaps I can give you an insight into how this applies to an In-House Recruiter, or Talent Acquisition specialist. Every time an external Recruiter contacts them looking for feedback on a candidate, it’s a C-task.

In the time taken to give the Recruiter ‘no news yet’, they could be chasing to get you the feedback. If you try and appraise every task you ask of someone (from their perspective) it will massively help you assess timescales of reply.

Don’t send someone a dustbin task and expect a reply instantly.

Self Analysis
Back at your own desk. Try to get into the habit of not reacting immediately to everything that comes to you.

E-mails don’t always need a response straight away. Flag it and come back. You don’t need to look at that profile on LinkedIn right now. And that Whatsapp message from your mate doesn’t need a witty response this second.

You have to recognise what you’re likely to gain from each thing you do, and at the same time understand if that gain is diminished by a delay.

By constantly making considered decisions about what needs doing, and when, you’ll be able to minimise your distractions. That can make a huge difference in a win-or-bust job like recruitment. Being the first Recruiter to call that perfect candidate. Getting an extra CV out every week. Making the time to build a relationship with a potential client.

Saying that, your own mental health is pretty important too. So you should make time for some ‘dustbin stuff’. You’ll do your job better with a smile on your face from the latest Ed Hunter.

Just make it a conscious decision.

Like the conscious decision I made to actually pair my socks again.

I don’t have any regrets. Sure, it might cost me 3 days of my life. But that’s nothing compared to the amount of time it took to keep explaining sock maths to people.

Martin Jones is a Recruiter. From 1999 onwards, he’s worked across multiple sectors and geographies, generating revenue and leading teams. He is a Partner at KnownFour, building a pioneering recruitment business.

Published in Blog

Digital Marketing has certainly become the latest buzzword when it comes to the online presence and promotion of a brand. But it would seem that there’s a skillset shortage when it comes to hiring digital marketing experts, where the expectations of candidates aren’t always met in reality.

Where before there were clearly defined sectors, such as Marketing (online and offline) and Social Media, these lines are now more blurred than ever with the introduction of a whole new ‘digital marketing’ category. This is especially prevalent in the Northern Ireland jobs sector where there’s definitely a digital marketing skillset shortage.

One of our clients, Origin Digital Ltd launched its own sister company, Mindworks after recognizing a gap in the market for a training academy to help marketeers really understand the digital landscape.

Working together to understand the industry in more depth, we conducted research on over 150 candidates to get a clearer picture on what employers expect from their employees, with surprising results.

· Only 52% of candidates for digital roles made it to interview stage

· 62% of candidates had an academic qualification in digital marketing

· Only 39% actually had on-the-job experience of application of these skill sets and using digital marketing tools

· The average salary that candidates sought was £33,500

· The average salary that employers were initially willing to pay: £28,000

· The average salary actually paid to successful candidates: £28,500

“This leaves recruiters in a very strange predicament as candidates have the relevant knowledge required but not necessarily the hands on experience in all areas of digital marketing that employers are looking for”, said Mairead Moore, Partner and digital marketing expert at KnownFour in Northern Ireland.

“There is a clear skills shortage in middle to senior level digital roles and it is increasingly difficult to source the right candidates, but I’m confident that the newly launched Mindworks will help to bridge that gap so that we can place the perfect candidates for our clients.”

Speaking of their decision to launch Mindworks, Jill Robb, Managing Director at Origin Digital Ltd and Workworks trainer said; “This misalignment of skill sets to academic qualifications and a focus on skills development was the core driver of us creating Mindworks Training Academy.”

“There are many marketeers with digital marketing academic qualifications who are unable to complete required job tasks because although they understand the theory, they don’t know how to use the tools they need on the job.”

While these figures highlight interesting problems that face the digital maketing industry in Northern Ireland, the future is certainly bright for marketeers who need the additional training to become the perfect candidates.

Published in Blog

There are a lot of recruitment conversations that start something like this…

“Hi, I’m Martin, I’m a Recruiter, a specialist in the *insert any market here* space.”

I’ve got a couple of issues with this, and I know I’m not alone.

A client of mine once told me that he didn’t understand why candidates would lie about their salary. Once they get the job, the first thing they do is prove to their new employer that they were lying by hand over a P45 tax form.

Similarly, if your first claim in a recruitment conversation isn’t accurate, then you’re contributing to the lack of trust that causes so many issues for the industry.

Now, before you get all defensive and refer me to your network of 6,400 Biscuit Designers, I’m not saying you’re not an expert. I’m just saying that if you’re saying you are, you need to show it.

When you’re starting out in a new position, or in a new market, there’s going to be a period of time in which you’re not an expert.

So, what advice can The Recruitment Clinic provide for this conundrum? Here’s a step by step guide:

1. Remember what you do
You’re a Recruiter, which means you have to be an expert in recruitment above all other things. That’s what clients are going to pay you for, and your candidates aren’t expecting you to teach them how to optimise SEO.

2. Knowing your audience is as important as knowing your subject
I consider myself as an expert in aeronautical engineering… but only when I’m addressing the Clinic household (in that I can make over 2 different types of paper aeroplane). What I’m saying, is that if you’re the most experienced person in the conversation, it’s reasonable to position yourself as such.

3. But you really should know your subject
The problematic part of recruitment is that you’re going to have at least 2 subject areas to master. Firstly, you need to have an total mastery of the recruitment cycle, including possible problems, how they arise, and how to avoid them.

Secondly, you’ll need to become an expert in your market, and that is significantly more difficult. But it does come with time. And that’s the key. Time. The longer you recruit in one market, the more ‘expert’ you become. And the more you’re able to position yourself as such.

4. Never stop learning
Both your own line of business, and any market which you operate in, are constantly evolving. The one constant in business is change. So if you’re not learning, then you’re getting left behind. Like those people who still think time on the phone equals success. It may do, but it’s not an exact equation.

5. Always refer back to point number 2
It doesn’t matter who you are, or how much you know, there’s always someone out there who will know something you don’t, and if you’re too busy being the expert, you’re not going to pick that up.

6. Be Transparent
Let me clear one thing up. You’re not an expert in Fintech after 4 months of recruiting in the space. The one thing that I’m certain of if you’re a recruiter: you have a LinkedIn profile. And on it, anyone can see how long you’ve been doing what you’re doing.

So not being transparent is doing yourself and the industry a disservice. Think about the client you’re speaking to, looking at your LinkedIn profile when you’re on the phone. Still confident to call yourself an expert?

If so, you probably are.

Everyone starts learning from the same point: “I know nothing!”

Fawlty Towers

Be honest about what you know, and then you’ll find people are more than happy to help you learn.

And before too long, you’ll start to be able to add value to those conversations. And then, a little further down the line, you’ll actually become an expert in your subject matter.

Oh, The Irony
When the day comes, you’ll stop feeling the need to tell people you’re an expert. It won’t be necessary any more, because they’ll get value and realise it for themselves. Your input will matter much more.

And for the time being, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that you can be an expert in your job, as soon are you’re ready.

On Jan 28th, according to the Chinese Zodiac, the year of the Fire Rooster officially started. Characteristics for those born in the year are;

Trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work

This year, let’s all be a bit more ‘Fire Rooster’.

Filed under Blog

Published in Blog


Company name*
  • 1 Waterside, Station Road,
    AL5 4US
  • +44 (0)203 793 0444
We use cookies to provide you with the best possible browsing experience on our website. You can find out more below.
Cookies are small text files that can be used by websites to make a user's experience more efficient. The law states that we can store cookies on your device if they are strictly necessary for the operation of this site. For all other types of cookies we need your permission. This site uses different types of cookies. Some cookies are placed by third party services that appear on our pages.
Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.
Resolution Used to ensure the correct version of the site is displayed to your device.
Session Used to track your user session on our website.

More Details