Career Advice Recruitment tips

Allied forces

Morgan McKinley is keeping at full speed in recruiting for its industry-changing Career Ally scheme

Most recruitment firms focus on serving the needs of their clients - the companies with vacancies who will pay for a recruiter to deliver suitable candidates.

With its Career Ally programme, Morgan McKinley is changing this. The programme sees the recruitment firm instead focusing its attention on the candidates in a quest to get to know them more closely and build up a relationship over time.

"It is placing candidates at the heart of our business, rather than clients, which is traditionally where recruitment companies looked," says Richie Holliday, chief operations officer for Morgan McKinley in Asia-Pacific.

The recruitment company launched the programme at the start of 2012 in response to changes in the recruitment industry, which it saw had created a demand for recruiters with in-depth knowledge of their candidates. This shift in its way of working has meant Morgan McKinley has an ongoing need to recruit new employees in a range of roles.

In recent years, the recruitment industry has seen significant changes. The increasingly widespread availability of information about vacancies and jobseekers means recruitment agencies face more competition for the services they provide. To give themselves the edge, they need more detailed knowledge of candidates.

"There's a lot more availability of data and network globalisation through a whole range of sources," Holliday says. "As a result, the competition for talent is very fierce. That means Morgan McKinley has to place itself at the centre of the candidate pools, wherever they work, live or play, and interconnect with the candidates in their chosen disciplines to be seen as an industry expert."

With more information available, companies which previously relied on recruitment agencies to find potential candidates can now often handle matters themselves. "Through social networking, onsite recruitment teams and internal HR departments, a lot of organisations have now 'insourced' their recruitment for the majority of their positions," Holliday says.

But while there is less demand for assistance in finding candidates, companies are increasingly looking to recruitment agencies to help get to know potential employees and make sure they are right for particular positions. "There still remains a need at the professional level for an element of screening," Holliday says. "A huge amount of organisations now do a great job of their own recruitment. But a large number still need to go to a third party, driven by the challenges of sheer application volume, and the inability to invest time in sourcing and finding real quality candidates."

For recruitment companies to meet this shift in demand requires changing services from simply finding candidates to knowing these people well. "In the past, recruitment was about identifying candidates," Holliday says. "Now it's about the quality of the delivery there."

The company realised that these changes to the recruitment industry meant that a deeper knowledge of candidates was required to be successful. "We believe that because of the talent war that is out there, we need to have the candidates working with us more closely," Holliday says.

Morgan McKinley began to look for ways to achieve this. Through research, it found that many jobseekers were actually seeking much more of a relationship with their recruiter. "We identified that candidates generally have an unmet need," Holliday explains. "They wanted a trusted 'career ally'."

As a result of this, the company decided to launch its Career Ally programme. This restructured all aspects of the company so that instead of focusing on serving clients, the emphasis was placed on getting to know candidates and building relationships with them.

"This is really about a very strong, positive engagement programme with our candidates to generate genuine quality from our service," Holliday says. "It's there to increase our knowledge of the candidates and for us to get to work with them over a number of years."

The company made extensive changes to the way recruiters worked with candidates. For example, to fit their role as true career allies, Morgan McKinley recruiters now help candidates prepare for interviews even when they are not actually representing them for the job. The company also changed its billing model so that the compensation its recruiters received was tied less to their success in filling clients' vacancies and more to their performance connecting with candidates.

In order to implement the programme, the company has had to recruit a number of new employees. "We needed to take on more people," Holliday says. "By putting ourselves at the centre of the candidates in our chosen markets, we need to have a depth of knowledge. Practically speaking, this requires resources on the ground. I have invested in hiring people to research these areas, to carry out market mapping, to correctly position our marketing [and] to run candidate-specific events … all with the aim of getting Morgan McKinley involved in the community [and] really plugging ourselves in."

In 2013, the company increased its Asia-Pacific headcount from 125 to 165, including 21 new hires in its Hong Kong team. Holliday says that because the programme is already proving highly successful, he expects this level of recruitment to continue in the coming year.

"Our performance hit rates are going up, which means our revenues are increasing," he says. "That gives me an opportunity to reinvest that in the business. Specifically, we have headcount plans over the next 12 months where we are looking to again increase in the Asia-Pacific region, moving up towards 200. So the hiring rate is set to remain at the same fairly furious pace."

When choosing new employees to take on, Holliday says that above all he looks for people who really understand the new candidate-focused ethos of the company. "It's about passion for those values, and really caring to make a difference," he says.

For Holliday, the benefits of the new way of working are very clear. "If we open the talent pool and have candidates working with us over a number of years, it's a much better model for them, and also for us," he says.


Richie Holliday explains what makes someone a real ‘Career Ally’

Trust “You have to be able to build trust in order to put yourself at the centre of [the candidate] community.”
Commitment “You need to be committed not just to learning a candidate’s sector, but also their discipline, to becoming deeply specialised. We’re not looking for generalists.”
Flexibility “This is essential. You have to embrace change and you have to be prepared to look at things in a different way in order to adapt to changes in the market.”
Vision “You need to always be transforming the way you operate and look to offer a better service the next day.”