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Survival and the Specialist in a Rapidly Changing Recruitment Industry

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by Mark Smith

about 4 years ago

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The recruitment industry is changing rapidly. The rise of social media and its disruptive effects are now, some would say, finally being felt acutely in recruiting. The general consensus has been that to survive and to flourish in the future as an external or agency recruitment consultant, you should ensure you are a ‘specialist’. So what does that mean? Being a specialist in the recruitment industry means you are an expert within your sector or industry silo. For example, you may be a digital marketing specialist, a funds management specialist, or you could be an SAP specialist. 

Essentially, this means that you have built a network within the specialisation and you have detailed knowledge about your specialisation. Specialisation is a logical strategy that has historically brought much financial gain. Social media disruption has caused many agency recruiters to scramble to ensure that they have their niche secure, and many new starters are focusing entirely on unique market niches. 

This is all well and good, but here is my problem with this strategy: what happens when the market that your entire recruitment firm specialises in is disrupted? 

Examples include recruitment firms who specialise in mining and engineering, the automotive sector or print media. If you knew that social media would take off as it has, you would have set up a specialist social media recruitment firm five years ago. 

Survival of recruitment agencies, in my view, is more akin to their ability to adapt and to provide cutting edge sourcing to clients recruiting positions that may not even have been created yet. If a recruitment firm defines itself purely as a specialist in a very thin, unique niche market, then they should expect to be disrupted by changes in their market or economic cycle relating to their niche. It would be expected that this would happen more often to those firms than to firms that have a combination of specialist recruiters who are nimble and able to reposition themselves in a changing market place. 

Here is a thought to leave with you: is your specialisation both the best thing about your business and also the ball and chain that will restrict your future prosperity?

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