The Recruiter's Soapbox

Interviewing for management

The things you need to think carefully about before interviewing for your next agency recruitment management role

As any Recruitment Manager who has considered changing companies knows, this is not a simple decision.  There are lots of things you need to consider, before you begin talks with a potential employer:

I am focused currently on my favourite type of role; Senior General Management within the agency recruitment space. In preparing my briefs, it got me thinking about an interview I did for Shortlist last year on how important it is for recruitment managers to be asking the right questions to ensure they are making the right move.  It’s as much about interviewing your potential employer as them interviewing you.  If you want to make the right move, rather than just a move, there is a lot to consider.

Here is my guide to things to consider/questions to ask when you are interviewing for Senior Management roles:

  • What is the average level of experience across the team?  Managing a junior team versus a highly experienced sales team requires a totally different management style.  A junior team requires KPI’s, structure, daily checks and balances.  It can be relatively easy to gain credibility in this environment quickly.  An experienced sales team will require a whole different management style and approach to gaining consultants’ respect.
  • What type of Leader are you? Lead from the front Managers are the only type of managers that the industry is interested in.  You have to be visible doing everything that you ask your team to do.  You have to manage by setting the right example.  Consultants want to be inspired and challenged by you.  Above all they want to keep learning.  Ask yourself; can you provide this?
  • Are you doing it for the right reasons?  If it’s only to increase your earning potential, think again.  Quite often in a management role you can earn less than a high performing consultant.  Your focus is taken away from pure billing and you are reliant on others to achieve your goals.  Move into this type of the role for the right reasons; i.e. you genuinely want your career to move in this direction and you are motivated by managing and getting the best out of people.
  • Is this a newly created role? If this is an owner trying to step away from the business, are they truly prepared to do so?  I’ve met so many managers who feel hamstrung by an owner who sit in the same office, who just can’t let go of the reigns.  If it’s not a newly created role, why did the last incumbent leave?  What were their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What’s their talent acquisition strategy?  The biggest hurdle to recruitment agency growth is the ability to attract and retain top talent.  You need to be on the same page as to how you go about this and the tools that you need. In a buoyant market like this current one, it is not unusual for GM’s to spend 60% of their working week in recruitment/headhunting mode for internal staff.
  • Is there a clear business plan?  Where is the business going? How do they plan to get there? How will they measure their success (goals)?  Make sure that expectations are clearly documented; 3,6,12 months +.  Total transparency is required, don’t leave anything to chance.
  • Remuneration:  How will you achieve your bonus/commission/profit share/equity?  Be very clear up front on what the businesses expectations are.  Will your bonus be based on top line sales results or the profitability of the business?  If it’s the latter, you need to see the P&L up front and you need to ensure that you will be given the necessary control to be able to manage outcomes.
  • Will you be given the tools to succeed?  If you are considering a move from a global player to a boutique, think carefully about what this means.  Are you prepared to manage a business that perhaps does not have a large back office function, marketing support, unlimited hiring budget, and unlimited advertising budget?  Think carefully about what tools you are used to having and what do you need behind you to ensure your success.
  • Are your values aligned?  Are they true values that are held to account in the business or are they just “writing on the wall”.
  • What is the business doing to remain valuable as the market evolves?  I have worked with many agencies over my 12 year career in Rec2Rec in Australia.  The market over this time has changed drastically. Some agencies are evolving with these changes, some are ahead of the bell curve and others are doing the same old thing!
  • What is the brand equity in the market?  Do your research.  What is their reputation within our industry and what is the candidate and client perception?
  • What is the structure of the customer base? Are they working to a PSA or Vendor model?  Are they a contract or perm house or a balance of the two?  Are they heavily reliant on one particular sector?  Can they demonstrate repeat business from a core group of long standing clients or is success coming from a wide range of companies?
  • Be clear on who the stakeholders are.
  • Be clear on whether this is a build/fix role, or a maintain position.

No one recruitment business is the same and no one recruitment management role is the same either.  To ensure you start on a positive note in a new role, and to ensure your future success, think carefully, do your due diligence and leave nothing to chance in your questioning.

I’m always keen to keep learning.  If you think I have missed anything here, or have any advice to impart, I would love to hear your thoughts.