Interview with Chris Hickey, CEO, Middle East & Africa at Robert Walters

Published on: 21 May 2015

Name: Chris Hickey

Job Title & Company: CEO - UK, Middle East & Africa at Robert Walters

What’s your view of the recruitment market just now – where are the real challenges?

The recruitment market is the most buoyant it’s been for a long while. As a result, employers are having to rapidly adjust their hiring and retention strategies, as candidates are now in a much stronger position relative to where they have been for the past five or six years.

As demand for professionals is increasing, those employers who haven’t adjusted their recruitment process and strategy (in line with a changing job-market) have often missed out on the best candidates. With candidates being infinitely more confident in exploring the job market, many are now receiving multiple job-offers and are making key career decisions based on the effectiveness of their recruitment experience at their prospective employer.

On the flip-side, counter offers are becoming an increasingly popular strategy to try to retain staff at their incumbent employer. However, our research indicates that a counter offer is rarely a long term solution to issues with staff retention.

How important is social media to recruitment?

Social networks such as LinkedIn have had a significant impact on recruitment, although they haven’t replaced more ‘traditional’ methods – rather, they’ve supplemented them, and have provided another useful reference point in the recruitment process.

Social media has also given employers access to a vast talent pool to search for new employees. This can be a double-edged sword though, as in such a vast pool it can be extremely difficult for employers to identify the best candidates. Often ‘time-poor’ hiring managers are caught having to review and reply to countless applicants who are wholly unsuitable. To not reply to each and every applicant, could potentially harm brand image.

What’s your best piece of advice to a hiring manager or organisation looking to hire?

Consider the opportunity cost of waiting for the perfect candidate to come along. I have seen from previous cycles that employers can reap substantial rewards through being flexible in their hiring strategy. Rather than waiting for the perfect candidate, those employers who are prepared to invest in training and development and hire a candidate who has aptitude and ability often achieve the best outcome.

If you could change one thing about the recruitment industry what would it be?

As a largely unregulated industry, recruitment is vulnerable to substantial variations in the quality of service to candidates and clients alike. For me, looking to improve this quality of service across the industry would be a step in the right direction. To this end, one qualitative strategy we have adopted as a Group since our inception (over 30 years ago), is a non-commission compensation model for our employees. We have found that our model, which is a team-based profit share, motivates our consultants to work together, and also provides a quality long-term partnership with our clients and candidates.