30 Years in the Recruitment Industry – So what’s changed?



Richard Herring, Managing Director of Volt in Europe and Asia, gives his personal account of his time in the recruitment industry, reflecting on the changes he has seen and the reason he has enjoyed 30 years in recruitment. In conjunction with Richard’s celebration of 30 years in recruitment, he has been recognised by Staffing Industry Analysts in their ‘2018 Staffing 100 List’ for Europe that highlights ‘the most influential people in the European workforce solutions ecosystem’.

Richard Herring at desk - 30 years (correct size)
 "In August, I passed something of a milestone – 30 years of working in the recruitment industry. Such events often cause one to reflect on the past and the changes that have taken place. 

I clearly remember that first day when I joined an office of seven people and started to learn about the IT industry. Mainframe, midrange and later on PC’s – IBM (MVS or VM operating system – it mattered), ICL, Dec, Sperry, Burroughs –– a Cobol/CICS programmer was a “walking placement”, as was an RPG programmer. The AS400 was hot news. 
Finding candidates was not easy. We had to build our own database (of hanging files – computerisation came later) by networking and advertising in Computing or Computer Weekly. The latter meant writing advertising copy and submitting it a week before publication and then waiting for CV’s to arrive by post.


We would reformat CV’s with a typewriter and Tippex and fax them to the client. I ran several advertising campaigns for clients and looking back the process seems so slow and archaic. 


I sold my first managed service programme in 1992 to Sony Broadcast in Basingstoke. There was no vendor management system, it was all managed manually and needed tight organisation. I spent a lot of time interviewing candidates on client site, which was a pleasure as they had super offices.

In the mid-90’s we hired a techie as a recruitment consultant and he started talking about something called the World Wide Web and how it would change the world. How right he was. His insights meant that we were early adopters and the quality of candidates we received was markedly higher, at least during those early times.

Of course, as the success of the Internet grew so did the volume of responses and across the industry, service quality became challenged as it was not possible to personally respond to every application. Automated responses became the norm, a regrettable if understandable development.

Although probably the most significant of changes, technology has not been the only thing to affect the industry of course.

Low barriers to entry have enabled many recruitment consultants to start their own business and the competition in the market, particularly the UK, is incredibly intense. This in turn has enabled procurement professionals to drive down prices and UK margins are generally very low today. More recently, I feel that there has been a realisation that the quality suffers if the price is too low and a more balanced approach is needed, particularly as there are severe skills shortages.

The growth of managed service programmes has also been a significant change and recruiters now have to establish clear strategies around how they work with these providers.

One thing that has not changed is the personal connection between the recruiter and the candidate. Understanding someone’s personal objectives, what will make them happy in a job, determining under what circumstances they will or will not make that extra journey or be flexible on remuneration package. This personal connection, and the outcomes from it, are both key to success and enjoyment of the job.

For to find someone a job, and find an organisation someone who can help them achieve their goals, is one of the most satisfying jobs in the world."