So how do you find your next superstar? That’s easy, you might think – you just put an ad on Seek, on Trade Me Jobs, and on LinkedIn and see who applies.

Or you could ask around on Facebook and Twitter and see if anyone knows anyone.

Or you could enlist the help of a specialist. I interviewed Rachel Cornwall of Red Consulting Group to ask her how recruitment works in the digital age and what the top recruiters do to earn their money.

“We deal with the good people. They just aren’t in the right jobs yet”, says Rachel.

When Rachel moved to Hawke’s Bay 13 years ago, she saw a huge opportunity in servicing the recruitment needs of Hawke’s Bay. From the start, Rachel saw that there was a gap in the higher end of the recruitment market, that needed a more thorough, personal approach, with a focus on excellence at every level. This came from the insight that the business landscape in Hawke’s Bay is dominated by privately held businesses, so recruitment needs to be much more personal and less transactional than in larger centres where middle management is more prevalent.

Apart from hard work, which seems to be an essential ingredient to success (oddly enough), Rachel puts the success of Red down to the company’s positioning, being crystal clear about what you’re offering and who it’s for, and making sure that what you’re offering the market is unique and valuable. In a business that is all about personal relationships, systems are very important.

Red commissioned their own custom CRM (customer relationship management) system built on Microsoft technology. An early adopter of technology, Red’s CRM system is finely-tuned and very effective, but technology marches on, and they are due to upgrade to a cloud-based system soon. The new system will have social media integration, allow remote access, work well from mobile devices and both the Hawke’s Bay and Auckland offices will use it to share data.

The sheer amount of data involved and the relationship-based approach means that Red would not be possible without the internet. “It’s the air we breathe”, says Rachel. The job market is global and Red recruits across New Zealand, so real-time digital communication and skilled use of social networking sites are vital.

But when everyone has access to the internet, what sets the really good recruiters apart? “Integrity, deliverability, and accountability,” says Rachel. Red has built a successful client base by making sure that every client has their needs met. In saying this, Rachel emphasises the word ‘every’.

Rachel places great emphasis on commercial intelligence, which means doing your homework, always increasing your understanding of analytics, what drives company balance sheets, and knowledge across a broad range of business areas, from animal genetics to web development technologies. In other words, “being across everything”.

For a long time, many job candidates searching for jobs on the website thought that it was owned by Red, due to a large red banner advert at the top of the page. Red has also had a billboard at Hawke’s Bay airport for years, and it provides good visibility for the brand for the travelling executives that the firm targets. But mostly she prefers what she calls “marketing by stealth” and admits that she has no marketing budget. Pretty funny for a marketing graduate! Every job Red places in the paper or online contains Red Consulting Group in the copy, and Rachel says that every contact point with an employer or job seeker is an opportunity to build the brand.

Interestingly, Red no longer uses email marketing. Rachel feels that there is already too much commercial email landing in people’s inboxes without Red adding to it.

The job advertisement is a crucial part of the recruitment process. According to Rachel, it’s important to know your client’s needs really well, so the ad is attractive to the candidate. The ad must be absolutely authentic and it has to be fun with “spark and spunk”.

Telling a good and authentic story is essential to attracting talent, especially when you’re looking to attract candidates to a region like Hawke’s Bay. Not only do you need to sell the position, you also need to sell the client’s business, and the region as a whole, to someone who might not even be aware of Hawke’s Bay, and who might not have considered moving to a ‘province’ at all.

The social networks that Rachel favours are LinkedIn and Facebook. “LinkedIn is good when it’s used properly.” Red use LinkedIn for what she calls “proactive approaches” (Rachel prefers the term to ‘headhunting’). Red has a premium paid account with LinkedIn which means that they can search much more effectively than free users.

Rachel says that Red is focused on finding the best person who will have the biggest impact on the client’s business. Nearly 100% of management candidates who get placed have a LinkedIn profile. So it’s vital for anyone who is looking for a managerial role that they keep their LinkedIn profile up-to-date and accurate.

Facebook, on the other hand, is not so good for finding candidates, but is excellent for cross-checking, where you get to see the real person behind the LinkedIn profile. “Someone might look brilliant on LinkedIn and then on Facebook you can see what they actually get up to in the weekends.”

When I ask her to identify the biggest change that Red has needed to respond to, Rachel tells me it’s the smartphone. Rachel immediately accepted that business had to go mobile, and that to be a successful recruiter, you need to be accessible as much as possible.

Rachel most admires companies who are honest in their positioning and don’t try to be everything to everybody. She likes online shops Willow Shoes and Vanilla Bloom. She also admires the auction site Trade Me and Alibaba, the global wholesale trading platform (“Jack Ma is a remarkable businessman and they deliver on their promise”).

The common traits in these businesses that Rachel likes are that they are all about people, positioning, and providing value in a specific market. A bit like a recruitment company, Trade Me and Alibaba are places where buyers and sellers come together and rely on trust and integrity to achieve results through long-term relationships.

She leaves me with some advice for those who are considering a career in recruitment: Listen, and make time for people and process. And pay attention to detail … all the time. Rachel’s known for saying: “i is a letter with a dot on it. Put the dot on it.”

Matt Miller co-owns web company Mogul Limited, based in Havelock North, but serving clients around the world, including BayBuzz. His beat for BayBuzz is online trends and best practice.

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