Executive recruiters get to work on themselves

RECRUITMENT agencies in Western Australia, particularly executive recruiters, are bulking up to meet strong demand they say is being driven by an upswing in the economy.

Most recruitment agencies contacted by WA Business News spoke had recently moved to increase consultant numbers.

Many say they have either secured new consultants in recent months or are planning to take on more consultants in the New Year.

Interestingly, some firms are employing recruitment consultants without actual recruitment experience, but who instead worked at a high level in another field of work.

And while the appetite for more staff is coming from most sectors – with engineers, tradespeople and transport workers in particularly short supply – the large recruitment agencies are choosing to bolster their executive and senior management recruitment ranks on almost unprecedented levels.

Recruitment and Consulting Services Association WA branch president Stuart McLean said while staffing demand generally increased around this time of year, with many employees wanting leave for Christmas, the buoyant economy was the main cause.

Mr McLean said there was an increased demand for executives and management positions, with company management levels usually the most affected during a sluggish economy.

But he also said that better profit margins would be a contributing factor behind recruiters’ efforts to secure more of the executive market.

International recruitment agency Drake Australia has substantially increased its ranks in WA, particularly in its executive division.

WA Drake Executive managing consultant Ann Atkinson said Drake had recently formulated a clear strategy to expand.

“A few months back we started to get a little more business,” she said.

But rather than wait for business levels to increase Drake has aggressively recruited staff, mainly into its executive recruitment division.

Three employees have been hired in Drake Executive while one other has been internally shifted to Drake Personnel. There are also plans to take on at least one more consultant in the executive recruitment division, which will take the division numbers to seven – almost double last year’s number.

While Drake Australia has up to four consultants recruiting in five different work fields, Ms Atkinson said executive searches had not been a major focus up until now.

She said while profitability was partly driving Drake’s increased focus in executive recruitment, there also had been growth in the Perth business sector during the past decade, changing the way recruitment agencies were used.

International recruitment firm Robert Walters has employed four new consultants in the past six months and is looking to hire at least one more in the short term.

Robert Walters director Bruce Henderson said there was a positive sentiment in the business community.

“While you have to be careful you don’t follow some media reports that quote randomly bullish information, [during] the past three quarters we have stepped up,” he said.

However, with the increased demand also comes a warning for WA businesses.

Mr Henderson said the shrinking availability of the quality candidate pool and the ever-present threat of poaching were issues businesses needed to be aware of, particularly in the next six to 12 months.

“There were more higher quality people floating around last year,” Mr Henderson said.

“And that should send a signal to businesses that they might have to think a bit more carefully if they want to recruit and retain the best team.

“When the friendly head-hunter rings up, your price automatically goes up 20 per cent.”

Mr Henderson said a shrinking candidate pool led to increasing reliance on mainstream media advertising.

Recruitment agent Kelly Services recently bolstered staffing ranks by 15 per cent and will be looking for more staff next year.

“Recruitment agencies are a good litmus test for the general economy,” Kelly Services State manager Mike Nicholson said.

He said Kelly Services had increased its consultant levels in the past few months to meet increased client demand.

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