Competitors – the recruiters’ perspective 2013

There are many awards that a company can enter to see how they match up to their competition, but there are a lot of excellent companies that do not enter these for a variety of reasons.  We wanted to know who was making an impact in the market and who better to ask than the people who are competing against their peers every day; the recruiters.

We asked 341 Senior Recruiters, Directors and Business owners to let us know who they considered as their 3 biggest competitors to ascertain those companies making the biggest impact in the market.  We asked people from a cross section of the professional markets including Finance, Technology, HR, Energy and Search/Interim and they told us the following.


Companies over 100 consultants are still making the biggest impact, however have lost market share (-10%) since August 2012.  SME’s have gained (+5%) as have midsized companies (+10%) whilst independent consultancies with less than 10 people have lost market share (-5%)


Those businesses established 2000 – 2004 have increased their market share the most (+7%) whilst those established 2005 – 2009 have decreased the most (-10%).  Those established pre 2000 and post 2010 have increased their share marginally (+2% and +1% respectively).

There is no obvious reason why there should be such a drop in market share for those established 2005 – 2009.  One theory could be the lack of time, cash or foresight to plan for growth during the recession.  They were set up during a strong market and quickly entered the tough economic conditions of 2008/2009.  Those that were set up pre 2005 had the infrastructure and funds in place to weather this storm and have taken market share from them.  The post 2010 companies were set up mid recession and so they were fully aware of the market conditions and could plan accordingly.  2000 – 2004 companies have taken far more market share than pre 2000 and this could suggest that the pre 2000 companies have penetrated the market as much as they plan to, and are now either maintaining that share, or are focussing their efforts on other geographical markets.


Some of the largest and most successful companies from last year have either slipped down the rankings or have fallen off them completely, whilst others have shot up the rankings.  Is it a coincidence that the top 4 are all businesses where the founder(s) are still very much involved? That the top 3 are niche, home grown consultancies rather than multinational generalists?  My personal opinion……hopefully not.  It will be interesting to see if this trend continues next year.

It is quite striking to me how only 38% of the market is dominated by 8 names, whilst 62% is being serviced by such a wide variety of names it would be impractical to name them all.  In my view this is a really healthy mix; it means that those companies that want to grow and dominate the market have the opportunity to do so, but it also leaves a lot of market share for those companies with different ambitions and motivations. 

We very much appreciate the input from all those that contributed to this survey and to make it as inclusive as possible also want to mention those companies that were also ranked highly by their peers within their specific niche:

Finance:                 Eximius, Kennedy Pearce

HR:                         Oakleaf, Digby Morgan

Search/Interim:     Heidrick & Struggles, Interim Partners

Technology:            Networkers International

Energy:                   Spencer Ogden




Competitors – the recruiters’ perspective. 2012 results.

There are many awards that a company can enter to see how they match up to their competition, but there are a lot of excellent companies that do not enter these for a variety of reasons.  We wanted to know who was making an impact in the market and who better to ask than the people who are competing against their peers every day; the recruiters.

In August 2012 we asked 241 Consultants, Managers and Directors to let us know who they considered as their 3 biggest competitors to ascertain those companies making the biggest impact in the market.  We asked people from a cross section of the professional markets including Finance, Technology, HR and Legal and they told us the following:


Is it a surprise that the large companies have come out on top?  Surely they have more consultants, work within more sectors and have larger advertising budgets than most others?  This may be true, but there is also some extremely large, well known, well funded business that didn’t even get a mention in the survey.  It’s interesting to see that both independent and SME companies are having almost twice the impact than the mid sized consultancies.


As the above chart shows, the most established businesses account for almost half of the share in terms of who is deemed to be a key competitor. This is understandable given that they have had longer to establish their brand, increase their headcount and take more of a market share.  It is encouraging to see that new businesses established within the last 2 years are also featuring. Particularly commendable given the tough market conditions within which they have started out.


Michael Page, Robert Walters and Morgan McKinley are the 3 companies that are making the biggest impact by far.  Combined, they equate to more than 27% of the total votes.

Is it fair to compare companies at the extreme ends of the spectrum; an international PLC with a boutique 1 man band? Perhaps not.  As such, there should be a special mention to the following businesses that also ranked highly against their peers in their respective sectors.

Finance:   Goodman Masson and Handle Recruitment

HR: Oakleaf Partnership and Frazer Jones

Legal: Shilton Sharpe Quarry and Glass Consultancy

Search: Odgers Berndtson and BIE Group

Technology: Aston Carter


“Does Recruitment to Recruitment work?”

I have seen numerous conversations on linked in and other social media where people have been discussing the recruitment to recruitment market.  The most recent was entitled “Does Recruitment to Recruitment work?”  The majority that were commenting had bad experiences as a candidate (not many comments from a client perspective) and as such had been put off from ever using one again.  Recruitment to recruitment is a fast growing sector with few, if any barriers to entry and as a result there is a huge disparity in how much value a company will add.  A good recruitment to recruitment company will be invaluable; conversely a bad one is likely to add nothing and could even end up harming your career.  Which one you get could be viewed as luck, but there are some things that you can do to mitigate this risk.

One of my friends has been a fund manager for the past 10 years, has been happily employed in the same business for the past 6 years but has still made a point of meeting his preferred recruiter every 6 months for lunch or a coffee.  This means that they have built up a strong relationship; he can gain market intelligence, be kept up to date with any interesting opportunities and if he does become proactive in the market then he can go straight to someone that he knows/trust and will represent him effectively.  My father in law works in a senior role within Facilities Management and does exactly the same.  Why don’t recruiters do this with a recruitment to recruitment company?  Surely, as a recruiter they can see the value of having a strong relationship with an expert that is entrenched in the market.

My advice would be to build a relationship with a recruitment to recruitment company, even if you are perfectly happy in your current role.  If you wait until you are looking, and then put your CV on a website, or apply to an advert then it really is a lottery on who you will be working with and your career is far too important to take this gamble on.  Ask your friends who they rate.  Do you know if anyone supplied in to your own business – how have they done?  Have you been particularly impressed by the way that someone has approached you in the past?  Are they still keeping in touch with you?  Can you get a reference on the r2r?  Who has recommended them on Linked in – could you get in contact with them and ask for an honest opinion?  Do you have any connections in common that you could trust – what are their thoughts, how often have they kept in contact with them?  Is it just when they want something, or are they cultivating a lasting relationship?

There are a lot of bad recruiters out there, but they won’t last long in the r2r market, and so I agree that anyone who has been in the market for a decent amount of time would be worth getting in contact with.  They will be the ones with strong relationships, are well networked and have a good name in the market.  If an r2r isn’t happy to meet you for a coffee on the understanding that it is purely to start a relationship (and that they won’t get an immediate return on the time invested), then I would suggest that they are more interested in ‘quick wins’ rather than relationships and would quickly end the conversation and move on to the next one.

Michael Bowden is Partner at Bowden Mayes – a specialist recruitment company focussed on helping recruitment businesses attract senior management and next generation talent.

It’s The Headhunter Fee, Stupid!

I read an interesting blog by Ken Forrester that describes very nicely the value in using a head hunter over recruiting for a role directly.  I was writing a similar piece but Ken has summed it up so nicely that I thought I would share his piece with you:

It’s The Headhunter Fee, Stupid!

Employers seldom complain about the services of headhunters, it’s the headhunters’ fee that has become their pain point.

A few months ago I was a presenting at a seminar to about 35 business owners and HR professionals.  The topic of the presentation was “How to Recruit like a Headhunter” and during the presentation I made the statement “if you are not using headhunters as your primary recruitment weapon, then you are not hiring the best talent in-the-market”

One individual took offence to that particular statement and became very irate.   He literally stood up from his seat and while pointing his finger directly at me he said “you don’t know what you’re talking about-because we hired some pretty good people-and they are working out just fine-and we didn’t use headhunters”

Without any hesitation, here’s how I responded:

Sir, you are absolutely correct…you really don’t need headhunters to hire the best talent on-the-market.  However, what would you say was the difference between the best talent in-the-market and the best talent on-the-market?

I watched his eyes rolled over into the back of his head as he struggled to find a good answer.  But, without waiting for his response, I asked if anyone in the audience knew the difference between the best talent in-the-market compared to the best talent on-the-market.  What I heard was a number of resume related answers such as: the ones with the best resumes; or the ones presently work for the big brand name organizations or the ones that were educated from the most prestigious universities.

My reply was that they were all very good answers, but they were not the number one answer.  The number one answer is; the best talent in-the-market are most likely the individuals that are not active searching for a job.  Why? It has been my experience that to be wooed by a competitor is the expectation of the top talents.  They don’t get excited just because a job that matches their skills and experience was advertised-they have to be strategically motivated and sold on that particular job opportunity.

So, if you are not using headhunters, then you are hiring the best talent from only the individuals that are actively looking for a new job.  And, there is a significant difference in the caliber of talent when you compare the ones that are actively looking to the ones that are not actively looking for a new job.

To prove my point, I tried to get the audience emotionally involved in the debate.  I took a quick survey by asking four simple questions.  The questions are as followed:

  1. How many of you know of someone that is actively searching for a job?  Almost everyone raised their hands.
  2. How many of you are actively searching for a new job?  Three individuals raised their hands.
  3. How many of you are not actively looking, but would listen to details about another job opportunity if you believed that it could be of some interest to you? Half of the number of individuals in the room raised their hands.
  4. How many of you are not actively looking, but would seriously consider another job opportunity because you were convinced that the job would not only improve your present standard of living it would also advance you career to the next level?  Almost everyone raised their hands.

I pointed out that the result of that survey was similar to recruitment activities in a niche market.  The best talent most likely will be from the group of individuals that are not actively looking.  So, if you are not using headhunters-you are not hiring the best talent from the entire talent pool; you are hiring the best talent from a small puddle.

With all the new recruitment apps that are available, the big job boards and the growing appeal of social media are you trying to convince us that headhunting is the most effective recruitment method available, was the question asked by the same individual.

I said yes it is and I will tell you why!

The reason headhunting remains the most effective recruitment method is because as headhunters we recruit ahead of the need!

Recruit ahead of the need; I’ve never heard of that, he said.

I said: it means that we don’t wait for a job to become open to start recruiting individuals to fill that job; we recruit the individuals for a job before that job becomes open.  And the only way that is possible is if you are committed to building relationships from a recruitment perspective.  But, you also have to be passionate about recruiting to be committed to it; and when you are committed you will live and breathe recruiting 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.  A good headhunter will know who the most talented individuals are, they can identify the hardest workers from the slackers, they know the ones that operate below the radar screen and they also know the ones with the most potential. They do the hardest part of recruiting for you-which is developing relationships.

Apologetically, he said “I didn’t mean to imply that headhunters were not effective, but what are your options if you don’t have the budget to pay headhunter fees?

Therein lies the problem, the headhunter fee.  But it is also a tremendous opportunity for headhunters to make more placements.   How? They just need to do a better job of re-selling the economic value of using professional headhunters or demonstrate creative ingenuity in the pricing of their headhunting services.

The economic value is more profits; because the employers that hire the best talent often win and retain more customers.  Also, why not allow your competitors do the hiring and the training?  You simply rely on headhunters to recruit their best talent from your competitors after they are trained.  Paying jeadhunter fees will be a drop in the bucket compared to cost savings realized in salaries paid to average performers and profits generated from superior performances of the headhunted talent.


By re-pricing, I‘m not suggesting simply to reduce your placement fees, but in addition, offer a variety of recruitment services that can be tailored as a solution to the unique needs and budget of your clients.

If all headhunters charge the same placement fee, does it mean that they all provide the same level of service?  No, but that is the perception.  Nothing will change until we change something and that perception is a good place to start.

This blog entry was written by Ken Forrester and you can view Ken’s original blog entry here

Michael Bowden is Partner at Bowden Mayes – a specialist recruitment company focussed on helping recruitment businesses attract senior management and next generation talent.


Artist, Leader or Entrepreneur?

I recently attended the #TonyRobbins Business Mastery course at the Excel in London.  It consisted of 4 days packed with information, tools and techniques on building and growing a business that is continually innovating and performing at its peak, and the best ways to create an exit plan for yourself; be this through creating a leadership team that will enable you to step away from the day to day running of the business, or the best ways to prime it for a sale.   Tony was on impeccable form as normal and had the entire audience (300 business owners ranging from sole traders through to CEO’s of $Billion multinationals) hooked on his every word for 12 – 14 hours each day with regular bouts of audience participation (dancing, yelling and generally jumping around like a loon) to make sure that everyone was in their ‘peak state’ for learning.  This may all sound a bit ‘out there’, but in short it was excellent.  Other world class speakers included #scottklososky, #keithcunningham and #ericedmeades covering Technology, Finance, and succession planning respectively.

One of the ideas that Tony discussed was that we all fit in to 3 categories:

  • An artist – the talented, skilled producer who is an expert at what they do/make/produce and the art is far more important to them than growing a business or managing a team.
  • A leader – someone that can manage, motivate and enjoy leading teams of people.
  • An entrepreneur – the risk taker.  They are happy to take substantial risks to get what they want and will easily bounce back if their ideas don’t work out.

The quickest way to find out which one you are; if you were to lose your job/business today and had to get a new job tomorrow or else you would lose your house, car and all your other worldly possessions; what would you do?  Would you get a role applying your learned skill/trade (artist), would you get a management role where you were leading people (leader) or would you not worry about losing you house, car and possessions and instead get a loan from the bank and do it all again (entrepreneur)?

None is better than the other, and you may have a bit of all of them in you, but one of these traits will be far more dominant in you than the other two.  To grow a successful business that will reach its full potential you need a leadership team who each dominate in one of these areas, so that as a collective you have experts in all 3.

Tony noted that one of the biggest stresses in your life is trying to be someone that you are not.  Lots of us would like to think of ourselves as entrepreneurs, but are we really?  I quickly realised that I was a leader, and my business partner realised that he was truly an artist.  The good news is that we have 2 of the 3 traits already in our team.  To get our business to reach its full potential, we now realise that we need an entrepreneur.

Which one are you…..? And which do you need to get in to your management team to make sure your business is fulfilling its potential?

Michael Bowden is Partner at Bowden Mayes – a specialist recruitment company focussed on helping recruitment businesses attract senior management and next generation talent.

An introduction….

Michael Bowden


My name is Michael Bowden and I am a founder of Bowden Mayes; a specialist recruitment to recruitment company focussed on helping businesses attract senior management and next generation talent.

I started my recruitment career in 2001 as junior consultant for a large Public Sector recruitment company. Within 12 months I was promoted to Team Manager as recognition of producing the highest % for sales against target for that year.   I was then approached by the CEO of a headhunting organisation to help build their fledgling recruitment to recruitment division.

I started with the business in 2003 and over the next 6.5 years was promoted steadily to Sales Director and grew the team to 20 consultants. I was also responsible for promoting a Managed Service offering that generated at peak 50% of company’s revenue within 6 months of its inception. Whilst a Director, the business won a number of awards including Recruitment to Recruitment company of the Year at the 2009 Recruiter Awards for Excellence.  I was also included in the Who’s Who of Britain’s Business Elite and Who’s Who of Britain’s Youngest Directors 2009.

It was at this time that, along with my now business partner Kevin Mayes, I saw that the market was changing and that there was a gap for a quality driven consultancy working on a simple networking and headhunting methodology. This meant that we could concentrate our time on building a strong network, acting as a knowledge base for people wanting advice on the market, and only facilitating an introduction when they knew that it is going to be the right for all parties

Outside of Bowden Mayes, I am happily married to Sarah and spend the majority of my time trying to keep my baby daughter Lottie amused.  Other pursuits include indulging my main passion of good food, weekly Squash and Tennis leagues and the occasional 10K run for Charity.