How best to recruit within the Data Centre market. Are we doing it right?
To properly answer this question, we need to rewind a little bit. I’ve been in the recruitment industry now for the best part of five years and Data Centres specifically for the majority of that time. Like most recruiters out there I would consider myself an extrovert. I like to think I am personable and easy to talk to. However, one thing that is not as commonly found (in my experience) is I am a critical thinker and a very reflective person (and not just in terms of my rather large and shiny forehead).
I come from a customer service/management background working for companies that encouraged creative thinking in solving problems and a major part of that has always been reflecting on the past. One thing that has really challenged me during my time recruiting is how difficult it is to do this. A combination of the fast-paced nature of this industry giving you little time to sit back and take stock along with the fact that asking for feedback on the recruitment process itself is for some reason a seemingly taboo subject.
In my time I have tried a number of different ways of recruiting – contingent (multi-agency), exclusive (sole agency) and over the last 12-18 months retained (partnership working). I’ve been thinking about whether we are going about recruiting for our sector in the right way. So, let’s break it down.
Below are my top 5 tips (in no particular order) for companies and even my fellow recruiters on how best to recruit in this market.
1. Know your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
However, you choose to set up your recruitment function the most important thing is making sure you deliver a consistent and appealing message to your given talent pool. Everyone wants to be part of a story and yes, a job move might not be as exciting as a character arc in a superhero movie, but everyone wants to see themselves going on a journey and achieving their potential. Almost every Data Centre company I deal with are embarking on a period of significant growth so get that message out there. Ask yourselves where you see the business in 3-5 years and what this particular position you are looking for will do to help get you there. Even if right now your particular company or site are going through some challenges share those and make the talent pool aware of what you are going through and why, usually (and hopefully) it is to get to a better place once through it. The companies that I most enjoy working with and that are most successful in recruiting top talent have this nailed down.
2. Refine your process, then refine it some more and some more… (you get the point)
The marketplace is becoming an increasingly competitive one. With an only growing need for more Data Centre professionals there is nothing that will lose you more candidates than a lengthy and pointlessly drawn-out process. An interview process is often a window into seeing how a company operates. What does yours say about you? What would it say to a candidate if your interview process is long winded and filled with pointless additional stages and unnecessary tests? With the emergence and increasing normality associated with video interviewing it is now easier than ever to have a quick and simple process. The days of 5+ interview stages over many months should (in theory) be over.
3. In-house vs External
I’m sure the expectation here would be for me to bash any in-house approach but having worked within both systems I won’t be doing that. I have come across some excellent in-house recruiters and recruitment functions and also continue to hear horror stories of poor practice from other agencies that operate in the Data Centre space, so this is never going to be a clear-cut answer. In my experience no matter your set up, things are generally smoother if you have someone internally dedicated to recruitment (and by dedicated to recruitment ideally, I don’t mean someone who has a huge amount of other HR responsibilities with recruitment added on at the end!). Given the size of the industry now, the volume of roles that are often looked for and the hugely competitive marketplace with a diminishing pool of qualified candidates I do not see any way to function without the need for specialist external support in some capacity moving forward.
4. Contingent v Exclusive v Retained
When I first started out, I worked extensively in the contingent way. Roles were given out to multiple agencies with the belief that the more agencies that worked a role the more access you would get to the market. It has been clear to me that this doesn’t work in Data Centres. All that ends up happening is mixed messages sent to the marketplace and agencies squabbling over candidates. I quickly transitioned to working with key clients on an exclusive basis. This often came from the point of being a trusted contact who they knew would deliver and most importantly had access to candidates others didn’t due to our specialising in the market. Whilst this worked well there was still no guarantee of success and it felt like something was lacking.
I then undertook some training on the Retained model. I’ve utilised that way of working ever since for any roles that are more challenging (senior hires, multiple needs or historic needs that had proven impossible to fill). The feedback from my clients has been amazing. The sector as a whole does seem to be moving away from contingent for the most part and I think that is for the best. Those that are still recruiting contingently I know are finding it harder than everyone else.
5. Supplier vs Partner
For me this is the area that I have seen the most change in my time and where I can see the future of the Data Centre recruitment shifting towards. Clients I work with and new companies joining the market no longer want just a supplier. They don’t just want an agency to come in and simply fill some jobs. The industry needs more than that. It needs specialists who can help guide and support their clients through growth with up-to-date market information. It needs more discussions to be had around bringing new talent into the industry, looking at the next generation and improving on our recruitment of a diverse workforce. It needs recruitment partners not suppliers.
This way of working lends itself to building stronger relationships with trusted partners who can access the full talent pool and have the knowledge to push back if what the client is looking for isn’t out there right now. If we want to continue to grow and improve as an industry and sector, we need to work smarter and that can only happen with collaboration and movement in this direction.
Overall, it feels like things are moving in the right direction. As with any growing industry it is going to take time to get things right. I am having more and more conversations with clients about the future which can only be a good thing. As always within the Data Centres market the future is looking bright.
Hopefully you found something useful to take away from this article. I’d love to get your opinion, whether you are an internal recruiter or manager within industry. Let me know what you think and where you see the market heading in terms of its recruitment strategy.
Written by Ben Palmer, Sector Lead FM & Operations
Contact him Here