Why is a recruitment consultancy so interested in network science?

By Huw Martin

If you have been following our blog over the past couple of months you will have noticed that we have been upping our content output from years gone by, and have been talking about quite a wide range of topics. While it may have seemed a bit sporadic at times, trust me it was all planned out!

Off the back of our most recent white paper, A Guide to 21st Century Networking, we have had a lot of feedback but the one question that has been coming up consistently from clients, candidates (and our competitors) is — why are a recruitment consultancy concentrating so much on this idea of connectedness and network science?

I did a quick search of the white paper before sitting down to write this post and the term ‘recruitment’ only shows up once and ‘job’ only appeared seven times.

At the start of this year we started to take a serious look at what we were saying in the marketplace and whether it reflected Head as a company. We started to play around with a number of areas to explore and experiment in the market, and naturally we started looking at recruitment. For a long time we struggled to get past the usual suspects.

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Our first couple of posts were about the future of the recruitment industry – while these were interesting and stirred up quite a bit of debate, the truth is we weren’t saying anything that hadn’t been said before, and the content was really appealing more to our competitors than our customers.


However, this did lead us on to some more interesting thinking. There was a nugget in there that stuck with us.

Spurred by Scott Torrance at Flux Insights we started to look at the market more holistically and applied some basic systems thinking.

We realised that the recruitment industry is simply a smaller system that sits within a larger one – the job market – and the job market itself is a system which sits within the wider business landscape.


When looked at in this way a number of things became apparent to us:

  • The recruitment industry is a narrow market and of limited interest to those outside it
  • The further down the pyramid you go the more varied the topics become and they become more interesting to a greater number of people.
  • But, most importantly, the flow of influence is not from the recruitment industry down to the business but rather from the business landscape. Any insights into the changing nature of the recruitment industry will then come from looking closely at the changes happening in the business landscape - not the other way around.

When you put it like this it seems so obvious, yet it is very rarely put into practice.

Our customers live in the bigger systems outside of our world, and come into ours when they have a specific need. Therefore, it is up to us to go to them and not the other way around.

So where are we now?

I will be honest; it is taking time to shake ourselves out of this recruitment mindset and to widen the conversation internally.

As we started to explore the changing business landscape it became apparent to us that there were a lot of areas that were going to have a significant impact on the job market. We wanted to narrow in and explore one area.

As we searched for a topic we set simple criteria for ourselves; the primary one being that it had to apply equally to individuals (candidates) and businesses (clients).

We experimented with a number of angles:

  • Motivation (specifically intrinsic)
  • Talent
  • Cultural fit
  • Learning agility

While they were interesting and we couldn’t get away from the fact that it all kept on coming back to this idea of business becoming more and more connected. It is this topic that holds all the others together. Our most recent white paper is the first step of looking at this topic through the lens of how an individual networks to achieve their goals in business.

While this started off as a content marketing initiative it has grown into so much more. We are aware that the recruitment industry as we know it today will not exist in five or ten years’ time, or at least it will not look the same. It is our job to be constantly looking at where it could be going and to innovate our way into the future. This will only happen by placing the focus on our customers and better understanding their world and their needs. This content initiative is one of the vehicles for exploring these ideas and testing them in the market.

This whole content project is about changing the way that we engage and communicate with our customer segments; our clients, candidates and of course our employees (present and future).

We will be continuing to ramp up our activities online and have some interesting things planned over the next month – if you are interested in taking more of a look behind the scenes make sure you are signed up to our mailing list as we will be sharing some unique insight with those people.

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