the sly cormorant and the fishes

sly cormorant

One of the books that I remember from my childhood was a collection of beautifully illustrated poems by Brian Patten called The Sly Cormorant and the Fishes. The poems were re-workings of animal fables, often with very different outcomes from the originals (who won the race of the tortoise and the hare? The hare, of course).

The title poem has been springing to mind recently when I’ve been talking to people in the world of recruitment about how social and digital channels are changing their business. In the story, the cormorant is getting on a bit, and starting to find fishing in the big lake a struggle. He tells the fishes that they are in danger in the lake (my memory says that it was because of impending draining by a farmer, but the book’s cover seems to indicate a more lion-based threat). He also invites them to join him in a safer pond, and, over time, carries them over to the the pond one-by-one in his mouth.

Having built their trust, the fish cannot believe what a good Samaritan the cormorant has been to them. The cormorant gets easy fishing for the rest of his days.

Whilst the outcome of the story is, quite literally, predatory, I think it sums up an interesting way in which people involved in the business of filling roles, either for their own company or for clients, can think about how they could change their business model over time to add greater value to their employers in the future. Today’s world of recruiting is significantly challenged by the changes in how we are able to advertise jobs and find potential recruits.

We’ve gone in a decade from press advertising (in local papers to nationals to trade journals) via job boards to services like LinkedIn. In a world where everyone has access to the information (give or take) that LinkedIn stores, what value does a traditional recruiter model offer? If anything a recruiter is at a disadvantage in this connected world because inevitably they are skilled in recruiting, not in the skills being recruited, and therefore a hiring manager could well be in a stronger position to find the people they need than an intermediary.  A business model is being disintermediated.

But what if recruiters were to adopt something of the cormorants approach? Hopefully not beginning with deceit, but with a desire to create bonds with people before there might be a role to fill, but offering them something of value. How could recruiters engage with communities so that there was knowledge and trust on both sides? What sort of things could recruiters offer to these communities that would be of value to the candidates of the future, thus building up a relationship on reciprocity?

It certainly happens to an extent with potential clients – many agencies today publish research into their target markets that is of tangible value to the managers who may require their services in the future. Some of that in turn may be of value to the candidates of the future, but it’s usually focused on the bosses.

How about providing more career coaching and advice? Providing CV clinics? Providing salary benchmarks? Providing insight into the skills that are in demand today and likely to be in demand in the future? Or by being involved in more industry, rather than recruiting, specific topics and discussions?

And how about that all being provided by the recruiters themselves, rather than the marketing team, thus enabling personal bonds of trust to be established to make the fishing further down the line an easier and more enjoyable experience?

Want to find out more? Why not get in touch.

Published by ballantine70

Matt has spent the past two decades helping organisations to make sense of where technology, media, content and people collide. He currently is Head of Technology and Transformation for London housing provider RHP. In 2013 he founded Stamp London. Previously he’s worked for Microsoft, Imagination, Reuters and the BBC amongst others.