Concrete conversation with Iain Dennis

We interviewed recruitment veteran Iain Dennis about his experiences within the industry. As Managing Director of Iain Dennis Associates, Iain focuses exclusively on recruiting for the built environment, providing a tailored service to the construction industry across the South West and South Wales region.

IM So, Iain, you are you the director of Iain Dennis Associates, can you tell me about how you set up the company?
ID I started in recruitment 32 years ago with a very small agency called Montrose Technical Recruitment that was bought by Hays in 1987. I joined as a trainee recruitment consultant and worked my way through the ranks to board director. After 25 years I left to set up on my own and have been working on a self-employed/ freelance basis ever since. From a recruitment point of view, I look after a small cohort of about a dozen clients. I also work with a number of agencies teaching and training their management and consultant teams as well as coaching directors. In summary, having done the big corporate role, board director at Hays and CEO at Eden Brown at 46 years old I went out on my own and here I am now.
IM And do you work on your own?
ID Yes, having grown a team from one, me, to 250 in the past I am thoroughly enjoying just having me and my client to look after. I was a big corporate man for many years and I was nervous turning my back on that and doing everything for myself, but it was the best thing I have ever done.
IM Did you have a pipeline when you set up your own company?
ID After over 30 years in the profession, I really did have my own personal network, when I was a trainee at 21 years old in the mid 80’s I was placing site managers and quantity surveyors, 30 years later those guys are board directors, managing directors and chairmen themselves. So as my career progressed so did theirs.
IM So some strong relationships! Have you seen a large change in the way people recruit now days looking back 30 years ago?
ID My view is that social media has made us unsociable. When I started it was much more personal, every client was met and every candidate was interviewed, going back to the mid 80’s we didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have mobile phones. Faxes hadn’t come online when I started! You had to build up your contacts. It’s very interesting in the world of recruitment now we have four generations. We have the baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z coming through now, and that’s both fascinating and challenging because those four generations communicate in very different ways. Baby boomers are face to face, Gen X is fine with email, Gen Y its text messaging and those styles of communication are very different, as a baby boomer myself seeing those changes in technology and generational changes has been thought-provoking.
IM Do you yourself text or use social media?
ID I use LinkedIn but one of the things about coaching Gen Y is working on their flexibility and adaptability. When someone walks into a room stand up, reach your arm out and shake them by the hand, looking them in the eye and introducing yourself. You need to feel comfortable making small talk. And if you can do that you’ll rule the world.
IM So what changed do you think will happen in the next five years within the industry?
ID Technology is technology, you can’t turn the tide back you have to embrace it. What you have to do is make technology work for you. You are the master. If you listen to too many IT experts you can become a slave to the system. Recruitment is people for jobs and jobs for people, and a lot of people who don’t have the background in recruitment have overcomplicated a very simple process. Technology has made it worse, I don’t think technology has improved our productivity in recruitment.
IM Do you think technology needs to go back to basics to work?
ID Thirty years ago the average perm consultant was placing between 6 and 10 people a month, the average temp consultant was pulling out a similar number. Today your average perm consultant is placing 1-3 people a month.
IM Do you not think other issues could also be impacting this?
ID We have much more competition, much more alternatives for clients. But to the industry in terms of productivity, IT has not improved things. 20 years ago we were looking at £10,000 per head monthly income, for many agencies, this is the norm they go for.
IM What are your thoughts on Brexit impacting the industry?
ID Whether you were a remainder or a Brexiteer it’s going to happen. It is up to us to deal with the situation and to deal with what will happen as a result of that and I think from an international point of view the UK recruitment industry is highly sophisticated so we have to use it to maintain links with Europe. See it as an opportunity to go to the rest of the world. I worked for Hays for many number of years and we were truly a global player. We should seize Brexit as an opportunity to do that. There will be implication regarding immigration but we have to make that work for us.
IM What are your top tips to scale a recruitment business?
ID Go and see your clients. Meet them face to face and share with them the journey they’re on. If you’re in a startup situation, go deep with your clients, you don’t want hundreds of jobs on. Maintain the personal touch for as long as you can. Meet all your candidates, keep meeting your clients and devote yourself to that high touch consultancy service. When you take the time to sit with a candidate and really find out what they are looking for I truly believe every candidate will tell you what they really want and every client will tell you how to fill the vacancy. Just give yourself time with your clients and candidates. And shut up! Make sure you listen to them properly!
IM Some strong answers Iain! Thank you for taking the time to speak to me, have a lovely day.

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