From the outside looking in, the recruitment-to-recruitment (rec2rec) industry may seem peculiar. After all, consultants already specialise in placing great candidates for their clients, so aren’t they the ones who are best qualified to find talent for their own businesses? The reality isn’t quite so simple.
As a recruitment agency, headhunting high-quality consultants is tough. You have to identify the right people, ensure they are a good fit for your firm and entice them away from their current employer. Understandably, most agencies also enforce non-compete clauses that prevent departing staff from taking their client base with them.
It’s therefore no surprise that recruitment agencies can struggle to find top talent, even though it’s their day job. This is where Dan Flynn and Daniel Close of rec2rec agency Dryden Search believe they can make a real difference.
The difficulty of recruiting for recruiters
Flynn and Close recognise the challenges agencies face when hiring consultants because they’ve both suffered the same setbacks throughout their combined 35 years in the industry.
“After over 15 years of working in recruitment, I still didn’t have a go-to person or agency who I trusted to find the best candidates for my teams. That didn’t seem right; it was incredibly frustrating,” says Flynn.
“We started to speak to other people in the industry, and they all shared the same experiences. They could get sporadic help from five or six different people, but none of them had a reliable partner they could turn to for all their recruitment needs.”
The two Dans first met at Barclay Simpson, a London-based corporate governance recruitment agency. Close joined the firm in 2005, with Flynn starting less than a year later. Both spent over a decade at Barclay Simpson before Flynn left for Stanton House in 2016.
“Our paths crossed again this summer. We were both reaching junctions in our careers and it became apparent we both saw the same problems with the rec2rec market. We realised we could provide something very different,” Close explains.
Confident there was a gap in the industry, Close and Flynn were keen to change the recruitment industry’s perception of rec2rec agencies. They quit their jobs and founded Dryden in September.
What makes Dryden different?
Dryden’s tagline is ‘redefining your view’ and the company’s name is a reference to John Dryden, who was England’s first appointed Poet Laureate back in 1668. The poet, who Flynn studied at university, was an innovator who dominated the literary scene during a time of great change – the Restoration Period.
Meanwhile, Dryden the company offers a mix of contingency, executive and international search services. These are fairly standard rec2rec offerings, so how is the agency redefining what to expect from a rec2rec firm? According to Flynn, most firms within the industry search for available candidates and simply forward them to all the agencies on their client list. Dryden takes a fundamentally different approach.
“We start with the client. We find out all about their business, learn everything about their history and their culture, assess their best people and gain a deep understanding of the type of people they want to hire,” Flynn says.
“Only then will we search the market and try to find the best candidates for them. It’s about engaging with senior leadership teams and discovering the DNA of the business first.”
The result is that Dryden is able to build deeper and more meaningful relationships with recruitment agencies, which leads to both exclusive and retained mandates.
Helping professionals advance their career
Dryden’s client-centric focus doesn’t mean candidates are neglected. Quite the contrary, quality consultants are difficult to find and even harder to tempt away from their current jobs. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure clients and candidates are ideally matched.
“The biggest challenge in this marketplace will always be extricating great people from their current firms. All businesses look after the consultants who make them a lot of money,” Close admits.
Professionals are already staying with their existing employers longer. In the first quarter of 2019, the average tenure of a consultant working for a top-tier agency was just over 5.5 years – up from 4.8 years just two years ago.
The drivers that motivate recruitment consultants to switch jobs are different to most other industries. Better remuneration and career development opportunities may not lure professionals away in the same way because salaries and promotions are typically tied to an individual’s billing levels. This means talented recruiters often already have clear pathways to climb the ranks in their current agency.
“It’s about tapping into factors that go beyond money and seniority. Perhaps they are unsatisfied with the company’s values or its direction. Maybe they are in a rut or have come to a crossroads in their career or life,” Flynn says.
“Ultimately, we need to be able to present candidates with an option that will provide a real change. Often, recruiters don’t know what this can look like, so what they need is a career consultancy service. We can offer guidance and advice to a candidate, while also showing them what options are available in the market. We know, because we’ve been in their position.”
Adapting to change and looking ahead
So, has switching from traditional recruitment to rec2rec been a difficult transition? How do prospective clients react when they hear Dryden’s origin story?
“They pause, clearly thinking, ‘why on Earth have you done it’!” Close jokes. “The concept at first might seem peculiar given that we have spent decades building a successful recruitment career only to switch lanes and launch a rec2rec start-up.”
“However, once we have sat down, discussed and understood their hiring issues, shared examples from our own experiences, the conversation often quickly moves on to how we can help.”
The business was only incorporated in September, so it’s still early days for Dryden Search. Nevertheless, Flynn and Close are already confident about the agency’s future. Speaking of which, do they have any specific goals or growth plans? For now, they’re focusing on running an honest business with good values and identifying with people on a genuine human level. Flynn perhaps sums it up best:
“I’ll know we’re winning when one of the businesses we work with is asked who they go to when they need talented recruiters, and their unequivocal response is ‘Dryden Search’.”
This interview was conducted by Francis Finch, a freelance copywriter and NCTJ-qualified journalist who has written for multiple national and international media agencies, industry clients and newspaper outlets.