Talent acquisition and winemaking? Not so different, it turns out.

When LinkedIn’s UK & Northern Europe Senior Sales Director David Cohen gave the opening keynote at SourceIn London last week, he pointed out the parallel between the recruitment industry and the vintages surrounding delegates at the Vinopolis wine centre where the event was held.

Prosperity amid climate change is the challenge for both – and for recruitment firms as for vineyards struggling with new weather patterns, this means leaving old approaches behind and finding new ways to grow. Here are just five of the key insights that SourceIn’s speakers put forward for staying ahead in a new world for recruitment:

Relationships are the future

“There’s not a lot of quality talent” is one of the biggest concerns of recruitment firms, according to LinkedIn’s Staffing Trends survey for 2013. But LinkedIn Senior Analyst Lindsay Ahearne was quick to argue that the talent pool isn’t necessarily smaller – there are just a lot more people able to fish in it. With private databases no longer the differentiators they once were, investing in relationships with likely candidates is key to giving firms a competitive edge.

Cohen pointed to technology specialists Emerald as an example of a firm using LinkedIn to build uniquely deep relationships with a valuable demographic – and ensure a point of difference in the market. Spencer Ogden founder David Spencer-Percival, who addressed a packed house on Building your Recruitment Brand, spoke about the internet levelling the playing field in recruitment, and increasing the importance of differentiating a business through quality and the ability “to find people others can’t”.

Passives are your future placements

Building deeper relationships with prospective talent often means starting early – and well before somebody starts actively circulating their CV. Only 21% of LinkedIn members are actively seeking jobs, but only one in five are “super passives” wholly uninterested in new career opportunities. The remaining 59% may not be ready for the next role yet, but they are very aware that a new job lies ahead of them – and they will value a relationship with a recruitment firm when targeted and engaged in the right way.

Build your talent brand

The success of Spencer Ogden shows that the value of a strong talent brand applies as much to recruitment firms as it does to their clients. Spencer-Percival discussed the importance of building a sector-specific “energy brand” for his business, supported by hard-working PR, employing the right people and creating an attractive culture through the office environment.

Ahearne demonstrated the value of LinkedIn’s Talent Brand Index in measuring and managing a firm’s recruitment brand, and pointed to firms making strong use of LinkedIn Company Pages and mobilising their own employees to maximise their brand reach. LinkedIn members that follow a recruitment company are more than twice as likely to respond to an InMail from them, and 71% of members who follow your company want to hear about career opportunities.

Sector expertise counts

The opportunity to become a spokesperson for a specific industry is the most valuable type of publicity for a recruitment brand, according to Spencer-Percival. Ahearne and Cohen both pointed to examples of firms using  Groups to build awareness of such expertise. And James Osborne of Elite Recruitment Network, who presented a session on using LinkedIn for business development, pointed out that the value of thought leadership isn’t restricted to building relationships with talent. Osborne put forward a contact strategy for qualifying new business leads through sharing white papers, articles and other content on LinkedIn.

Big Data can mean added value

LinkedIn is a Big Data organisation – and Ahearne made a forceful case for firms leveraging that data to broaden the scope of the advice they provide, helping to develop recruitment briefs rather than simply responding to them. Osborne argued for a similar approach in demonstrating expertise to new clients.

Talent Pool analysis gives firms the tools to make precise recommendations about the quantity and calibre of recruits in different markets, pointing out where “Purple Squirrel” roles could be more realistically filled through alternative combinations of posts – and where locating teams in different markets could significantly increase the range of talent available.

Amid changing techniques and exciting new tools, SourceIn also highlighted how many of recruitment’s most fundamental characteristics remain the same. Ours is an inherently dynamic, entrepreneurial industry, one where challenges are not seen as intractable problems but merely conundrums to be solved, as Spencer-Percival put it.

Achieving organic growth and international expansion, and setting the right growth targets were all key themes running through the event – as was the satisfaction that results from a career spent intelligently connecting talent with opportunity. Doing so at an unprecedented scale is the mission of LinkedIn. And that’s why we are committed to initiatives like SourceIn, that help the recruitment industry continue doing what it does best.

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