Historically, recruiting and hiring, even at the executive level have been considered as necessary distractions by many companies. In the financial sector, for example, in the 1990s, outsourcing the recruiting process was seen as a cost-efficient way of managing large scale, often global, recruitment – an end-to-end process of services to allow these financial businesses to focus on the day job while “recruitment experts” filled roles across the breadth and depth of the bank. An entire sub-industry called Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) grew up to meet the demand to remove the “distraction” of recruiting, particularly after the pandemic eased, when companies realized that they had cut HR and the recruiting function to the bone and were ill-equipped for hiring on a large scale.

Unfortunately, the combination of companies’ dismissive view of recruiting and RPO companies’ emphasis on quantity often at the expense of quality soon took the bloom off the RPO rose.

One formulation of the relationship between a provider and a consumer posits that there are four distinct levels of relationship[1]:

Recruiting as a Partnership

The idea of companies forming partner-like relationships with their clients is a relatively new one and is largely a product of the rise of technology companies that provide applications that go far beyond the hardware and software that was the product in the last quarter of the 20th century. With the development of applications that allowed automation, advanced data analytics, etc., those companies that worked closely with their customers to learn about the customer’s business and the customers’ needs proved far more successful than those that sold “app in a box” products. This approach found major expression in “software as a service” (SaaS) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), both of which require the provider being intimately familiar with the client’s business needs.

Forming strategic relationships with customers or clients requires a high level of engagement, and people on the provider’s side who are not only experts on their product, but also who could listen, learn, and form close, even personal, relationships with the client. Companies whose culture does not value caring, listening, and learning equally with technical expertise are often frustrated at their inability to move up the customer relationships scale.

For the most part, RPO providers operate at the first three levels. About five years ago, BrainWorks made a strategic decision to move to the fourth level, one where it selected differentiated talent to lead its practice areas and to support the recruiting function in its practices from all measurements and perspectives. That decision has made BrainWorks one of the leading firms in its industry, with experts at the top of each national practice and seasoned recruiters in each of the support roles. In addition, there are two key tenets that drive BrainWorks’ internal culture. The first, and key tenet is that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That’s a fundamental principle of how the firm works with both internally and externally. The second tenet is to aggressively remove all barriers to their people’s success, and that means making the investments, spending the time, collaborating, and providing mentoring support, being flexible in leadership to allow for what comes forward that wants to happen.

These two key tenets position BrainWorks to be more than a short-term solution for its clients and to enter into long-term strategic partnerships to provide quality, speed, and outstanding results. Conventional wisdom would have it that it is not possible to have all three – you must sacrifice one to get the remaining two. BrainWorks has numerous case studies that show the possibility of all three. For example, BrainWorks’ average time to closing a 15-person search is 45 days where in the industry it’s been 90 to 180 historically. As to Quality, staying in relationship with client companies over the long haul allows BrainWorks to track that the people they place are still with the client a year later and even three years later. Results, of course, is the aggregate of speed and quality. The hardest part of BrainWorks job is often to get client leadership and their own recruiters to believe that it is possible to do all three of these things.

Without an active commitment to work with both clients and internal staff to demonstrate caring about their success and providing the tools to remove barriers to that success, and secondly to demonstrate the possibility of quality, speed, and results in every interaction, recruiting firms, even the largest, will hire salespeople rather than recruiters who are already skilled and committed, and will be doomed to mediocrity and Vendor-on-Demand relationships with their clients. BrainWorks executives and staff focus on one of the practice areas and are experts on their area of focus. BrainWorks practice areas are:

  • Accounting & Finance
  • Analytics, Data Science & Data Governance
  • Commodities Technology & Trading
  • Consumer Products
  • CRM & Direct Marketing
  • Data & Data Insights
  • eCommerce & Digital Marketing
  • Human Resources
  • Interim Accounting & Finance
  • Market Research & Consumer Insights
  • Private Equity Portfolio Companies
  • Private Equity, Private Credit & Corporate Development
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Supply Chain & Operations
  • Technology Recruiters

In each discipline, BrainWorks’ recruiters come to know their clients’ needs and markets, and often can anticipate recruiting requirements based on where the market is going.  A central question they ask is what does this client need at this time and going forward. BrainWorks’ recruiters make it their responsibility to anticipate and fulfill needs that come forward.

[1] E. Gurowitz, Levels of Customer Relationship – unpublished note 2003


BrainWorks is a prominent boutique executive search firm offering a 30-year track record of successfully sourcing and placing top talent. We solve your hiring challenges by leveraging our vast network of highly skilled talent and our extensive, time-tested industry expertise. To learn more about how BrainWorks can help you, contact us.

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