Bounce Back Series: How tech recruitment specialist James Chase is building for the future during lockdown
In another Bounce Back article, we chat to Phil Lewis and Matthew Quinn at a recruitment firm in the Brighton region, James Chase, about their plans to emerge from lockdown stronger.
Brighton tech specialist recruitment agency, James Chase, was enjoying one of its biggest months back in March when COVID-19 hit.
"We had, probably, our most exciting start to the year in recent memory," explains co-founder Phil Lewis. "Business levels were great. There was a lot of excitement, particularly in the local market about investment into Brighton with new co-working spaces and companies growing. Up until late February/early March, we were still speaking to clients who were excited and buoyant about what this year held. They had big plans to grow and were looking at how we could support them."
By the time lockdown was in force in the UK, the effects of COVID-19 had played out and recruitment was hit hard. By mid-April, the agency was already down 60-70% and had furloughed half its 19-strong office.
COVID-19 forced the company to shift how it communicates with clients. In a good way.
"The last thing people want to start hearing about is growing and hiring large numbers into their team," says Lewis. "Those conversations have completely changed. We've learned a new way of talking to people about what their interests are now to keep those channels open. Now - as we come out of this - we want them to be the conversations they remember."
"We've moved away from the mindset of a transactional recruitment business," adds Matthew Quinn, head of client engagement. This has extended to providing advice and help for candidates on CVs and interviews and providing support to businesses."
"We're far more relationship-driven and focused on helping rather than thinking of the short-term recruitment process."
"It's spending more time doing work that might have been seen as a bit of a longer game, previously," Phil explains. "We're trying to create mutual interests for people I'm speaking to rather than just having a recruitment hat on." The human resource management and the user experience of the hiring manager had to take priority."
Although, during this period the company's traditional KPIs have "gone out of the window", Phil explains there are still opportunities to explore.
"It's difficult because of the inability to plan and have a long-term strategy at the moment," he says. "We're trying to help people where we can and also try and identify industries and markets that are proven to be buoyant at the moment. This will be a focus for us to capitalize and get the quick wins we need to survive in the short- and mid-term."
Matt explains that, historically, the tech industry has proven resilient during turbulent times like these and there will always be an opportunity. Although the recruitment business - and the agency - will be changed forever.
"It has changed already," explains Phil. "The way that people hire and the way that people interview are going to change. You will get lots of situations where hiring managers may not feel comfortable sitting in the room with someone that they don't know."
Partly as a result of its Silicon Brighton community that has fostered collaboration pre-COVID-19, a major positive from this period has been the willingness of businesses to come together, collaborate and share ideas - even in the fiercely competitive world of recruitment.
"Share ideas and share experience," says Phil. "That's helped us at James Chase. We've learned a lot from other companies. If anyone wants to come and ask us what we've experienced, we'd be more than happy to help."
"It speaks volumes for the particular local market here in Brighton and the spirit of collaboration that people are showing."
Phil Lewis and Matthew Quinn spoke to Futrli CEO Hannah Dawson and COO Helen Cockle as part of the Futrli Bounce Back series. Watch the full interview below.
Watch the full webinar to discover:
What the agency considers to be the worst-case scenario (and how the company plans to deal with it)
How the COVID-19 lockdown will change the recruitment process forever
What new KPIs and metrics the agency is looking at to steer through this period
Why collaboration between agencies - and even competitors - is the way forward during turbulent times