After the last recession of 2009, it took a year or so for many companies to start recruiting again. Many had self-imposed hiring freezes, and, even when these were lifted, there was caution about making significant staffing investments. Companies reviewed their expenditures and many concluded they didn’t need to spend as much on external recruiters; they would do it themselves.

In the ten years or so that have followed, there have been unending debates on the effectiveness of the in-house model for senior level recruitment. Advocates of in-house teams cite cost savings compared with using external providers, whilst those championing search firms maintain such dedicated specialists will find the right people and find them quicker.

At Henley we work with in-house Talent Acquisition teams as well as with Search Firms, and we are lucky to be working with many outstanding recruiters – we don’t think there is a straightforward answer to the debate – companies should have a range of recruitment solutions, including using excellent Talent Intelligence, Mapping, Executive Research and Retained Search.

What then can we learn from how we all emerged from the last recession? In its aftermath, senior executives were generally cautious about moving companies. They were risk-averse, reluctant to gamble with their careers by moving to a new employer: in many cases their company had looked after them in tough times. In time, many such executives felt motivated to move on, but they remained circumspect and discerning about their next career step.

Which meant that it was those companies offering the most attractive employer brand proposition who were the most successful in persuading the most talented executives to join them. Their recruitment processes were slick, sensitive, transparent and candidate-focused. They understood the importance of a candidate’s decision and the significance of a career move. And they were able to demonstrate a real commitment to the individual, not just commercially, but in terms of job role, career progression, development opportunities and so on. This was the time that, for enlightened companies, the balance switched from “this is the role, these are the terms, take it or leave it” to a genuinely candidate-centric approach.

Since then, many companies have continued to put the candidate first and have reaped the benefit.  Others, however, have relapsed, failing to understand the strategic importance of excellent Talent Acquisition at senior levels.

As we start the slow and gradual process of emerging from this current crisis and senior executives start to think about their next moves, it will once again be those companies with authentic, candidate-centric propositions that are the winners.

Henley Research International carries out Talent Mapping and Talent Pipelining services for market-leading companies committed to engaging with high-calibre and diverse senior executives. We also offer Talent Insight research which enables companies to review and fine tune their employer brand propositions.