The longer I spend in recruitment the more I come to understand that it’s an industry founded on people, not paperwork. Anybody can sift through a pile of CVs and find the person that’s best suited to a role on paper, but it takes a certain je ne sais quoi to select the person who is actually perfect for the role in reality, not just in print.

What Is The RRN Method Of Recruitment?

This school of thought led me to develop my own style of recruitment at Insight Executive Group. The underlying principles are essentially marketing methods, which have clear benefits when it comes to ensuring a good match between clients and the businesses they choose to work with or purchase from.

The savvy marketer understands the benefits of word of mouth, testimonials, and networking. They promote word of mouth about their business, gather glowing reviews of their products and services, and create effective networks by connecting with other businesses and forming dedicated ‘tribes’ of ideal clients, ready and eager to work with someone exactly like them.

The ‘tribe’ method of marketing is extremely effective from the perspective of both the businesses using it (who create a ready base of people perfectly suited to them) and the clients (who gain a lot of extremely valuable information and discover the perfect solution to their problem.

At some point, it occurred to me that recruitment and marketing are similar enough that, with a little tweaking, this form of marketing could be adapted into a form of recruitment, based on Referrals (word of mouth), References (testimonials), and Networking.

The RRN Method Vs. CVs…

When you’re searching for the perfect candidate for a position, be it in-house, through a recruitment agency, or as a recruitment agency, the recruiter will spend time getting to know the candidates in one of two ways: their CV, or personal interactions. The RRN method relies on personal interactions, and the formation of a network of potential candidates who work in your field. The relationships you form using these methods may not bear fruit for some time. The idea is to consistently work at growing your network and building a clear picture of the individuals in it (through referrals and references) so that when a position opens up you can compile a list of people you believe will be perfect for the role.

The CV method relies solely on candidates applying for a position and sending in their CV, and/or a recruiter going through their database of CVs looking for candidates that look good for the role on paper. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this method (a person’s CV can tell you a lot about their background, education, and work experience), however, it is limited. If you’re basing everything on who looks good on paper you can easily discount people who don’t appear (at face value) to fit the bill. You are also limited by the CVs in your possession.

The perfect candidate might be right under your nose, but if their CV isn’t in that pile, they’re not even in the running.

The RRN method eliminates both these limitations. It ensures that you know candidates on a personal level. This enables you to judge their abilities and suitability for a role on your own personal experience of them, referrals you may have received, and references you have been able to properly check.

A recruiter who truly knows their candidates will be able to compile a shortlist of individuals who are not only ideal for the role, but will fit into the working culture and environment that comes with the position. And this is exactly why I love the Referrals, References and Networking method, because it means I have a job in people-work, not paperwork.


The RRN Method In Action…

The words ‘I just need someone decent’, accompanied by a list of personality traits, attitudes, and general capabilities, is music to the ears of any relationship-focused recruiter. It’s not unusual for managers to come to me with such requests, and it invariably makes my job easier, more effective, and considerably more enjoyable.

A recruiter’s reputation (and livelihood) lives and dies according to their ability to pick out the ‘decent people’. This type of brief requires a manager to extend a degree of trust to the person recruiting. That trust enables the recruiter to present the manager with people who might not look good on paper, but are in possession of the precise traits, attitudes, and capabilities they are searching for, and as such will be a major asset to the manager, team, or organisation they will be joining.

When you fill a position in this manner, the feedback is always something along the lines of, (and I quote):

“I must say that X’s appointment has probably been my single best decision over the last 18 months or so and I am eternally grateful for you putting him my way.”


The CV Method In Action…

Contrast this with what happens when I receive a paper-based brief, accompanied by a limited (or non-existent) conversation with the recruiting manager. This kind of brief usually requires you to find the candidates with the best CVs, who have experience that is as closely aligned with the brief as possible, and presented in a professional manner. If you’re recruiting for a position that’s paying top dollar for the best of the best, this isn’t generally a problem. The issue occurs when you’re looking for a candidate to fill a market rate or lower budget position. In this scenario, it’s generally a trade-off between the perfect CV and desirable personality traits, attitudes, and general capabilities.

The result is often someone who looks great on paper but in practice is (at best) unsuitable for the role, and (at worst) an absolute nightmare to work with.

In the interim market, this is a particularly prevalent problem. There is real variation when it comes to the calibre of candidates. Prospective workers range from outstanding individuals who are client-focused, consummate professionals and exceptional interim consultants, to mercenary, nine-to-five temps whose only concern is collecting the largest paycheck possible for the minimum amount of effort.

At IEG we quite often see our clients opting for the best CV, particularly when it’s accompanied by a slick, silver-tongued interview. It’s extremely difficult to bite one’s own tongue in situations like this, because a quick look at the referencing process that has been undertaken by both the clients, and the agencies placing candidates, demonstrates an obvious gap.

What’s wrong with this question?

“Can you please confirm that X worked at Y over these dates?”

It’s quite simple…

“Yes, I can confirm that they were there. But don’t you want to know what a fabulous job they did? Wouldn’t you like to hear what an excellent asset to the organisation they have been?”


“Yes, they were here then. But don’t you want to know what a terrible job they did? Wouldn’t you like to hear how detrimental they have been to the business?”

The crux of the issue is that political correctness, fear, or simple laziness, act as the driving force behind corporate references. This prevents bad eggs from being identified, and allowing them to move from one role to the next. What’s worse, this lack of communication often leads to such problem candidates being promoted into positions of responsibility that are actually dangerous when given to an unsuitable candidate.

How To Benefit From Insight Executive’s RRN Method…

The best advice I can give you if you’re looking for a recruiting method that’s more people-work than paperwork is to ask for more than just CVs. If you are recruiting yourself, ask candidates who they have worked with and for in the past. Find out who rates them, speak to those people directly and get details about the person in question. Yes, confirm they were working where they said they were, when they said they were, but go deeper. What are they like to work with? What are their general impressions of the candidate? Why did they leave? What did they achieve while they were in the position?

In the modern world of six degrees of connectivity, and industries that are highly incestuous, it’s not difficult to find someone your trust who can protect your decision and allow you to engage high-calibre professionals.

How To Use A Recruiting Network…

I know a number of hiring managers who have adopted a network-based method similar to my own and directly recruited using networking tools like LinkedIn. They effectively leverage their networks to get good people to recommend potential candidates to them. While this is an intensive process, it’s extremely successful when done well. It weeds out all the people who look good on paper but have problems in reality. It also ensures that the decision-making process is inclusive of those who are most suited to positions, rather than simply those who happen to apply.

What To Do If You Don’t Have A Recruiting Network…

Developing an effective recruiting network is not something easily done. It’s time and is labour intensive. It requires a certain amount of existing knowledge, understanding and contacts within the industry, the tenacity to pursue and cultivate new contacts, and the nous to sniff out the genuine diamonds in a veritable ocean of rough zircons.

If you don’t have a recruiting network, you can engage a recruitment consultant who is highly networked, and has personal contact with, and knowledge of, the high-calibre peers that you know and need.

How To Find A Good Recruiter…

A good recruiter is easily identified by the people who recommend them and the people they recommend, as well as their ethos. If they come highly recommended by people in your industry who have had successful experiences with them, give them a try. Test out their network knowledge; who do they know that you do, and what do they think of them? You will quickly find out whether a recruiter genuinely knows your market and whether their opinion on candidates can be trusted. If they then successfully provide you with the perfect candidate for your role, you know you’re onto a winner.

Quality recruiters will meet with you and immediately demonstrate that they know your industry, know many of the people you know within the industry (plus a bucket load more), and have intelligent, thoughtful, non-scripted conversations with you. Another mark of a good recruiter is their general willingness to chat with you at any time of the day, even in the evening. This is a habit cultivated by recruiters whose methods are based on people-work, not paperwork.  

If it’s quieter than normal in our office and I look up to see recruiters trawling CVs, searching for the ideal candidate, I quite often pipe up, “Pick up the phone and ask the people you already trust who they could recommend.”

It’s human nature to respond when people ask your advice. It demonstrates that you respect them and trust their judgement, and affords them the opportunity to help out the people they, in turn, respect and trust. People might not always be able to respond immediately, and you might end up getting messages at odd times of day and into the evening, but developing relationships of mutual respect and trust leads to genuine friendships. As a result, it’s not unusual (or unreasonable) to speak to your recruiter at peculiar times and outside working hours.

It’s difficult to complain about ‘working late’ when all you’re really doing is chatting to a friend. As my wife always jokes, I don’t have a job; I get paid to be sociable!

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Richard Collins, Managing Director at IEG. Originally a design engineer, Richard has clocked up 10 years’ experience as an executive level recruiter within public sector procurement, finance and commercial management. Career highlights include generating circa £1.2m gross profit from two start-up businesses in five-years, but he also thrives on delivering and building teams. Post 5pm accomplishments include extreme sports and being Daddy to two beautiful daughters.
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