Australian leaders: Greg Savage, Global CEO – FireBrand

Born inCape Town,South Africa, Greg is the founder and driving force behind Firebrand Talent Search. Over a career spanning thirty years, he has established himself as an icon of the Australian recruitment industry and was made an Honorary Life Member of the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA) in 2004

NC: Tell me how you first got involved in recruitment, especially recruitment in the digital space.

I was hired directly into recruitment from university 30 years ago. I joined Aquent, the specialist creative and digital recruitment company 12 years ago, and so have been very close to the evolution of the digital industry and of the digital recruitment space. I have such a high level of belief that this sector will boom in the coming years, that we spun off the permanent search division of Aquent to form Firebrand Talent Search, which specialises in digital and online marketing placements.

NC: What has surprised you most about working in this industry?

If you mean the recruitment industry, nothing; 30 years exposes you to just about everything that can happen. If you mean the digital industry, the rate of change continually surprises me.

NC: What do you find most challenging about this industry?

The most challenging aspect of both the recruitment and the digital industries is a lack of skills and talent.

NC: What’s the best/worst thing to happen since you started working in recruitment in the digital space?

The best thing is that it is constantly growing, evolving and companies are investing in digital marketing, driving tremendous opportunities. Without doubt the worst thing to happen was the global downturn in 2008 from which the economy has still not recovered and which makes recruiting an exceptionally tough business to be in.

NC: If you could change one thing about the recruitment industry, what would it be?

The dumb and counter-productive practice of companies multi-listing job orders with many recruiters, which leads to recruitment firms competing on speed instead of quality, which in turn drives down the perception of our industry, our margins and our reputation.

NC: When your friends/family find out that you are in recruitment, what do they say or ask?

Sometimes they ask if I can find them a job, and sometimes they ask if I’m crazy.

NC: What do you think will change about recruitment over the next five years?

The recruitment industry will be heavily affected by social media and other competitors of the 3rd party recruiter model. However, specialist, niche recruiters who develop sophisticated strategies to locate and recruit top talent will thrive.I believe job boards are going to become increasingly ineffective and they will evolve their business model, possibly to a “pay-per-click” pricing arrangement. Certainly for recruiters, banging an ad on a generic job board will be the least differentiated thing you can do in talent sourcing, so that channel will deliver fewer and fewer quality candidates. Increasingly I see a move towards “active” social media recruiting. I don’t mean simply “engaging” with random people on Twitter in the hope that one day you will recruit them, and I certainly don’t mean using social media as a de facto job board. I see the intelligent use of video, for example, as a recruiting tool. Companies, including recruiters, will spend big on sophisticated video, showcasing work environments and opportunities, and this will be integrated with blogs, websites and social media. The nirvana will be recruiting videos going viral! But it won’t only be employers using visual technology. We are already seeing the emergence of the multimedia CV and this will grow. Candidates will use video and other technologies to showcase their talents.

It’s pretty clear that the use of recruitment-based apps created for iPhones, Android and other mobile devices is growing. But I might be a bit of a contrarian on this. Yes, it’s going to boom initially, but developers will need to keep developing sophisticated applications with new and innovative features, to keep people coming back to their phone to look for jobs. Two other trends I can see coming: much more money spent on employer-branding as employers realise traditional recruiting methods no longer work; and also I see someone developing an über-cool online candidate-referral system – I’m not sure what, but a kind of  ‘Groupon’ for recruiting.

NC: If you weren’t in recruitment, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?

If I was not in recruitment, I would now be retired and my life would be a lot less stressful and a lot less interesting.