INTERVIEW WITH JAMIE WEBBER, REDCAT DIGITAL
In our first interview EVER, we speak to Redcat Digital’s director of digital recruitment Jamie Webber about what it's like to recruit in the industry.
RedCat Digital are digital recruitment specialists; providing targeted search and selection services.. Over the past 16 years, they’ve worked with the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL, BT, Sky, Vodafone Group, Amazon, Apple, Burberry and ASOS.
How long have you worked in digital recruitment?
I joined RedCat Digital in 2000 after spending the previous five years building my sales skills in a leading home improvement company. Quite a few friends had moved into recruitment - I had extensive sales experience having worked in telesales for the previous five years, was looking for a new challenge and a friend put me in touch with Tony (the owner and founder of RedCat).
The agency was formed to service the recruitment needs of the New Media sector. I was employee #1; working alongside the founder in the store room of his father-in-law’s restaurant in true start-up fashion! It was an amazing journey - I wasn’t technically savvy in the slightest before joining - could barely send an email, and yet was starting to build relationships with agencies, brands and media owners that were true innovators and shaping some of the technologies and services that we take for granted today.
I’ve been fortunate to recruit across many areas of digital from tech, design, UX, project management, ad ops, mobile, social media, product management, advertising technology, strategy, and commercial.
The company has grown, but we’ve tried to remain true to our principles and we only employ individuals who care about the clients and candidates they work with. We’re not actually that cool (I speak for myself here!), but our new Shoreditch offices are perfect. We’re 20-strong, and the space allows us to double in size. Some really exciting times ahead, and ironically our biggest challenge is looking for top recruiters who want a long-term career in this area.
When I reflect back over the past 16 years it’s been an un-believable journey. Facebook or Google were not really around, and you used your mobile phone to call people. LinkedIn didn’t consume you, and instead recruiters had to build relationships and a network -and were reliant on those relationships.
What attracted you to recruiting for this particular industry?
Honestly, I fell into it – RedCat were formed to recruit for the new media sector. I’m 40 next year, so when I took my GCSE’s my school had a computer room with about 10 PCs! When I joined RedCat I was in my early 20’s and chose recruitment as I though my skills were well-aligned. I enjoy building relationships with stakeholders from different teams and departments; anyone who knows me will say I talk far too much, so recruitment seemed ideal.
Tony (the Founder) had spent the previous three years recruiting into the contract IT technical market. Tony knew the new media sector was a growth market. It was young and dynamic and he wanted to be part of an industry that was more partnership based.The rest is history.
I could have ended up in so many areas of recruitment, but can honestly say I wouldn’t recruit in any other sector.It’s the constant change and innovation that keeps me excited to come to work every day.
Can you describe how you’ve seen digital recruitment change over the past decade?
In some respects, everything has changed, and in others - nothing has…! To clarify my thoughts, clients have invested heavily in building really strong, proactive in-house teams and attracting leading agency recruiters to join the ‘dark side’ much earlier in their careers. This has led to some clients having direct hire rates of up to 85%, however they do have huge internal recruitment teams! It just means that the roles released to us are the candidate-short, specialist hires, and that’s where we can add value.
The digital recruitment industry has changed significantly. Lots of people have jumped on the bandwagon; some great innovators, but others out just to make a fast buck. I think recruiter tools such as LinkedIn are amazing, but its makes the process transactional and ultimately clients and candidates lose out, as there are less experts around.
The technologies/ tools/ services available to clients is also much wider. The recruitment process outsourcing space is incredibly competitive.There are specialist sites such as Stack/ GitHub for tech recruitment, and clients also invest heavily in LinkedIn and other social platforms.
Having said this, the demand for top digital talent has never been greater. There are skills shortages like never before.
Is it far more difficult to recruit for certain roles compared to others?
Certain areas are suffering from greater skills shortages than others. The UX market has always been weighted towards contract.Clients have always struggled to secure exceptional permanent talent, and that only really changes in a recession etc and will soon flip back once things pick up!
What do you look for in a great digital candidate?
There are certain mechanical things, running through their experience and core competencies, as well as candidates providing demonstrable examples/ key achievements to evidence their expertise.
Ultimately I want to be excited by someone; they should bring their experience to life for me, and I want to see that they are genuinely excited by what they do, are constantly looking to learn and develop, and want to make a difference.
The digital industry is very emotive: people care, the products they create change the way we work, live, communicate, and I want to see that spark.This can be shown in a very quiet, shy, geeky way – it’s the brilliance I want to see, and we realise that comes in many different packages!
Do you see any common mistakes being made by candidates? What advice / top tips would you give?
I think the biggest mistakes that I see are poorly written CVs and lack of preparation for interviews.
The most common mistakes when writing a CV is listing responsibilities, but not outlining achievements. I’ve lost count of the times when I reach out to a candidate, they send me their CV and when I profile them they talk through an example where they suggest an idea, build a business case, present and get sign off and investment from board level, implement changes which result in a significant uplift in conversion rates and the example isn’t even mentioned on the CV!
For each role on your CV it should simply have a short paragraph highlighting your role, some bullets on key responsibilities, and most importantly the final section outlining key achievements.
In terms of lack of preparation for interviews, I think there is a learning/ training need but also simply ensuring you have the required time to prepare correctly – a cursory scan of a company’s website doesn’t count as prep! Look deeply into the company, if you were in the role you were applying for what would you improve? What ideas to you have? What can you bring? What have been your key achievements in the current role?
There is no magic formula but good recruitment is about doing the basics really well, if you are looking for a new role invest heavily at every touchpoint of the process and you will get the result/ reward you are looking for.
Do you see any emerging digital trends which you’d expect to impact on recruitment in digital?
In-house teams and RPO’s will continue to grow and agencies that don’t adapt to those changes will struggle. Today’s market isn’t about doing spot business with large numbers of clients it’s about partnering closely with fewer clients and adding more value to the process. There will be significant growth in key areas such as Big Data, UI Development, VR and other areas that we are not even aware of yet. Recruiters need to be specialists in specific area, build relationships and have the trust and respect of the community they recruit for – the days of the more generic recruiter that “fancies” digital are long gone, if they were ever here!
Data is also key.Clients are asking for deeper info on market conditions, salary benchmarking and whether internal bandings are realistic and competitive.
And as for Brexit…let’s wait and see what happens.We’ve seen no real effect yet apart from clients saying they will review the situation once the real effects are outlined. If there is a restriction on freedom of movement within the EU it will have a dramatic effect as the digital sector is beautifully diverse and also ready/ able to grow digital heartlands away from the UK.
Finally, what advice would you give to an organisation looking to source a digital recruiter? What should they look out for?
It’s a cliché, but it’s all about the person...! There are not a huge amount of exceptional digital recruiters out there; often the great ones are also well-looked after! Another option is to look for an exceptional recruiter from a different sector; one that is passionate about digital, and keen to move into the sector.
Redcat have now moved into some lovely new offices in Shoreditch, and over the next 15 months they’ll be looking to recruit another 16 consultants. If you’re a graduate looking for a career, a digital specialist looking for a career change, or even if you’re working for a competitor, Jamie would be keen to hear from you. Drop him an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org