• Aug 09 2021

Interview: Mike Wood, Client Partner – UK & Europe at RPI

5 min read

As the UK emerges from lockdown, businesses are looking for talent that can boost their business and get them firmly back into growth mode. But with surging demand for skills, talent shortages are having an impact on recruitment.

Here, Mike Wood explains how this is creating a candidate-driven market, with exciting opportunities for professionals making it an ideal time to consider a job change.

Where are you seeing the biggest recruitment demand in telco and technology right now?

We’ve seen a pretty dramatic rise in the desire for sales people across clients in the UK and Europe. It’s a mix of those pure ‘hunter-type’ sales skills (people who can go out and win new logos) and the more account manager type skills (those people who can support and upsell existing clients). I think the reason for this surge in sales recruitment is two-sided: some companies are coming out of the pandemic and looking to expand, while others laid people off in that first lockdown and are now struggling to get the people they need.

Does sales recruitment tend to be cross-border, or are businesses still looking for sales teams within their region?

It depends on the business. I’m currently working on a role for a US company who are looking for Sales Executives in the UK to sell throughout Europe, but who will report into Japan. More typically, though, they are looking for people to be based in their region.

Do you think people and businesses in Europe are taking a more flexible approach to recruitment post-lockdown?

I think companies are a lot more flexible now in terms of accepting remote workers. Whereas before, they would have wanted people to be more visible, they are now open to people being further afield. If there’s a sales job in London, for instance, I can now source someone in Aberdeen. The real challenge is finding the sales people with the right talent and experience.

What is the biggest challenge with finding sales people in the telco and technology sectors?

The best people just won’t move at the moment. There are exceptions: perhaps someone is frustrated with their current employer, or the direction they’re going, or they’ve fallen out with their boss, or they’re bored and just want to do something else, or they are a victim of the pandemic and been made redundant. But in the main, the people we want – those who are established in their firm, are successfully hitting targets, are generating revenue (and therefore commission) – are, at the moment, seeing a move to a new organisation as a risk.

This is for two reasons. Firstly, it’s the uncertainty of the pandemic: if we end up locking down again, they’re concerned they’ll find themselves in a ‘last in, first out’ situation. Secondly, it’s the general risk: in their minds, it’s a time of instability, so why would you move and put everything at risk?

What’s your counter argument to this?

I actually think now is a great time to move. It’s very much a candidate driven market. Companies are looking to hire and are looking to pay well. I also have a positive outlook on the pandemic. I can’t see us going back into full lockdown again and I think the economy will bounce back. Now is a good time to move: or at least to explore their options. Sales people usually tend to be inquisitive when hearing about new opportunities, less so during the pandemic, and it’s time to return to that. The market is getting back to its pre-pandemic mindset, it’s time they did too.

How has global recruitment changed since the first lockdown?

The first six months were pretty frightening, but now it’s back to being crazy busy, pre-covid levels. But recruitment has definitely become more flexible. If you think back to that first lockdown, everyone went into a panic: who would have thought that mere months later, people would be hiring via video, onboarding via video, even starting work via video. I placed someone recently who still hasn’t met any of the team face to face, and she’s been in the role for six weeks.

I think that companies are accepting that if they want to grow, they’re going to have to be flexible. Although we’re now coming back to the stage where interviews are happening face to face again, and customer meetings are back, I don’t think that flexibility will completely change. I do think certain businesses and individuals are more spooked than others, but that’s always going to be the case.

Lockdown put a huge amount of pressure on the telecommunications sector. How has that been reflected in their recruitment activity?

A lot of permanent hiring stopped during lockdown, but they kept a lot of contractors on, because they were the skills they needed to keep the infrastructure going. Obviously with people relying so heavily on data and voice, it put a big burden on the infrastructure.

There’s also definitely been a huge move towards digital transformation for a lot of the telcos. They were already going through this transformation, but because of the pressure of the pandemic and how everything is online now, there is more pressure to make everything digital, not just certain services. We’re also entering the 5G phase now, so they’re under pressure to roll out 5G services in order to compete in the marketplace. And the conversation is already moving on to 6G!

These may still feel like unusual times, but the message to people in any type of sales is that now is exactly the time to consider your opportunities when approached with new roles. We’re in a candidate driven market: if you can demonstrate your experience and success, you are in the driving seat to land a dream role with the right financial package.

RPI provides access to the top leadership and technology talent globally