In the 4th instalment of our series, we speak to Allan Callus our Permanent Recruitment Director who has been with Vector since 1998. A talisman for Vector over the years, Allan has worked his way up through the ranks to a Director Level position and even moved his family across the country to head up our Southwest Permanent Division. He explains the ‘nuances’ between contract and permanent recruitment, and the tactics he uses to ensure our clients are provided with the best talent on the market.
Talk us through your career
I have been with Vector for 25 years. I started my recruitment career at another IT recruitment company solely focusing on permanent recruitment. Things were changing within the organisation regarding market sectors, and the changes were not really to my liking. After a successful 5 years, I took the opportunity to join Vector where I would be given exposure to both the permanent and contract markets.
Contract recruitment was a real challenge as it was totally new to me, blending that with my day job of permanent recruitment and getting the balance right was extremely difficult. As the years passed Vector strengthened considerably in the contract market, it also became apparent that doing both contract and permanent recruitment was very demanding. Hence after 10 years of juggling both I had a conversation with our MD, and we thought it would be best suited if I took my permanent experience to build up a team and move up to the Cotswolds to focus on permanent recruitment in the Southwest region. So, for the last 14 years I have been heading up Permanent Recruitment in our Cirencester office.
Have you ever specialised in recruiting for a specific technology or industry?
When I was working for my first agency, they assigned me to a market called Progress 4GL, which is similar to Cobol as it is a relatively straightforward technology to navigate.
I got to know the key players in the market with regards to candidates and began sending them to clients. Once I placed a candidate into a Progress site, I approached the client about the available space that had been vacated and the opportunity to create a new requirement there. I would then fill that vacancy with another candidate from the database. That's how I learnt my trade, solely focusing on this for 4 to 5 years at my first company.
When I joined Vector, I expanded my expertise to cover all aspects of IT and Business Change.
How attractive is the Permanent market right now, in comparison to contract work?
When it comes to permanent and contract work, it's always been a case of ‘horses for courses!’ What I mean by that is it depends on the individual. As a contractor, you get to make your own choices and get paid a premium; however you also have to cover your own pension, NI and overheads, and there's no holiday or sick pay.
On the other hand, for permanent employees, there are benefits, such as good pensions, healthcare, paid holiday and security offering the ability to plan for the future.. When reviewing permanent/career roles candidates will choose areas, such as the public sector, for security and to build a career and ‘climb up the ladder’, or tech ‘start ups’ to enable them access to the latest technologies.
It all depends on what motivates the individual there is never a time when one type of employment is more attractive than the other. It's all down to personal circumstances.
Are there any skill sets that have become easier to find or source compared to when you first started?
I don't believe there's a straightforward answer to that question from a technology standpoint. This is because new technologies are continuously being introduced to the market and then becoming obsolete. It's almost cyclical in nature. A new technology comes out, and there are not many people with the skillset to work on it resulting in wages/day rates being high – it is straightforward supply and demand. Then other people spot an opportunity and learn to work with that technology, its popularity drives the market for a long time whilst it is in its prime. Eventually, the market becomes saturated, and salaries/rates decrease. People move on to something else, and the skill becomes ‘niche’ again allowing the remaining candidates to start charging a premium.
From a skillset point of view, in the last two years it has become apparent that placing BAs/PMs/functional roles has become more straightforward, especially for us as a permanent unit. It's interesting because this could mean that more people are moving away from the technical side, or it could be that businesses have started to appreciate the value that these roles add and the investment in functional roles has grown. This has resulted in more ‘organically’ trained staff members who are now looking to move on to their next challenge.
When has been the toughest time for you to recruit?
It’s pretty tough now! But regardless of market conditions, we tend to do well. When I speak to clients that have used the same suppliers for a long time, this is when they start to struggle to find decent candidates. A lot of agencies are reliant on advertising to a certain extent and when it is a candidate short market they just don’t have the level of quality applicants to fulfil their client’s needs. Also, when they do present a candidate, that candidate will likely have four or five other interviews elsewhere. We take a far more proactive approach and tap into the passive market that is sitting on our database. We sell the opportunity to them really well on behalf of our clients and really make sure that they are open to a move. Then, once we have put them in touch with our client it’s up to us to make sure things run smoothly and quickly to get the role to offer.
COVID was another really challenging time, however we remained open and delivered a great service throughout the pandemic! There weren’t many live roles kicking about, and even though there were lots of redundancies and people on the market, the passive market was tricky to tap into as candidates were really focusing on job security in the ‘new world’. The only market that we saw an upturn in was IT support because of the immediate switch to WFH.
I feel like the future is going to get even trickier with the risk of a recession because, again, people won’t want to move for a small increase in wage. Total packages and benefits need to be really attractive to candidates to get them to consider moving; this is why we always advise our clients on the best ways to sell their roles. The way I have had success in the past in this situation is tracking candidates who have been in the same role for a long period of time and are undervalued by their current company. That’s how you secure a decent salary increase, and access to quality individuals for your clients. There are not many recruiters that are well established enough and possess the experience to execute this tactic properly but it’s something that I have done successfully throughout my 30 year career.