We recently caught up with James Osborne to gain a better understanding of The Recruitment Network, as well as getting his views on current and future recruitment trends.

As Chairman of The Recruitment Network, James works with recruitment business leaders, helping them to achieve significant growth, performance improvement and competitive advantage acting as a Non-Executive Director, consultant, trainer and strategist for numerous fast growth recruitment businesses.

Key insights from our chat with James

  • “The global economy is always in some form of flux, so I see Brexit more as a realignment of trading and spending”
  • “Many of the network’s members are enjoying record periods of profitability and growth at the moment”
  • “I love the idea that our jobs are about more than just making money for ourselves but about enriching and enabling others – that sits well with me”


How did the idea of forming The Recruitment Network happen?

There is a huge appetite amongst recruitment leaders to share best practice, learn from their peers and be exposed to insights and ideas from recruitment experts and entrepreneurs so they can grow quickly, efficiently and profitably – we wanted to provide the most conducive environment for that to happen.


How many members does the club currently have?

When we launched The Recruitment Network club just over a year ago, it was our aim to get to about 50 members to prove the model works. We just had our last members’ meeting at the Brewery in London and we had 120 recruitment leaders in the room – the model clearly works!


What kind of workshops do you offer? And how often?

The Recruitment Network club programme centres around our quarterly Huddles and the (now infamous) TRN 2-day Retreat.

Imagine a room of 100+ recruitment leaders all working collaboratively with some of the most renowned industry experts, thought-leaders, sporting legends and motivational speakers, all challenging each other, helping each other and having fun with it. It just makes sense!


What kind of support does the network offer to its members?

Our members engage with us all year round and have access to the #TRN support and advisory teams (as well as all the online tools and systems) on an unlimited basis. It is not uncommon for board meetings and conference calls to be scheduled with our members on a weekend or late at night, if it helps them keep up the pace of their growth!

Ultimately, our members are on a journey which is continuous and evolving, as is our support programme for them.


How do you set yourself apart from competitors?

We don’t really get fixated on looking in the rear-view mirror at our competition, we are too busy looking forward. We just focus on what we are doing to ensure we do an amazing job for our customers, in our unique way. It is about exceeding our customers’ expectations in everything that we do, which based on the fact that we are sitting at +90% retention of members seems to be the right approach.

Many of the network members are enjoying record periods of profitability and growth at the moment. Whilst we don’t take the credit for this (they did the hard work!), we see the input we had that helped produce these very clear and measurable ROIs as one of our key differentiators.


Your website indicates you have a select number of partners, how do you go about choosing them?

Our partners are organisations we deem as best in class in what they do, and those who want to embrace the whole premise of the Network which is helping members grow to outperform the rest of the market.

Brexit – what are your thoughts on how it will affect the industry? And how agencies can prepare themselves?

To be very honest, irrespective of whether you are for or against it, the biggest concern I have with the whole Brexit thing is how much time is being wasted on discussing and debating what may or may not happen! Sure, we need to be prepared and adjust our business models to maximise on what comes out the other end of all this, but there is so much going on right now that we shouldn’t lose sight of that.

The global economy is always in some form of flux, so I see Brexit more as a realignment of trading and spending – we just need to adjust our sails according to where the wind is blowing.


GDPR is everywhere right now, how do you see GDPR affecting recruitment? Do you believe there will be any drastic changes?

I’m not sure that we need to make drastic changes as such, but certainly we need to set our businesses (and processes) up to meet the requirements of this new era in data, something that we are setting all our members up to be able to do.

If anything, I think it will do two very positive things for recruitment:

  • The focus will be shifted to the importance of data
  • We will need to professionalise some of our practices as recruiters


We’ve read/seen a lot of articles about the future of recruitment and how it may fare in 2018, what is your view on this? What trends or patterns do you think we might see in recruitment over the next five years?

I’ve given up trying to predict too far ahead these days as the world is evolving at such a breakneck pace that I doubt anyone can call it!

I do however think that is such an incredibly exciting time for recruitment organisations that:

  • remain agile
  • embrace technology
  • remain specialist
  • put a greater value on what they do
  • keep a close eye on the developing market opportunities and emerging trends


Will Google for Jobs be a force to be reckoned with? Will those that don’t integrate with this be left behind?

Google Jobs is a really interesting are of focus for recruiters as it has the chance of potentially reducing the need for job seekers to go to job boards and recruiter websites. It so has the potential of creating a seismic shift in the way people will potentially use Google to find jobs.

Considering Google is the most likely place a jobseeker would turn to when hunting for a new role, there is clearly some work to be done here. Especially when you consider that according to I-COM only half of recruitment organisations have implemented the required ‘Schema’ formatting which will allow Google to interpret job adverts for Google Jobs.


There has been quite a lot of talk around new technologies such as chatbots, AR/VR, becoming key tools for recruiters in 2018 & beyond, what is your view on this?

My thoughts on this are simple – the technology is coming, growing at an unprecedented rate (40% to 60%) so we cannot avoid it. BUT, unless we let it happen, it will not replace recruiters.

If understood, handled properly and immersed into your business, technology will enhance your offering and enable you to deliver a service better attuned to the way we as humans behave.


What advice would you give to:

a) new business owners or recruiters looking to set up

Use technology to be faster, more agile and more efficient in sourcing talent than anyone else in the market. But don’t forget that recruitment is a people business so keep the customer experience personal.

b) established businesses at a standstill/ looking to grow further

Maximise profitability for tomorrow’s market…

Start out by making your business as efficient as possible by assessing the markets you work in, the products you are selling, the clients you are working with, the ROI of everything you do. I passionately believe that many recruitment businesses can quickly find an additional 25% in profitability just by whittling out all the inefficiencies that currently exist in their businesses.

Then, remodel your business offering to be able to justify higher fees to your existing customers.

This may sound bizarre, especially if you are at a bit of a standstill, but I often see organisations who are having issues growing start dropping their margins in order to try and increase the volume of new business (someone will always come in and undercut you!) when actually you should look at how to make your service offering more valuable than it has ever been before, and then charge a premium accordingly.


How do you manage a very busy schedule? Any tips you could share with us?

I am very lucky in that I truly love what I do.

It makes managing busy schedules very easy when you are part of an amazing team of people, when you have products and services that you are truly passionate about and when you have customers you genuinely like and want to see successful…

When you have that, things just get done!