THE RECRUITMENT industry has changed.

Where once all a recruitment company had to do was publish a job advert and wait for the applications to flood in, the rise of online forums has fractured the advertising market, meaning recruiters are now having to work harder than ever before to find candidates.

For businesses such as Eden Scott, which was founded in 2003 by former Melville Craig Group directors Guy Martin, Chris Logue and Michelle Lownie, that creates both a challenge and an opportunity.

According to Mr Martin because there are now so many potential job boards for people to engage with, there is less of a guarantee that potential candidates will see every advert posted.

That issue can be exacerbated if the roles are in niche sectors or at the most senior end of the spectrum.

“I recently had a client looking to appoint a chief executive in a biotechnology business,” Mr Martin says.

“It’s rare to find a chief executive flying around the market. I had to approach about 60 people.”

While the internet may have created this challenge in the first place, Mr Logue says it has also helped come up with the solution, with professional networks such as LinkedIn making it easier for recruiters to carry out proactive searches.

“LinkedIn has taken away people’s fear of having their CV on a website,” Mr Logue says.

“There’s been a change in mentality.”

The internet and the rise of technology more generally has also helped reshape the Scottish economy, which has brought opportunities for companies such as Eden Scott to enter new markets.

Where in their previous roles at Melville Craig the focus was on the professional and manufacturing sectors, Mr Martin and Mr Logue have dropped the latter in favour of tech-related industries.

“We’ve moved away from a very labour intensive economy and have seen call centres and manufacturing be replaced by offshoring or digital. The Scottish economy has to adapt to that,” says Mr Martin.

“That is why the resurgent food and drink sector is so good to see, especially when aimed at export markets, and also technology with software, software as a service, the cloud, biotechnology and life sciences.

“While there is not the same number of jobs being created we’re seeing a lot more companies that are owning and retaining their IP.

“These start-ups allow a lot of other things to happen, such as females leading businesses.”

Mr Martin notes that while this is a growth area for Eden Scott, the business only started looking seriously at tech start-ups after the crashing oil price resulted in the bottom falling out of the Aberdeen market, where the firm was recruiting for roles such as accountants and chief financial officers.

“We had to reshape the business - Edinburgh and Glasgow had to pick up the slack – but what Aberdeen did was in a way cathartic because it made us look at the business to see what was coming down the pipeline,” he says.

“We kind of shed a skin and were first movers in areas like tech start-ups.”

Although Mr Logue says that Eden Scott, which turns over around £15 million a year, “has been profitable every year” since launch, he adds that the firm’s financials were “slightly hit by the oil and gas downturn”.

“We’ve had two hitches over 14 years: one was the financial crash of 2008 and the other was the oil and gas crash in Aberdeen, but we’ve adapted very well,” he says.

“That’s one of the advantages of not having all our eggs in one basket.

“We’re very proud that we’re still in Aberdeen and have managed to maintain a business there that is still profitable.”

Noting that the oil and gas bubble was always going to be unsustainable from a recruitment point of view, Mr Logue says there are now signs that the worst of the fall-out is in the past.

“One of the things we saw towards the last two or three years of the boom was that a lot of people went from permanent jobs to contract jobs – same job, same company for three times the salary,” he says.

“What happens [when something like the oil price crash occurs] is that everyone reacts very quickly so a lot of people lost their jobs.

“When things calm down they realise they’ve cut a bit too much.

“Recruitment’s not just about growth but people moving jobs and we had a double whammy because people were sitting still.

“They’ve got confidence back and are starting to move job again.

“We’re definitely seeing green shoots of recovery and there’s a candidate pool that’s available and ready to work.”

While economic changes and the rise of the internet are outwith an individual business’s control, there are changes to the recruitment sector that companies like Eden Scott can play a more active role in.

Chief among them for Mr Martin and Mr Logue is changing the image of recruitment firms as businesses that are driven more by earning commissions for themselves than matching the right candidate to the right job.

“At the lower end you’ve got gang masters that impact on the brand,” Mr Martin says.

“As you get older you get to appreciate that there are shoddy practices everywhere.”

The answer, says Mr Logue, lies partly in ensuring staff are remunerated well enough so that commissions are there purely to reward success.

“Commission is a really small part of our staff’s earnings in total,” he says.

“When I started out I was on £6,000 and got around 150 per cent of my earnings on top of that from commissions and bonuses. Now about 15 per cent is commission based.

“I’d love to see the day when recruitment companies are seen in the same way as accountancy or law firms.

“Some of the practices are not as professional as they could or should be and we all need to make sure we are giving the best advice for candidates and clients rather than what’s best for you as an organisation.”