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How to Brand a Recruitment Business

By November 3, 20115 Comments

What’s in a name?  In a constant state of flux, with mergers, takeovers, collapses, resurrections and always more start-ups, the recruitment industry is one particularly prone to the vagaries of branding.  But does the name of a recruitment business really make that much difference to the performance, the culture, and the perception of that brand?

Back in the day, when recruitment was regarded as a more austere professional service, recruiting grey-suited accountants and CEO’s, it seemed almost acceptable to brand your business like a law firm.  Giving a job brief to a sharp-suited fellow from Hogglesworth & Longstaff would naturally elicit expectations of thorough research, formal and wordy print media campaigns, long lunches eventuating in leather-bound shortlists signed off with a flourish of a Mont Blanc pen.

Elements of this still remain in our industry but as we hit the 80’s and chain smoking recruiters spiralled through Rolodexes of contacts while jabbing repeatedly at phones, the faster, more transactional styles of recruitment surfaced and started to grate with the wood-panelled images of predecessors.  It became more fashionable to brand recruitment businesses like advertising agencies.  The noon whiskeys and personal PA’s of the Madmen era were reincarnated in the recruitment industry as boozy pub lunches and celebrating skyrocketing fee performances with lavish hegemony.  Agencies simplified their brand, sometimes as just the name of the founder, or even just the surname alone.

As the new millenium dawned this was no longer sufficiently cool though.  The bad behaviour of transactional recruiters was starting to give the industry a bad name and corporates were wising up to it.  As the dotcom bubble inflated and then popped, it was the veneer of technology, brave start-ups, digital entrepreneurship that was sought.  Brand names that were somewhat oblique and abstract, but vaguely referencing something to do with recruitment, became the vogue.  In particular the use of Latin words was seen as very cutting edge.

And then we reached the end of the noughties and the recruitment industry did something previously unheard of.  It decided to cultivate its own image, its own brand, its own identity.  It commandeered a single word that seemed to universally brand our business.  A word that explained what we did, how we did it, how well we did it, and what we delivered.  The word?


When I was growing up “talent” was a word used to describe the “it girls”, the cool girls from the school down the road, always hanging around the shops after school, improperly dressed, swishing their hair around, aloof and unapproachable by us dorky boys.  Talent Scouts were the ones sent to watch us playing football (by “us” I don’t mean “me”, sadly, but others I might have played with!)  Talent Agencies were modelling agencies.

But nowadays this is a brand fiercely clung to by us in recruitment.  The process of recruitment?  Well we have a War for Talent dontyaknow?  So we need talent mapping, then some talent sourcing, a dose of talent pooling and finished off with some talent management.  In New Zealand we have a host of recruitment businesses who are…well…talented.  So have we reached saturation point, or is there room for yet more “Talent”?

In my opinion the name of a recruitment business is not really that important.  The word Talent is apt, sounds good, conveys a certain image, and that is well and good.  But what really matters is the quality of the consultants behind that brand and the consequent quality of service and delivery to candidates and clients.  For all the head scratching and sleepless nights around the name of your recruitment business, whether you opt for the word Talent, something Latin, or something old-fashioned, your customers will eventually associate your brand name with an unwritten index of quality directly correlated to the quality of delivery from your staff.

As Branding Strategist Julian Smith recently pointed out in the Herald, a great name is important but it needs meaning behind it.  Well in recruitment it needs quality delivery behind it.  One of Australia and New Zealand’s most legendary recruitment businesses was simply named Morgan & Banks.  The legacy of this business is a whole host of new recruitment businesses founded and run by ex-Consultants from that company.  They themselves are now resurrected in a new shape as Talent 2.  See what they did there?  How about Davidson Recruitment?  Again, pretty simply-named, but this year voted the 6th Best Place to Work in the whole of Australia.

Anyway, our ever-changing industry rolls on, and brands and names come and go.  What has been proven in the past is that a name carries some initial strength and relevance, but it isn’t sustainable on the name alone.  Don’t lose too much sleep over the name of your business, focus your thoughts more towards the culture, the environment, the performance and the service.

Next week will see the launching of another recruitment business onto the New Zealand employment scene.  Rumours are the word Talent will definitely appear somewhere…so tune in for more details next week!

Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Brad Stewart says:

    Talent in a title… the new black maybe?  Admittedly when coming up with a name for my business I wanted the word ‘talent’ in there somewhere but it could not be flakey or ‘of the times’ but more traditional.  The name took many evenings of brainstorming with others, and many bottles of Riesling to help me out.  The use of Talent was not used because it was cool or what not but because the word really does sum up what you do.  On saying that… I do have people look at my card and a few have said (mostly males) with a wink in their eye “Talent Capital aye, so what kind of talent are we talking about here”.  I never thought… talent as in models of some kind?
    I agree – the substance is in the delivery, environment and quality of process, communications, calibre of team etc but for arguments sake – I love the name of my business. 
    A good read Jon.


  • Anonymous says:

    Always loved the name of your business too B Rad 😉

  • Seth says:

    As usual a delightful read Jon. I have always thought there was room for some good old fashioned honesty in naming a recruitment company… ‘The Bodyshop’ has certain appeal for some reason..


  • Jane Temel says:

    We’ve just rebranded from Law Staff to Niche. After 17 years it was a big call to make the change, but we felt it was important that our name reflected who were are now and where we’re heading. The new name is appropriate for our legal niche while opening up new possibilities. It was a lot of fun brainstorming new names but it is quite hard to be objective about your own business and what’s current and enduring… in the end we gave our brief to a brand expert and we’re delighted with the result.

  • Ruth says:

    Having read this whilst currently seeking a name – I was of the old school ilk and struggling to find a name that portrays professionalism with the service we provide

    Any ideas ?? Am in uk