Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

RECRUITMENT SPOTLIGHT - Dave Jenkins, Founder & CEO, Wave

Onrec sat down with Dave Jenkins, the Founder and CEO of Wave Recruitment Solutions. Wave attracts talented candidates to your business quickly, with three innovative products that combine data and creativity for a complete recruitment solution.

Onrec: How did you get started in recruitment and how did the idea of Wave surface?

I launched Wave in 1999 and the company has gone through several different incarnations as the business evolved. When Wave was established over 20 years ago, it was a first of its kind, the only online recruitment media buying business in the UK, but it quickly expanded offline into more traditional lines of recruitment. Wave grew steadily until the credit crunch in 2008, when a major restructure saw Wave move into the creative and recruitment marketing industry.

In 2015, amidst an ever tightening market, I saw an opportunity again to evolve the business and started the development of WaveTrackR, a job board management and recruitment analytics tool that would finally show recruiters where the candidates they wanted were. During a time when clients were demanding more and more management information and ROI there was no such information within the recruitment advertising sphere. Very few companies knew where they were attracting their hires from so WaveTrackR was built to change that, creating a means by which to finally identify which of the huge number of recruitment and attraction channels in existence were the ones to invest in. As recruitment software goes, it was – and continues to be – pretty revolutionary.

2018 was a busy year as, in addition to launching WaveTrackR, Wave acquired RecWebs, a recruitment website design agency with around 70 clients. Since the acquisition, Wave has expanded the web design and build capabilities of RecWebs and the services it offers, allowing recruitment businesses to attract more candidates via their own website than ever before. Offering websites to recruitment companies around the world, RecWebs has quickly become the number 1 provider of recruitment websites for start-up recruitment businesses and has grown exponentially since the acquisition.

Wave also has a media buying arm, WaveMedia, offering a media acquisition service encompassing the planning, negotiating, buying and management of job boards on behalf of clients. The media buying team recommends the boards that should bring the client the best ROI and negotiates the best deals so that the client receives optimum results from their media strategy.

Onrec: What makes you different from your competitors?

Wave’s three products together provide a complete solution for candidate attraction and place Wave in a unique position in the industry. WaveTrackR is a data-powered multi-poster that uses analytics to help recruiters to post the best job ads to the right job boards at the right time, to maximise their chances of reaching talented candidates. With WaveMedia, recruiters get a media strategising and buying service to help them make the most of their advertising budget. With RecWebs, recruiters can have a professionally designed and built recruitment website packed full of recruitment features and functionalities, ensuring their online presence attracts both candidates and clients and drives candidates to apply for their jobs. Recruiters can sign up to just one of these and slot it into their existing candidate attraction portfolio of tools or they can utilise all three, giving them a complete solution through just one company and streamlining the entire recruitment process.

In addition, the in-depth recruitment analytics garnered from Waves multi-posting software, WaveTrackR, is unparalleled in the industry. WaveTrackR supplies recruiters with real-time information, providing up-to-date knowledge on which media is generating more applications and hires. The multi-posting and analytics software makes posting on several different boards quick and easy and also provides users with detailed analytics to ensure they stay in complete control of their media. Informed by WaveTrackRs application and hire data, including the ability to view recommendations on where and when is the best time to post, recruiters can find the most talented candidates at pace - it ultimately ensures that recruiters can do their jobs better and more effectively.

As part of Waves guiding principle of striving to create a world where talent is never missed, WaveTrackR produces regular reports, sharing the knowledge gained from its data with the whole of the recruitment industry community with no payment walls. Armed with such knowledge, the hope is that all recruiters - whether Wave clients or not - can make better informed decisions.

We also pride ourselves on our unparalleled reputation for outstanding client care. It is part of the Wave Promise, a set of guiding principles that Wave published in 2021 to hold ourselves accountable, further ensuring the delivery of quality products and service, ongoing support and an unwavering commitment to exceptional client care.

Onrec: What exciting new trends are you noticing?

Anything that saves recruiters time is huge, now more than ever before. It’s why we recently launched WaveTrackR’s enhanced CV Search feature. By allowing recruiters to bypass traditional job advertising methods and performing a multi-job board and internal CV database search from one place and in a single search, a huge amount of time can be saved. When candidates are in short supply, any time saved finding and contacting them is like gold dust.

An increasing number of recruiters are realising the value of data and using it to make better decisions. In such a tight market, recruiters have got to use every tool in their disposal and there’s no two ways about it, data-led decisions are better decisions. That’s not to say that a recruiter’s instinct is no longer valid - it 100% is - but why not bolster that with analytics?   

Onrec: What do you think will be the next big thing in online recruitment?

I think well see a continuing evolution of the job board market. We have seen prices go up and some providers offer a performance based model. Whichever way it goes, expectation of quality will increase. Whether youre paying for each click or application or are still on a set monthly price per job, recruiters are expecting more relevant and higher quality responses - as technology is advancing we should be able to deliver the right candidate application to the right role.

Onrec: Biggest challenges we face going in to 2023?

The recruitment industry has faced extraordinary upheaval over the past few years, from hiring freezes during the pandemic when it was all about survival, to a dearth of jobs and an influx of candidates, to a complete flip whereby jobs soared and candidate availability plummeted. We’re still in a candidate-short market now and that is likely to continue for some time. One of the biggest challenges will therefore be attracting and placing talented candidates - and getting there ahead of your competitors. That means knowing where to look, offering what candidates are expecting in terms of flexibility, salary and culture, keeping them engaged during the recruitment process, and negotiating the right deal for them.

Onrec: How many people do you employ globally?

We currently employ 21 people - huge growth from the 11 people we employed at the beginning of 2021 when we were still in recovery mode and navigating our way through a third UK lockdown.

Onrec: Where do you see the recruitment industry in 5 years?

Employers will expect more from recruiters and value-add will become vital. In order to survive, recruiters will need to be more than just vacancy-fillers. Clients will begin to choose recruiters that think about the work that needs to be done rather than the body that needs to be hired. This is where there needs to be a shift from a transactional model to recruiters taking on a consultative role with the client.

There is now an opportunity to work out how to solve an entire talent problem rather than how individual roles can be filled. This was already valued pre-COVID but is valued now more than ever before. If youre only selling transactional recruitment services now is the time to stop, re-think and plan what is right for you going forward. Youll need to be prepared to change and move. Being dynamic is crucial in an ever-changing market.

Onrec: COVID hit the industry hard. How did you manage and adapt?

2020 was an incredibly tough year for Wave, as it was for so many in the industry. When hiring came to a virtual standstill in many sectors, recruiters were tightening their belts and only signing off essential expenditure. It was a worrying time but we kept all lines of communication open with clients and dedicated our resources to helping where we could. As well as practical forms of help and simply calling for check-ins, I started a podcast aimed at helping recruiters survive and thrive during the incredibly turbulent times we were experiencing.

Things started to pick up towards the end of 2020, with momentum growing in early 2021, and from the spring business positively boomed. 2021 turned out to be one of the best years Wave has ever experienced, with WaveTrackR, WaveMedia and RecWebs client bases all growing. It is something the entire team are immensely proud of, as Wave became known not just for offering a powerhouse of candidate attraction strategies and the very best in recruitment technology but for outstanding client service.

Onrec: Do you have any other plans to expand? And if so, where?

Wave has huge growth plans. It’s an incredibly exciting time. Over the past 2 years we’ve grown all areas of the business and have ambitious plans for further growth, but not at the expense of our client service. We have more than doubled the team in under 2 years in order to continue to develop our technology and grow our client base but retain the exceptional client service we have become known for. Our newest hire, Richard Essex, has brought to Wave a wealth of experience of both recruitment and recruitment tech, and will be using that to ensure that we achieve sustainable growth.  

Onrec: What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

Be more patient in some areas, such as seeing your ideas grow; care less at times about what other people think, be brave and make the decisions you may not want to but know are right, enjoy the journey a bit more and dont worry about the future so much (youre doing great!).

Onrec: What do you enjoy outside of work?

I enjoy the crazy family life of taking the children to football, taekwondo and gymnastics. I love travelling to different countries and getting away from it all. Im a keen boater – I have a boat I keep on the Thames which I enjoy spending time on. I myself play football and practice taekwondo but the years are racking up so not quite at the pace I used to do!

Onrec: What is your career low and how did you overcome it? And what is your career high?

Its been a long career, so there have been lots of ups and downs. I cant particularly recall any major lows. In the early years I recorded my first ever loss at the end of the year, that was quite a shock and the idea that Id spent a whole year working only to finish on less than I started was quite gauling. I lost £22k - still remember the number. I didnt have any management accounts back then so until we did the accounts at the end of the year I didnt really know what was coming. Covid was very stressful and there were some hard times there with business dropping and everything we knew changing all the time. The expectation I put on myself to protect the team, the clients and the business was crushing at times.

Highlights - there have been loads. In the early years, my first profit. Again, as with the loss, I was never quite sure how well I'd done until the end of the year. In those days I had a battered old car and would take all the receipts to my accountants. When he printed off the final number I was so pleased and excited that Id managed to be profitable. Then when we won our first set of awards - those were big times. And more recently every time a new version of WaveTrackR is released, Im like a kid in a sweet shop and Im so excited to show people how it works and what it does. As we came out of Covid lockdowns we went and had our best ever year at Wave, so Ive begun to realise that most lows will eventually turn into highs if you stick at it.

          Mini Q&A          

 Onrec: If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 things would you take with you? 

Assuming my family, food, and tech are not applicable answers, Id go with my boat, a football, and a radio.

 Onrec: If you could compare yourself with any animal, which would it be and why? 

Most probably a dog because I’m loyal and reliable. I can get excited to see people but equally likely to slide off for a bit of peace and quiet at times.

 Onrec: What was the last gift you gave someone? 

I brought home a giant balloon from the Recruitment Expo to give to my daughter.