Membership organisations and recruitment: appointing a business development manager — a case study

The scenario

The Sport and Recreation Alliance (S&RA) wish to hire a Business Development Manager. This is a newly created post designed to help S&RA diversify its revenue streams and become financially independent ─ hitherto, the S&RA has been funded predominantly by Sport England.



The Sport and Recreation Alliance: an umbrella organisation for the governing and representative bodies of sport and recreation in the UK. S&RA represents over 300 members, including the Football Association, the Rugby Football Union, and UK Athletics. Its role is to provide members with a collective voice, represent their views, and provide them with services. S&RA’s website is

Sallie BarkerSallie Barker: Head of Operations at S&RA (





SueSue Wressell: HR and Office Manager at S&RA (





Luke (prefered)Luke Roberts: the candidate. At the time of applying to S&RA, Luke was National Stakeholder Engagement Officer at the Civil Service Sports Council. Luke’s career history is available on LindkedIn:




FJWilson Talent Services (FJWTS): a UK-based company providing recruitment, assessment, and coaching services to professional associations, membership organisations, and learning providers. The company deals especially with senior and executive appointments. FJWTS’s website is

FJW coutts-4106-C-500pxFiona Wilson: Managing Director of FJWTS (





Tony Walsh: Head of Assessment Services at FJWTS.  Tony is a Chartered and Registered Occupational Psychologist.



Episode 1: agency appointment and briefing

S&RA decide to hire a recruitment agency. They use a competitive process to identify the agency that best understands their business in general and the specific brief concerning the appointment of a Business Development Manager.

S&RA shortlist a number of agencies and decide to retain FJWTS on an exclusive basis, using their premium service. It is evident that the company has the necessary networks and specialist understanding of the nature of professional associations and of the type of role in question.

Sue, Sallie, and Fiona meet to discuss S&RA’s aims for the post, especially from a commercial point of view. They discuss how to pitch the role in terms of seniority, experience and salary. Because Fiona possesses extensive knowledge of the business area and likely candidates, she is able to help set parameters for the job. The job description is then finalised. The recruitment process too is finalised after a conference call including Tony to advise on the selection of psychometric assessment tools.


Episode 2: the candidates

FJWTS approach potential candidates and then provide S&RA with a longlist of potential candidates. S&RA decide that the calibre is high. Sallie and Sue feel confident that S&RA will be able to appoint from the list.

One candidate is Luke, who hears of the vacancy only very late in the day. He approaches FJWTS, who brief Luke on the employer, the people in the employer’s team, and the role. Fiona advises him on how to tailor his CV to bring out how his experience and skills fit with S&RA’s needs.


Episode 3: the first interview

Luke is invited for interview, for which he prepares thoroughly and intensively.

The interview, which lasts about three-quarters of an hour, is discussion-led and focuses on specific topics, of which income generation is particularly important.


Episode 4: the second interview

Later in the week, Luke is invited to a second interview at which he will give a presentation on how to generate commercial income in the first three months.

Before the interview, Fiona preps Luke via Skype. She briefs him on the people who will be interviewing him and they discuss the implications for his presentation. The discussion ensures that the presentation is focussed on the key areas.

Also before the interview Luke takes some online assessments provided by FJWTS. They evaluate a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and indicate the key factors that motivate the candidate to perform well.

The interview is with the Chair of S&RA’s commercial panel and the CEO. It goes well.

After the interview, Luke receives a report from the online assessment tests, plus an offer of verbal feedback from Tony.


Episode 5: the final interview

Luke is invited to a third interview at which he will again give a presentation on how to generate commercial income, though this time the focus is on the first twelve months. Again, the interview goes well.

Afterwards, Luke is offered the job and accepts.


Epilogue: reflections and results

The key metrics run as follows:

  • Number of job roles: 1
  • Number of candidates short-listed by S&RA: 5
  • Of candidates shortlisted for interview, percentage provided by FJWTS: 100
  • Candidates approached for role: 46
  • FJWTS approaches:interview ratio: 9:1
  • FJWTS candidate hired: 1

Using FJWTS provided the employer with peace of mind. In particular, although the role was new to S&RA, FJWTS were very familiar with such roles from previous assignments. It was also clear, especially from the questions that Fiona asked, that the company understood S&RA’s business and needs.

Would Sue recommend FJWTS to other employers? ‘Yes, absolutely! Fiona has a real personal touch which I really appreciated. FJWilson tailor their service to your needs rather than giving a “one size fits all”; FJWilson is very willing to be adaptable.’ Most importantly, ‘Luke is a great appointment and he fits in perfectly with the organisation’.

Sallie also endorses FJWTS:

Having grasped the brief well, the FJWilson team provided a list of candidates who had been thoroughly screened and who matched both the role and context. Final-stage candidates were evaluated by their Head of Assessment Services using the OPQ sales report and Managerial Scenarios. We were provided very helpful reports with suggested final-stage interview questions based on the results of each of the candidates’ assessments. Throughout the assignment we were regularly updated on progress. We have also been impressed with FJWilson’s service levels before and after the candidates started in post. We would choose to work with FJWilson Talent Services again for senior appointments, and would recommend their service to other professional associations.

Luke had no previous experience of recruitment consultants, having applied to his previous employer directly, when leaving university.  Would he recommend FJWTS? ‘Yes, definitely. Fiona is really helpful. Since I was appointed, they’ve kept in touch – at Christmas, Easter, and my work anniversary. It’s very nice to receive their cards. Their on-going account management of previous clients is very good.’


Key points

The aim of the recruitment agency is to help ensure a ‘win, win’ outcome – a recruit and employer who suit each other. This is best achieved when:

  • the agency knows the field – it knows the specific market and has appropriate networks
  • the agency takes trouble to ensure it understands the employer – not only the specific needs regarding the role, but also how the organisation works
  • the agency is involved early in the process, so that it can contribute creatively to the final specification of the role and the brief
  • there is an attention to detail throughout the process

Most important of all is the need to keep the ‘human’ in ‘human resources’. Great recruitment happens when the recruiting agency is able to empathise ─ with both employer and candidate.

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