Sheffield Haworth logo


The Challenges of Recruiting Top Talent in a Candidate-Driven Market

Gareth Burden joined the Sheffield Haworth Insurance practice as a consultant in September, where he will help to build out the practice, with a focus on the global Insurance and InsurTech sectors.

Q&A with Gareth Burden, the newest recruit to the Sheffield Haworth Insurance practice

Gareth Burden joined the Sheffield Haworth Insurance practice as a consultant in September, where he will help to build out the practice, with a focus on the global Insurance and InsurTech sectors.

He has over six years’ experience in the talent sector and a BA in Philosophy from Oxford Brookes University. In this Q&A, Gareth talks us through the biggest talent challenges facing InsurTechs and offers his advice on how to recruit the best talent in a candidate-driven market.

Q: Can you tell us about your recruitment career to date?

A: After graduating, I joined a UK boutique recruiter partnering with banks and SME lenders, which then introduced me to technology platforms targeting the P2P and unsecured loan space.

I later leveraged this across to the wider capital markets technology, retail banking, payments, and ecommerce space. There, I partnered with global tier 1 software houses and scale-ups who had developed their own technology.

Q: What is your current role at Sheffield Haworth and what does that entail?

A: Having joined the Insurance practice, my role is to develop the InsurTech ecosystem globally across upper management dovetailing down to individual contributors across all business functions.

Essentially, we will be supplying senior talent to businesses of all sizes who are looking to change the way we as consumers access insurance, as well as to businesses who are looking to improve the way insurance companies work.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing InsurTechs right now?

A: Businesses of massively varied technologies, sizes and functions throughout the insurance value chain are looking to scale post pandemic.

Those with a clearly defined product and addressable market need to develop revenues. Right now, that means they need talented and experienced sales specialists.

According to our clients, this is the biggest talent shortfall. Though of course as they grow, they will also start to need more product specialists, engineers, and senior strategic talent to consolidate that growth.  

Q: What skills do you bring to your role? Why should InsurTechs work with you?

A: In a market in need of innovation, it is key for businesses to work with trusted partners for their talent needs. They need consultants who can discuss their products and market knowledgably. That way, they get full visibility on their competitors, target audience, and candidate pool need, which helps them to think about and strengthen their offering.

Likewise, if candidates are to take on a next move, it’s only fair that they are engaged by a firm that can accurately describe the value proposition of a product, remit, and a firm’s long-term aspirations so that their engagement with the business is informed rather than speculative.

Additionally, having built out global sales functions previously, the most positive feedback always came from the competitive analysis and mapping I did of the client’s market. This could include highlighting team structure, top performers, recent moves, and ever more importantly diversity data.

Q: What attracted you to join Sheffield Haworth?

A: Sheffield Haworth is a truly global firm that can leverage multiple specialists from different teams for the client’s benefit, and I found that appealing. It’s a fast-moving challenging environment where I felt I could build on my existing skills.

This well-rounded offering means Sheffield Haworth really covers the full gamut of talent searches too – whether that be assisting with a CFO hire, a wealth specialist, or the interim consultants who can add value on a non-permanent basis.

The Insurance practice at Sheffield Haworth has strong relationships with traditional insurers, MGAs and brokers, so by joining I get a balanced, all-round view of the market. Plus, I get to concentrate right now on the InsurTech side of the industry, which is really the most exciting space to be right now.

Sheffield Haworth’s brand, and their extensive networks mean I might be helping an incumbent to hire tech specialists, or an InsurTech scale-up to hire an experienced CFO, or – as is a major focus at the moment – build out their sales function. It’s really varied.

Q: What advice would you give to candidates looking to work for InsurTechs in today’s market?

A: The most common mistake I’ve seen from candidates in my career is not knowing enough about the company when they get to the first interview stage. If you don’t know the company or have no compelling reason why you want to work for them beyond earning a salary, interviewers pick up on that.

So, I would advise candidates to do their homework. If you’re applying to work at any business, make sure you understand them. What do they do? What problem do they solve? What technology do they use? Where they are in their growth journey?

Then pinpoint exactly how your skillset will get them to their next level of development. Smaller growth businesses in particular love individuals who can offer ideas and user case studies. Or talk through potential challenges they will face and offer solutions to those challenges.

On a more personal level, first impressions are key. If you aren’t 100% sold on the product or the business, challenge them until you discover their roadmap and plan. The worst thing you can do is act half-hearted and create a lukewarm impression to a group of entrepreneurs.

Q: What advice would you give to InsurTechs looking to attract top talent?

A: This is a candidate-led market in which top talent is increasingly hard to find. Truly skilled individuals (especially salespeople) will find it easy to move to a new home if they take issue with a company’s vision. Or if they get a bad impression during an interview.

This is why it’s vital that InsurTechs remember they’re competing for talent – talent that can often make higher salaries in more secure positions in larger, more established firms. You need to really think about what you have to offer a candidate. Why should they work for you? If you don’t make that clear, then you’re likely to struggle to attract grade A staff.

This goes double if you’re looking to increase your diversity. The regulators are making a big noise over increasing diversity, so InsurTechs are likely to find this becoming a regulatory requirement before long. And more diversity is always a good thing for innovative companies.

Ask yourself, how can you make yourself more appealing to people from different backgrounds, different skillsets, and different levels of experience.

The short answer is to work out what you have to offer candidates. Try to think from a candidate’s perspective and sell yourselves a little during the recruitment process. Have a proper employee value proposition and you’re likely to be much more successful at attracting the talent you need.

If you’d like to discuss your talent challenges, get in touch at or visit: