In the U.S, there are about 20,000 staffing and recruiting companies, operating ~ 39,000 offices. Despite the slowing growth of the U.S. economy, total staffing and recruiting industry sales increased 5.4% to $147 billion in 2015, according to the American Staffing Association.
Although there are many staffing firms out there, and every Tom, Dick, and Harry believes that they are capable of launching their own, it’s still a fact that half of those that venture into this business fail within the first four years.
So for the folks that make it, we wanted to share a personal perspective on the staffing industry. Perhaps it will help those who have just started by realizing that their initial challenges are not uncommon. Or perhaps it can serve as a reminder of the higher purpose that goes along with a career in staffing - something even the most seasoned of us can forget.
To answer these key questions, I did a Q&A with one of my colleagues…
Part 1 - Getting started in the staffing industry
Q: What was the driving force that got you into staffing?
A: “I had a family member who was in staffing and I had always heard that it was a noble profession; finding people work, helping them improve their careers. That’s what drew me to it.”
Q: So what were your initial impressions of the recruiting profession and the staffing industry as a whole?
A: “Well, recruiters didn’t know the jobs they were recruiting on. As someone who just started with a reputable company, I found that I was essentially put on the front lines with very little training. I saw an opportunity. Essentially, if I can be knowledgeable about the roles I was working on, I would be able to separate myself from my competition. Over time, that initial impression has been reinforced. The best recruiters truly know the jobs they are recruiting on.”
Part 2 - Gaining clarity through experience
Q: How has your approach to managing candidate relationships evolved over time?
A: “Timing, fit, personality, culture, and many, MANY, other aspects must align to create a true match. It’s very hard, but if you take the approach of the best realtors – that is to say, a candidate, like a home buyer/seller can have multiple jobs/homes over the course of a lifetime -- you realize just how valuable a strong candidate relationship can be. And thus, you treat them right, all of the time, so that you’re thought of first when a need pops up in the future.
“The folks that only try to follow their ABC's (Always Be Closing) rather than be an advisor on the person’s career will constantly live on the hamster wheel, unable to leverage a referral network and repeat business because they haven’t built deep and meaningful relationships with their candidates.”
Q: What’s the most important factor in your success in managing candidate relationships?
A: “Being genuine.”
Q: What natural skills did you have going into the staffing industry that helped you when you started?
A: “The ability to overcome adversity. I think, in the beginning, you can do everything right and still don’t see the results. As I mentioned earlier, there are many aspects that are required to make a match, and many of those aspects are out of your control. Once you realize that adversity is part of the job and an element of luck is required, things will be put into perspective.”
Q: Which skills did the staffing industry force you to develop?
A: “Listening skills and following up. At Spire, we refer to it as “getting into their operating reality”, but listening is what it takes to truly understand your candidate. Throw away every assumption and don’t judge – money isn’t everyone’s prime motivator, work-life balance and the idea of what constitutes micromanagement is subjective. Bottom line, listening to your candidate to understand what drives him/her and staying in constant communication is what separates the good from the great.”
Q: What excited you about staffing when you started? Is it still the most exciting thing now?
A: “Building a team and seeing them succeed. Let’s be honest, the money doesn’t suck, but what really engages me is building a team for others and the feeling I get when the hiring manager sends me a note saying something along the lines of ‘We just hit our stretch goal for the year, and each one of your placements had a direct impact in achieving that goal – thank you.’ This is a people business more than any other, and people make the difference in a company’s bottom line. If you are placing folks, and they are contributing, you have a direct impact on their company's trajectory.
“On the candidate side, it’s helping someone work through adversity. As mentioned before, overcoming adversity in recruiting (or any sales job) is required. Helping a placement get through that period of time when things aren’t going so well is what we, at Spire, do best. I think it’s because we care, and we were in their shoes not too long ago. So, being another voice that isn’t their boss is something we really enjoy. We are all going through it to an extent and it’s nice for them to hear it from outside their organization.”
Q: Where do you feel that most staffing companies fall short?
A: “Not developing their people. They look at each hire as someone who is either making them money or losing them money. It’s proven that this year’s fastest growing technology staffing companies all invested more in their people than the middle of the road companies did. Go look at the SIA study – it’s all there in black and white. When you don’t develop new hires you set your company back. Everything you did to get the company to where it is today can be compromised by a new hire who wasn’t developed.”
Q: Where do you feel that most recruiters fall short?
A: “Concentrating too much on the placement and not building the relationship. Not being genuine. Not being strategic. Recruiters can make 100 calls a day, but if you truly don’t care what kind of job you’re working on, it’s going to come off.”
Whether you have worked 6 months or 6 years as a recruiter, the principals are the same:
- Be genuine
- Stay humble
- Constantly look for ways to improve yourself