Talent Acquisition

Recruiters, Here’s How to Stay Ahead of the Curve

The recruitment industry has a habit of reinventing itself every few years and those who fail to change with it are destined to be left behind. We must understand that change is a constant and those who specialize in just one small parsec of an industry, even if it is very profitable at the time, cannot assume that they will forever reap that industry’s rewards. One must keep their eyes glued to economic trends and the future.

Just look at the massive changes within our own industry. Before the dawn of the internet, resumes were faxed. Before faxes, the only way to deliver a resume was by messenger. Messenger services were the internet of today and the faster your messenger’s feet sometimes determined winning or losing a fee. For instance, if another agent had the same resume delivered by a speedier service, they would get the credit! Can you believe that your fee might be contingent on the health of your messenger’s feet?  That was the world we lived in!

A brief history:

Three decades ago, if you were looking for candidates, it was commonplace to spend thousands of dollars a week on newspaper advertisements. In the 90’s, we weaned off paper and went on to “job boards”, like Monster or CareerBuilder or Hotjobs and look-a-likes such as and Career Mosaic. Suddenly a new industry sprang up almost overnight with dozens of web job services joining the mix. In the 2000’s, job aggregators started to emerge, like “Indeed”. Indeed was able to assemble jobs and candidates from many job boards and thus deliver many services through one site which eventually led to social networking. Today, it’s all about social media with the recent dominance of sites like LinkedIn.

The phone:

If Google didn’t exist, how were you able to find critical information needed about a company you wanted to do business with or find open jobs or those employees you needed to recruit?  The only instrument at our disposal was a phone, and the only way to beat the competition was keeping that phone glued to your ear literally all day long – better yet, two phones glued to both ears (still not a bad option today by the way)! There were also those underworld characters out there who would visit unannounced peddling industry company directories. They somehow “acquired” full internal directories of company employees (you were not allowed to ask where they were gotten from) with departments and phone numbers easily displayed. Now, if this were legal, it would have been a great way to recruit. After their information acquisition, they would make multiple copies and sell them to recruiters for hundreds or thousands of dollars apiece. If you were a risk taker, you were inclined to buy into this method because it gave you a leg up on the competition – only tiny problem was if the guy who “acquired” these directories was caught and arrested, you might be going downtown with him and eventually to the big house – seemed like a tough way to make a living! Change was needed and as it turned out, it was just upon the horizon.

Anyway, you get the point – everything changes over time. So, how does one make sure they won’t be left behind? I think it’s all about keeping up with economic trends, finding the best and then consistently communicating with the top SME’s in the marketplace. Whatever you find, make sure you migrate into multiple business verticals just in case the one you know falters.

If you happened to be in the recruiting industry during the ’08 crash, you were probably dead in the water if specializing in the Banking and Brokerage sectors. My firm was mostly involved in technical searches at the time and dead smack in the financial sector. Realizing the world had dramatically changed and there would be little or no appetite for these hires going forward in the immediate future, I set my sights on tracking down the high roller cowboy traders from Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers with the hope of relocating them to hedge funds where the rules were significantly relaxed.  The idea was that they would not be able to survive within the very conservatively structured Jamie Diamond (JPM) type of environment.  This proved to be spot-on and we thus had our best year yet. A team would be hired for 200k per person with a backend of up to 20% of revenue. So their accumulated comp was in the millions.  But really all I wanted to do was survive the incredible financial meltdown which lasted several years and extremely stressful for so many. So, I was forced to “find another way”. My mom used to say that whatever doesn’t kill you; makes you stronger and I discovered that this could not be truer.  Some say that mine was a lucky break, but I’ve been faced with monumental change over and over again over the decades and well aware that nothing lasts forever. The only true constant was that everything changes. So, being aware that the rug could be pulled from under at any time, the message is always be well prepared.

About the time that Obama started to assemble his administration, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know we were entering a tightly regulated world.  So, quickly learning who was writing the laws and who executed them was the order of the day.  Those Examiners in government earned a maximum of 270k after working a lifetime, but private industry would pay seven figures for their knowledge and expertise.  I guessed they might be interested and my guess proved correct.

I can’t imagine that the Health Care industry was ever a recruiter’s dream – not that there weren’t positions to be filled but they just didn’t move as quickly as say technology or financial services mandates. The compensation base was also much lower than other industries, so all in all, unless you were really desperate, this was not an industry I could engage in, at least not on an exclusive basis. If you decided to recruit for this industry, there were several options of the candidates you might represent – It would be a difficult decision between placing nurses – a very flighty bunch of folks or doctors who were basically private practitioners who didn’t quite understand the concept of paying fees (for people??), or hospitals who were as slow moving as the National Benefits Management companies who seemed to make decisions as if being pulled by dead oxen. Pharma was the one profitable exception to this group as they were considered a profit-center and not a cost-center so there was significant motivation on both sides to consummate deals.

With that said, there is now a potent reason to rethink Health Care. With Obamacare, the race is on and the activity brisk. After all, how does a national startup business take shape that virtually includes every American not sound enticing?  I don’t mean from a political perspective here- simply from a business aggregation vantage point. The idea of building a national business from scratch with Americans logging on to a national websites along with the very many eventual aligned services being created currently should sound interesting? With innovation comes hiring and massively so in this case. There are suddenly crisp and abundant opportunities availability if you pay attention to the companies being selected to create such an undertaking.  All you need is to roll up your sleeves and use some creativity and research to isolate the best and brightest the industry has to offer –  simple!

The ability to educate yourself in various vertical industries and their associated nomenclature isn’t really all that difficult, but it is an imperative if you want to stay in the recruiting game.  After all, if you remain within your comfort zone, there will come a time that you will eventually become phased out. If you like to create, staying in one venue for too long a time will undoubtedly become boring and that day triggers the beginning of the end my friend. If you miss the subtle clues of where things are leading…well I guess you know what happened to the dinosaur?

Whatever you do, please do not isolate yourself, work with other professionals, keep your ears close to the ground, stay informed so you can be aware of industry changes, which may be a mixture of economic indicators that leading analysts agree upon or the political changes occurring. Read about these emerging details as frequently as you can. By doing so, you will be knowledgeable enough to capture the ear of those professionals through your insightful point of view and create long lasting relationships as a result. Isn’t that what we all want?

So, what’s next? Start researching now and this time, you will be ahead of the curve!

Author: Steve Warren Wolfe is President and CEO of Objective Solutions International.

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