Beating Boredom: How To Remain Productive During Slow Times

It is a well-known fact that fewer firms are hiring these days. And while most organizations have trimmed back their recruiting function to its barest bones, throughout corporate America there are recruiters still in their jobs, at their desks ó bored to death. While many are using this time to catch up on paperwork that never got completed, to research new tools, or to keep their sourcing database up to date, others are looking for things they can do to help ease the onslaught of need when their firm or industry recovers from its current state of slumber. This is a listing of employment practices a recruiter might consider to fill their activity void, and help prepare for economic recovery:

  1. Do a survey of all top employees and ask them why they accepted the job when they were hired. Also ask them what they think the top selling points of the firm currently are, and what might concern them if they were just joining the organization.
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  3. Do a survey of all candidates who rejected an offer in the past eighteen months to find out what the deciding factors were that led them to turn down your offer.
  4. Review current customer roles to identify who might be interested in joining your organization at a later date, or who might serve as a good recruiting channel to reach others. Start developing the requisite relationships to use your customers in the recruiting process.
  5. Develop a process and format to produce a periodic -mail newsletter that will keep potential candidates interested in your company and aware of current hot opportunities.
  6. Review hires generated in the past eighteen months by collecting on-the-job performance data and manager satisfaction information. Combine this data with available information of source of hire to determine which sources produce the greatest performers.
  7. Consider developing a trade-up program. Identify key roles in the organization, and make sure that no “available talent” currently supersedes the quality of your current incumbent.
  8. Meet with senior functional leadership to learn which roles in the organization are mission critical, i.e. where a vacancy or delay in recruitment would cause critical organizational failures, such as delaying time to market or compromising product quality. Stop treating all jobs and functions as having equal importance.
  9. Consider working with managers to develop short-term rotation programs that could make use of new college graduates or interns, which are available in large numbers at relatively low cost compared to contract labor.
  10. Revisit referrals, and request that the original referrer update the information on the candidates they referred.
  11. Develop pre-qualifying systems for internal candidates to increase the number of internal transfers and promotions. Work with whomever is responsible for succession planning to insure that either a replacement is available internally for all key positions or that an up-to-date source list is available.
  12. Develop “personal courting” and relationship-building programs with potential recruits so that hiring processes are not just one time “flash” occurrences.
  13. Realize one of the primary functions of recruitment and hiring is to build and reinforce the corporate image and culture as well as to increase corporate capabilities and productivity. Remember that recruiting is marketing, and all potential recruits are also potential customers.
  14. Start forecasting the future (unemployment rates, the pool of qualified candidates, business cycles, the changing needs of your customers etc.) and stop just “reacting to requisitions” when they hit your desk.
  15. Do internal customer satisfaction surveys to see what managers and applicants want more of and less of.
  16. Identify how your employment practices differ from your direct competitors. You can’t beat the competitor if you all do the same things the same way.
  17. Drop forever the idea that recruitment and hiring must be face to face. Develop remote recruitment and hiring practices that are superior to face-to-face ones.
  18. Develop metrics (in conjunction with the CFO) to identify and prove the business impacts of a great hire and the costs of a bad hire. Make hiring great employees your greatest corporate competitive advantage over your competition.
  19. Consider creating “feeder channels” for future university hires. For example sponsor “learn to be a __________” training classes, student clubs, internships, “professor summer internships” and short-term professor/manager swap programs.
  20. Research voluntary terminations in which an employee joined a direct competitor. Identify why they left and how their current situation differs from what they expected.
  21. Drop or weaken employment “rules” and approvals to decrease your time to hire. Identify things that slow down the hiring process and that you can’t prove make a difference (no you don’t need a job description in order to hire someone, etc.).
  22. Develop a referral program for non-employees (suppliers and customers, for example).

Conclusion There are many things that recruiters can be doing today to help make their jobs a little easier and to be more productive when the economy starts to grow again. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that the activity can be tied directly to improving the performance of your recruiting systems. It is during the slow times that dramatic enhancements in performance will achieve the greatest exposure. Now is the time to become a corporate hero.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



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