Deep Sea Fishing in a Shallow Pool

The Dow is creeping up to record highs. The housing market is exploding much to the surprise of economic “experts.” Consumer confidence is great. The “Fed” is grumbling about inflation. Clients are hiring again. Okay, why then do so many recruiters complain about how tough things are today, particularly where recruiting candidates is concerned? The reasons are partly our own creation. Sometimes it’s not what we do, it’s what we fail to do that hurts us.
Recruiters have never faced conditions like we face today. Clients seek multi-dimensional candidates to fill roles that where created during those downsizing periods. There are many causes for the fairly new scenario. Several roles in a given organization were compressed into one paycheck. They could pull this off because those who survived the reductions and right-sizing campaigns of the late nineties and early 2000’s were happy to work harder to stay employed. Companies exploited this mindset, with “economic justifications.” From early 2001 until early 2005 this climate of position compression in terms of responsibilities persisted as companies “hunkered down” and awaited the now present recovery. As history has proven in the past, many companies saw this willingness to put 10 pounds into a 5 pound bag as a way to continue managing human resources after the recovery began. I suspect that this will abate as our economic recovery creates increased CEO confidence, a shift in perspective towards growth and new position creation. Until that time arrives, we are faced with the challenge of finding these people who possess the multi-faceted skills and experience sought by our clients. So what’s new? This has always been the foundation of our value; bringing in the “big ones,” the uniquely talented folks who can make great things happen for our clients.

During that lull in hiring, spanning the early few years of this century, our industry suffered a massive exodus of recruiters. Opinions vary, but I estimate that more than half of the practitioners fell prey to the rougher conditions of those years. Many of the casualties were those who embraced the purported fast track to riches based in the exploitation of technology tools to seine in the candidates, job orders and data from the various watering holes across the Internet. Job boards, monstrous candidate sites and a myriad of derivations of the same were hailed as the beacon to wealth by vendors of the associated technology tools sold as the holy grail of candidate sourcing. No question about it; a few made money and most did not. What is ultimately true is that another group of our fellow recruiters discovered too late that this beacon of success was little more than a flash in the pan for us.

What followed the onset of the recession sealed the fate of these transactional recruiters. The vendors of these candidate sourcing solutions turned towards its surviving market, the HR departments of many firms. While little hiring activity prevailed, the mantra of these vendors was illustrated by the “new wisdom.” This philosophy sold was that, once the recession concluded, every company who is prepared and well positioned at the gate would be winning the race for talent in the recovery to come. Several confederates of our profession jumped on the bandwagon selling the notion that “poaching” potential employees and stuffing a database was paramount to being well positioned.

This spelled a death knell for the aforementioned recruiters who thought they had secured a foothold in a technology-based recruiting process just to see that the cat was out of the bag and their potential clients had now mastered the alternatives to targeted professional recruiting. These recruiters were often disappointed by a client who, after the recruiter had hustled a candidate to their door, found that same candidate in their own database and refused to pay a fee for an ‘existing’ candidate.

The complex skills of these candidates in great demand today are generally in the hands of the folks who were survivors of the late nineties’ and early 2000’s cutbacks and reductions of the professional force. Simply put, they are now employed. They are working in competitors. They are well aware of their marketability today and quite responsive to the well-crafted call of the skilled and trained recruiter. This is not a new reality. It has always been the case that the best people typically work smart, work hard and do great things while keeping one ear open to the call of opportunity. The call we are best qualified to conduct as an extension of a grade “A” client. The cold truth is best stated as “The clients have eliminated our alternatives to highly effective recruiting processes and relationship focused service.” This is bad news for anyone seeking the “Holy Grail” down the paved path. It is great news for those who are dedicated to success through equity building efforts executed by trained and skilled people.

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The candidate pool is no doubt a shallow one and perhaps as shallow as this recruiter has ever seen. One constant has held up through the last thirty years in my observation; clients have yet to master to essential and elusive skills. These are recruiting and closing; recruiting in the surgical manner practiced by the best of the business, and closing with the unique advantages inherent in the close and mutually respected relationship we have with these thoroughbred candidates. There is no “Omega Code” secretly held by a few innovative vendors of new tools that leads to wealth in recruiting. Success will come to those who seek out and master the techniques, tactics, criteria and value that the high end service recruiter has always provided to the deserving client.

Technology and the Internet will always offer tremendous paths to information and research. When wisely exploited, it brings even greater competitive advantage and service potential to us. While clients seek these predatory game fish, we represent the truly competitive pathway to talent and success for our clients.

DOUG BEABOUT, CPC – Owner and president of The Douglas Howard Group, Doug brings over 30 years of expertise in top billings, placement firm ownership and industry training. He has authored many search/placement industry-specific articles and is a well-known guest speaker at industry gatherings. He can be reached at (850) 398-1688 or through

Doug Beabout?s recruiting career spans 20 years of expertise in recruiting, personnel services firm ownership, and training. His tenure in recruiting includes building four highly successful recruiting businesses and establishing hundreds for others worldwide. He speaks to state, regional, and private recruiter associations. He is a consultant to many corporations and personnel firms. He is currently owner and president of the Douglas Howard Group, a professional recruiting firm, and conducts several online training programs for recruiters and researchers. He can be reached at 850/424-6933 or


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