If So Many Have Gone, Who Is Left?

I was talking to my brother a couple days ago and we were talking about the economy.

It’s bad. That’s spelled B-A-D,” he moaned.

“No, it’s spelled V-E-R-Y B-A-D,” I corrected, a habit of mine he doesn’t like me for. “Let’s hope the stock market gets back to 10,000. That seems, to me, to be a psychological barrier to hiring,” He interrupted: “I don’t care about the stock market anymore, I don’t care about real estate. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about jobs,” he said heatedly before addressing the latest impact on his veterinary business — the closing of the overnight-shipping business DHL about 30 miles north of his Southern Ohio practice that employed 8,000 and provided incomes to some of his patients.

“Layoffs started coming by the hundreds.”

Now that those 8,000 have lost their jobs and their unemployment is now running out, those people are not taking their kitties to the vet for neutering; they’re choosing instead to keep their children’s inoculations current. They’re not taking on new dogs to their households that need feeding; they’re putting food on the table. If a decision needs to be made to provide an animal with life-extending medication or treatment that is often-times expensive, it is often made in the negative or delayed. “They’re choosing the bare minimum that keeps the animal alive. Who knows: maybe somewhere they’re thinking they may have to eat them,” he said, half jokingly. The stark and grim reality shone through in the statement.

Things are picking up around here, though, and sourcers are on the front line. I’m seeing the glimmer of recovery in some of the work that’s coming in. But it has a long way to go to reach 2007 levels. A long, long way, I know, but I still believe that 10,000 marker (it closed at 9,370 on Friday, Aug 7) is a psychological barrier to hiring: above it our phones are ringing off the hook; below it all goes quiet. It’s been like that for a long time. I hope, this time back, though, those in the CFO offices all across America aren’t so traumatized by losses that they’ve ratcheted that number up. They well could, taking a lesson from this travesty delivered to us by another SEC oversight. Time, will tell.

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But, I ask the question again that brought you here; if so many have gone, who is left? Who is left in our profession that will be able to answer the call back to hiring? WHO has been able to weather this atomic blast to our economy all these many months and who has kept themselves ready to address the recovery after the nuclear winter? You?

How have you done that? I’m curious.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm TechTrak.com, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at techtrak.com or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


46 Comments on “If So Many Have Gone, Who Is Left?

  1. Provocative question and thoughts, Maureen. In answer to your thoughts I disagree with the DOW 10,000 philosophy. I believe Wall Street and Main Street divorced back in 2002 as international business is what drives the Market, not US spending, with other countries’ middle classes in Asia, India, Brazil, and others supplanting ours being larger, cheaper, and less mature. I was always told by one client to really watch the S&P 500 as that was the true indicator of corporate spending. Above 1000 and companies spend. But seemingly not any longer in the US.

    In answer to your question it’s been a humbling perpetual decrease in results expectations, increase in frustration, and disappointment with more money going out than coming in. A gamble on my own ability to somehow get through this. I’ve asked the question before, but I have a gut sense we’re down 80-90% recruiters from 2000. I don’t see outside of perhaps healthcare how people have a steady stream of business. And no one knows the impact on healthcare if Obamacare/government run healthcare is passed. What economic impact will cap and trade have if it passes? What impact will tax increases have? What impact will massive spending deficits have? I don’t have the definitive answers but I can’t believe it’s positive on providing incentive for companies to add to payroll.

    I’ve increased my work day hours, increased my number of recruiting calls not recruiting off the Internet, and believe the only things I can control are what I do and what I say–not the results. I know of one way yo fight hard times……work harder.

    I called a major large client I’m still an approved vendor for but haven’t shared positions with me for over a year if I could be of assistance. I was told that within an hour of posting a job they’d have over 1000 responses. Roughly 1/5 being decent candidates and at least 50 worth interviewing.

    Back to the phones…….


  2. This is a wonderful and heartfelt article that speaks to our pain and to our fear.

    I too wonder who is left. I wonder what we have learned from this catastrophe. I wonder what will change and will will remain.

    I see someone close to me at age 22, a brilliant math/statistics guy, a recent grad go to a company to interview. They love him, call him back for a second, promise to call him and nothing happens. No return calls, no retuned e-mails. We have diner Friday night as I try to calm him; tell him they are idiots.

    Do fools and incompetents still rule? Is this the sum total of what we have learned? To make the same mistakes? To be unable to make decisions? To be what we were before the fall?

    Perhaps the world we have, is exactly the world we deserve. We shall see.

  3. Maureen,

    As I pedaled through my morning ride this morning, this was also on my mind, so seeing your post here drew my attention. I think the initial flush in the industry has happened and a lot of people are gone. I’m in touch with a lot of people in the industry on a daily basis and I think there is a whole layer that has outworked the downturn to this point to be hanging in there, but not in a strong position. My fear for them is that there is a lot more to come in this. Maybe a rebound and then dip back down or just a long slow lack of recovery. Either way, I don’t see most of that layer making it. Those who are left are definitely the strongest players who have been willing to work that much harder to survive. I kind of picture something like 50% of our industry gone at this point. No real numbers here, just a guess. I’m also guessing that we will see an 80/20 thing in the end, where only 20% of the industry is left.

    The great thing about that is that business will be awsome for the remaining 20% when we do recover, even if the recovery is only mediocre. Those who have made it to this point have outworked it. We have been doing our best work over the last year or so and we have a much better business today than we did before, but numbers are still down. I think others that are still around are in the same position, they have worked a ton, they have more and stronger relationships, and when the recovery comes they will be left to handle a ton more business.

    Todd Kmiec

  4. “Things are picking up around here, though, and sourcers are on the front line.”


    RPO might be picking up slightly, but the internet chatter and data coming in doesn’t lend well to an increase in regards to Sourcers employed.

    The bottom line is this: Learn to recruit. Better yet, learn to actually headhunt. Do what the machines can’t do.

    Sure, machines can scour the web for sourcing data (and/or firms in India who can work at 20% of the labor costs here in the U.S.), machines can automate emails and parse resumes, etc., but what machines cannot do is handle the highly tacit, psychological component of recruiting.

    Do what the machines can’t do, and strive to do it better than everyone else. With Sourcing more commoditized than it was just 36 months ago (don’t blame me; blame technology), focus on the most tacit and difficult tasks you can, and you’ll survive. It might mean you have to get your diet right and pump some serious iron instead of walking on the treadmill for a half-hour, but it’s well worth it in the end.

  5. I say learn how to recruit – better, learn how to headhunt.

    However, we’re in absolute agreement to learn skills that machines can’t do. That’s the key.

  6. Here is some data (reposted from a WSJ blog) concerning an estimate of when the various states levels of unemployment will return to pre-recession levels:

    Bottom line: according to the figures, most states will recover in 3-5 years- my state of California in 2013 and Maureen’s brother’s state of Ohio in 2015. Let’s say these figures are too gloomy by half. This implies that California will take until 2011 and Ohio until 2012.

    So: the question isn’t “who is left now?” but “who will be left then?” Also, after things recover to the pre-recession levels and largely-commoditized sourcing positions have been eliminated, automated, or outsourced away, how many decently-paying phone-oriented sourcing gigs will there be? There will be SOME, because it’s a vital, valuable skill-set. However, I think that number is a small fraction of those who have recently been sourcers. I call this the “Professional Sports Model”. In the US, probably a couple of thousand people make really good money as major-league athletes and there aren’t substantially larger numbers of middle-income FT pro athletes. I foresee a similar situation here.

    I hope I’m wrong. Show me why any but sourcing superstars like Maureen should try to stay in the field, and why any but super-talented young sourcing fanatics should get into it.

    Thank You,

    Keith keithsrj@sbcglobal.net

  7. Great article, & it ended just as I was really getting into it. The Dow is obviously celebrating a perceived recovery, yet the(lack of)jobs #s make a great 800 # gorilla. And the many states that won’t be back till 2013-2015 employment wise with pundits talking about a Japan-like 1989- deflation.
    Housing Sts & sales are up 10% last month, yet
    only 30% of levels that peaked in the Seventies, and Deutsche Bk said 48% of all mortgages will be under water by 2011 in this not-so-great Depression or Great Recession.
    Even writing a weekly financial newsletter, I
    probably endeared myself to the readers (of my illiterate prose) by stating I really have no idea what is going on (& I hope Jesus grades on a curve). I tabulated $14 Trillion of planned loans, swaps & bailouts by head ‘Bankster’Bernanke by the end of 2008 !- yet as of a few weeks ago only $53 Bil. of Obama’s $787 Bil plan was actually allocated. Which alarmists say will cause hyper inflation (it won’t due to larger deflationary forces) or $1 in taxes bleeds private spending and investment by $3 (this could be true) or Socialism is probably going to be a growing way of doing business (undoubtedly true). Best, Jon

  8. Excellent comments. I believe the people posting here are not only good at what they do, but are realists about what we’re facing.

    The headwinds are against us. The economic “green shoots” numbers aren’t what they appear. Stock Market is up cause companies are more profitable…meaning more US layoffs tightening their belts and more international business neither benefiting the US jobs market. Housing sales are up…..is it due to foreclosures and Real Estate prices being driven down? Likely. How many mortgages will be underwater over the next coupls of years how can that possibly help employment? Increased government mandates and regulations like Healthcare Reform and Cap and Trade in enacted can’t help employment. Allowing the Bush tax cuts to sunset combined with tax increases can’t help employment. Immigration Reform granting amnesty can’t help employment. What will the effects of our astronomical debt be on employment?

    I’m not expecting the jobs to come roaring back. I see less demand for recruiters/sourcers and the ones adding value, great at what they do, surviving and grabbing what business there is. I expect jobs creation in Asia, India, Brazil, and other cheap international destinations where there’s intelligent labor.

    It means “beating the machines” as Maureen and others have stated. It means daily making voluminous numbers of cold calling and outreach calls building up your network of invisible contacts putting them on the shelf when unable to place them presently.

    It especially means finding passive “invisible” candidates our clients can’t find hearing “how did you ever find me?” That’s the best way to try to stay in business, IMO.


  9. Bill,

    Excellent points and I agree on all. To add a little, nothing goes in a straight line in one direction forever. We are in a bear market. Don’t forget the Dow peaked around 14,000. We went all the way down to 6,500. It’s natural that there would be some rebound off a bottom. But there is a lot of overhead supply, people hurt and waiting to sell and get out, maybe at 10,000, maybe at 9,500 who knows. But it creates selling pressure. The bounce to this point may have nothing to do with real business strength. Same thing in the housing market. We can’t go to negative home sales so eventually there has to be a rise. Coming off the biggest bubble in history it’s really hard to believe we will have a V shaped recovery and everything goes back to being honky dory. In fact, it is awfully rare to see the bottom hit in the first sell off, so one would think that there is a good chance that the Dow goes below 6,500 and that housing prices and sales go to lower numbers at some point. Robert Prechter, the Elliott Wave guru said the Dow could go to 4,000 or 3,500. Crazy? Maybe, but he’s been right most of his career. No matter what we try to predict in these things, it would seem that there is either a long time of pretty touch conditions or much worse conditions still to come.

    But nothing goes in a straight line forever so we won’t fade into being a third world country. There will be rebounds and hopefully good periods of solid business conditions. The US is still I think the 2nd biggest manufacturer in the world, hard to believe, but there is a ton of business and potential still in this country. Who knows, maybe someone will come along and drop corporate tax rates to 15% or 10%. If that happened, business would flood into this country. It’s still the biggest market and most advanced work force in the world.

    Todd Kmiec

  10. As an interested outside observer I find most of this thread quite unbelievable.In particular the exhortation to “do what the machines don’t do” confirms what I would regard as a “dirty secret”. Let me explain.

    Many of the job-seekers in my network assert that our resumes are fed through some sort of software, designed by heaven knows who and based on some logic we cannot follow. When we mention this to recruiters, they often deny it, claiming that it is just “adding your resume to our database”. Yet here, in a place where recruiters meet I find that our fears are justified and that your community is now talking about doing what we (the recruits) always hoped – actually looking at what we write.

    I’m not sure you folks know, but out here you are regarded as adversaries. Your processes certainly seem adversarial; many of us, especially we technical types see you as an obstacle to beovercome. We’d rather like there to be fewer of you!

    Please try to take these comments as the reflection of the job-seekers’ bewilderment!


  11. John, a word to the wizened you:
    Put your title on your VoiceMail if in fact you still have a job. That way, when a phone sourcer like me calls your company looking for guys like you (whatever technical thing it is you do – I did not find a profile on you here in the members section) you can be “found”. See, not every recruiter relies on resumes that come in over the transom – some (the ones who hire me) actually seek guys like you out of the woodwork. It’s more better for them if you’re NOT listed anywhere online and you’re NOT actively looking for a job. They consider they have first crack at you and a better chance of engaging you as you have not been pulled through a maze of arcane secret devices and mauled half to death. Pass the word and thanks for writing – it’s a dose of reality we need to hear more of!

  12. I’m not sure what you’re driving at, JH.

    I don’t run software for my recruiting. Everything’s manual and I code personally in my flat file database each candidate’s resume so I can review them based on the job I’m file searching for.

    When I speak of “machines” I’m thinking of screening software used by companies or correlating to cheap foreign sourcers using technology to find candidates.

    I’m trying to screen candidates in for interviews in order to generate activity leading to making money–not screen them out leading to not making money.


  13. John, I find your comment interesting. My statement of “Do what the machines can’t (or won’t) do” emanates from differentiating ourselves in a world of transactional recruiting. Just as every function automates a certain level or amount of their actions (i.e. finance, marketing, manufacturing, etc.), our field is a highly tacit one that involves using the few pounds of matter between our ears more than technology itself.

    However, there are “machines” at play, just as in all functions. Are you suggesting too much is automated . . . or too little? There is a balance, but your position as a job seeker has me intrigued.

    Most headhunters or third-party recruiters employ a multi-channel approach. We primarily utilize referrals through our competency network (which is a constant process of branding ourselves within a given niche; hence our value over generalist firms). However, we also may utilize internet sourcing (research) and telephone sourcing (research) when and where necessary. If we don’t have time to do this research, we either engage our internal researchers to take over these tasks . . . or we outsource it on a per-hour, per-project, or per-name basis.

    P.S. Are you at AT&T Interactive?

  14. Excellent comments.

    Todd, you are now in a minority (in the last 2 weeks) of those who believe this is a bear market rally. And unless it turns out to be a double dip Recession, the market should hold. (Let us pray)

    Employment recovery will be agonizingly slow, as will the recovery according to most analysts, with the general retrenchment of buying (& saving) habits, financial deleveraging and government regulation capping (abusive) speculation, some protectionism, and deflation – to the extent there will be no urgency to buy, the biggest buying surge is due to feared price increases or shortages – i.e. better trade the clunker quickly before supplies run out and discounts are fewer.

    Growth in the coming decade (per Gary Shilling) might be half that in recent decades. Yet I see a bigger % of new hires going to the half-the-recruiters who are left, with skeleton crews including no or fewer corporate recruiters needing people quickly when orders picked up or a project is green lighted. Better keep in touch with your candidates and have them ready to go.

  15. Oddly enough, despite all my qualifications, having helped rescue a company in the equivalent of chapter 11, built a new market and having a significant reputation in my niche, I have never, ever been headhunted by a professional recruiter. So that (Josh) leads me to the idea that recruiters have mechanisms (automated or not) that simply miss people like me. Or maybe I am just unemployable!

    Back on topic – I suspect that in technology industries at least, the next upswing will see a return to value and some very very lean ways of running business. Technical managers who need staff might just write a description, post it on (say) LinkedIn and cope with the flood of resumes the way they/we cope with every other demand bulge. We work till 9pm and spend an evening reviewing the resumes ourselves. It’s a simple cost/benefit argument which holds until there are no more job-seekers. But by them we will be in the next downturn!



  16. Hello John,

    According to a 2009 CareerXRoads report, the number of hires from major employers from 3rd party recruiters “headhunters”is a small and declining percentage of all hires, as is the number of hires who are directly sourced:


    IMHO,the number of people who require a highly-skilled telephone sourcer to locate them for a potential employer
    will continue to decrease though never disappear. Likewise, I believe that the the number of telephone sourcing superstars needed to find “Osama in a Cave” candidates is a small fraction of those who recently have been employed as sourcers.


  17. John, that’s insane that you haven’t been recruited by a headhunter! You know, jest aside, I know what you mean by ‘unemployable’. I likely fall in the same category – for me to get out of executive search would be like moving a mountain.

    If you see Matt Charney’s funny article the other day (https://staging.ere.net/2009/07/30/bullet-point-to-the-head/), it will shed some (cringingly unfortunate) light as to why many aren’t simply missed, but moreover, passed over.

    Here’s my quick analysis of your LI profile:

    a. “Fierce and feared competitor” – I love this line under your name. It shows me your confident and I appreciate that. For many, however, they’ll be scared to call you! 🙂 And/or they’ll performed an unqualified psychoanalysis, thereby recalling instances in middle-school that they find fitting to gauge who you are as a person . . . thereby passing you over! Mice like other mice, lions like other lions, scorpions kill each other off 🙂

    2. You have a PhD. I love that, considering you operate in a sales role. You know the science, yet you’re comfortable selling. These are uniquely rare qualities. So much so that an average recruiter won’t understand how this is possible . . . thereby passing you over.

    3. You’ve run your own company, to which a recruiter will write you off as “un-trainable”, “un-teachable”, “maverick-ish”, and/or my favorite, “potential for hazardously-gigantic cajones in a world of red-tape and bureaucratic malingering.” Most recruiters are rotely & robotically looking for a job title, what company you work for, and where you live on your resume. And since this is the case, many like rote, robotic resumes (hence the outcry for chronological resumes – comically, anything but these are passed over 99.999% of the time.)

    If you read Matt’s article again (https://staging.ere.net/2009/07/30/bullet-point-to-the-head/), some of my comments above may make sense. If you’re dealing with a screener (aka the “recruiter of yesteryear”), they’re already screening you out on your education, your description, maybe even your name and/or their personal analysis of the quality of your PhD. Maybe some of the words on your resume are too big for them to understand. It sounds like I’m kidding, but just as in Matt’s article, there is truth in what I’m saying.

    For the record, you are a very recruitable, marketable, and place-able candidate from what I can see on the surface. My only recommendation would be to quantify some of your accomplishments in your LI profile. In fact, I’d highly recommend you locate some of the highly niched recruiters in your space. Although my specialty isn’t semiconductor, I’d also be willing to keep an eye out for you and help you in any way possible.

    Drop me a line 🙂

  18. Thanks Joshua. Maybe I’ll go prune out some of the positive stuff from my LI and formal resumes! “Drone seeks nest – will perform below potential for food”!

    On the subject os waves and predicting the Dow, may I suggest Benoit Mandelbrots “The misbehaviour of markets” where he shows that you can model markets, but not simulate them. The word model in this case means “make something that looks like” and simulate means “build something capabnle of prediction”. MBA course modules on modelling and analysis do not make the distinction. We can handle both microeconomics and macroeconomics, but the region in between, the region where businesses actually operate – that is just too chaotic, too irrational to work with.

    At the end of this crazy ride I think I willwrite a guidebook to recruiting and HR for those of us outside the industry.


  19. I used to watch the DOW, and especially the S&P 500. If the S&P hit 1000 it customarily meant corporate spending/hiring. That’s no longer the case.

    IMO, the stock market no longer has any correlation to the US jobs market as it did till 2001. Since the last “jobless recovery” where no jobs were created between 2001-2004 and with net zero jobs created between 1999-Present regardless what the stock market does I believe there’s been an official divorce between Main Street and Wall Street. Stock market rises due to corporate US cost CUTTING and international business growth.

    This means as our jobs shrink, jobs in cheap/intelligent labor countries such as India, China, and Emerging Markets grow.


  20. Bill, I don’t agree. Yet. It could be this recession has brought a sea change to our economy. Time will tell.

    Maybe times have changed but the week before last, as the Dow flirted ever closer w/ 10,000 (reaching into the 9800s), sourcing jobs poured in for me. Last week, as it retreated, the phone quieted. This has been a decade long phenomenon in my sourcing business. It appears to be still at work. Let’s hope it continues.

    I believe it flows directly out of knee-jerk reactions made in the CFO’s office. Above 10 they feel safe; below 10 their emotions make them feel vulnerable and lead to across-the-board reductions in most, if not all, spending.

    My boots-on-the-ground experience.

  21. To John Hennessy:
    You said:
    “At the end of this crazy ride I think I will write a guidebook to recruiting and HR for those of us outside the industry.”
    I look forward to reading it.

  22. Interesting perspective Maureen. I agree with Bill. I can’t see how the market level, especially that quickly, has a real impact. But…my experience over the last week was the same as yours. Big spurt in activity then sudden quiet. We’ve been through that a number of times over the last year plus. My view is it has to be coincidence and the constant desire to make sense of things, but it is interesting.

  23. I think the last recession brought about the sea change, Maureen. Offshore outsourcing accelerated in 2002 upon recovery and the millions of jobs typically created here in the US after a recession were instead created elsewhere. It’s why the numbers of corporate HR recruiters have drastically fallen. Companies shrink US presence and expand international presence.

    Prefer not to get political but IMO it’s inescapable that jobs killing legislation such as Obamacare, Cap and Trade, Immigration Reform, and Tax Increases have an impact on economic activity and if all fail I believe there’s pent up demand for economic/employment activity. If they pass then private sector money potentially used for corporate capital spending/hiring will be siphoned off into the public sector to pay for costly government programs.

    So there may be a burst of small and middle sized businesses hiring if a socialized public option government run healthcare bill fails. Just my opinion.


  24. It’s possible, Todd, the stock market is rising as investors are betting socialized medicine and other sweeping looming policies won’t pass. Can’t often know why the market rises and falls as it’s strictly a bet on business activity 6-9 months in the future.


  25. I am reporting what it “feels” like. This is gut stuff. I still believe in the power of the U.S. economy to drive the world’s finances. Like I said, time will tell but I don’t think in any event it could be an overnight phenomena – more a seepage of economic power, if anything, that would take decades, if not the century. At the end of the day technology (I believe) will win out and it’s (still) happening within our borders. They beat the doors down to get into this country. For a reason.

  26. Oct 14, 2009 The Dow Jones industrial average is back above 10,000 for the first time in a year. The Dow has crossed five figures seven months after it hit a 12-year low of 6,547.05 on March 9. The comeback by the stock market’s best-known indicator is the most visible sign yet that investors believe the economy is recovering from the financial crisis and recession.

  27. I believe one has to understand why the DOW is rising. In the past it meant companies were making money selling their products looking to hire and expand in the US.

    Today from what I read the DOW is rising cause companies are more profitable by reducing expenses/cutting staff, moving operations and selling overseas into growing Indian, Chinese, and Brazilian economies.

    So in both scenarios the DOW rises. In one scenario employment spikes in the US. In the other we had a “jobless recovery” from 2001-2004. Are we in for a “Job Loss” recovery this time?


  28. As Raghav Singh vividly illustrated in his recent article (staging.ere.net/2009/10/07/wanted-cash-for-hires/): “if the economy were creating 200,000 jobs a month it would still take three years just to get back to where we were. And that isn’t all. The economy needs an additional 100,000 jobs a month to keep up with population growth. If the job market returns to the rapid pace of the 1990s — adding 2.15 million private-sector jobs a year, double the 2001-2007 pace — the U.S. wouldn’t get back to a 5% unemployment rate until 2017.”

    So, I guess we’ll just have to see who can wait it out 3-8 years dreaming of a fantasy return to the “Good Old Days.” or we can work to develop new skills and techniques (Behavioral Recruiting and Staffing Project Management to name two) which reflect the “New Reality”:
    There will be a need for a very few well-paid sourcers (as there is a need for a very few well-paid professional athletes, writers, artists, and musicians), and if you aren’t in that category, you shouldn’t expect to make a decent living if you live in the Developed World, because much of what we used to do will be/has been eliminated, automated, or outsourced away, and it won’t be coming back.

    Keith Halperin

  29. You’re welcome, Howard. I like to think that I’m willing to say what people need to know, not what they want to hear- there are too many of those…..

    I had an agency owner I worked for once (well actually, twice). He was a manipulative, underhanded, son-of-a-bitch. (Sorry manipulative, underhanded, SOBs to make that comparison…) Still, he made one major point that stuck with me:
    Things may be bad, you may feel terrible, but you still have to go ahead and do what needs to be done- no excuses. So let’s drink a toast to the “Good Old Days” and mourn their passing.
    Now: let’s be creative and hardworking and make a recruiting buck or two in a new way while all the whiners are crying into their flat beers and the hypesters are trying to stay alive by selling them new and used snake oil.


    Keith Halperin

  30. I believe Keith is accurate. I’ve been 3rd party recruiting for 30 years. Like the last recession’s “Job Less recovery” I don’t see tons of jobs coming back in many disciplines in today’s “Job Loss recovery.”

    None of us know all the underpinnings of employment dynamics. We can only prognosticate the future. But the key question is what will cause jobs creation in a high cost of business envirnmnt like the US? Unlike the 80’s and 90’s where a stock market rise meant the need to hire more people due to business profitability and expansion the Stock Market rises today because companies are cutting US workers making them more profitable. The economic growth is overseas in emerging markets, not here.

    Again, why must jobs come back here? We haven’t even discussed looming legislation–none of it, IMO, encouraging private sector jobs growth.

    I see, as Keith said, the need for some sourcers and recruiters especially adept at finding passive/invisible candidates. Otherwise, technology enables companies to fill most positions with at minimum a serviceable employee. Unless someone can explain to me what will cause US jobs growth and what industry will be hiring/absorbing the scores of people looking for a job or entering the workforce. Telling me jobs came back in 1983 and 1993 as well as throughout the 20th century means nothing to me. The past isn’t a guarantee of what happens in the future. I believe the employment paradigm has changed. And my response it to be in “survival mode” as my standard operating procedure.

    Steve Finkel has talked about time management and making every moment count. Pounding the phones with outgoing calls with luck/success reflected through hard work.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if it’s many years before we see 150,000 jobs a month consistently created again.


  31. Thanks everyone for continuing this very cool and relevant discussion. As you can tell, I’m trying to keep it going with updates on recent activity in the markets (theirs and ours). I appreciate your takes on things.

    Bill, I’m interested in what your “survival mode” looks like. You mention “time management and making every moment count. Pounding the phones with outgoing calls with luck/success reflected through hard work.”

    Howard mentioned pulling in the spending horns in a recent article of his recently and Keith you’re always encouraging us to be creative and hardworking.

    What exactly does all that look like beyond what’s been written?

    And on another note, and this may sound selfish but it’s a fact. For those of us who have been able to last through this cataclysm I believe the market shares that will default to us are going to be enormous and it’s going to take a longer time for those who have left the business to return to it (if they will be able to return at all!). So for us in our own little worlds – for those of us who have kept on keeping on through this – we’ll be okay. I’m not speaking for the rest of mankind here and neither am I qualified to but it seems to me if all of us can take care of our own self-centric little worlds there might come a day when that example might circle out to others and they might benefit as well.

    Maybe it’s Pollyanna-ish of me and I’m not often accused of that but I’ll take the moniker on this one. Here’s what’s been happening for us at TechTrak last couple weeks – a couple new customers, one old customer reappeared on our doorstep with good-sized jobs. We’re thankful and occupied. We’re thankful to BE occupied. It’s nothing like it was but last year at this time we had NOTHING going on and the Sept 1 through December 31 timeframe is historically one of our busiest times. Nothing happened yesterday as Dow crossed 10,000 but I’m not surprised. Those in the finance cat-seats probably feel that it was an audacious market move, though they shouldn’t. Yesterday, on the AP wire: “the S&P 500 has improved 61 percent since March 9, the tech-heavy Nasdaq has jumped an even sharper 71 percent. Financial stocks have rebounded more, but they had farther to go after being beaten down in the market meltdown.” These sure are interesting times. What’s happening for you?

    Here’s what I’ve been doing during these hard times:
    Took Howard’s advice and cook more
    Took some more of Howard’s medicine and stay home just about all the time
    Buy very little – it’s true what Howard said – it doesn’t take a whole lot to get by if you’re not spending wildly
    Thinking – Writing – Posting
    Sought out therapy (once again) for depression
    Learning about twitter – seeing slight business results in the activity
    Wondering how to do things better
    Worry about being left behind
    Made a decision to be happy
    (I know it sounds contradictory – that’s me)
    Tryin’ to walk the talk

  32. Maureen, I agree, thanks for keeping the discussion going. This is relevant stuff to all of us. I agree with all of the negative statistics. There is a long tough road ahead for business conditions in general out there. What I don’t agree with is the premise that we need 5% unemployment or better for things to be good in the recruiting/sourcing business. I don’t know that anyone can be certain of the dynamic between the two, but I believe that once things bottom, where companies that will fail have failed and companies that will cut back and not hire are scaled down to the bare minimum, then the next move is in a positive direction. In that period, coming off the bottom, we may not be adding 200,000 jobs per month, but that doesn’t seem to be necessary to me for companies to be anxious to make key hires that they need assistance on. Couple that with the point Maureen is making about market share for those left and we could be in more of an Outliers type situation, where this hell was the best thing for those who made it through and became better and stronger in their effort to survive.

    On the ground level from my perspective it seems like there was a big flush out of the weaker players in recruiting from early ’08 through maybe early ’09. It now seems like we are at a point where stronger players have held on but many of the group left are reaching their breaking point. I’m hearing stories of people who have been in the business a long time now getting out and larger recruiting operations closing offices. It seems like we are at another level of flush out here and now I can see real evidence of reduced competition. It’s difficult to watch the pain. It still may be best for the industry and those who are left, I believe that is the case. For my part, I’m pessimistic about business conditions overall for a long time forward, but very optimistic for the recruiting/sourcing business as it continues to morph into a smaller different industry.

  33. I really appreciate Maureen’s and Todd’s comments.

    To answer Maureen’s query of what I mean by “Survival mode” it’s about daily discipline and structure. Target goals for effort stemming around meeting outgoing call numbers. Getting in the office by 8 AM (or sooner) and on the phone when trying to reach decision makers, no later than 9 AM to start recruit calls. A target of at least 250 outgoing calls a day. A target of 50 cold call or referral calls to recruits each day that I don’t know. Preparing my next day’s work before going to bed. Limiting distractions. Getting off the phone with a time waster. Looking for prospects open to considering other opportunities instead of spending much time and effort trying to persuade someone marginally or not interested….being possessive of my time. Taking very few days off–I don’t take any unless visiting one of our kids in college needing a travel day. Trying to eat right losing some weight gearing towards protein, fruit, and vegetables trying to be as energetic as possible to make my optimum number of calls with enthusiasm. Forget about sleep, that left me 8-9 years ago during the last recession. I’ve been on the fumes for it seems eternity.

    In essence, I see these times as apocalyptic. A long siege. With professional and personal attrition surrounding me while I struggle and work my ass off.

    I believe–can’t quantify it–that the recruiting industry has lost 80-85% of recruiters since late 2000. Corporate sector recruiting never came back that I saw which, for me, was Commercial sector I/T mostly in the Investment Financial Services, Insurance, Retail, and Banking sectors–Corporate America. Offshore outsourcing combined with H-1B’s and L-1’s insourced had a deleterious impact on my business, and almost all my 1980’s competitors from when I began in 1980 have all disappeared into new fields by 2001-2002.

    I like Todd’s thoughts about flushing out weaker players grabbing market share. I thought that’s what I’d be doing 2002-2003 when I/T came back. I found it never really came back so I moved into a different niche. I believe there’ll be needs for some recruiters and sourcers–the really good ones adept at finding passive/invisible candidates adding value to our clients. Technology makes it easier for them to find serviceable common candidates. We get the Purple Squirrel jobs–at least I do.

    But I don’t see things really coming back for two reasons.

    One, America is no longer cost of doing business conducive to create jobs here as the technology allows companies to access cheap/intelligent labor globally increasing their Wall Street profits by not hiring expensive Main Street’s workers.

    Two, companies’ future revenue streams are in emerging markets like India, China, and Brazil. Those economies have all come back and are growing rapidly. IMO, the reason the Stock Market rises is due to INTERNATIONAL economic growth and has little to nothing to do with the US anymore. Our companies are selling to them overseas. To sell there their governments dictate they set up operations there. That they hire people there. The Chinese demand companies share their manufacturing secrets with them so as to enable them to engage in product piracy. But the key is foreign growing emerging market countries are our companies’ future revenue stream. The rules are they move operations and jobs overseas in order to sell there using their countries’ workers. It’s why the Offshore outsourcing accelerated as America is a mature and expensive country, as are Western European countries and Japan.

    So I see an overall abandonment of the US by Corporate America. What will mostly be left is Education, Healthcare, Government, and Defense jobs. Our forefathers coming to the US for a better life and chance to live the American Dream, their grandchildren and great grandchildren may be returning back to where their ancestors came from.

    Remember, Business knows no national allegiance. Their only allegiance is to make a profit staying in business. Once we cease making our country business friendly in competition with other global regions there’s no allegiance to us.

    Sorry for rambling…….and time to be on the phone.


  34. Bill –
    It’s called ‘Hamster Wheel Economics’ – people working harder raising productivity, fearful of their jobs. The survey (yesterday?) saying 50% think their bosses are taking advantage of the Recession by making them work harder &/or cutting pay. Better for Recruiters. This much more than jobs going abroad currently is the moving force.
    Business people cut back 1st, and one of my Leading Indicators is, ‘Roach Coach Economics’ – and business is rising at these airport eateries frequented by limo drivers due to a rise in business. Best, Jon

  35. Maureen –
    Appreciate what you have, and raise your standard of living by buying less and appreciating what you have more. Look at the business as an investment with a bigger market share coming to you down the road. Work on relationships – spend time with candidates (few recruiters do) and have some good ones on the shelf as, when business picks up, they will have to hire as many are down to skeleton staffs (mine – Commercial Construction in So CA).
    Write a newsletter (with real news or wit) with minimul advertising and maximum content, to keep in touch.
    Best, Jon

  36. Jonathan,

    IMO, the reason employers can take advantage of their employees is they have nowhere else to go with fewer jobs created here with many of the ones that are going to H-1B’s, and more jobs created overseas.

    Companies are down to skeleton staffs, but that doesn’t mean hiring returns here in the US in economic “recovery.”
    We had a “Jobless recovery” 8 years ago. I see a “Jobloss recovery” this time.


  37. Just a couple quick comments as I think it would be too elementary to speak to recruiting basics (building relationships, replying to emails, etc.).

    Comment on Sourcing/Recruiting:

    Learn to actually recruit. When we say “building relationships”, that’s what what we’re really talking about. Finding names isn’t enough – as I wrote above, learn to “Do what the machines can’t do.” Don’t allow yourself to become commoditized, and if you can’t recruit, you’re going to fight a pricing battle each and every day (with people in emerging economies, not to mention people here in the U.S. that will cut pricing down to pennies per name.)

    Comment on using the Stock Market as a bellwether for our economic recovery:

    The market numbers referenced in the discussion are not fundamentals, such as the Dow, etc. (meaning true economic indicators). The financial markets are largely driven by psychology . . . which is why we see such market volatility while the fundamentals remain weak. Psychology drives the short-term market.

    The real issue that impacts all of us here is what type of “recovery” we’ll see. When will overall U.S. employment reach the pre-recession levels? (or better, will this ever happen at all? . . at least in the next decade?) Fewer openings mean lower overall demand, thereby logically reducing supply of recruiters . . . outside of select niches and pockets in certain sectors. With the total number of recruiters down 2/3 to 4/5 since 2006, I’m staying tuned (like the rest of us) to see how this all shakes out.

    P.S. For a positive take on all this, keep in mind that there will always be a need (and a place to call home) for a homerun hitter that delivers in the clutch. In the Recruiting World, only the true talent will stand the test of time . . . because in the end, we’re seen “as only as good as our last placement” (or last at-bat).

  38. This is the right way to bring up an old blog. I see some people with those auto re-post deals going so you see them tweeting the same title blogs they recently wrote and it seems like you see them every day. This was a great conversation a while back and is totally relevant today.

    I was thinking about this conversation just the other day when once I again I reached out to a recruiter I’ve worked with in the past and they are gone. If you were in this industry prior to ’08 and you are still in it then that says a lot about the strength of your business and your ability to thrive going forward. I think this industry has right sized itself through the bubble burst. I hope we don’t face another period like that, and I don’t think we will. While times may be tough ahead, that was unique.

  39. @ Todd:
    Or you might be lucky, “political”, ruthless, stubborn, be in a solid niche (like healthcare), or something else.
    Also, we’re not out of the woods yet ,and may not be for some time- my earlier comments still seem to bear weight….


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