Article by Dr. John Sullivan and Master Burnett Around the country, firms are slowly but surely starting to realize that growth after a slowed economy does happen. Here and there a frantic realization is coming to light: “We need people, but like most firms we laid off our recruiting staff.” Some firms have tried to resolve short-term needs by relying on contract recruiters, but many are experiencing less than dramatic success. It’s time to get back on track and rebuild your staffing function, incorporating what our last bout with the economy has taught you. Analysts and academics alike have been predicting a slow but steady turnaround, and it seems that a handful of firms are experiencing enough growth to warrant adding headcount once again. In some regions of the U.S., it doesn’t seem like the economy has been in a slump at all. However, those firms that are starting to hire once again are realizing that quality candidates are not quite as easy to find as most think. Old Data Doesn’t Help Inside the firms that are hiring once again, a sound is being heard as recruiters pick up the phone to contact a potential candidate: the dreaded voice of an operator message informing you, “The number you have dialed has been disconnected.” Attempts via email yield a similar result when email is bounced back with the message “user unknown.” It seems that while candidates are out there, getting in contact with them might require a little more work on your part. Around the country many have used the downturn in the economy to upsize their living situation. Homes sales have continued at a feverish pace, rental rates dropped, and retail firms like The Home Depot have done very well. Unfortunately when candidates move, they rarely inform companies with their resume on file or colleagues they haven’t worked with in years. Regardless of whether your data comes from an employee referral program, a corporate website, or an Internet job board, there’s a good chance that more rather than less of the contact information you have will be outdated. Don’t let this derail your organizations growth. Plan on it, so that it won’t be a roadblock for you. Some Quick Fixes The past year has been tough on recruiters, and even tougher on contract recruiters, many of whom have been out of work for sometime. Unfortunately, an out-of-work contract recruiter is not a recruiter working on his or her contact database, so hiring an experienced contract recruiter these days could be like hiring one just starting out. Their database is most likely not going to add much value. However, there are quite a few sources out there that have been maintaining contact with the candidate population at large while the economy took a nosedive. Consider using the following tactics to get your recruiting efforts off to a good start:
- Throw an agency a bone. Most recruiting agencies were hit very hard as firms reduced headcount and put a freeze on agency usage. For those that are still in business, you can bet that their offices have been aflutter with candidate contact. While many agencies have been surviving on stored up revenues in hopes that the economic turnaround would come sooner rather than later, many may be open to a revenue opportunity outside their traditional product model. Consider offering to purchase names from the agencies that provided you your best hires in the past. I certainly would not recommend you throw them all a bone, but if you worked with one or more world-class agencies, working out some kind of deal could provide many long-term benefits. For instance, when the economy does return to its former glory, and your firm is knee deep in the leadership gap, you might get higher quality service from the agency you treated as a partner rather than a vendor.
- One degree from CandidateUgly.com. Consider a short-term subscription to an Internet job board, not for the purpose of harvesting great candidates, but for the purpose of harvesting references. Many unemployed professionals are likely to maintain a list of references that is made up of employed performers. If your organization had a choice between someone another firm let go and someone another firm chose to retain, which would it choose?
- OnlineNewsletter.com. Another great source for valid contact information is publishers of electronic newsletters on subjects that relate to your organization’s market, or the professions that make up your organization. E-news lists are generally more up to date than traditional mailing lists, because publishers remove email addresses that bounce back on a regular basis. Consider purchasing the distribution lists for newsletters that your current top performers subscribe to. If the publisher doesn’t sell their distribution list, consider sponsoring a contest through the publisher’s newsletter that not only pre-screens great candidates, but collects their contact information as well.
- Track down the best. While time consuming and sometimes expensive, if you have the old contact information for a candidate that could be just perfect for an available role, consider using a public-records-search organization or investigator to track them down. (Use this option as a last resort. Before you get to this point, you should have searched for them online, contacted their references if you have that info, and attempted to contact former colleagues to see if they know how to reach them.)
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Conclusion The important thing to remember is that you are going to face challenges in getting your recruiting activities moving forward again. Just like any production related process, a gap in input, will produce a gap in output. As a world-class recruiter, it is your job to shorten that gap as much as possible by identifying what tools can get you moving again with the best balance of cost and benefit for your organization.