Recruiting Today: Good People In Difficult Times

I have serious concerns about many of my friends in recruiting. (Actually, I also have serious concerns about my other friends who can’t seem to find work either, despite their best efforts ó good, smart, experienced, top-shelf employees who can’t find jobs after looking for more than a year.) The economy is down, and as a result, people who do recruiting are not as busy as they once were. Some are just busy a few days a week. Others are painting houses to pay the bills. Some have become financial planners. And many are at best a bit lost, and just a little frightened, using their retirement investment funds to live and questioning their self worth in a society that no longer requires their expertise. Nothing kills ego and confidence more than being in this wretched and miserable place. This level of angst takes its toll on all of us in one way or another. Walt Whitman said, “There is nothing I fear more than when there is nothing left to do.” I think that some people in recruiting believe there is nothing left to do, except to wait and see what comes down the road. I can’t speak for all of you, but for this hard-wired, hyper-urban New Yorker, waiting and hoping is not something I do all that well. I’m far too restless for that nonsense. (Hold on. I need more coffee.) Some of us have been through this before, but others who came into the recruiting business in the early ’90s are experiencing it for the first time. I can only compare your first recession experience with going to the dentist for your first root canal. No one looks forward to having one, but it is at least a bit easier for those of us who have been through it before. We know what to expect. That being said, the condition of recruiting as I see it is as follows:

  • Contract recruiters have many less contracts from which to choose, if they have any at all.
  • Corporate recruiters have been laid off in droves, and there are not many positions available.
  • Contingency recruiters can still find one or two positions, but the job orders are few and far between, and every company I know has downsized its staff.
  • Retained search firms also have their problems. Search contracts have dwindled in a market flooded with excellent candidates who are there for the taking.

Make no mistake; these are hard times. But hard times are not an invitation for any of us to get down on ourselves, question our self worth, or sit around and wait for things to get better. Put bluntly, it’s time to kick butt. Successful recruiters make things happen. That is their job. With this in mind, here is the bad news and the good news:

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  • The bad news is that things will not get better any time soon, and things will certainly never be what they once were. Those days are gone, unless something amazing and unforeseen happens (and I am not referring to Powerball).
  • The good news is that history is not only being read. It is being written as well. As recruiters, we are just the people to be its authors, the creators of what is to be.

I have worked with recruiters for almost twenty years. Many of them are the foremost people with whom I ever had the privilege to be associated. Not all of course; but as a group, they are creative in their thinking, hard driving in their work ethic, upbeat in their personalities, and talented to the extreme. Furthermore ó and this is no small deal ó they care about their work and are committed to doing the right thing. They remain positive long after others have given up hope, and they are angling to make a deal happen even after appearances proclaim the situation deader than a smelt (anyone who has not seen one of those deals revived has been hanging around the wrong recruiters, or has never actually seen a smelt). In this difficult period of time, let’s take stock of some of the things we have done so very well. Recruiters have been instrumental in building virtually all of the very best and admired companies both nationally and internationally. You name a company; it does not matter. If it achieved any significant degree of success, it used recruiters to get the right people to do the job. After all, companies are only a collection of their employees. Furthermore, endless recruiters have taken off their recruiting hats and downsized organizations when necessary to undo the damage that “leadership,” on many occasions, has so faithfully spoken of and so faithlessly failed to deliver upon. On top of that, most recruiters have some of the best people skills of any particular group and work under some of the worst conditions in what is very often a thankless job. (They call for our help too late in the game, say we charge too much, and wonder why we haven’t presented four perfect candidates in less than a week.) Truth be told, many organizations couldn’t find the right person for the position if their collective lives depended upon it. Now that my opinion of recruiters has been brought to light, please allow me to do something positive and list some ideas I have employed successfully in my own business development:

  1. Utilize all of the skills, ideas, and creativity you possess to market yourself to any position or contract that seems even remotely possible. Make all of your mistakes on the side of being too aggressive. Be pleasant, smile a lot ó but remember that the squeaky wheel really does get the grease. (I managed to land my first contract back in 1989 on the day the HR director realized that I would never stop calling until he hired me. A three-month contract turned into a four-year contract.)
  2. We are all in the same business, the business to market ourselves and our services. Some call it shameless self-promotion. I call it effective business development. I probably would not be surviving if I did not adhere to this logic. Let nothing stop you in your quest.
  3. Join a local Toastmasters club. As good as you might be, this organization will increase your proficiency in everything from the development of leadership and public speaking skills to making presentations and all other forms of on-your-feet thinking and communicating ó at an annual cost of less than $1.40 per week.
  4. Look at putting together part-time assignments with a number of different organizations. When I started my own firm in 1989, I was too naive to realize that the economy was not in good shape. My model was to get two or three contract assignments and one or two searches. I lived with that model and created a number of good years of revenue. I have since branched out into more diverse projects.
  5. Learn to manage your time effectively. According to Alan Weiss, Ph. D., president of Summit Consulting ó as well as the smartest person I know ó “The single most critical personal trait constituting the difference between adequate performers and outstanding performers is time management.” No one is better at managing his time better than Alan, and it shows in everything he does.
  6. Remember, above all, that you are in sales. Actually, we all are in sales but not all of us realize it. Being a successful recruiter puts you in a position to use the skills you have honed so well on behalf of yourself as opposed to on behalf of a client. (Besides, is there a better client to represent than yourself?)
  7. Go to networking events. Try to get out of the house at least one night a week for the purpose of meeting and mingling with others. You might not look forward to going, but once there, you will be glad you went. Furthermore, you will be using this time to expand your network. As all recruiters know, you can never have a network that is too big.
  8. Market for others. This is one of the least utilized and most valuable things that you can do. You know marketing people, webmasters, out-of-work CEOs ó and all of these people need your help. Carry your contact list. Make introductions either by email or by giving out names and email addresses. What goes around comes around. Help others and they will help you.

The holidays are nearly upon us. In an uncertain world with more of us being in the same boat than we could ever imagine, let us all look forward to the new year with optimism and hope. Orison Sweet Mardin, the founder of Success Magazine said, “There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.” These are powerful words and will serve as my mantra for the coming year. I suggest that you consider making these words yours as well.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at


2 Comments on “Recruiting Today: Good People In Difficult Times

  1. Wow great article. Very uplifting. I am one of the fortunate ones who is still working as a contract recruiter in Northern CA. Many of my close friends have gotten out of recruiting, but I guess I just like hitting my head against the wall!! 🙂 Have been in the staffing business for over twenty years and plan on staying the course. It’s tough out there and no one knows when it will turn around, so to all I say, take heed to the ideas in this article and full steam ahead.

    Bill Jackson
    Creative Recruiting, Inc.

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