Slowdown? What Slowdown?

Look at any economic slowdown as a chance for you and your company to improve.

With the cooling economy, sophisticated hiring and recruiting skills are more important now than ever. Don’t let down your guard. If you’re a third-party recruiter, don’t expect things to dry up. While search assignments will be more difficult to obtain, you’ll still get them if you do your job exceptionally well and offer outstanding value-added services. If you’re an in-house recruiter, you’ll need to get better at what you do. There will be fewer open positions, apparently more candidates to fill them, but also fewer in-house recruiters. The focus will change, but the effort won’t.

Since 1978, I’ve been through several economic cycles of apparent never-ending glee – followed by periods of short-lived despair. The downturns forced me to improve my craft, and made me better understand all aspects of the hiring process.

Here are a few Basic Principles to think about:

Basic Principle One:

In a slowdown, finding good candidates is less important than getting good candidates hired. As a recruiter it’s important to be better at finding, assessing, and presenting candidates. Your clients will be more discerning. You need to be, too.

Basic Principle Two:

Every hiring decision now must really count. Last year, hiring was hit or miss. Most companies needed key people desperately to meet critical needs. Many of these were marginal positions, and decisions were sometimes made just to fill a seat. Even important hiring decisions were compromised due to lack of available talent. This year, it’s different. Every hiring decision a company makes now is critical – so make sure they’re filled with the best person.

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Basic Principle Three:

The average quality of active candidates is declining. Unless a company is going completely out of business, the first people let go are those that are under-performing, or in less essential jobs. The top performers are rarely let go. In good economic times, like most of 2000, some of these top players were actively open to explore new opportunities – just to see what was out there. These lookers have stopped looking. The ones now beating down your door now represent less of the top performers than before. The days of easy pickings have gotten harder. One way to overcome this is to combine a great ad with an auto-response email. The great ad will get noticed by the best, and everyone else as well. The auto-email will filter out everyone else.

Basic Principle Four:

Passive candidates are becoming more passive. In good economic times, passive candidates are relatively easy to pry loose from their current employers. It might take an extra call or two, but an attractive opportunity is always worth exploring. Things are now different. With the dot-com boom and bust, everyone is now becoming more cautious. You now need a great presentation to get people to even listen to your pitch, and you need an even greater career opportunity to get a top person to move. Before ever taking another assignment, make sure you and the hiring manager agree to the 5-6 key deliverables in the job. Don’t ask your client what she’s looking for, ask her what this person needs to do to be successful.

These recruiting ideas all work, regardless of the cycle we’re in. The difference is that now they’ve suddenly become more important. Take advantage of the downturn, and get better at what you do. If you can hone your recruiting skills now, you’ll prosper in the boom coming just ahead. It’s just around the corner. Trust me on this… <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).

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