Value and Frugality: The Do-It-Yourself Decade

Have you decided to forgo the use of outside staffing firms for a while? Are you developing your own website? Have you decided to let hiring managers take on a bigger role in recruiting? Have you given up the recruiting ad agency? Are you looking for a bare-bones applicant tracking system? If so, you are not alone. More and more organizations are deciding to move away from expensive outside agencies and resources and to bring the activities that they used to farm out back inside. In part, this is a response to economic pressures that won’t ease up and the lower volume of work. But I think it also heralds the beginning of a new decade of cost awareness and frugality. The focus now is on value and return on the money spent. The last two decades of the 20th century were marked with excesses. Organizations made a lot of money and they spent it without much thought about what they actually got. Some organizations had dozens of agencies seeking out candidates, an ad agency placing ads in expensive media and on roadside billboards, and scores of recruiters internally. Most Fortune 500 organizations were bidding for applicant tracking systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and worrying about how to do Internet searches for the elusive and increasingly expensive passive candidate. But times have changed, and with them our overall approach to recruiting and costs. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on how you and your company can be more innovative, effective, and frugal. Recruiting Advertising Agencies and Recruiting Websites Big agencies have big overheads. They support account executives, artists, web masters, designers, creative writers, researchers, and print and media experts. No matter what you need, you are paying at least partially for all of these. While the agencies did offer both information and access to media in the 20th century, the Internet has changed all of that. Information is readily accessed on the Internet, and almost anything you need can be found easily and, if not for free, for a very small amount compared to the “hidden” costs that you paid in the price of your advertising. Print advertising for recruiting is a small fraction of what it was, and for most jobs is not used at all. The job board and the corporate website have reduced the need for any print ads. Those organizations that do use print are probably not carefully assessing the number of actual viable candidates they get from each ad, nor the costs of each candidate. Were they to do this, they would quickly abandon print. The agencies have tried to do recruiting branding and web development, but their own cost structure has made this financially challenging. What You Can Do Work with your own marketing and advertising people to come up with an image and brand for your recruiting efforts. Then translate this into a really functional recruiting website. If you work in a large company, more than enough people come to the site every day who can be converted into possible candidates. If you use your corporate website well, you may not need to do much else in the way of advertising. If you need to drive traffic to your website, try piggybacking recruiting advertising on your product or service advertising. Or focus your advertising in specific places where the people you need to hire go. I will expand on this in another column. The website should be the hub of all your imagine building and recruiting activities. By doing a little work looking at the recruiting websites of some good organizations, you can begin to develop a concept and design for your own site. Many conferences and give advice and portray some best-in-class sites you can get ideas from. You can learn about good web design from a number of websites and books, as well. Take a look at Jakob Nielson’s books and website on web design. They are well written, and Nielson is regarded as the guru of designing usable websites. You can also use your own internal web developers to design a good recruiting website. Several smaller consultancies charge reasonable fees and will help design, develop and implement a recruiting site if you don’t have the internal staff available. By using a mix of your own time and resources, internal staff and a handful of outside consultants you should be able to create a good brand and a powerful website for your recruiting activities at a fraction of the cost of using traditional resources. Staffing Firms Do you really need an outside staffing firm? To use a staffing firm for the ordinary professional or non-professional hire is most likely wasteful. Staffing firms charge large commissions because they, too, have overhead to support. They have to source candidates, maintain offices and telephones, write contacts, bill you, and so forth. The premium you pay can only be justified when the position is critical, very hard to fill, or so confidential no one internally can know about it. What You Can Do Wean yourself off the lure of staffing firms. Sure, it feels good to pass the buck on to someone else and then sit back, but it isn’t cost effective or frugal. If you or your staff don’t have time to do the search, use other sourcing methods. These include getting the hiring manager involved in an active way to think of possible candidates and using employee referrals, the Internet, and alumni ó those who used to work for your firm. If you still can’t find the right candidate, hire a contractor or temporary recruiter for that specific job. If you hire them on a salary, rather than a commission, you can still get good quality candidates and save money. Whatever you do, take a look at how it could be done cheaper and for better value than it is now. In many cases this will mean that you need to get back in control and find ways to get whatever you need done by using a mix of inexpensive outside services and consultants, your own internal resources, and a big dash of creativity. We are indeed entering the do-it-yourself decade for many corporate services.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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