Perception vs. Reality – Survey Highlights the Difference

CareerBuilder, just released its 7th Opportunities in Staffing study, identifying key trends for staffing clients, talent and providers. The report provides interesting statistics and information on many topics but I’d like to highlight one observation: on many questions there were significant differences between the perceptions and realities of the groups.

  • Sixty-six percent of staffing firms interviewed report their policy is to return candidate calls and emails within 1 day but only 40 percent of candidates reported this happening.
  • Nearly 60 percent of firms say their policy is to return client calls within 2 hours but only 25 percent of clients reported this.
  • More than 50 percent of the firms have policies requiring communication with candidates just before and after the start of assignments, but only 31 percent and 13 percent of candidates respectively reported this and, incredibly, 44 percent reported no regular interaction at all.
  • Also troubling, only 23 percent of firms had a policy to communicate near the end of the assignment.

It can’t be a shock then that client satisfaction dropped in 2012 and talent satisfaction remained level. This is a problem:you need to see improvement in these critical categories. What good is increased utilization (reported for both clients and talent) if they aren’t satisfied? What good are policies if they aren’t put into practice?

If your phone calls aren’t getting returned, find out why. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons but maybe you’re working with the wrong firm. Remember though that communication is a two way street. Review your own communication practices – are you calling back your staffing firm quickly with candidate feedback? A bottleneck on either side hurts recruiting efforts.These numbers also suggest that you should care about your staffing firm’s actions too. What are their communication policies?Do they meet those goals? Good communication practices are one way to influence attracting and retaining contractors.


Candidates, clients, and staffing firms were also asked about the attributes necessary for a successful placement (see Figure 1). Note the significant disparity between the three perspectives: no one agrees on what is most important!

What does this mean? Well, your staffing firm may be recruiting for cultural fit more than worrying about industry knowledge and that sounds like a recipe for dissatisfaction. Are you willing to overlook certain missing skills if that person has significant industry experience? Neither candidates nor staffing firms value industry knowledge as much as clients, so unless you speak up, you may be missing out on candidates you would like to interview. This also highlights the importance of working with a staffing partner that truly understands your industry, the unique challenges it presents, and can find candidates that do too. It is tempting to go with the simplicity of one stop shopping and the promises of firms who say they can deliver everything, but the chart suggests that part of why they think this is because they don’t understand how important industry knowledge is to their clients. We do and that’s why we’ve specialized in IT since our inception.

The final disconnect is quite practical but could be preventing you from finding the right talent. CareerBuilder reports client usage of social media for recruiting declined slightly (14% to 13%) but candidates who reported using it as part of their job search increased (8% especially Linked In and Facebook). These numbers suggest that if you’re not finding the talent you need, maybe it’s because you’re not looking in the right places. Do you have corporate Facebook and LinkedIn profiles? Do you post updates? Do you post open positions? It’s a real missed opportunity if you are not. Ask your staffing firm how they incorporate social media in their processes. Using online resources to help source candidates isn’t a short cut it’s a smart use of technology. That’s where the candidates are now. It’s great if they find you but you can’t rely on that alone. A smart social media recruiting strategy is a must these days.

Not every study is useful but I found this one interesting. During our annual review of ATR’s policies and practices, I’ll keep the numbers in mind; they indicate there’s always room for improvement.

Jerry Brenholz
Jerry Brenholz is president & CEO of ATR International, a firm that specializes in providing IT consultants and enterprise-wide staffing services.

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