Closing Staffing Industry Perception Gaps

476525015August marked 37 straight months of job growth within the temporary help services industry. The momentum is being felt by staffing and recruiting firms large and small, and unless leading indicators are drastically off base, positive trends are likely to continue into next year.

But every story of growth includes a chapter or two about overcoming new challenges. In the post-recession era, thousands of businesses and millions of job candidates are being introduced to staffing firms for the first time, and many in each camp are hesitant to embrace this model of employment. Simply put, adjusting to and meeting their expectations has proved a challenge.

The 2014 Opportunities in Staffing survey, conducted by CareerBuilder and survey company Inavero, finds that the industry faces major hurdles of client dissatisfaction and job seeker utilization and awareness.

These realities are fueled by large gaps between what the industry promises and what their clients and job candidates say they receive.

Before exploring these perception gaps further, it’s important to note that there is plenty of good news to be found, as well: When firms focus on improving aspects of their candidate and client experience, both parties overwhelmingly become industry advocates and promoters.

PREMIUM CONTENT: Trends in U.S. Staffing Market Concentration and Staffing Firm Rankings 2008-2013

Perception Gaps between Staffing Clients and Firms

We asked more than 1,200 staffing industry employees and nearly 2,000 staffing clients whether or not firms were performing basic stated functions and services. The following figure shows that a huge disparity exists in three important areas.

Staffing Clients and Firms

A vast majority of staffing firms say they learn about company culture, meet order specifications and promptly follow up on requests, but clients by-and-large don’t see it that way. These double-digit percentage point differences indicate potential deficiencies in not just service delivery but the overall client experience. It’s easy to look at these numbers and suspect that clients are being a bit unfair here. I know for a fact that many staffing firms deliver on every one of these promises, but if customers aren’t feeling that way, it doesn’t matter much. From the customer’s point of view, perception is reality. To close these gaps, staffing firms must establish robust feedback and customer care channels that are customized to the needs of the client. Moreover, firms must continually audit their own processes to ensure behaviors match the marketing.

Perception Gaps between Job Candidates and Staffing Firms

We found a similar pattern in the responses of more than 5,000 job candidates, although the gaps in this instance weren’t nearly as severe.

Job Candidates and Staffing Firms

Each of these metrics exemplifies the degree of empathy required to earn the trust and satisfaction of candidates. The job hunt in an uncertain economy is among life’s most stressful experiences. This is especially true of workers who may be unfamiliar with the staffing industry or who go into the process with misconceptions of how the industry works. Easing these anxieties and offering a sincere support network is where truly exceptional firms stand out. While I’m encouraged a majority of candidates say firms follow through in the above areas, there’s still room for refinement.

The Rewards for Following Through

Fortunately, the survey was clear on one point: Closing perception gaps will directly affect the bottom line, as seen here:



Nine out of 10 clients and candidates who had a positive experience will become promoters of their firm by referring others. Naturally, most clients will connect other companies only if asked. Even so, these are highly encouraging figures. As is the case in the consumer marketplace, referrals and word-of-mouth are critical to success in recruitment. A commitment to providing exceptional client and candidate experience is the surest way transform new customers into advocates.

MORE: Perception vs. reality

Eric Gilpin

Eric Gilpin
Eric Gilpin is president of CareerBuilder’s Staffing and Recruiting Group.

Eric Gilpin

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