The Challenge of Hiring Staffing Professionals in a Competitive Market

This post was written in collaboration with Robin Mee, President and Founder of Mee Derby. Robin is a highly-regarded staffing industry expert who helps national staffing firms find and hire senior level search professionals capable of growing their market share. She is deeply involved with the American Staffing Association, volunteering to advance the resources available to staffing firms of all sizes. Start your conversation with Robin here

Bringing in the bringing the right blend of talent

Are top recruiters the next purple squirrels? If the staffing industry continues to grow like it has over the last 30 consecutive quarters, the answer is yes. Everyone from big multinational firms to energetic startups competes for the same talent pool. There’s no secret stockpile of candidates out there.

How do you attract and retain staffing and recruiting professionals capable of growing your market share? From our experience with numerous staffing firms and insight from the ASA’s Staffing as a Career initiative, using the right combination of internal infrastructure and proactive strategies delivers the best results.

On a gut level, most companies gravitate toward experienced staffing industry professionals. Who doesn’t want a predictable resource? Robust networks, advanced recruiting lifecycle training, and low turnover rates make them a surefire ROI.

PREMIUM CONTENT: Internal Staff Survey 2017: Where to recruit staff, methods of recruiting, what to say to candidates

However, seasoned candidates in the current market are in short supply. Most will be passive candidates, a breed most of us know all too well these days. Attracting top performers out of their current roles requires smart leveraging of best-in-class sales compensation (a few of which staffing industry expert Tom Kosnik discusses here) and an in-depth understanding of your prospects’ goals – strategies you’re already using for client submittals.

Often, a good way to get future top performers without fighting for the alphas of the industry is to pursue staffing and recruiting talent with 2-plus years of experience. Attrition has weeded out those who won’t make great staffing and recruiting professionals by this point. These talented professionals may need more guidance but the fundamentals are all there (in fact, even “average” sales performers bring great value).

On the other hand, a growing number of firms are experimenting with hiring staffing professionals who have the right attributes over the right experience. Raw talent can be trained to become sales and recruiting top performers. Staffing firms just need to make sure they are mining sources that foster the characteristics of successful IT staffing professionals.

The Right Skill program is one such source. This collaboration between the ASA, CareerBuilder, and Capella University uses the global job board’s repository of resumes to actively identify people who will make great sales reps and recruiters. Then, these junior people are trained through an online tool created by several ASA trainers and industry thought leaders (find out how to become a thought leader here). As a trusted source, staffing companies are now willing to pay a small fee for a trained but not experienced person.

There are even sources outside of the industry that consistently deliver strong potential:

  • Hotel and hospitality workers: These professionals are resilient and learn to resolve challenges fast (you would too if an irate customer was staring you down).
  • Retail employees: Regular customer service interactions make them naturals for client and candidate interactions. The sales side of their experience prepares them for rejection and overcoming objections.
  • Call center agents: Their heavy phone interactions means they won’t be exhausted by frequent communication. Plus, they know how to address and influence pain points over the phone.

One industry that seems to stand out more than others is the rental car industry. It’s a historic funnel for strong staffing and recruiting talent. Many of their roles – especially their rental sales agents – are performance-based and run candidates through pretty rigorous sales training. Close that knowledge gap and they will thrive in the staffing industry.

Overall, it’s easy to see that demand leads staffing firms to get creative with how they find their internal talent. A sense of urgency inspires more organizations to seek out intermediary talent to fresh college grads. However, reaching prospects is inhibited unless firms have a far-reaching talent pipeline.

Building a strong pipeline enterprise-wide

Predictable sales growth depends on a robust talent pipeline. Even top performers have a limited capacity for the accounts they can land and the placements they can make. They’re only human. To ensure that they regularly get reinforcements, there needs to be constant and consistent pipelining and recruiting that attracts quality people into your organization.

One of the biggest hold ups appears to be that staffing firms are not institutionalizing hiring best practices organization-wide. The branch-centric model, where branch managers dictate their own hiring practices, makes for lopsided internal recruiting practices. The range of tasks on their plate is extensive. Managing P&L, overseeing delivery, leading the sales organization, and building the right recruiting infrastructure are all priorities. Internal hiring drops down on their to-do list.

Successful organizations prioritize pipelining (even when there isn’t an immediate need). Having a dedicated recruiting staff to be proactive about identifying talent, whether or not there are openings, improves abilities company-wide to acquire top performers. That way, branch managers can focus on day to day operations, concentrate on how to boost staffing sales revenue, and review candidates for internal roles as they’re received.

Even pursuing talent for multiple verticals is simplified this way. Recruiters need to be fishing in the right ponds and a standardized yet dynamic process keeps them finding the right talent regularly. That way your IT staffing or healthcare staffing divisions can control the caliber of candidates you see.

Some companies augment their efforts with third-party search teams to supplement, or in some cases act as, their dedicated internal recruiting staff. That way, they get a multi-layered approach that incorporates cultural and industry concerns as they proactively funnel prospects into their organizations.

Overall, having a clear internal recruitment strategy and making sure that there is executive and branch level buy-in keeps recruiting firms from going stagnant. A centralized strategy also ensures that brand presentation, one of the most crucial parts of hiring staffing professionals, is implemented evenly.

Packaging your search with the right marketing strategy

Good recruiting is actually good marketing. A staffing firm that is unable to grab the attention of seasoned professionals or fresh talent will continue to not achieve their sales growth targets. That means every interaction from job descriptions and social media marketing to content marketing and even LinkedIn InMails need to be pitch perfect. Here are just a few you need to focus on:

Job descriptions: There needs to be consistency across job descriptions. A centralized approach to hiring internal recruiting staff allows your team to review which types of posts elicit the most applications and which flop. Typically, actionable job descriptions (giving candidates 30-, 60-, and 90-day perspectives) attract candidates who’ll actually want the job. Using internal score cards as a guideline for content gives even better details about your roles to candidates.

Yet as with any good marketing, there’s a balance too. Stray from the strict formal to make it short, sweet, and sexy. Be clear about culture and infrastructure without getting bogged down in the nitty gritty. You want to attract the right talent and your delivery determines whether or not that objective is a success. We do find that a well-designed, mobile-friendly website and jobs page on your website encourages candidates to click.

Social media marketing: Social media in staffing and recruiting is a work horse for brand awareness. Yet clients and candidates aren’t your only targets. A good social media marketing strategy gets the attention of possible employees as well. Through her own experience searching for senior staffing and recruiting professionals, here’s Robin Mee’s insight:

“We don’t spend much time with the traditional job boards. LinkedIn, with its 467 million users, is the go-to resource for finding top talent. Last month, 28,000 people interacted with our brand through job ads and content that is relevant to our audience, widening our funnel in incredible ways. Without adding staff, our company has seen significant increases in revenue and profitability because of our marketing initiatives. At least 65% of our candidates come from LinkedIn outreach and 95% of those are passive.”

Content marketing: Successful brands prove they have an expertise and something valuable to say. Content marketing is the vehicle for that message. Staffing firms that release their own content – regular blogs, eBooks, whitepapers – are putting their stamp on the market and showing they aren’t just parroting others. They are getting buyers interested in their knowledge and services. They’re even convincing potential employees to join them.

If staffing and recruiting talent see you are speaking with authority, they’re more likely to see your firm as their vessel for recognition and success. Share your own content on your social media accounts and all of that traffic is going straight to you. It’s a big win.

It’s when all of these aspects of your marketing strategy are working together that you get the best bang for your buck. Strategically spending your recruiting dollar makes your brand more visible. Greater visibility boosts your trust index with not only clients and candidates but potential employees. Once they trust your brand as an expert and a place for opportunities, many of the barriers to hiring staffing professionals will just naturally erode.

MORE: Hiring New Staff: How to Gather the Perfect Team

Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O'Brien
Kevin O'Brien is co-founder of echogravity, a marketing agency that focuses on inbound marketing services for staffing agencies. He can be reached at kevin (at) echogravity (dot) com.

Kevin O'Brien

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