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The State of Recruitment & Staffing Be Aggressive, or Be Gone

As they begin to feel the pinch for talent, employers can't just wait for the résumés to trickle in. They have to emphasize active sourcing--tapping in-house referrals, networking 24/7 and snapping up top candidates at the first opportunity.

March 3, 2006
Todd Davis recruited for a needle in a haystack. As senior clinician recruitment consultant with California’s largest physician group, Davis sought out doctors and professional staff. He was accustomed to finding nurses with unique specialties and doctors in high-demand fields. But in January he was looking for a computer specialist with a medical degree to fill the job of director of medical informatics with 3,500-employee Health­Care Partners Medical Group.

    "I’m not going to fill this job by posting to a (job) board. I don’t know that you ever could, but not now--not with the competition such as it is," says Davis, who left the company this month. He found his candidates through the network built by going to two or three events a month, working the phones and tapping employees for their contacts.

    "Unless you are actively working every minute, as a recruiter you’re going to be in trouble," he says. "Recruiters who wait for the candidates to come in to them aren’t doing their job. In 2006, they aren’t going to be successful."

    After four years of economic slowdown in the United States, recruiters last year began to feel the pinch for talent as hiring accelerated and the unemployment rate edged down. Last month, the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent.

    Though the rate is still well above the all-time low of 3.8 percent in April 2000, talent shortages are apparent in select skill areas and professions, rather than across the board. At the same time, the oldest of the baby boomers are beginning to retire. While there is still some debate about the predicted labor shortage, no one doubts the need to be competitive and creative in order to find quality candidates.

    Heather Tinguely, recruiting manager for fast-growing software company Inovis, says she just had the busiest December of her eight-year career. "If I waited one or two weeks, the candidate was gone." Based in Atlanta, Inovis has a large office in the San Francisco Bay Area. "Right now, that is the hardest place to recruit for IT," she says. "But it’s not that much easier here in Georgia. Companies are recruiting from everywhere."

    Get used to it, recruitment consultants say. "2006 is the year when it is really going to hit home," says Gerry Crispin, recruitment consultant and co-founder of CareerXroads. "This isn’t anything new this year--just that some companies are suddenly going to discover there’s a talent shortage when they can’t find the people they need."

    Employee referral programs, the No. 1 source of hires according to a Society for Human Resource Management poll in November, are getting more attention than ever. Davis says he actively courted the doctors in the company looking for referrals. "Peer referrals are the most powerful recruiting tool," he says. "When I get a referral in-house I know the candidate is going to have the skills and the interest, because a colleague has already made the contact."

    Temp-to-hire, already a tool being used by the biggest companies, will gain in popularity as a form of outsourced recruiting.

    Crispin, whose firm recently completed its annual "Source of Hire" report, says the survey’s results show an increase in the number of contingent workers hired as permanent employees. "Temp-to-hire is hot, and continues to be so," he says.

    That is part of a broader trend toward unbundling outsourced HR services, according to Elliot Clark, COO of Kenexa, an HR software and talent acquisition company. Outsourcing recruiting in particular will be popular with the smaller companies that don’t have the resources to hire specialists, he says. "The war for talent in certain areas is going to be hot," Clark says. "That will lead more companies to outsource that function."

    Larger companies will boost their recruiting staff, drawing from the headhunting ranks.

    "I believe that by the end of 2006 you will see a major shift toward hiring more third-party recruiters into corporate recruiting," says Michael Homula, director of talent acquisition at Quicken Loans. His reasoning is that not many corporate recruiters have experience sourcing in a tight labor market. He and other HR professionals explain that as the economy went south beginning in late 2000, recruiters moved into other HR jobs or were downsized. Those filling the vacancies--entry-level HR jobs at many companies--didn’t so much recruit as sift through the résumés that came in by the hundreds from job board postings.


"2006 is the year when it is really going to hit home. This isn’t anything new this year--just that some companies are suddenly going to discover there’s a talent shortage when they can’t find the people they need."
--Gerry Crispin, recruitment consultant and co-founder of CareerXroads.

    The aggressive style of third-party recruiters will take some getting used to, Homula says. "The biggest challenge with this trend," he notes, "is that corporate HR leaders are not often able to stomach the behaviors and tactics that actually get results, and don’t want to compensate recruiters for what they produce like the third-party world does. … The trend will start in 2006, but most corporations will not figure out how to work with the third-party mind-set until the labor pool shortage causes them pain."

    Increasingly, companies are recognizing that the quality of hires has a direct bearing on their success, and are beginning to evaluate recruiters on the performance of their hires.

    "Accountability is the major trend I see emerging in 2006," says Master Burnett, managing director of Dr. John Sullivan & Associates, an HR recruiting consulting firm. For many companies that will mean objectively assessing employee performance, then using that to measure the quality of a recruiter’s hiring.

    How will recruiters find top talent in 2006? By pursuing the passive job seeker.

    "People in staffing are going to have to think like marketing people," Kenexa’s Clark says. That will mean branding the company, making better use of corporate job sites, networking and trying some of the newer tools, like Jobster and LinkedIn.

    Data mining--not searching résumé databases, but combing through public and private databases--will help build candidate lists and identify those who are most likely to be receptive to a call. Burnett says the best companies use multiple databases to identify and qualify leads.

    "You find someone in Boston who owns a boat, and you’ve got a job where it is possible to go boating all year. That person becomes a potential candidate," Burnett says.

    Microsoft recruiter Shally Steckerl says recruiters will have two choices: become a sourcer, or become obsolete. "If sales waited around for customers to come in the door, they would starve," Steckerl says.

    In December, HotJobs held a recruitment round table attended by such leading recruitment professionals as Lou Ad­ler, John Sullivan, Jac Fitz-enz and Peter Weddle. It was titled "The Era of the Active Recruiter."

    "Good recruiters have known that all along," Crispin says. "Lazy re­cruiters could get by going through the résumés that came in from Monster or wherever. No more. Do that now and you’ve lost."

Workforce Management, February 27, 2006, pp. 29-31 -- Subscribe Now!