Don’t lay off your recruiters: do this instead

The recruitment world went through a lot of ups and downs over the last couple of years. Is that putting it mildly? There was a lot of change, a lot of volatility.

Companies at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic were sent into a downspin. What was supposed to be a two-week lockdown in most places turned into a two-year nightmare for many businesses. Faced with huge revenue losses and an uncertain future, entire workforces had to be let go. Recruiters were left out in the cold, with hiring freezes all over the world.

Then what happened? You already know this story. You can probably tell it with me.

The pandemic slowed down, we started emerging from the darkness, and business opened up again and hiring went crazy. Recruiters were the hottest commodity! Recruiters were needed by companies to source and attract talent in what was a difficult candidate market, in which candidates were in such high demand they could almost name their own terms and have multiple choices of job offers.

Then things slowed down again at the end of 2022, and over the past few months we have seen a heavy number of corporate recruiters being laid off. There’s no doubt that 2023 will bring different challenges that we will all need to adapt to. The market will, without question, continue to change and fluctuate and demand will rise and fall. With the certainty that change is inevitable, if businesses don’t plan for that change, it’s another certainty that they will repeat these unproductive patterns. While we haven’t seen a lot of layoffs in staffing or recruiting firms, if there is a stall on hiring all around, staffing firms will likely start to feel a little uncomfortable with order flows reducing. Time will tell, but economic uncertainty may lead to this and we don’t want to see more people in our sector losing their jobs.

Fortunately, there’s a better way for staffing and recruitment firms.

As we know, there are two sides of the desk in a staffing agency — the client side and the candidate side. Each of these is a customer in the recruitment world and which way the market is leaning at any given time dictates which customer holds the cards in terms of being the decision maker in a hiring agreement. In other words, in a candidate’s market, the candidate is the decision maker and in an employer’s market the client is the decision maker.

In our sector, we tend to segment into hiring/recruiting and business development/client management categories – some people source candidates, others source and manage clients. These are known as “180 recruiters” or “180 sales people,” and it’s the most common way of doing things, particularly in North America. There are people who do a little of both (270 roles) and some who do everything. These are known as 360 recruiters and, for those recruiters who are currently 180 only it would behoove hiring managers and the recruiters to think about upskilling them into a 270 or 360 role.

When things shift to an employer’s market, with fewer orders flowing in and people perhaps not 100% utilized in the capacity that they once were, the instinct may be to lay off some recent recruitment hires. This should keep any good leader up at night. These patterns are bad for business. Hiring and firing is expensive, time consuming, and bad for your employer brand. Not to mention, it messes with people’s livelihood. There’s nothing good about it.

It makes more sense, on both the economic side and the human side, to upskill your people instead. Order pipelines are either stagnant or are slowing down for many at the moment, so there has been a shift in our client needs and, rather than recruitment hiring, there is a need for salespeople as businesses want to ensure their sales pipelines are strong.

But when you step back and look at the main two functions in recruiting – business development/client management and recruiting — the skills needed for each are very similar.

Both jobs require sales, people skills, listening skills, problem-solving skills, and more.

The jobs are effectively the same and yet they are perceived as radically different. They are not. If you have a great recruiter, you could easily have a great salesperson.

Recruiters are great at finding and understanding candidates and many would likely be great at finding client targets with just a little training and mentoring. They already know the basics of investigating who’s hiring, the types of vacancies they will have, and where their pain points are. The skill sets here are the same, they are just looking for different aspects.

In a candidate short market, picking up vacancies is seen as the easier job. 180 candidate recruiters actually have the tough end, because they’re often trying to sell a new opportunity to someone who is quite happy where they are and aren’t looking to make a move. This is why these people, with a little bit of business development training, would make exceptional 270 or 360’s. They are already doing the harder job (with apologies to our business development peers) and would need a little help to refocus their skills.

Moreover, your recruiters already have an idea of who the candidates are in your pipeline and will easily spot potential matches just by searching. You will get better results and faster.

You can begin by having your recruiters approach potential clients with existing candidates in a speculative way, which is an effective way of starting the sales process. The best people to make these marketing efforts are the people that know the candidates intimately and are their primary advocate. Who better to present them? Any client looking to hire would be thrilled if the candidate turned out to be a match. If not, you’ve started the conversation.

Upskilling your existing team is a wonderful opportunity to bring new business to your agency, help people add to their existing skillsets, and maintain your existing relationships with the talent you’ve already gone to the trouble of hiring. It’s a win-win for everyone. Wouldn’t you say?

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