How To Capitalize On A Down Job Market

recruiting recruitment staffing Aug 10, 2023

For many recruiting firm owners, new client business development is the most difficult part of recruiting industry success. If the space you recruit in is experiencing a more challenging economy, then it’s likely that your competitors are making more sales and marketing efforts. 

I know of firms that have significantly improved their sales and marketing efforts but are struggling to develop new business because of reduced demand and increased “noise” in their space. Their concern for the future and feelings of anxiety increases as a result. Sound familiar?

Like other situations in life, a down market has a “silver lining” for those that recognize it and know how to capitalize on it. When the spaces you work in shift into a fear mode, hiring demand decreases. When this occurs, you’ll usually experience an uptick in the number of hiring managers who ask you for help in finding a job rather than for hiring. This shift from client prospect to candidate offers you a golden opportunity that’s one of the best business development strategies for recruiting firms!

The Dilemma

You’re now uncomfortable if you rarely place people at their level since you have two potential issues to deal with:

  1. You must be careful not to send a message that you’re only interested in helping them hire, not in helping them find a new job. If they perceive that this is your attitude, they’ll be unlikely to work with you when they hire again.
  2. If you say you’re glad to help them and then don’t, you’ll damage your credibility and will find it difficult to get future business. 

The Opportunity

When hiring managers shift into a candidate mode, they’re in a “position of need” and usually become more open to your interactions than if they were client prospects. They usually don’t feel as competent and in control in looking for a job as they are when hiring people. 

The recruiters whose strategy is to “roll out the red carpet” for them will likely become appreciated by them. This is because most recruiters think transactionally more than relationally, Thus, they minimize the time and effort invested when they don’t see an immediate return

The good news is that you can capitalize on the transactional bias of your competitors to stand out with hiring managers who ask for your help in their job search. Since most of your competitors prefer to avoid the situation, it doesn’t take much for you to demonstrate how you are different. 

I personally know of successful recruiting firms whose business development models are centered on building relationships with high-level job seekers. Because they nurture this audience in their time of need, they get rewarded with a high volume of quality business with people who are grateful for their help. 

The Strategy

Everything discussed above was about the concept, not the practice of leveraging the opportunity presented when hiring managers activate a job search. In the real world, recruiting industry professionals are busy. They don’t have a large bandwidth of time and energy to invest with candidates they’re unlikely to place. 

You need to have a practical strategy supported by simple steps (process). This way, you can provide value to your hiring manager candidates (HMCs) while demonstrating your concern for their welfare. Below are some simple steps that allow you to build valuable relationships with a moderate investment of time and energy on your part.

Step 1: When HMCs ask for your help, schedule a call or video meeting to do a brief interview. Input their information into your ATS with their search parameters and other details. Be sure to tag them in your ATS properly. This way, you can identify them to keep and touch and notify them regarding relevant opportunities and to keep in touch.  For example, a tag such as HMC (Hiring Manager Candidate) allows you to identify your roster of these people. Let them know that you can help them with questions, advice, and intros to people in your network.

Step 2: Share your job search expertise to help them succeed. Examples include:

  • Interview best practices
  • How to use LinkedIn Network for your job search
  • Negotiating compensation

Each of the examples above topics should be incorporated into PDFs. The PDFs should include your company name and logo to enhance your brand. People often share information with their colleagues, so including this information enhances your brand awareness and image. 

You can create a section on your website related to candidate services as a place to download these documents. Using this process to share information is a simple way to share your expertise with a minimal investment of time on your end.

Step 3: Add your personal touch to stand out in a positive, memorable way. Below are some examples of adding your personal touch to build HMC relationships.

  • When your HMCs have interviews, they can tell you the company name. This way, you can share any useful information you have with them.
  • If you hear about opportunities, they may fit or know of people that can help them share it with them and make intros where appropriate. 
  • If you have any contacts at these companies, and you think your HMC is high quality, email people you know at the company about them. For example, “Hi Callie Client, I want to tell you about Cathy Candidate. We know Cathy, and she said she applied for a VP Sales position (or has an interview). I adjust want to let you know I think she’s a good candidate. I don’t want anything in return, I just wanted to share my opinion.

    You don’t need to say anything to the candidate. Your name will often come up as someone who made a good-faith attempt to help without asking for compensation. These gestures don’t require much from you but pay off over time with both the Companies and HMCs.

Step 4: Keep in touch monthly. Recruiters often squander their goodwill by not contacting candidates after interviewing them. It doesn’t have to take a lot of effort to keep in touch. For example, you can send a monthly email with this basic message: “Hi Cathy, I was thinking about you and want to know how your search is going. We don’t have anything that’s a good fit but that can change. What’s happening on your end?” 

Here's an execution detail to consider: If your firm separates “client-facing” and “candidate-facing” recruiters, you’ll want the client-facing recruiters to implement the strategy. This is because they’re the ones who will be asking for searches when your HMCs land. 

In summary, helping HMCs in their job search is a recruiting industry business development strategy par excellence. Think of it as “pre-client” prospecting.  In many ways, it’s easier than normal client prospecting; it provides a unique opportunity to build client relationships before they are clients. When HMCs land in new companies, they’re usually far more receptive to you than they would be under normal circumstances since you tried to help them in their time of need. 

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