Our industry is more competitive than ever! This crowded recruiter marketplace is the result of two factors. First, we are 8-9 years into a reasonably good economy for recruiters. Secondarily, we continue to be in a candidate-short market causing employers to need us. It might not be this year… but when the downturn hits, it will put some recruiters out of business.

Here are 10 ways to add more value and make your business more sustainable.

  1. Market Mastery (Jeff Kaye – Next Level Training terminology) Your mastery might be IT in Seattle or finance in Houston. It might be chemical engineers in the SE US. If you are doing contingent recruiting then you need a specific function, industry and/or geography where you can become a valuable resource. If you are working in the same market or segment repetitively, then you will be able to continue to leverage the same contacts, candidates and client companies. You don’t want to start each new recruiting assignment from scratch. If you are venturing into something outside your market, then require a retainer or engagement fee.
  2. Be Proactive! It is smart to gradually start a secondary practice if your primary market or segment is cyclical or in any way volatile. It is not a good idea to spread yourself thin across too many specialties, but it is important to “look around the corner” to make sure you are not headed into the proverbial desert.
  3. Offer Valuable Content to your Clients. Create a story board with your most typical clients and consider: what keeps them up at night, what is their biggest challenge relating to hiring, or biggest obstacle to using a recruiting firm. Seek content that speaks to those needs and share via social media or email. The goal is moving from being a recruiter to a consultant or thought leader. Obviously, you still need to be a good recruiter, but you add value by also being a knowledge resource.
  4. Always be Looking for New Clients. Set time aside on your calendar to focus on business development. Assume every client has a “hiring cycle” and the client relationship won’t last forever. Larger companies with talent acquisition departments consider recruiters a necessary evil and they will find a way to eliminate the added expense - eventually. I would argue that mid-sized companies value the relationships with recruiting and search professionals more than large companies.
  5. Create a Complimentary Service for your Clients. This might be engaged or even retained search. Perhaps it is extending your service to include onboarding. Consider setting up an outplacement business which is counter-cyclical. Many find the best complimentary business is contract placement. This may or may not be an option within your market segment. The key is finding something where you can diversify while using the contacts that you have already developed.
  6. Continuously Improve. This might be finding ways to automate and save time allowing yourself to get more done. You can do simple things like improve how you present your candidates to clients. You should always be focused on getting better! If you’re staying the same, then you’re losing ground.
  7. Track your Numbers! Impress your potential clients by giving them numbers. They will be interested in fill rate, interviews-to-placements, time-to-fill and retention rates after 1 and 2 years. Collection of data and setting KPI’s are important even if it is just to manage yourself. Key metrics include: new job orders, new first interviews (first sendouts), candidates presented on jobs and placements. Activity numbers like connects and time on the phone is also helpful. Understand there is a direct correlation between time on the phone and success in our business.
  8. Date Your Current Clients. Not literally, but don’t take them for granted. You need to understand they are being courted by other recruiters all the time. You need to get yourself into dating shape and show your clients that you want to continue to earn their business. Take them to lunch! Make sure they know you care! Make yourself their “talent advisor.” Look for opportunities to help them succeed even when it doesn’t result in a placement. Trust is developed when your clients believe you are putting their interests ahead of your own.
  9. Improve Quality. Build process that drives quality. This might be creating a checklist to make sure you are taking all the necessary steps with your clients and candidates. The first time a candidate goes on an interview should trigger a reference check. You are much more likely to place a candidate that you have referenced. Improve your process of prepping candidates for interviews…it will pay off. The great thing about improving quality is that you are adding content to your client value proposition. You are also making your company more valuable and more sustainable.
  10. It Is Your fault. Our business is a roller coaster! A lot can go wrong in our world. Much of it is outside our control…or is it? It is easy to get negative and believe everything and everyone is against you. Just assume whatever happens is your fault. This will help you believe that you have some control over your business. Consider what could have been done differently and use it as a learning experience. This will ensure you keep the right attitude going forward. Did I mention that attitude is everything in our business?

Happy Hunting!