Recruiting in a Crisis EconomyIt’s impossible to avoid the dire news these days. No matter where you turn the story is the crashing economy, the panicked sell-offs on Wall Street and bleak unemployment rates. What’s a recruiter to do?

As agency recruiters, we make our living off of companies hiring talent, growing and improving. But it’s not time to panic yet. Here are some tips on retaining your current recruiting clients and even gaining some new ones in the process.

Evolve: I can’t overstate the importance of evolving as recruiters…both individually and as a profession. So many of us have fallen into the old patterns that have served us well over time. Oh, you remember the days…back when placements came fast and furious; companies were always hiring and the economy smiled and patted us on the head with dollars. (2006 seems a long time away, doesn’part it?) But things are different now. It’s easy to point out the million things that have changed around us, but have we changed and evolved with them?

For a Recruiter, surviving a slumped economy is all about growth, as a person and as a professional. Partnering with a client and standing out as an expert is a matter of survival. Listen to your clients, watch your local market closely and educate yourself as a recruiter. When project dollars are few and far between, clients are going to become a lot more selective of whom they partner with. If you’re just another vendor pushing resumes, you’re done – no one needs more resumes. If you’re viewed as a recruiting partner who is an expert in the market, a true professional, knowledgeable and willing to take the extra time, then guess what? You’re their guy/gal.

It’s not stalking, it’s persistence: When the market ‘constricted’ just a few years ago, I suddenly had a much smaller book of business.The market was tough and I lost count of how many times clients (particularly new ones and targets) would tell me they weren’t in a position to hire (in very snipped tones by the way). But there was a simple answer that seemed to work. I told those folks that I knew they weren’t in a position to hire now, but I also knew that they were going to make it through these times. Now was a perfect opportunity for me to get to know them.That way when the market picked up, we’d have a long-term relationship and a strong foundation to build upon.They still said no to coffee, but after the second call just checking in, or maybe the third to see how things were going…coffee became lunch. People are complex, but there are some simple truths that you can find. If people feel like you’re invested in them, they’ll be a lot more invested in you. Persistence by definition isn’t about the short term win; it’s about investing your time and being comfortable with earning business.

Keep Smiling:  It may sound trite, but sometimes the simplest advice is the best. When the economy is spiraling and unemployment is skyrocketing, things can look pretty bleak; not just to you and your candidates, but to your clients too. In times like these people tend to panic and drop into depression and frustration. You don’t need to be the guy spiraling right there next to them. Sure misery loves company, but in business, misery likes a life preserver a lot more. Maintaining an air of positivity and confidence for your clients will help solidify your role as a partner rather than another vendor looking for a quick placement. As simple as it sounds, a smile and a good outlook are a lot more important than commiserating with someone. As an added bonus, they’ll assume you’re still doing well and not being hit quite as hard as everyone else…that means you must be really good at what you do. Guess who they’re going to work with when something comes up?

When economies are in crisis, fortunes are made. Now is the time to form the relationships that will carry your recruiting business for the next decade. Good luck out there!

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