“Staffing firm managers have a unique challenge. Your product is people, and your clients are relying on you to come through for them and deliver on your promises, no matter what,” Gretchen Keefner, Staffing and Recruiting Group Director at CareerBuilder, says when asked about the unique experience of working in a staffing firm. With the recent release of the 2012 Opportunities in Staffing study, Keefner sat down with me for the following Q&A to discuss how staffing firms can better leverage their internal talent to provide a better client and candidate experience.
What are some of the characteristics or soft skills managers in the recruiting industry need to have?
All staffing firm employees must be agile. A client or candidate’s situation can change at any time, and a good manager must be prepared to deal with that change and still exceed expectations. As a manager in the staffing industry, you also must continually train and develop your employees. By giving employees the tools they need to succeed, you’ll decrease turnover, which will improve the experience for your clients and the candidates you are placing. Lastly, you have to be excellent at selling the staffing industry to potential employees. Most people are unfamiliar with the industry and don’t understand the rewards that a successful career in the industry can provide.
What soft skills should they look for when hiring recruiters?
It depends on what type of recruiter you are. If you’re in the IT, accounting, healthcare, or engineering industries, industry experience really counts more than sales or recruiting experience. You really want to bring people with industry experience and knowledge first and foremost. If you bring those skills in first and then teach them how to recruit, it will give them quicker credibility.
Do you have any advice for people in the staffing industry as we move into the next quarter?
It’s important to know how much opportunity there is for growth in this industry. According to Staffing Industry Analysts, the staffing industry is projected to expand 9 percent in 2012 and another 6 percent in 2013. Even those niches within the industry that have been flat – like marketing and legal staffing –but will experience significant growth moving forward. Also, as the shortage of talent continues to worsen, it will be increasingly important for firms to put as many resources and as much energy into attracting internal employees as they do their external candidates.
How can staffing firms leverage social media to further awareness of their firm and create a better client and candidate experience?
The staffing world is highly commoditized, and social media is a platform firms can use to highlight their differentiators. Fifty-eight percent of job candidates do research on a company before they even apply to a job, and using social media is a huge part of that research. So if firms don’t have a presence in that space, they’ll miss out. They’ll also miss out if their social media presence is only focused on attracting candidates to place with their client organizations. Firms need to showcase their internal brands as well.
Any final advice for staffing firms in terms of how they can differentiate?
Today, both companies and job candidates want to be able to make decisions based on data. There’s a tremendous opportunity for staffing firms to be a resource and proactively share relevant market data with both clients and candidates. A firm that has access to business intelligence, like CareerBuilder’s Supply and Demand and Compensation Portals, can also use that as a selling point when trying to attract internal employees. Many firms are not yet using data across their organizations today.