Successful strategies - For recruiters in candidate-short markets

Published: 28 Apr 2016

In specialist markets short on candidates, recruiters often act as headhunters – without the benefits usually associated with operating in search.

It’s a difficult situation. With most specialist markets short on skills, many recruiters are having to develop their technique in approaching candidates.

However, consultants are often unprepared for the shift in psychology required to manage candidates who have been sought out, as opposed to those  that come to the consultant in search of a job.

What most consultants do not appreciate is that this candidate has a completely different level of commitment  to the process than a candidate who is applying to roles or  has already actively made a decision to explore new options.  At the same time, the client also lacks commitment to any individual consultant’s process because they are likely working with multiple agencies on a contingency basis.

So recruiters are effectively working a headhunting model to generate candidates without the benefit of a retainer. There’s a reason search companies work on retainers only!

Here are our top tips for operating effectively and efficiently in this environment:

1. Only work on exclusive vacancies

You can’t dedicate enough time to fully search for and approach candidates if you are managing too many vacancies with non-committal clients. It will feel strange at first but  you really don’t need to be working on 20+ vacancies at a time. Strip it down, work with  the clients who will commit to a period of exclusivity.

Demonstrate how much more of your time they will benefit from and how much more proactive you can be on their behalf.  After all – the onus is on you rather than them to prove this works. Once you have a strong track record with these clients you will have a better chance of moving to a retainer model.

2. Remember it’s a seduction

The onus is on you to motivate the candidate to first entertain the idea of a new opportunity and then to do what you need them to do in order to be able to represent them to your client. You can’t just wave a job description at them. You must gain enough useful information about the role to be able to talk to the candidate in more detail than you are probably used to.  You then need to secure their trust in order to guide them through the next steps and motivate them sufficiently to produce a CV for you. The level of communication, feedback and management of your candidate throughout the process will be more in-depth than before as you seek out more detailed information at each stage of the process.

3. Candidates are more likely to drop out

Face facts – candidates who have been approached are more inclined to stay where they are than to move, so expect counter offers and offer rejections.

Anticipate this, and plan to increase the number of candidates on interview. Your management of the counter process must be robust. This is easier to do if you are working on fewer but higher quality roles.

4. Hold out for bigger fees

The work you produce here is far greater than anything you would have done for your clients before. You will be unearthing more high quality candidates than before, so stick to your guns on top-line fees – you’re worth it!

Take a quick review of your desk. If you’re managing in excess of 10 roles at a time but converting less than two placements per month, there’s room to improve your process. Let’s stop applying 1990s thinking to 2016 – it’s time to move on. 

By Tara Lescott

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