[Podcast] Capitalizing on a Shifting Market with Chris Hesson

Is the market shifting? Are you noticing you have more down time in your day? In this episode of The Full Desk Experience, Kortney Harmon speaks with Chriss Hesson, Senior Product Consultant in Crelate’s Professional Services Department about how to proactively switch gears in a shifting market or possible recession. From looking at the metrics to evaluating your solutions, Kortney and Chris give you actionable takeaways to ensure success through a downward market trend.

Kortney Harmon: 

It comes down to, are you saying the right things? Again, goes to basics, but I’ve seen metrics kind of fall short with people because they’re like, “oh, our numbers are saying the right things,” or they don’t truly know how to analyze them. Have you seen the same? 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Absolutely. And I think while it’s true, the number that is most important is revenue coming in from placements. Absolutely, I do not disagree with that at all. However, what happens is when things are going well, you don’t ever look beyond that number. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

Hi, I’m Kortney Harmon, Staffing and Recruiting Industry Principal at Crelate. Over the past decade, I’ve trained thousands of frontline recruiters and I’ve worked with hundreds of business owners and executives to help their firms and agencies grow. This is the Full Desk Experience, where we will be talking about growth blockers across your people, processes and technologies. Today, we are going to talk about shifting gears proactively into a recession. Some staffing companies wait too long and end up reactively responding to a recession versus taking that initiative and working proactively to set yourself up for success. Thanks for joining me as I sit down and talk with Chris Hesson about things staffing companies are doing wrong. The why behind it and the solution you can start doing on your desk today to make a proactive change. 

Our guest today, Chris Hesson. Chris has not only been a successful recruiter himself, but he’s consulted with hundreds of offices within the MRINetwork as well as working with our current client base here at Crelate on the product service team. He’s going to talk shop with me today on the things he’s seen working and not working in so many offices. Hi Chris, we’re so excited. Give us the Reader’s Digest version of you and maybe your background in this industry and maybe why this topic speaks to you. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

So I think like most of you out there, I fell into the recruiting world by chance. I know very few people that graduating high school, going to college, it was their intention to develop a desk and become a recruiter. Nobody does that. We fall into it and it becomes our passion and it’s where we end up spending the rest of our career. So I fell into this world and I had worked at quite a few firms and at every single one, I became the go-to IT guy on top of running a desk. If it came to database management, what tools to incorporate, looking at internal operations and how do you structure a tech stack. That kind of became my wheelhouse and I found that while I enjoyed running a desk, I liked that component a little bit more. 

And for me, the value became how could I make other recruiters more efficient, more effective in running their desk? So that’s, been most of my career. I spent six years at MRINetwork as a consultant, as Kortney said, working with a large number of offices on very similar things, evaluating what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, helping them get the most out of their software. And I joined Crelate a little over two years ago to do the same. So I work with new customers coming on board, helping them with their data migration as well as getting set up and being really effective users of technology. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

I love it. I’m so excited to jump into the details, to really give our audience some food for thought and possible ways to change up what they’re doing now. Between your experience and my experience, I think we can have some good conversations today. So as a baseline today, we’re going to first discuss the problem and then we’re going to talk about the why behind them. But spending the most of our time during the solution part, hopefully Chris and I can give you some actionable things to take away to start doing on your desk today. And before we end, we’re going to go ahead and dive into an AMA, ask me anything. Feel free to put anything in the chat and we’ll hopefully be able to answer those. 

So we’re obviously here talking about the idea, are we in a recession? Are we not in a recession? I think it’s safe to say we’re either in or on the verge of a major shift in our industry. With that being said, it’s probably really important to self evaluate and ensure your business has a plan in place to weather out the storm. During that 2009 recession I believe, that staffing industry revenue in the US was reduced by around 28%, was a rise in unemployment of 30%. Not only did we see many staffing companies go out of business, we also saw those strategic and proactive staffing companies gain market share and hopefully, that’s what we’re here to talk about a little bit today. Chris, we’ve been working with offices and we’ve seen over the past few months, it’s really been a talent driven market, but that doesn’t mean that it’s here to stay. 

The mind shift and the market is truly shifting. When we think about and hear that word recession, you can just see eyeballs get wide and really people kind of get scared. So it’s really makes you pause as a leader. But the million dollar question is, what do you do differently? If anything? Am I already too late? And everything in our industry truly does shift and go in cycles, so this too shall change. Chris, do you have any insights on that? What are your thoughts whenever we say the word ‘recession?’ 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Well, if you’ve been in the recruiting industry for more than just a couple of years, you’ve experienced a recession before. This is something natural, it is cyclical. I think there are some unique elements about what we’re going into now, however. I think recession is a bit of an overkill in the term. While technically it is two quarters of shrinking in what GDP is technically recession, I think that is more still going back to the result of COVID. We had a couple years of artificial restrictions, so we had things outside constricting the economy and forcing it down. And the economy is like a rubber band, so things and forces from the outside are shrinking it. And as soon as those forces went away, it popped out and I think we had this massive period of growth. 

And I think really it’s less of a recession and it’s more of kind of getting back to a state of equilibrium. So I wouldn’t be too concerned, I don’t see this being 2007. This is not Great Recession territory from what I’ve seen. However, how you approach it as a recruiting firm is still going to be very similar. We’ve got to shift, you got to prepare, you said proactive earlier. That is absolutely the key. Don’t wait for this to happen and then talk about making a change. We got to jump into it now. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

Yeah, absolutely. I look at it as, that’s why I say market shift slash recession. I really think it’s just a shift, but it’s a shift in mentality. It’s a shift in what you’re doing. That doesn’t mean we’re not getting away from the basics. Most of what I’ve seen in offices, whenever they’re experiencing something like this, oftentimes, they’re behind the curve. I’m not quite sure if you’ve seen the same thing. Either, they have the idea of you know what? What I’m doing is working, so they’re going to write it out till it doesn’t. But I think it speaks to the problem itself. So we really have to get into the idea why is this a problem? So as we discuss the why behind this topic, it’s truly going to vary. Depends on your industry, it depends where you are geographically. It depends the size of your office and the size of your clientele. 

But again, we look at recruiting firms and sometimes they just wait too late till to make an adjustment. But in working with these agencies, there’s no doubt there’s been ups and downs. It’s really come down to a few reasons why they don’t act early. Chris, have you heard the idea and talking with all of these offices, it’s really, “well, you know what, what I’m doing is working, we still have business. I don’t need to make a shift.” Have you seen that? Because it truly is what’s working now, but they don’t make a shift until they realize, “oh my gosh, I should have done this months ago.” 

Chris Hesson: 

The biggest place I have seen it is around business development or marketing. When new firms come to Crelate, one of the things I always look to do is understand how their business actually operates, their go-to recruitment strategy, their go-to market strategy. And so many of the firms I’m dealing with will tell me, “I haven’t had to make a marketing call in the last two years. I don’t know how to market anymore.” Maybe they used to do MPCing or generalized marketing. They used to go out to bring in new business. They haven’t had to do that since the market started exploding post-2020. 

So there’s now this maybe muscle loss as far as how do you grow your business from a marketing standpoint and that cannot wait. You can’t wait until you’re running out of business and you have nothing to work on and then start marketing. You’ve got to start now, and you’ve got to work with your teams on how do you get them to shift their mindset from being, all I have to do is go recruit candidates or the jobs are just going to flood into me. You have to go out there and get it. You can’t wait for it to come to you. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

I really think whenever they get into this situation, it’s like, “I forget what I should be doing. I don’t know what I don’t know.” And it’s in reality, it’s been right in front of you the whole time. It’s how did you start your business in the beginning? What is the hustle that you had to have? Oftentimes, the name of the show or the premise is really the Full Desk Experience, but it’s not the full desk. The full desk encompasses the things that you need to do, but thinking of that as more like a balanced desk. So there’s the recruiting portion, there’s the sales portion. Are you running both sides or are you being able to make sure that your plates aren’t dropping? So we really have to understand, even though you might not be running a full desk, it’s really the idea of making sure it goes back to when we started. It’s like are you adequately time blocking? I know people that are senior cringe whenever you say something about time blocking. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Power hours time. It’s nails in a chalk board sometimes, to hear that. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

Power hours? I don’t do those things. So it’s really the idea. So I think number one, I think that’s truly it. We forget about going back to the basics. It’s just like anything else. I’m going to relate this to softball just because that’s been my world. Anytime I’m not hitting well or my players aren’t hitting well, I put them back on a tee. There’s no different in business now, we’re going back to those basic things. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Absolutely. And what’s interesting is most firms I talk to when I talk through how are they planning for the future, what are they looking to do from a business development standpoint, they know the right answers. And for most of you listening, you know what you need to do. You’ve been in this before, this is nothing new. When are you going to act upon it? And are you going to wait until it’s too late? Or are you going to say, all right, we need to shift gears a little bit and we need to start planning 3, 4, 5, 6 months down the road as opposed to waiting for the floor to drop out underneath you. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

Another problem I’ve seen in working with offices are, maybe they’re not looking close enough at their metrics. Because in reality, our metrics are really what drive our business today. So we may be thinking we know what the problem is or thinking we know the adjustment, but we’re not really looking at the numbers. We’re not looking to see does this equate this? Let’s go initial visits in the sales world, right? Okay, initial visits, are those leading? We’re not having our client base up. Well, is our number of first time visits up? Are those introduction calls up? Are you making them? And if they are, it comes down to, are you saying the right things? Again, goes to basics, but I’ve seen metrics kind of fall short with people because they’re like, “oh, our numbers are saying the right things,” or they don’t truly know how to analyze them. Have you seen the same? 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Absolutely. And I think while it’s true, the number that is most important is revenue coming in from placements. Absolutely, I do not disagree with that at all. However, what happens is when things are going well, you don’t ever look beyond that number to see why is it going? Well, what if something were to change? And I think metrics really have two key functions in a business. One is diagnostic, the ability to say if things are going well, what is leading to that? And if things are going poorly, why? So that’s, one. 

The other is forecasting, and this is something that I think recruiters in general and recruiting firms are terrible at. Using my metrics to plan for the future based upon what’s happening today. Based upon where my funnel is today, based upon the jobs I’m working on, I’m looking to bring in, what is my revenue stream going to look like 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 months down the road and what can I do today to fix that or change that? Right now, placements are rolling in. You’ve got jobs, candidates are here, they’re taking roles, you’re making placements. It’s very easy to not look below the surface. That’s where you’ve got to dig. You’ve got to jump in and see what’s going on, why and if my new job’s coming in, where to drop? How is that going to impact? What can I do to impact this change and make a difference? So I’ve got a good Christmas. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

And you mentioned diagnostics. Diagnostics are huge, but those are coaching opportunities not only for you as a staffing leader, but are for your managers. And if there is some downtime, now’s the time to be having those conversations. Now’s the time to make sure these people are getting better. So as you’re coming out of this recession, you’re skyrocketing, you’re launching into what’s next versus having a slow start, like you’re digging yourself out of a hole. If you’re doing the work now, it’s going to set you up for success later. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

But you got to be planned for it. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

All right. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Got to look at those metrics. This isn’t something you can say, oh, hey, I want to go back and capture this data and see it for the last six months, if you haven’t already been capturing it. You need to be strategic and think about what are those core metrics? What are the things? Am I using my system appropriately to capture that? Whether it’s an ATS like Crelate, whether it’s something in a spreadsheet, an external reporting system. If you are not looking at the data, you’ll never be able to fix it and change it. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

Absolutely. There’s so many things, we could talk about this for days. We could talk about metrics and data for days. Other things that I’ve seen too, when we talk about companies and organizations and they get stuck in their solution. And whenever I say that, companies get stuck in the idea of, well, I’m a direct placement firm or this is what I do. I do contingent placement only. We’re going to talk about this more in the solution so I don’t want to get too crazy. But the idea of just because that’s what you’re good at and that’s what you’ve been used to, that doesn’t mean you can’t be the one-stop shop for your clients. Offer different solutions, have different conversations, and even if you’re not ready to dive into it, stick your toe in the water. Start having some conversations to see how your current client base feels. 

Because what I hear is, “I don’t do that.” They walk away from it, “I don’t do that. We don’t want to be that person and we don’t want to get stuck in our solutions.” One thing you and I are probably going to definitely have a conversation about, but then the last but not least what I hear in this conversation is, “well, we’re in this recession or this market shift. I don’t have enough time to be proactive. I only have time to be reactive.” And I think this is the baseline of recruiting, good recruiters versus bad recruiters. Reactive, proactive, do you see the same thing? 

 

Chris Hesson: 

You don’t have time… 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

You see the difference? 

 

Chris Hesson: 

…not to be proactive. And I think that is the bigger component. You always can find an excuse to prioritize something over planning for the future. You will always find something, the immediacy, it’s in your face, it’s right there. But if you don’t take the time to stop and slow down and look at that next mile ahead of you, you’re going to crash and burn. And we’re coming out of that period where for the last couple years, hey, you’re riding that roller coaster up. You don’t really need to pay attention, it’s just kind of working and going. But we’re heading down and you got to know where is it going? Where’s the dip? Where’s the curve? How can you affect change? And it’s getting your head up, taking the time to invest it, and it is in investment more than anything else. You are investing your time to plan and see the success of your desk and the success of your recruiting firm. As you head into a client driven market or a session or whatever it may be, that change is worth the investment of your time. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

Absolutely. I feel like I’m picturing myself on a roller coaster with my hands up leaning into the curves. You have to really lean into those curves and not just close your eyes and hope it ends for the best. Obviously, every firm or agency is definitely going to have their own reasons why they’re having this challenge. The biggest value here is really what we’re going to do about it. We’ve talked briefly in smidges is about this, but before we dive into this solution, I’m going to jump on my soapbox for a second, Chris, bear with me. With all of these organizations that I worked with, and Chris, I’m sure that you’ve worked with in the past, really talking to leaders and executive teams, they have one thing in common. They seem to think they have a clear cut plan of what they’re leading their teams to do. After the discussion, the process has really been determined and poof, they think it’s all done right? 

They’re like, “we’re walking out of this meeting, everything’s great.” The only problem lies is, is it being executed? Is your entire bus going in the same direction or is it a bunch of Minions like running around with different strings? I’ll get into this topic at some point in time, but are you training your team on the new processes that you just said, is the new way? Who’s owning that for your existing team, your new associates that you’re adding to your team? I’ll get into that later, but really truly, what it comes down to. We’ve talked about metrics. Who’s holding your teams accountable to those metrics? Who’s auditing the challenges that arise through that new process? Who’s ensuring that they’re successful? And why aren’t we just going through the motions of it’s the way? 

My only ask as we dive into these solutions that we’re going to talk about is to make sure all of the leaders on this call are tracking what good looks like and make sure you’re not just adding to the process for processes sake. You and I have probably seen that way too often, well, this is the new way to do it. Just go, right? 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Absolutely. And I am a process guy through and through. Something I’m sure my offices have gotten sick of me saying is if there’s not a clearly correct way to do things, a clearly defined it right way, everybody’s doing it wrong. So having a process is absolutely key, but if there is no ownership or responsibility at the management level to ensure it’s being executed, it will fail. Ultimately making a shift like that, I think more than anything it becomes a culture change. My guess is that some of your firms, you have recruiters who have never actually been in a down market. They started when things are on the upswing, they haven’t seen the recession, they haven’t seen a client driven market. 

All they’ve known is, “I have jobs pouring into me. I need to go find candidates.” This is a very different world for them and I think you need to look through it of the lens of, how can you grow them as a member of your team so that they are building that foundation for your firm to make your way and grow and take that market share as the economy continues to shift. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

Absolutely. Learning culture is huge. I know being a previous director of learning and development, that’s huge for me, but let’s not SOP our people to death either. So I’ve really, I’ve been thinking about this topic on and on because you hear it on other podcasts, you see it in other articles. But I try to think about this in the solution of four main ideas of what our businesses can do today to make small shifts. So I’m really excited to hear your thoughts. If we get to the idea, they really have to analyze their current business and client volume and then come up with an assessment or think about it as a diversification plan to fill in those gaps. So that plan can consist of a few things. Number one, you and I saw this a lot whenever we were dealing with new franchise owners, but looking at your current geography and expanding while you’re still staying in your area of expertise. 

We often see these discussions really happen at the beginning of when someone’s starting a firm, but it’s not often revisited. So we get to the idea, are you nationwide? No? You’re just in a certain geography? Fantastic. Is that something that you should consider? Maybe if you want to open up another office location and you have to think about that market expansion, do you have a large client in another city that could really help you solidify that market expansion? It really comes down to whenever people think of recession, they think of, “oh, I need to add another vertical.” You are in your space and this is your space because you are good at it. We don’t want to mow the neighbor’s lawn just because, they’re looking for a person. We really want to talk about what we’re really good at and stay in that niche area. Chris, what are your thoughts as we talk about that geography thing? Do you think that’s something that’s often visited enough or thought about after the initial setup of someone’s business? Do you think that’s something that they could think of right now? 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Very rarely is it strategic. Often, it kind of falls into people’s laps and then they roll with it. I think in order to be strategic, look at it, less of saying, I’m going to do direction and more think basketball, you’re doing a pivot. You’ve got one foot planted in your space and you are now shifting or pivoting into another direction. And if you look at geography it’s, can I maintain the recyclability of my clients or can I maintain the recyclability of my candidates or can I maintain the recyclability of my geography? You want to have at least one point that you have confidence in, you have expertise in, you have knowledge in. 

And while that might be geography expansion, that also might be, well, I am specializing on manufacturing engineers and manufacturing type roles for my client. Maybe there’s opportunities for me to look at account penetration. Maybe I should be doing a different type of role. Maybe I could look at expanding into something very related where I don’t have to go out and find new clients. That’s the big thing, is you want to make sure you have to do the least amount of work to do something new. And if you can maintain the same candidate pool or the same client pool or the same geography, you’re ensuring that you can get the most bang for your buck and you’re able to hit the ground running very quickly. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

And you can go back to those current clients that you have to say, “hey, as I’m here, we thought about this or we’ve added this.” It’s really the idea of staying with what you’re good at. I love this topic because this is something as I get into, we talk about clients, but also thinking about or restructuring your target list of prospects. I see this as a huge miss, I’m not going to lie, and all of my years of training, this is always something that sticks out to me. Few companies do it well. You have your senior people that are running their desk in sales and they’re like, “I know who my prospects are.” But do you? Are you revisiting them? Are you revamping this list at all? Are you revisiting it every month? I worked with one of the companies that I worked with at my last organization and they were excellent at this, their managers really leading these conversations. But I think it comes down to how are your people getting their list? 

Where are they getting their data? How do they know they’re calling the right people? We talk about that. Let’s close our eyes, let’s call that person. We don’t want to do that, we’re just wasting time. It’s not close to the money for us, but we have to really get to the idea of doing our things well, like being in our space and doing it well. So not only should you be assessing your prospect list on a dare I say, monthly cadence, but you should really do it in a market shift as well. So right now is no better time to say, “am I calling the right people?” Find out what companies are still hiring, find out if they’ve had layoffs. You should be the keeper of your industry. 

I don’t know about anyone else. I love to set up Google alerts just for something to come to my office or to my inbox for, let’s say bathroom reading. But it’s really the idea of making sure I’m staying on top of what’s happening. That’s where I can go find good candidates. But like you said, that market penetration go above and beyond your industry. When I say that, I don’t mean adding a vertical, but go beyond the obvious types of industries that you serve. Focusing on those types of companies that need the type of people you’re going to offer because you already have them. There’s no shifting, there’s no, I have to recreate the wheel. It’s already there. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Absolutely. Maintain that level of recyclability, what can you reuse as you go forward? I think that’s key. I think for me, it also comes down to being very planned. If you go to any other industry and you look at the sales function, there’s always that planning period where you’re looking at setting what are your goals, what’s your quota? Where are those coming from? Very few recruiting firms do a good job of taking tried and true sales practices and implementing them in their recruiting firm. So what I would even look at is let’s take the remainder of 2022, let’s start looking at 2023. What is the revenue goal for your account management team? And less of, “oh, we’re just going to have placements come in, I’m going to do the work.” No, your goal is to bring in $2 million of placements in 2023. Well, what percentage of those are going to come from existing clients? 

Which clients do you think they’re going to come from? How many placements at each of those clients do you think you’re going to get? What percent as well should be coming from new business? What is the amount of work you’re doing? And this is something to track and keep an eye on all the time. These are basics that have really formed the foundation of some of the largest and most successful sales organizations in the world. Why are recruiting firms not doing it? It’s not rocket science. Again, I think as recruiters, often we view ourselves as reactive. We can only place a candidate if there’s an open job. First off, that’s not true. Kortney, you and I both placed candidates where there was no open job before. But get away from that reactive mentality, start to be proactive, plan for the future, have accountability. And I think all of these things we’re talking about are starting to tie together and painting that picture of what can a firm do as they’re looking to evaluate the market over the next several months. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

And I think whenever you say planning, and this is maybe my mentality of learning, there’s two separate parts of planning. There’s your everyday planning for your task to keep you on par, but then, there’s your planning to your goals and your revenue. So those discussions with your one-on-ones, your managers, your leaders to make sure you’re hitting not only your daily activity, but your monthly activity. Because honestly, it all flows, it’s one domino hits the next. So let’s make sure we’re starting on a smaller level and doing the right activities on a daily basis, before we get to those monthly and yearly and quarterly goal. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

And they’re both so important. You can’t have one without the other. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

Absolutely. We talked about this briefly up in the other part, but really talking about maybe a new value or new approach. So you talked about maybe reactivating clients that you’ve worked with or having a conversation. You can do a campaign, if you have the technology to do that. That would be amazing, but thinking of the idea, we talked about that new solution. Often people get comfortable in that, “well, I do contingent recruiting for direct hire only.” That is something when someone says the word contract, I think people get scared like, “oh, I don’t do that.” That doesn’t mean you can’t have the conversations. I think you really have to assess your client base to say, Is that something they’re open to? My bet is they’re already doing contract work with another recruiter, it’s just not you. But the problem is not only are they not coming to you for it, you are not the one-stop shop for them. 

If you do multiple things, then you can be multiple things to everybody. I look at this as, the builder that’s building the house. “Well, I want this, I want wood floors, I want the paint color. I want stone on the front of my house.” And the builder’s like, “sorry, we do carpet, this is the color that we offer. And oh, by the way, we only do vinyl siding. This is just the house that I build. See you later.” We don’t necessarily want to be that. We really want to be that person that is going to say, “we want you to come to us because not only do we offer everything that you need, but we really truly understand you and you’re smarter when you come to us just because of the knowledge that we have.” Chris, do you see, whenever someone says the word contract, people get scared? Do you ever see that? Because, I see it. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

I think for those who’ve grown up and only know, direct placement contract seems like a crazy world. And what’s interesting is in the scheme of things, the contract market is a massive part of the annual industry kind of recruiting industry revenue, I mean it’s huge. Overall, contracting is bigger than that direct placement side. But for those who only play in that direct placement space, it does seem scary and overwhelming. It’s a whole new market, I need to look at payroll and time keeping and all, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You don’t have to jump two feet in and say, again, I’m jumping a direction. You can pivot and one of the things I recommend doing is just start by asking easy questions to your clients and your candidates. For my clients, I would have that conversation and ask them over the next several months, I know we’ve been talking to a lot of companies and more and more looking for a flexible workforce, one that can scale as they bring on projects and scale down as things change. 

“Is that something you guys do or going to be interested in?” Very easy way task them. And then with your candidates, you want to start asking something in parallel. As the market shift and we’re seeing more and more candidates that are open to or looking at flexible or contract work, “is that something you’d ever consider? You’d want me to give you a call about?” Very easy, very questions that aren’t loaded, you’re not putting a lot of pressure on them. But now you have information and now you can start to connect the dots and if you do have that one client where they said, “yeah, sure, we’d be completely be interested in if you have someone in contract on this side.” Now you can make that introduction, “well, I happen to have a couple people might be worth taking a look at. Why don’t we set up something in a talk and see what happens?” 

Start with the questions. Every industry is going to be duck different. Some move into the contract staffing world much faster. But when you look at a recession or a down swing of the market, every single company starts to slow their perm hire and start to move towards a staffing model mainly to alleviate risk. They’re taking the burden and risk off of the company and they’re moving it on towards the potential employee. In order to plan for it, you need to start doing the same thing. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

I love this and this is my favorite time of year to ask this question. I was in the IT recruiting world, so did a lot of contract. But really, is the idea you’re getting to this point in time. You ask that question, they’re like, “well, funny you say that. I have a budget that doesn’t count towards my regular head count. It’s use it or lose it. So I have this project I need to get done.” It’s really, I think, truly about listening to your clients to understand where they’re talking about their pain points. I have the work that needs to get done. I have a budget that is not going to take out of if I hire an additional head to my staff. 

But really, the idea of actively listening versus just being so concrete to say, “this is what I do, here I am.” So people get so caught up in let me sell, sell, sell – they’re not actively listening, so I 100% agree. I think this is something, just take the baby steps, dip your toe in the water, understand what your clients are looking for because I guarantee if you have that conversation, they may already be doing it. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Oh, I guarantee you they are. For me, the coolest part is you now have an annuity that’s paying off all the time. I remember I had placed someone on, I think it was a six month contract. From what I’ve heard, I think they’re still on that six month contract 10 years later, which isn’t, It’s crazy, it’s not unheard of. Companies will bring in people on in the contract, contractors making more money per hour than they would as a full-time employee. The company’s actually saving on burden, the recruiting firm is doing well. It becomes that win across the board and a six month contract doesn’t mean it ends at six months. You can have someone on that six month contract and it keeps getting renewed and renewed. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that $1,000 check come in every week for the next year or two? That’s what contract staffing gives you the ability to leverage and start looking at. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

Not only have that contract coming in every month or every year, but also, let’s say they need a high abundance of those people or guess what, you’re going to get paid twice on them because once they have the conversion fee now to make them a permanent hire because they just tried and they buy it and they love them so much, we actually get paid twice. That’s my favorite part of this piece. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Absolutely. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

So many good things. I’m sure we’ll talk about this one a lot later too, one of my favorite things. But I think really now, we talked about that market shift. A good thing I put out a whole lot on LinkedIn, I was a little late to the game, I put it out yesterday. But really seeing what people are doing proactively, where are they focusing on? So we talked a little bit about that prospect list, they’re revisiting that. But the other thing that people are focusing on right now is focusing on passive talent. I know you mentioned this before, but good old MPCing is not dead. With our shift in our market, there is no better time to refocus on relationships. Building that queue up of your talent, making sure that you’re marketing than those people that are heads and shoulders above the rest of those people that you’re talking to. 

Then you can market those to your existing clients or your potential clients so you can show them the types of talent that you truly represent. Then they come to get this expectation of, “oh, that’s the type of the level of talent that you represent.” So it makes your process not only accelerate the hiring process at some point in time, but now, you’re also building up a baseline and patting your cue to make sure you’re ready whenever jobs start flying in. Or things are different because you’re doing the work now, not only with your candidates but with your clients. You see that’s something that’s impossible miss right now on people because, talent has been overflowing left and right. Well, I have all kinds of talent. People are getting laid off left and right, that doesn’t necessarily mean those are the types of people we should be talking to every day. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

So many firms have gotten away from some of that MPC model and I think it’s taking a different view of it. There was this initial idea that if I am going to MPC work, have a most placeable candidate and I’m going to market a specific person, the end goal was my client or my potential client hires this person. I think all you’re really doing when you are doing this MPC process is you are selling a product as opposed to just selling yourself. Ultimately, when you go through business development and you have that first conversation with a new hiring manager or a new company, there’s really three things you’re talking about. One, maybe you saw posting on a job board and you know they have an opening. Every recruiter is calling them to talk about that, lots of competition. Two, you are pitching yourself and being, “hey, look at me, I’m a great recruiter.” Lots of recruiters are saying that. 

But if you can come with a product and say, “hey, here’s the type of thing I can bring to the table. This now is a differentiation factor. Now, maybe they buy that product or not, but you are demonstrating that level of talent, I think you’re bringing to the table. That is going to speak volumes to the type of recruiter you are. So using that, find those rockstar candidates. Who are those ones that have the ability to make an immediate impact for companies that are willing to work with you? Take them out to market. Maybe they’re the ones that get hired, but you can use them as a door opener to build relationships with new companies as well as find new opportunities that you may not have had knowledge of, prior. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

We need to get out of that transactional. I’ve heard this so often like when you hear, you sit in training and you listen to people, they’re like, “if you need a guy, I got a guy.” We need to get out of that transactional. We really need to be, it’s about, my mom always used to say this and it drives me crazy. “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” And it’s how you position these people. Really understanding, if they pick that person and say, “oh my gosh Chris, thank you for calling. That’s the exact person we needed on the exact day, please go play the lottery.” That’s not the purpose of this. It’s really truly to say, “oh, you don’t need this type of person?” “Oh, what do you need?” And listening, there is no harm in silence. Sit and listen to what your people are needing, because that’s truly even different than what people are doing today. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Absolutely, couldn’t agree more. And I think most of this as a recruiting firm, as an owner or for most of you with some tenure as a recruiter, these are not new concepts. Kortney said at the beginning, it’s getting back to basics. You know what to do, are you going to wait to start executing on them or are you going to do it now in preparation for the future? 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

Last but not least, the fourth thing that I have on here is really for actionable items is, get your sales and recruiting teams involved and align in your processes and make sure that you’re measuring your team to those. Your tools and technologies are there to help you give a holistic view of your business, not to muddy the water. Chris talked about this a lot, is make sure we know what we’re measuring, make sure we’re holding those people accountable. We’re going to get to this more in two weeks. I really want to dive into process and where maybe it’s killing some of our industries and our organizations. But I really think now is a great time to make sure we’re diving into our process, making sure we have everyone set up for success versus just having someone do it for doing it sake. 

 

Chris Hesson: 

And if you look at this change in the market, recruiting is going to be harder. It’s been relatively easy for those firms that survived and made it through the mascara. It’s been a gang busters couple of years. It’s going to change, recruiting is going to get harder. Which means we need to make it easier for our teams to be successful. When it comes to process, a lot of the firms that I work with and onboard and consult with, there’s two key things I look to leverage. One, how can we design a process that is easy? One that is simple for your recruiters to do the right thing for your sales team to do the right thing and they’re following the right process. 

The second is, is that process then capturing the data I need to make informed decisions about my business. Can I have that diagnostic understanding of what’s working or what’s not? Can I have that forecasting understanding of where is my business going to be in the next three to six months? So super excited to hear your process focused podcast in a couple of weeks, but keep it simple. Recruiting is hard enough. We do not want process, we do not want technology. We do not want things inside of our control, making it harder on our team to be able to bring in and make placements. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

100%. I get nerdy on that topic, so we’ll dive into that later. I believe at this point in time, we’ve wrapped up our main part of our discussion. I’m going to open it up for the ‘Ask Me Anything’ before we summarize and we get to this point. Actually, I think we have a question from the audience. 

 

Audience Member: 

“You mentioned earlier, make sure that the bus is going in the same direction. What’s the best way to get everyone on the same page?” 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

 That’s a great question. Oftentimes we are so close to these processes, we really get blinded because they’re right here. It’s truly the idea of making sure everyone is on board. I talked about that process piece, but making sure your team is a part of that process. Make sure your managers are understanding what they should be holding their people accountable to. 

Just because you as a staffing leader or the leader of your organization want this to happen. I think it comes down to truly the people understanding the why behind what you’re doing. I don’t know about you, Chris. I can get behind something when I know the why. But if I’m just told so to do something and like this is the direction we’re going and I have a different opinion, it probably is a little bit harder for me to get behind. So understanding the why is crucial in my perspective. Chris, do you think the same thing? 

 

Chris Hesson: 

Absolutely. I think if you look at, this goes back to that kind of culture change, process change and culture change go very hand in hand. When you’re changing the way we do things around here, and that is the most difficult thing I think any organization can go through. So when you’re making this process change, if you are not involving your team, your recruiters, your sources, your account manager in these decisions, you’ve now increased that barrier to entry that people actually pick it up and run with it. Now at the same time, you don’t want to go the other direction where you’re getting so many voices and so many inputs and you’re building this process that accommodates everybody. People will have to change. Change management is a big thing, but people are more likely to change when they understand the why, the what. But how is it going to impact them? 

For me, where culture change lives or dies is honestly at the management or ownership level. If a manager, if an owner is not bought in and is not taking ultimate accountability for this, it will fail. This is not something that you can put out as a directive and think it’s just going to work. Ultimately, if you’re a business owner, nobody cares more about your recruiting firm than you do. And if you are not willing to pay attention and jump in and help push this through and champion in it, nobody else is going to be able to carry that mantle. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

That is 100% true. As we look at this, it’s like I really try to think of those change management things really around three things. It’s people, processes and tools, less these tools for an example and an ATS. If your owner can’t jump in and understand how to use that ATS, why should anyone else want to? I have seen this time and time again to say, “well, I don’t do the day to day stuff.” People get behind it. When you’re truly leading the charge, learn it, live it, actions actually speak louder than words. Another question from the audience. 

Audience Member: 

“I know you said not to mow the neighbor’s yard, but if I can see that it needs mowing, aka, if I see the need in different verticals, why wouldn’t I just jump into that?” 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

Yes, you live beside your neighbor, you want to see their yard mowed. Absolutely, I understand that. It’s really the idea of when you get into business in this recruiting world, you become the expert. That’s really truly what you want to think of yourself as. You’re the expert, you’re the consultant. You want people to come to you to really find out or be smarter when they talk to you. So if I’m in the IT space and I’m working with Azure and SharePoint and .NET development, I can’t go talk about the person that’s doing commercial construction as much as I could probably talk about it because my husband’s in that arena. I really can’t answer the trials, the tribulations, the things that people are getting wrong, the things that candidates and clients are doing or experiencing. Because I can’t talk about the trends, maybe regulations that are coming down the pipeline. 

You really want to stay in that niche area that you’re good at, it’s your sweet spot. And you can truly provide influence with those conversations. So whenever you have the conversations, you can give them insights to say, this is what my other clients in this area are doing, this is what they’ve experienced, this is how they’re overcoming this problem and this objection. You can really dive into those details, but whenever you’re mowing the neighbor’s yard, so to speak, it’s like the blind leading the blind. You’re trying to figure out is this the right way? Can I give them the right insight? And you’re not truly going to be known for the person in this space. Chris, do you have anything to add on that? 

 

Chris Hesson: 

I think what’s interesting is, Kortney, both you and I worked with brand new recruiters starting their own businesses from scratch. And for those of you who run a firm or run a desk, think back to your first one or two years, they’re rough. There’s a lot of work you have to do. Like you’re in this uphill battle. You are Sisyphus pushing this rock uphill, trying to get to the point where you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Those first couple years in a new space, it’s a lot of work with very little return. If we’re looking at a down market, you need something that is going to have a faster return. Now, there may be cases and it may be the right decision to say, “hey, we’re going to move into this parallel space.” I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m saying you need to be very mindful and planned for it. 

And if we look at a recession or if we look at a down market, typically those things are, it’s half a year, it’s a year, it’s something. This is not something that drags on for 10 years. I want to be able to see that return faster. So think of again that basketball pivot. I want to be able to say, “am I pivoting on my candidate pool?” So my existing candidates, can I take them and can I market them to a different industry? If I have that as my pivot point, I don’t have to go find new candidates. Or can I take my existing clients and pivot towards maybe new roles? Well, now I don’t have to find new clients. So what is your pivot point that is going to lead to increased revenue in the least amount of time? So for me, that’s why it’s not just a, oh, there’s this hot market over here, go jump in. 

When Kortney and I had worked with new firms, I remember people asking me all the time like, “what’s the best industry to recruiting to recruit in? Where should I recruit? What’s hot?” That’s the wrong question because I mean, look at yourself as a firm. Look at all the other firms you know, can make money recruiting for anything. I don’t think you can say like this one, sure fire, if you go here, bet everything on this horse, you’re going to win. That’s not how this industry works. You have to have a passion, you have to have an understanding for it. You’ve got to put in the hard work. So don’t just look and say, “hey, here’s a need. I’m going to jump in and then fill it.” Can you pivot towards it? Maybe put together a plan of I’m going to take a series of pivots over the next period of time and look to grow my business, but jumping from one space into another, that’s rough. Can some people pull it off? Absolutely. Those are the few and the rare exceptions. Pivot, don’t just jump into something new. 

 

Kortney Harmon: 

And there’s also validity when having the discussion with your clients and they ask you for something that you can’t provide and you say, “that’s not my space.” Being able to connect them with someone could be a possibility too. But really giving them the idea to say, I value your relationship enough to say, I just don’t want to throw spaghetti at the wall. I want you to know that this is where I’m good and this is the value that I provide. Then that’s going to stick in their brain and they’re going to make sure they come back to you for those specific things. But again, you can network, you can do those things. I absolutely agree, Chris, it is a pivot situation. Doesn’t mean people can’t be successful at it, but I wouldn’t jump in both feet ready to go. I don’t see any other questions. In summary, we really talked about some highly actionable things that you can do as quick fixes to break the baseline problems. 

Moral of the story today is, don’t accept status quo. Investigate every part of your process, understand the full picture of your metrics, not just the picture your tech is painting for you. Understand, be honest with yourself. Get that line of sight of what your business is truly doing and stay process driven, proactively planning, assessing your prospect list. Exploring additional solutions that we talked about, whether it’s having that contract conversation or whether you’re going back to proactively marketing, passive talent. Whatever you decide to do, you’re going to bring value to the not only the new clients, but existing clients. This will limit the impact this market shift has on you and your business and will help you recover faster to increase your market share. I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite quotes today. ‘Do today what others won’t, so you can do tomorrow what others can’t.’ 

It comes down to putting in the work folks, be better than the rest. I challenge you to look deeply and critically at your workflows to see if you’re doing the right things. Encourage your team, but also challenge everyone to make that shift and make time to be proactive. These small changes will drive greater efficiencies and strengthen your relationships not only with your candidates, but your clients and launch you through this market shift. I want to take one last minute here to thank Chris for joining us. I really appreciate your insights and truly always enjoy talking to you. 

I’m Kortney Harmon with Crelate. Thanks for joining the Full Desk Experience. Please feel free to submit any questions for next session to [email protected] or ask us live next session. If you enjoyed our show, be sure to subscribe to our podcast wherever you listen and sign up to attend future events that happened every other Tuesday at 3:00 PM, Eastern, 12:00 PM, Pacific. 

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