Beating Coronavirus: 5 Steps The Recruitment Industry Can Take

By Tony Restell

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I’d sound like a right idiot if I said that beating coronavirus is simply a matter of leveraging social media and making other key changes in your recruitment business. Clearly global recruiting volumes are way down on what they were prior to the pandemic. Yet whilst I can't wave a magic wand and turn that situation around, what I hope I can do is share with you some of the steps that recruitment businesses are taking that are materially improving their circumstances in these most challenging of times.

To help with this let's think about the Recruitment industry in the simplest of terms. To be effective, our recruitment agency has to:

  • Win clients who’ll entrust us with filling their roles
  • Identify the candidates who are the best fit for each role
  • Win over candidates to want to work with us and pursue the opportunity to its conclusion
  • Ensure that clients progress the hiring process as swiftly as possible and don't allow it to become derailed

These are 4 steps we can look at improving during this crisis, which will both help us to get through this period without being decimated like some others in the industry - and also position us for greater long-term success. Plus a bonus step that’s just for today’s unprecedented circumstances - we could also explore if there are niches similar to those we already serve that are actually recruiting aggressively right now.

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

Winning clients who’ll entrust us with filling their roles

Let’s talk about specific things your team can do today to drive more client leads for the business, even at a time when the market is unquestionably more challenging.

Recruitment is not that dissimilar to other professional services sectors. People buy from others that they know, like and trust. That's why clients who are referred to us are such a blessing because people have been given a reason to leapfrog to the point where they are comfortable doing business with us - without the intensive months of relationship-building that normally would have to precede that step.

Whilst sales trainers will certainly give you some approaches you can use to try and spark more referral business being won, in practice it is difficult to achieve a rapid step change in this source of business. It's more of a win that accrues to businesses that have provided a great service over many years and that in time becomes a long-term source of competitive advantage over newer entrants.

The good news is, though, that two far more immediate sources of new client leads can be generated through social media. The first one, which is usually woefully untapped, is sparking conversations with the network of contacts you have built up over the last years. These are people who already know you - and hopefully also like and trust you from having seen you active in their niche market for many years. The challenge is to make sure that we are in conversation with them - and in front of mind - when they are at the point of potentially needing to make a hire.

There's often a tendency within the Recruitment industry to rush this step. Asking outright for a sales call... or if they have immediate vacancies that need filling... is rarely a successful strategy. Far more effective is interacting with these people in a way that gets a conversation started, one that can easily evolve into a discussion about your services and how you could help them.

“I’m doing some research for an article on the impact Coronavirus is having on hiring patterns in our industry and would love to get some expert input from you. Is there any chance we could find 10 minutes to jump on a call this coming week to discuss?”

Send a conversation-starter message like this to 100 of your prime contacts and I can guarantee you’ll have a lot of calls with decision makers over the subsequent weeks. Whereas if those same 100 people were messaged seeking a sales call, you’d be lucky to have a single phone call be sparked by that!

Recruitment Businesses Should Leverage Their Existing Contacts First

So focus on messaging existing contacts, running advertising campaigns to your existing network, commenting on posts of those you are already known by. This is focusing your efforts on the people most likely to “buy” from you - the people you’ve already built up trust and a relationship with. If you do this well, you should be able to spark multiple calls per day with people who are potential clients of your recruitment services.

If that’s not a possibility because you’ve under-invested in growing your network these last years, or because you’ve exhausted the network you have, the next best thing is to build new relationships on social media - but in a way that accelerates the building of trust. Reach out to potential clients - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram can all produce great results - with a focus on doing so in a way that gets a conversation started (ie. don’t talk about your services or how you’d like to work with them at all).

Do this well and you should see two significant wins. Firstly you give yourself a fighting chance of picking up new clients even as the crisis continues to unfold; but secondly you’ll also emerge into the subsequent upturn with a far stronger network of potential client leads who’ve been warmed up and are more likely to turn to you when they do ultimately need help.

If you yourself need more help with crafting these types of approaches, you’re welcome to either book in for a call with us or join the webinar I’m running that’ll be talking through how to apply these approaches in greater detail.

Identify the candidates who are the best fit for each role

Clearly, once you are working on an assignment, there is a huge pool of potential candidates you could seek to make a placement from. However, there's sometimes an assumption that everyone has access to the same pool of candidates now, with LinkedIn and other publicly available candidate databases having leveled the playing field.

I would caution that that is not the case. Whilst the low hanging fruit is easily found by everyone, it's the recruitment consultants who go the extra mile to uncover some of the candidates who are less easily found, who are likely to add the greatest value to the clients they are serving.

Candidate sourcing through social media and other sources is not something that Social Hire is at all expert in. So I'm not going to write at any great length here about the steps you might follow to improve your effectiveness. I’ll simply highlight that one productive use of your time during this crisis would be to significantly enhance your candidate sourcing skills. The likes of Irina Shamaeva and the Social Talent team provide some outstanding training to up your game in this area.

Win over candidates to want to work with us and pursue the opportunity to its conclusion

Once we have identified our most promising candidates, we then need to engage with them to convert enough of the top shortlist-calibre candidates to actually want to be put forward for the role and ultimately see the recruitment process through to its natural conclusion.

I would highlight two key things for recruitment consultants to work on here.

The two things we can really influence are firstly whether candidates recognise us in the marketplace and know, like and trust us; and secondly, whether the ways that we approach candidates are as effective as possible.

The first of these two things comes down to your own personal branding effectiveness. Individual recruiters are usually best known in their niche marketplaces in part through the visibility they are able to achieve on LinkedIn and in part through the market insights that they share - through activities such as blogging, podcasting, report writing and being featured in renowned industry publications.

Recruitment Consultants Can Take Steps To Improve Their Personal Brands

Clearly any recruitment consultant could work on one or both of these areas over the coming weeks of the crisis. If you have already invested heavily in these areas in the previous years, then additional investment now will immediately translate into greater visibility amongst candidates (and indeed clients). If you've neglected these areas up until now, well several weeks spent on either one should mean that you emerge from this crisis for better-placed to succeed in converting potential candidates into highly engaged and interested candidates in the future.

Here are two specific things you could invest your time in:

  1. Enhancing your LinkedIn visibility
  2. Getting onto the radar of industry publications and bloggers

There is one key shift that recruiters need to make in order to drastically increase their visibility on LinkedIn. The good news is it is something that recruiters are naturally inclined to be very good at - befriending people and building relationships. The challenge is that, in the rush to get quick results, recruiters often bypass this and end up focusing their efforts on promotion instead.

Make this change - and invest a little time now to seed getting better results - and you will enjoy a long-term boost to the market reach you achieve with your desired candidate audience.

Here are the key things to know…

  • LinkedIn rewards posts with ~100x the visibility if they quickly attract engagement when published
  • Other people are most likely to engage with the posts of people who have engaged with them
  • LinkedIn will learn to show you posts from people you tend to engage with; and show your posts to people who have shown an interest in your past posts

Take these things in combination and what that means is you can significantly raise your visibility on LinkedIn by investing a few weeks finding and engaging with as many posts as possible, ideally with posts that are relevant to the niche markets you serve.

Having done that, make sure you also post in the ways that the LinkedIn algorithm will reward. Here’s a post I wrote that shares exactly how to do that:

Recruitment Agencies Can Reach Far More of Their Market Through An Effective Guest Blogging Strategy

As for getting onto the radar of industry publications and bloggers, the goal here is to befriend others in your industry who would happily feature a blog from you on their website, or invite you to contribute quotes and ideas to be featured in articles, podcasts and videos they are already producing.

Recruitment businesses often find blogging and content production a challenge. But one of the biggest reasons for that is that they don’t have a large readership for this content on their own websites. So once the first blogs have been published, it’s hard to determine any impact that effort has had.

Guest blogging is a great way of overcoming that challenge, with two different angles of attack - and the Coronavirus slowdown is a great time to invest in getting better at both aspects of this. So on one side you could look to get your own content and ideas featured on other industry publications in your niche. This is an excellent way of getting far wider coverage for your ideas and brand than they would get through simply being published on your own site.

In addition to that, you could also build up a roster of other experts in your industry who would like the added exposure of being published on your recruitment agency’s blog. That allows you to publish regular original content on your website without needing to invest as much time in the actual content production as that frequency of publication would normally require.

The simplest way to achieve either one of these goals is to start to share the content of i) the blogs you’d like to become a publisher on; and/or ii) the industry specialists whose content you’d like to start publishing on your own website. Share that content with a meaningful introductory remark or compliment - and tag the other person or business so they are alerted to you having done this.

Pretty soon this activity will spark conversations with those external publications and authors, which you can then turn into a conversation about you actively contributing content to their website, or them contributing to yours. At the time of writing, we have ~3,000 blogs on Social-Hire, most of which have been contributed by external experts; and my own content and insights have been published on several hundred external websites (usually with links back to Social-Hire). Both were achieved by following the simple process I’ve outlined above.

The other thing I mentioned at the beginning of this section is whether the ways that we approach candidates are as effective as possible. Clearly everything from our phone manner to our voicemail etiquette to our emailing to our social media messaging could be worked upon. There are other experts out there who can comment more knowledgeably on most of these areas than we ever could. Be for the social media side particularly, we’d recommend finessing what you do with your LinkedIn messaging both in terms of how you build your candidate networks and also how you use LinkedIn messaging to engage potential shortlist candidates. There’s some great advice on this latter topic over on this Beamery blog.  

Ensure that clients progress the hiring process as swiftly as possible and don't allow it to become derailed

On this point, I should say immediately that I’ve never run a recruitment business, so these quick observations come from speaking with other business owners rather than first hand experience. That detachment almost makes the observations more striking though... 

There’s definitely a divergence in mindset between recruitment business owners at this time. I wouldn’t say it’s a split between those who’ve given up and those who are determined, because invariably people who’ve built their own business up are determined to see it succeed. So everyone is doing everything they can to see that their business makes it through this period.

The divergence though comes in how the “inevitability” of a big drop in business is being allowed to permeate the mindset of the business or is being crushed in the minds of staff. Amongst your corporate clients, there is an inevitability that people will take their foot off the gas and talk themselves into hiring processes needing to be slowed down or progress during lockdown not being possible.

This is a mindset that determined recruitment businesses are successfully challenging. Pausing recruitment now and restarting only when normality returns could set your recruitment plans back a full year. Losing the candidates you have in progress and having to restart the shortlisting process from scratch at some point only months from now will be a big setback. Candidates may also be reluctant to move then, whereas progressing the process now shows you are really committed to making a hire and helps reassure candidates they are doing the right thing.

So which type of recruitment business are you going to be?

Greg Savage shared the action plan of Daryl Williams of Vadar Moss, detailing how they’ve focused on being proactive and not just accepting that business is in a slump. The results have been positive and the steps are detailed right there in Greg’s post for you to follow. So do check that recruitment blog if you’d like to ramp up your effectiveness in keeping the assignments and placement fees coming into the business. 

Explore if there are niches similar to those we already serve that are actually recruiting aggressively right now

Last but not least, don’t discount the possibility of you temporarily switching the markets you serve in order to help meet stratospheric levels of hiring demand. Whilst a great many sectors are suffering at this time, there are also a great many that have seen the demand for their products or services go through the roof, pretty much overnight.

Your brand might not be as well known in the logistics, distribution, online retail, FMCG, etc. sectors as some of the more established recruitment agencies. But in instances where the need for new hires has become critical, you may have a shot at securing assignments in fields that are similar to those you do have a track record in. Or you could partner up to provide temporary extra recruiting resources to the recruitment agencies that are already established in those markets.

A time of rapid change always produces winners and losers, but it also produces sustained periods of high recruiting demand for the sectors positively impacted by that change. So if your own sector really is moribund, have a think about the other sectors you might move into just to get you through this period - and also whether partnering might be the fastest way to achieve this.

Concluding remarks

Working with recruitment businesses across the English-speaking world, we have a lot of exposure to the big picture of what’s happening out there. Plus the exposure to know what social media tactics are really producing quick wins for recruitment businesses today. I hope this has given you some positive food for thought - and if you’d like to join us for our upcoming webinar we’ll be exploring many of these ideas in greater depth. No charge, just our way of helping - you can find out more and register here. Good luck everyone and “see you on the other side”.

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You might like these blog posts 3 Key Steps To Make Your Business More Social Media Savvy, 5 Things That Can Make or Break Your Business Brand, Starting Social Media Conversations: 3 Things You Must Do First!, and Website Speed and You.

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