Lessons from the Recession

Mar 14, 2002

Now that the Federal Reserve has made public that the economic recovery is underway, we can start to consider the many valuable lessons that have been learned during the downturn. When the economy contracted over the last 12-18 months, a natural cleansing of recruiters and the recruitment industry as a whole occurred. It’s unfortunate that many people involved in our industry lost their jobs, but there is a silver lining to the downturn. The lure of quick money was very attractive for those that jumped on the recruitment wagon in the late ’90s without any true recruiting experience. But when the slowdown hit the economy hard, these same folks were usually the first ones out on the street looking for a new line of work. For those of us who remain, there are some valuable lessons that we should all take away from this recession:

  • Experience is king. Anyone who is still involved in recruiting ó whether corporate or executive search ó has learned a few things from the slow economy. Recruitment can be a very rewarding and lucrative profession with the right market conditions. But when conditions are difficult, like what we have been experiencing these last few months, you learn how to survive. Surviving doesn?t mean making bad placements or hires, it means making all of your daily activities count. What I mean by that is that you had to go back to the basics (e.g., cold calling, networking, etc.) to find quality candidates in the most cost effective way possible. These have been hard times for many, but the experience that you have gained over the last year will make you better at your job.
  • Client relationships count. We all learned that strong client relationships can help carry you through difficult times. This applies not only to an agency setting, but a corporate setting as well. In terms of an agency recruiter, the ability to develop strong client relationships has proven extremely valuable during rising unemployment and layoffs. If you have clients that trust you and know that you are looking out for their best interests rather than a quick buck, you will keep that clients business even when hiring slows down. As far as corporate recruiters go, developing and building internal client relationships can help save you from the pink slip parade. If you have been able to demonstrate your value to your hiring managers as an important part of the organization’s success, you have greatly improved your chances of remaining employed.
  • Keeping overhead down helps. There are many new tools, gadgets and services in our industry today. Many of the unsuccessful ones have fallen by the way side during this recession. Again, this is a good weeding out process, separating the good from the bad. We have all been in a situation where you want to purchase that new software or try a new type of service to improve your recruiting capabilities. Now that the days of free spending have come to an end and busier times are on the horizon, you really need to look at what you need rather than what you want. In the hiring frenzy of the late ’90s, recruiters were willing to throw thousands of dollars away on an unproven product or service in the hopes that it would yield them more qualified candidates. Unfortunately, many recruiters spent a lot of money on things that didn’t work. Now is the time to reflect on those decisions and plan accordingly for the future.
  • Nothing is free. The days of “free” on the Internet are coming to a close as well. Just a few short years ago most products and services offered on the Internet were free. Sites like ERE have maintained that model and have proven that there is profit in free information. Slowly but surely, though, things have begun to change. I go back a few years, but I still remember when used to be a free. No such luck anymore. Also, AIRS has just notified all of its alumni and members that their content is no longer going to be free to the general public effective March 31st. They have obviously realized that there is value to their content and to remain competitive in the marketplace, they need to generate revenue. I could go on and on about how more and more pay service are cropping up on the Internet, but we all had to know that you don?t get anything for free.

As we look forward to the second half of 2002 there is cautious optimism for growth in the recruitment industry. All the economic signs point to a brighter future, but it’s important to remember what made you successful over the last year. These are valuable lessons that cannot be easily taught; they have to be experienced first hand.

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