The Push and Pull of Recruiting: Who’s in Charge Here?

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Jul 20, 2011
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

It’s a never-ending battle. We are at opposite ends of the table from our corporate recruiting counterparts when it comes to what we want:

Us: Biggest fee for least amount of time investment (particularly for those who are strictly contingent)

Them: Most amount of effort invested by third-party recruiters for the smallest fee (hence the frequent “cattle calls” for searches)

…don’t forget the Candidates: Damn — they just want a job!

Supply and demand often dictate who is at the helm in these relationships. Everyone involved takes turns. being “in charge.” That’s why we’re all so interdependent on one another and why good relationships are so important to maintain.

Who’s in charge?

In a strong economy, where businesses are thriving, the candidates are in the driver’s seat. Demand for companies’ products and services rises, and workers are in demand. Candidates have greater negotiating ability when they are the ones in demand and the supply is short for qualified talent. Additionally, third-party recruiters are secondarily in charge at this time — but only if they’ve taken the time to nurture and maintain relationships with both candidates and corporate recruiters. Those who developed trusting relationships during a weak economy will see the fruits of their labor realized with higher demand for their services to unearth the absolute best candidates.

When the economy is down, it’s the corporate recruiters who hold the cards, because frankly they’re the ones with the jobs (even though they may not have many). Though their resources may have been stripped down to bare bones, it’s during this time that budgets are tightened and third-party recruiters are used less to “save money.” Many of you see this in the form of haggling over fees (even though it happens no matter what the economic situation!) and “preferred vendor lists.” Candidates as well during these times usually do not have as much negotiating power — jobs are fewer, and unemployment is typically higher.

When the economy is in recovery — that’s when the third-party recruiter is in charge. During down times, corporate recruiting teams are usually stripped down to minimal staff, since not much hiring is being done. At the beginning and toward the middle of recovery, hiring starts to pick up (slowly, of course) but the staff to handle the new req loads has been let go. Therefore, help is desperately needed to fill the new openings with the right people.

Right now, we are in a recovery period. Many of you have told me that you’re having record years so far. But there are still some nagging issues in the recovery that need to be dealt with.

The future is still unclear

Yesterday, ManpowerGroup addressed the challenges facing both businesses and individuals in a chaotic and complex work environment at The Atlantic’s New Work Era Summit in Washington D.C., which brought together government and business leaders to discuss the issues facing American workers today and how to best prepare for workforce trends in the future.

Jeffrey A. Joerres, ManpowerGroup chairman and CEO, had this to say about the current situation:

“The chaos and complexity of this new world era, which ManpowerGroup has identified as the Human Age, is posing supply and demand challenges that threaten economic growth. With demand for their products and services remaining soft, companies are so margin squeezed that they are only willing to hire when they can find a perfect fit. When demand does comes back there will be no shortage of available candidates, but there will be a lack of qualified talent, sparking an employability crisis. In the meantime, just as companies have become more sophisticated with systems that allow them to facilitate just-in-time manufacturing,’ they now have similar capability through more visibility of their workforce. In the face of spikes in uncertainty and weaker demand, they have the ability to dial down their workforces, halting hiring at a moment’s notice and operating in a ‘just-in-time talent’ mode.”

After a rise in jobs growth in April, the BLS numbers for May and June showed hiring has slowed, with only 18,000 new jobs created during June and unemployment rising to 9.2%. At the same time, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to fill mission-critical positions. ManpowerGroup’s 2011 Talent Shortage Survey found that 52% of employers are experiencing such difficulty — up from 14% a year earlier. This is the highest U.S. percentage reported in the annual survey’s six-year history.

Lots of employers cite candidate-specific factors for being unable to solve this issue, including a lack of experience, technical skills deficiencies, or inadequate workplace competencies. My question at this point is this: why weren’t these issues in a strong economy? The answer is that companies have become more picky in what they are looking for, essentially changing the profile for a given job, yet possibly not fully reflecting this in job descriptions. In my opinion, “picky” in this case is more a reflection of caution and being “gun-shy” to invest again in the workforce when the future is yet unclear.

So, who’s REALLY in charge?

At this stage in the recovery, it’s really anyone’s game. In theory, during a recovery period third-party recruiters would be in charge. But it would seem the corporate recruiters are also in charge because of their hesitance still to hire — even though they have open reqs — citing lack of qualified candidates (even though they are out there). But the GOOD candidates are also in charge, because the instability yet of the recovering economy has made them hesitant to leave their current work environment — even if it’s a bad situation for them — for greener pastures unless a really good opportunity is presented.

Of course, a lot of this is dependent on geography and industry. For example, Silicon Valley is experiencing a big boom at the moment — TechCrunch recently ran an article on the growing divide between Silicon Valley and “Unemployed America,” yet according to a colleague of mine in Los Angeles,  it’s “like a freakin’ depression [down there] with concession stands at Dodger Stadium boarded up.”

I am not an economist. I’m just a gal with eyes for observation and an opinion to share. I’d like to hear your thoughts on who’s in charge right now. What do you think?

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This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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