Aug 26, 2013
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

lobbyingWhat’s the difference between the recruiting industry and North Korea? North Korea has a lobbyist in Washington. So does Ultimate Fighting. But no lobbying firm represents recruiting interests in Washington. This means that we are unable to influence things like the immigration bill or anything that directly benefits us.

Lobbyists exist to get Congress to pass or change laws that benefit particular groups — so called “special interests.” So what can a lobbyist do for us? Here’s a list.

  • Get a national recruiting day. Dentists have one, Watermelon growers have one, the Red Cross has a month. So why not a day to recognize recruiters?
  • Have a standard for skills and data exchange regarding jobs. We don’t really have a national standard that allows jobs to be compared well. There’s O*Net, but it’s not widely used, and they don’t collect much data on how jobs compare across regions.
  • Influence legislation. Whether it’s immigration or laws that affect wages, labor supply, or pretty much anything else having to do with talent, the recruiting industry has expertise to offer. Business groups do some, but it’s narrowly focused. SHRM is consulted on labor laws but there’s no one providing a perspective on talent.
  • Make filling government jobs more competitive. The Government hires several hundred thousand people annually. Much of this is done poorly and very inefficiently. The process for selecting vendors is supposed to be transparent but can be so byzantine that it discourages many from even trying. Legislation can require that government agencies make it simpler for vendors to bid for and get business.
  • Require recipients of foreign aid to hire more Americans. Several thousand international agencies and NGOs receive funds from the U.S. Government — over $20 billion annually. These organizations employ large numbers of employees including several hundred thousand in temporary or short-term assignments of all types — administrative, technical, healthcare, operational, and executive positions. The vast majority of these openings are not widely known outside the agencies or local areas where the positions exist. Consequently many of these positions are filled from a limited talent pool or from a small group of “developmental nomads” who move from one agency to another. That does include some Americans but they are less than 5 percent. These agencies and NGOs also spend significant funds on recruiting employees from around the world. While some of these jobs do require special expertise in terms of the regional experience, language, or skills and experience necessary to work in developmental roles, most are mainstream jobs like finance, HR, IT, and healthcare that require the same skills that apply in any organization. Technically these positions are open to anyone but the visibility of these is extremely low, which makes it highly unlikely that any qualified Americans would apply, much less be hired. A law could require that recipients of foreign aid must use American recruiters.

So what’s stopping us? Cost is a major factor — lobbyists can cost several million dollars a year. Of course the benefits can outweigh the costs, so the industry should consider banding together to raise the money. Just requiring UN agencies and NGOs to use U.S. recruiters would more than pay for the lobbying effort.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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