Recruiter Job Famine Coming to an End

Mike Nale is a victim of the recession. In less than three years he has gone from promising founder of a recruitment marketing agency in Oahu, to living in a pay-by-the-day room. Having long ago sold off his possessions and swallowed his pride, Nale depends on handouts from friends and the rare odd-job.

A few weeks ago he took the desperate step of sending a plea for money to his LinkedIn network.

“It was a slow, downward spiral,” he told me recently. “I could see it happening, but I thought, ‘It will get better. I’ll find a job. Something will come through.'”

At 6.9 percent, Hawaii’s unemployment rate is among the nation’s lowest. For Nale, though, it hardly matters. “I don’t know where the jobs are,” says the one-time Manpower recruiter who two short years ago was being interviewed for his launch of a jobs TV show for the Islands. “I was a recruiter. You would think I should know how to find a job.”

His last TV appearance was as the central figure in a news story about Hawaii’s unemployed.

Nale’s story may among the more desperate, but his difficulty in finding work is not at all unusual.

A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management cited in Fortune found that 47 percent of out-of-work HR professionals who found jobs last year had been searching for 6 to 12 months. For 27 percent, the job search took more than a year.

Now comes the good part: CareerBuilder says there were 17 percent more recruiter job postings in the first quarter of this year. Even more hopeful was the 37 percent jump in searches on recruiter resumes.

Mary Delaney, CEO of Personified, CareerBuilder’s search and marketing arm, said demand for recruiters “is coming back very strongly.” Surprising even to her is that the uptick is not just in contract recruiters, but in full-time recruiting staff as well.

At The RightThing, an RPO, companies that “downsized their recruiting functions …  are now looking for ways to re-build capacity and expertise quickly,” says Terry Terhark.

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“We are seeing a significant surge in urgent requests to rebuild recruiting capacity,” he adds, which means relying on The RightThing’s recruiters, besides hiring their own.

When I talked to John Sumser about the improving picture for recruiters, his take was that it will be a while, maybe a long while, before the recruiting groups can get back to even.

The layoffs of the last three years pushed out so many experienced recruiters that now there may be a shortage of them. With few companies hiring anyone, let alone recruiting teams, Sumser suspects that a good number of the unemployed recruiters turned to other work.

“We end up,” he said, “with an industry that needs to be trained from scratch.”

That has its downside, since companies will need to supplement their own recruiting efforts with RPOs and independents at least for a while. But it also gives employers an opportunity to realign recruiting efforts.

In fact, Qualigence CEO Stephen Lowisz has noticed companies are combining the task of sourcing with recruiting. He doesn’t say what he thinks of this, though he did note that “many companies hired ex-search professionals and created an in-house search function that has been both a cost savings, and in some instances, a documented improvement in candidate quality.”

John Zappe was the editor of and contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.