Business Development for Recruiters

By Liz Carey

NPAworldwide recently held a topical call, “Business Development- Let’s Grow!” where two featured panel members covered topics like: How can you set yourself apart from other recruiting agencies? And how do you get started with business development?

How did you get started doing business development?

Panel member 1 – I really got started doing it by talking to the candidates I was recruiting. I don’t think we do enough of that today, from management down. It’s about calling candidates – if they say “I’m not interested” or “No, thank you,” I took initiative to say “tell me about your hiring process” or pain points. They’d say “You know what, we’ve had really hard times filling this management position… it’s been open 6 months, my boss has used two recruiting firms. Why don’t you send me your info and I’ll send it over to my boss.” I get 10 hits a year by doing this alone. It’s a little bit easier and less ‘cold’ than you seeing job on Indeed and calling into HR. It’s warmer this way. Any call I make isn’t just recruiting, it’s business development as well.

Panel member 2 – If you have a robust ATS where it’s a relational database, code people as being a hiring authority as well as a candidate. That can help your pipeline. One thing that remains consistent is relationships. Relationships do not happen overnight. The spark for a meeting happens quickly, but how do you develop a relationship? The principals are 1) honest and integrity. Don’t promise something you can’t do. Make sure you are always under-promising and over-delivering and then the relationship develops bit by bit. 2) A relationship has to be reciprocal. If they say “Hey my next door neighbor’s brother wants to talk to you,” and you know you can’t do anything with them, you should still take 5 minutes to talk to them – even if it’s just to say “we can’t help, but have you tried XYZ (i.e. a resource like going to the local library)?” Don’t blow them off. We’ve had so much work come back to us because our reputation is that we care.

Why is continual business development important?

Panel member 1 – Each and every recruiter knows how many balls in the air they should have to be successful. My associate operates very well with several balls in the air. Myself, when I’m actively engaged in a retained search, I never could have that number of balls in the air. Know yourself and what you’re capable of. When 1 ball comes to a close, whether it’s an acceptance or not, have your sights set on the next search assignment you’re going to bring in the door.

Panel member 2 – You need to make the process for every candidate as seamless and professional as possible. If you can stand out in your candidate’s eyes, you’d be amazed at how many times they come back to you. They could become a hiring manager; so you need to do business development all the time. Stand out among other recruiting firms. The market is good right now – a lot of companies are hiring in many industries; along with that comes competition. Business development you can do by contacting candidates and making it seamless. They will remember you and will use you in the future if you can stand out. I can’t say how many times I’ve heard from a candidate “it’s really nice to hear someone’s voice, and not just an email”

What types of pitfalls do you encounter in business development?

Panel member 2 – “Rationalizing rejection.” A lot of times you’re going to get turned down. You may make a lot of business development calls and send a lot of emails before you even get the first person to call you. I don’t think it’s anyone’s favorite thing to do.

Panel member 1 – My pitfall is forgetting to do it. We get so busy in trying to fill. If you see your desk as a manufacturing plant, if you don’t get the raw material, you can’t make the product (placement). The other thing is getting too focused. When you know in your heart that a deal is going sideways, don’t put all your effort into that. Some of the time in your day should be put aside for business development, rather than praying and hoping a deal happens.

How do you set yourself apart from other recruiting agencies?

Panel member 1 – NPA has set us apart hugely. Whether we’re competing with the “big boys” or competing with regular staffing agencies who dollar per dollar flip resumes, whatever market in our business we’re competing against, it’s really important you leverage your membership in NPA. We’re not an association, we own the network. You are not alone in your search. Even if you don’t choose to use NPA, you literally can present yourself as being so resourceful in terms of being able to source candidates, that you’ve already differentiated yourself. Leverage NPA for sure.

Panel member 2 – Take time to put together really concise information, whether on site with client (we give documentation on how many people we’ve placed with them, what our retention rates are, etc. For an automotive client in a very rural spot, we included the openings we’ve filled in 3 years that are very rural). In order to differentiate yourself, do a little bit extra – tailor presentations more, it makes you stand out better than someone else. HR people get dozens of calls a day, dozens of LinkedIn messages a day. How do you stand out? Statistics, fill rates, # days before we qualify 3+ candidates, typical week-length start of a search, acceptance rate of offers extended. All things we’ve compiled over the years.

What’s the consensus on cold calling as opposed to modern day social media networking? And how do you differentiate yourself from the 100s of 1000s of “sales people” calling all day long?

Panel member 1 – I think both. They’re not mutually exclusive. You have to know your audience – whether or not they’re going to want to talk to a live person. Typically the higher you go, the more likely they’ll want to talk to you. Set a designated time to call. Use all techniques, but know your client.

Panel member 2 – Pick up the phone. There are a lot of people now that are inundating candidates, but they’re doing it almost exclusively via email (due to time changes, etc). Pick up the phone and call people. It’s almost a lost art – people are not calling people because we have access to so much more technology. But the first touch point shouldn’t be a LinkedIn Recruiter invite – use that to strengthen yourself, not “I hope this person reaches back out to me.”

When sending a blind email (e.g., a LinkedIn InMail, a Gmail, etc.) to a potential client, what do you use in the Subject line? Simply “Let’s connect”, or the more direct (get right to the point) e.g., “We recruit veterans for you”?

Panel member 2 – I’d get to the point. I would never pitch a business model in an email – keep it casual. I think it’s 70% of all people now are getting emails on their phone, and 60% the first time they see an email is on their phone. You don’t want to be very wordy – keep it very succinct & concise, because no one is going to scroll on the phone for 3-4 seconds to read entire email.

Panel member 1 – Two of my recruiters do a great job at this by finding a common ground, it might be they found they were listed in a publication or press release. People like to talk about themselves and their organizations – grab them that way.

Panel member 2 – I agree. “I saw you in the news recently…”

Attendee 1 – I use the subject line “help me help you” from Jerry Maguire. Almost always works. I do not position myself as a recruiter but someone who can help the candidate find a great job… so “help me help you”

Attendee 2 – Something I do to get a potential candidates attention, is the first thing I say is “GO POKES” if I am going after an OSU candidate… [change for whatever team/city you live in]. It has worked… I get a response, and you build common grounds with the candidate right out of the box.

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