The Economy, How to set yourself up for Success when the Market Slows

Are you worried about the economy yet, and how it will affect your business? If not, you should be. I'm fortunate in that my focus, technology, has not slowed down, yet. It most likely will, eventually, but at least I'll be ready for it this time.

Back in 2001, coming off the fast and furious internet boom, we initially thought the slowdown was just a blip, a bump in the road that would quickly smooth out. This internet thing was just too big to go away, right?
Needless to say, we were all blindsided when the bubble burst, and it burst hard. Back then, VC firms were throwing money at any start-up with an interesting internet idea. One of the key problems was noone had figured out how to make money on the internet.

When I first started in recruiting, back in 1994, I was fortunate to have some really great mentors. One of them, Dave Tomer, taught me pretty much everything I know about recruiting and I'll never forget one of the first things he said,

"Everything is cyclical. About every 7 years or so, the market tanks and you just have to be ready for it. Work smart, and work hard. It's tempting to coast a little when times are good as it's easier to make things happen with less effort, but if you work just as hard when the times are good as you do in the downtimes, you'll be way ahead of the game. So that when your income drops and you're making a third of what you used to make, you go from 300k or so to 100k and you can still buy plenty of diapers on that."

He used to use that diaper analogy a lot. :) But his point was simple, and he said I actually had an advantage starting out when the market was still not so great, because I had to work hard to make things happen. Back then, 15% fees were the norm and we were still faxing resumes back then, no e-mail, and no internet! It was all about the phone back then and it was hard work. We called out of directories, networked liked crazy, and my biggest source of leads was boxes of old applications, calling candidates to reactivate them, and calling their references to see if they'd be interested.

Then when the internet boom hit, our office swelled from 30 something people to over 100. Seemed like if you knew what Java was, we could get you five interviews that same day, and multiple offers were the norm.

E-mail, web advertising, and the job boards had arrived, and suddenly we had a whole crop of newbie recruiters who didn't really know how to recruit, but were still making placements like crazy due to the market. They thought recruiting was easy, and in a sense it was.

But when the market crashed, these recruiters were at a loss. If they didn't find candidates easily online they didn't know what to do. Since agency recruiting is a commission job, the majority of these people either moved over to the corporate side or got out of recruiting completely.

The ones who'd been around awhile, were a little more prepared. They found ways to stay afloat, and even to prosper. How? By doing the following:

~~~Diversifying. If you have a narrow focus, now is the time to broaden it a little, so that the impact won't be as dramatic if one sector suddenly shuts down.

~~~Step up your communication with everyone. Reach out more now to your clients, and especially to those smaller clients that maybe only use you once or twice a year. Just check in and say hello. You want to be top of mind when they do have a need, instead of desperately calling once the market really drops and then you'll be in line with everyone else who is scrambling for orders.

~~~Same goes for candidates. We're all busy, but make more of an effort to 'touch' all of your candidates more often. Even if you don't have anything new, call and give them that update. They appreciate it more than you know and you'll get more leads and referrals from them. And be sure to call them and congratulate them when they do get a job, regardless of who places them. They'll remember you and may very well become a client if you treat them well.

~~~Start working harder NOW. Seriously. Tell yourself that the market is going to shut down in six months and you have to do all you can before that time period to prepare. Work more hours, place more candidates, and develop new clients, and save as much as you can. That way, even if the market does slow, you'll still be able to ride it out.

~~~Keep an eye on trends in the market, such as what kind of companies are receiving VC money, both initial and additional rounds. This can point you in the direction of opportunity and potential growth markets.

~~~Get organized. If you don't have a working ATS system, get one, there are many inexpensive ones out there. If you do have one, make sure all your information is current and in there. (Note to self....go through Outlook and get all those resumes and emails into the ATS!)

~~~Use that ATS. If you don't send out regular mailings, you are missing out on a HUGE source of referrals and placements. You don't have to do a fancy newsletter, just the occasional simple email with a few hot jobs. You will be guaranteed to hear back from people, candidates who took a job and it didn't work out the way they expected or referrals as people who receive your email forward it to their friends. This is so hugely powerful when done well.

~~~Invest in training. Any training to improve your skills. You know which areas are not your strongest and even if you feel pretty good about your skills, you can always get a good idea or two when you listen to a speaker. There are webinars available all over the net and regional and national conferences abound. I went to a regional one last April, and was thrilled by all the great info I was able to immediately implement. Plus, it gets you energized to try something new.

~~~Remember, that this is a fun job. The busier you are, the more fun it is. And no matter how slow the market is, you can always be's completely up to you!

Happy Friday!

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