Small glimpses of a recovery for both the Australian and UK recruitment industry may be coming into view, but times remain tight and recruiters have to scrap for every client, every order. One thing the recession has done, is highlight the paucity of true consulting skills across our profession. Years of talent shortages and desperate clients have allowed ‘résumé shufflers’ to succeed, even thrive, and the ability to actually connect with clients, service them as “trusted advisors” has been lost in many cases.

But as the saying goes, ‘on a rising tide, everybody floats. When the tide goes out you can see who has been swimming naked”. So I think its time for every recruiter to ask themselves a question. And you have to be totally honest when you answer.

Are you transactional or are you consultative?

In other words, do you provide resumes or do you provide expertise? Because your survival depends on your ability to provide something your clients currently lack. And with hundreds of competitors referring candidates indiscriminately, cheap job boards, and the emergence of social media as a talent source –resumes is one thing your clients do not lack.

If you are not sure whether you do provide additional value or expertise to your clients, try this hypothetical exercise.

Say you picked up the phone to your client today and said ’Bob, I no longer actually provide candidates. I want you to remain my client on the basis of the other aspects of value you get from dealing with me’.

What response do you predict?

Now this is a powerful exercise because it makes you face up to whether your clients do in fact value the consultative aspect of your offering. This is actually the real stuff behind that well worn cliché ‘value add’.

Does your client value your counsel in hiring trends, interview techniques and candidate specific questions for upcoming interviews?

You must differentiate your offer through your fresh approach to this business. Becoming a ’subject matter expert’ is what your clients (and talent) will be expecting of you going forward.

Sure, its true, clients want us to deliver quality candidates, and that’s what they pay for. But they want it bundled up in “trusted advisor” wrapping paper.

So you have to be the recruiter who can advise on such issues as….

Skill set availability – what skills are hot in the market and who has them
Industry demand – which sectors are competing for the best talent
Project “sex appeal” – what do the best talent like to work on
Required turn round times –how quickly can we access key hires
Salaries and benefits and trends in reward and compensation
Retention and staff development strategies
Corporate perceptions – of your client. In other words what can your client do to be a more attractive employer
Hiring and retention ratios. What is staff turnovers like in their industry
New techniques and tactics emerging – what are their competitors doing to attract staff? To retain people? To reward staff?

I believe that the role of the skilled recruiter who is trusted to provide knowledge, advice and guidance will become more valued by employers – not less valued.

But to get to that stage we need to be sophisticated in our selling, consultative in our approach and very clearly be able to point to how we add value through the process.

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