Recruiting is all about relationships. Contract staffing is no exception. Getting contract job orders depends on your ability to nurture existing relationships with clients and creating new ones.
When it comes to building client relationships Linda Blakemore, President and Owner of the Atlantic Pacific Group in Laguna Beach, is an expert. That explains why she has been so successful on both the contract staffing and direct hire sides of her business. She shared some of her secrets for success with us:
Really listening to clients may be the most important step to relationship building. It starts by asking the right questions to learn what their biggest staffing challenges are. Then you can recommend the best solution, whether it be a direct hire, contractor, contract-to-direct arrangement, or another staffing alternative. Focusing on their specific staffing challenges allows to to be more than just a vendor and instead become what Blakemore calls a “Talent Acquisition Partner.”
Fortunately, you are probably already in the niche that will allow you the best chance for success. You know your current niche well and already have a stable of candidates who may also be willing to work on contract. This was the case for Blakemore. She had a strong client base and stable of candidates in the human resources, accounting, and finance niche. The pool of candidates was especially important because it allowed her to present contract candidates quickly, and speed is of the essence in contract placements. If you cannot successfully generate contract staffing leads in your current niche, there are many other hot industries for contract staffing to explore, such as Information Technology, Healthcare, and Manufacturing/Engineering.
Conventional wisdom has been for recruiter to go to hiring managers or department heads for contract job orders because they were the ones with the staffing needs. That is changing. As contractors are utilized more extensively as part of the new blended workforce model, HR is often responsible for ALL talent acquisition in medium to large size companies. Therefore, they likely will know where the open positions are in the entire organization. And if they are in charge of selecting approved vendors, you won't get very far if you don't go to them first. Even if you are working directly with the hiring manager, try to keep HR in the loop. “If you try to go around HR, you are not going to win any brownie points,” Blakemore said.
You should introduce your contract staffing services during your very first meeting with a potential client. “I typically introduce myself to clients from a search perspective, but during the first meeting, I also let them know that I provide contractors in that specific niche,” Blakemore said. Don't forget to notify all your current direct hire clients, too. Statistics show that 80% of a recruiter's contract staffing business comes from their direct hire clients. “Keep reminding them. They will forget you had that conversation three or six months later,” she added.
Following up initial conversations with a marketing document gives clients a tangible reminder about your firm and its contract staffing services. Blakemore's marketing information tells clients about the staffing alternatives she offers, including contract staffing, payrolling, and contract-to-direct hire. It also explains the simply weekly process for contracting and provides key information on insurance coverage.
A side effect of positioning yourself as THE source and expert in your niche is referrals. Clients will love to talk about you if you solve their staffing problems. Candidates will also be happy to spread the word to other candidates, especially if you pay candidates well and offer them quality benefits. “I’ve learned that professional contract candidates want a great benefits package,” Blakemore said. “My back-office offers them medical, dental, vision, and life insurance, plus a 401(k). The benefits not only attract quality candidates, they help you to retain them and place them on one contract assignment right after another. Your clients and candidates can be one of your best lead generators.”
Again, it all comes down to relationships, relationships, relationships. Get to know your clients. Get to know their culture. Find out what their pain points are. By doing so, you will become a true business partner who will be able to get ALL your clients job orders, contract and direct. Same thing goes with candidates…. Relationships!