Recruiting is, and always will be, a business that faces ever-changing circumstances. Veterans and rookies of recruiting must possess equal determination. In great times we must avoid complacency. In challenging times we must adapt. Having seen previous recessions, this recruiter has also had the thrill of the subsequent recoveries. This time around, recovery seems elusive. Some recruiters have patiently held on in the hopes that something or somebody will ride in a save the day by creating a recovery. Many recruiters have succumbed to the throes of this recession. Opinions vary as to how many have left our business. Counting the fallen is of no value to them or the survivors. What has value to us is realizing now, more than ever before, we must adapt.

Parents advise their children that when things get tough; the tough get going and that hard work is its own reward. We know they tried to convey the best advice but they did not deal with the unique circumstances we face in recruiting. Working hard at what we know served us in days past but, awaiting better outcomes simply does not serve us now. Moreover, it was a major factor in the failure of so many of our peers. This begs the question, “So what should we do now?”

I would like to suggest a few crucial steps.

First; a reality check. This recession is not only the worst since the 1930s but it is not going away anytime soon. Obviously no elected person has either the will or the intent to lead us out of this mess. The truth be known, it has always been up to us to adjust and innovate our own successes.

Secondly, abandon anything we do that is not creating the result we desire. No matter how hard we work or how tough we become; it truly is insanity to repeat failures. This difficult task demands that we overcome our attachments to tricks and shortcuts. Good times can create the illusion of long term effectiveness in practices that fail along with the economy. Some of these practices are: our dependence on job boards, our addiction to the “ease” of internet focused sourcing and our assumption that we have the “corner” on these as third-party recruiters.

Thirdly, stop being monogamous in a niche. Complacency often drives the justification of sitting on a dying niche. Our niche is not a golden egg that will somehow hatch into wealth if we keep it warm in economically cold times. It is not difficult to change a niche. It is difficult to accept the fact that you must.

Lastly, embrace a combination of innovative and classic recruiting practices. Learn or create a unique process that provides the results your client seeks and does not replicate what they have now mastered without you. This is the most challenging step. It demands that we shed those things we once did so well; things that once created wealth. Our greatest challenge today is letting go of the notion that business as usual is coming back, any day now and all we really need to do is burrow in and await the resurrection of our economy and recruiting business.

The players, field conditions and rules have changed abruptly and dramatically. If you really want to get back in the game, you cannot do so by sitting on the bench and waiting for the game to change back into what you once knew and played so well.

My recruiter training company,, has just released a powerful; studio produced 2010 DVD series, “Taking Your Recruiting Business to New Heights” Three DVDs focusing on today’s best practices of “Selling Search”, “Recruiting Edges” and “The Closing Process”. The practices and process forged in today’s historically challenging recruiting landscape are captured in high quality DVD video. Details and purchase info are at:

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Comment by Mike Hard on April 6, 2010 at 10:06am
Very good post Doug, thanks.

I agree that, even though the job market has made things tough, theer are strong search firms that are using this time not just to survive but to thrive. BountyJobs saw the shakeout and we now see less HH's on our site than before the bubble burst, but those that remain are doing quite well thank you (one example: average fee earned has remained about 21% for past 3 years - showing at least that the good firms can hold thier ground).

Surviving doesn't mean standing still however. There are very important trends forcing change in the industry and a recession will force change faster. Those that don't adapt will weaken and fall by the wayside. The rise of the internet and online marketplaces are leveling the playing field more than ever: a small but targeted and energetic search firm can compete with the large, mass market behemoths because now employers can find them and engage them wherever they might be.


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