Dealing with a Slump in Your Recruiting

QUESTION: What can you recommend to a recruiter who has been in the business for years and is having issues in the last 45 days or so making rain.  I feel like a major league ballplayer who is in a hitting slump.  It is not that my hiring manager’s new connections do not appreciate any of my outreach efforts which are consultative in nature.  They just have not been producing any jobs to work on.  I typically ask them what are their proudest accomplishments, since we have last spoken what do they anticipate the next quarter or two to look like, what are the projects and initiatives they are anticipating, and I frequently close by saying something like, if there is someone that I came across that I should call you and tell you about right away, what type of person would that be?  I need to know that if I keep making the MP calls that eventually it will turn around.  It is just not turning as fast as I would want it to.  Tom, Colorado

ANSWER: I do not know how many marketing presentations that have been made in the last 45 days, and 45 days is a period of time where you can go through a slump.  If your ratio is 10 to 1 – I am just making this up – and you have talked to 30, you have taken none, I have seen that happen.  Then you talk to 5 and you take 3 or 4.  So the questions that you are asking are fine.  You might want to try some flip marketing as a different angle to get a hold of people.  Unless you are hearing your niche is going into a recession, you are asking the right questions.

The only other thing that sometimes happens when you get into a slump, even if it is only semiconscious, is that your expectation is that they are probably not hiring anyway.  When that enters your brain, that though of they are probably not hiring anyway, we are not sharp.  Since we expect failure, we get failure.  I have been through those periods of time.  One of the ways, I psyche myself up in that situation is I say, “Everyone I talk to today is hiring”.  Even if they tell me they are not, I do not believe it and I am going to find out where the real openings are.  It might sound a little woo woo and a little mindset stuff, but it works.

When your expectation is that they do not have any openings anyway, and that occurs sometimes when we are in a slump, we get a lot of that.  When the expectation is that there is an opening, not to say that everyone we are talking to is going to have an opening, the likelihood of finding and identifying the hidden opening significantly increases.  But you are asking the right questions.

If there is someone that I came across that I should call and tell you about, I would say, “Hey Tom, I understand you do not have any openings right now, but when you do hire someone, define excellence for me in the roles that you bring someone on”.

If they have 2 different roles, they will say, “Oh it depends on this role or that role”.  I would respond, “Give me both, give me a couple bullet points real quick because obviously the timing of my call is not that good right now”.

This way I am subtly saying I am not selling you anymore, but give me the roles right now.  If you had to give me a few bullet points on excellence as it relates to this role or that role, what comes up for you?  Then you document that.  Now every once in a while if you have an MPC, then they might describe the candidate you are working with.  At that point I would say, “Oh, that is too bad because that is exactly what one of the people I am representing is, but I understand the timing of my call”  And then I start to pull away and see if they come back at you.

This tactic is much more direct and intense, than saying “I came across a great candidate that I felt that I should call and tell you about right away”.  That is, bluntly, a little bit pushy.  The approach of “How would you define excellence?  If I ran across that excellent person, do you want to hear about him or her?” is much better.

But otherwise it is probably just a timing thing.  Then look at the quantity because if it has been 45 days and you have talked to 1 person a day, well, you know what, that is a numbers game.  If it has been 45 days and you have talked to 15 hiring managers a day it is probably a technique problem.  Somewhere between, probably a little bit due and a little bit mindset.