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Erica Jayne Walsh: “Revitalizing Recruiting to Capitalize on the 2009 Economy”

Posted on February 9, 2009
Filed Under Recruitment Industry | 1 Comment

By Erica Jayne Walsh, Sr. Manager of Business Development, BountyJobs
Dir: 646.329.9823 | Mob: 419.283.9812
BountyJobs, Inc
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Specialties: Negotiation, Strategic Sourcing, Marketing, Public Relations, Metrics/ SLAs, Website Optimization, & Branding

As organizations work on their 2009 objectives, the item at the top of many lists is one simple word – survival. With the current state of the global economy, many recruiting departments are under tremendous pressure to focus on cutting costs and reducing headcount. As budgets decrease even previously sacred initiatives must be reevaluated and hard decisions must be contemplated. You can scale back advertising but that will surely result in reduced employment brand awareness and lower candidate flow. Search firm spending oftentimes presents an easy target for the budget axe, but that means your hard-to-fill, business critical positions may stay vacant and your organization will forgo tremendous business value. Cutting back on campus recruiting saves travel expense as well as recruiter person-hours, but it greatly limits your ability to inform and attract the next generation of employees who are intended to feed your diversity initiatives and provide fresh insights for corporate innovation.

When cuts like these are made it rightfully feels like a huge step backwards for your recruiting team. Although these initiatives are often necessary to meet short-term business needs, they are often in direct conflict with the team’s long-term mission of creating a world class workforce. Suddenly, your team has become purely reactive and the quest for survival has forced you to lose control of the many strategic recruiting programs that had been moving the company towards a grander vision. Fortunately, the impact of these short term challenges can be partially offset through the wise application of the next generation of recruitment technologies. This article examines how companies are able to get beyond “survival” by using new technologies to realign and revitalize their recruiting organizations and get positioned to fully capitalize on the current economic upheaval.


With all that is going on with the current economic crisis, it is imperative that recruiting departments take back control of their future by playing an active role in the discussion around 2009 objectives. The need is to effectively balance the short-term cutting of line-item costs with the long-term identification and attraction of the top-tier talent that is needed to deliver on the company’s future business goals and objectives. While the current economic environment has certainly created issues that must be overcome, it has also provided three significant opportunities for those teams who are prepared to rise to the challenge:

1. The opportunity to realign executives around the idea that recruiting isn’t purely an overhead cost but rather can be optimized to allow the business to capture tremendous business value
2. The opportunity to revitalize your organization by re-evaluating all of your current processes with a hypercritical eye towards taking advantage of new ideas and solutions that drive maximum effectiveness and efficiency
3. The opportunity to capitalize on the current climate by strategically snatching the world’s best talent from those organizations who get too focused on the short-term and lose sight of their long-term need to source and retain the best employees


The first and perhaps most critical step in moving the discussion around 2009 objectives away from short-term cost-cutting and back towards the long-term mission of your recruiting department is getting the proper alignment with your corporate leadership. The best way to shift attention away from a pure line-item cost-cutting mindset is to surface the often hidden, indirect organizational costs that the recruiting department should be responsible for mitigating.

Consider a scenario where the recruiting department is asked to reduce search firm spend by 30%. In isolation this appears to be a great idea as it provides an immediate savings that is easily quantifiable. Unfortunately, it overlooks the long-term costs associated with vacant positions. XXXX has calculated that the average annual cost of vacancies across companies is $XXXX and that this figure rises even higher to $XXXX for the most critical positions. Let’s say that a recruiting department hires 100 people a year via search firms at an average cost of $20,000. A 30% reduction in spend yields $600,000 in visible savings, but the hidden costs may surpass $XXXX if those 30 positions sit vacant just X extra weeks as a result. These aren’t necessarily the right numbers for every organization, but they show that these costs may be significant and should be investigated and quantified within each company.

It is important to remember that realignment isn’t about trying to avoid cost-cutting, particularly when the need for savings may be as acute as it is today, but rather is all about ensuring that long-term goals and hidden costs are always part of the conversation. You should be reinforcing that your team will be ensuring the company’s survival but will do so in a way that will provide the most value in the long-term.


It would be a shame to let a perfectly good economic crisis go to waste, particularly when seen as an opportunity to re-evaluate the practices and processes of your recruiting department. What better way to support the realignment of your executive team around the value your team is creating than by ensuring that you have done everything possible to optimize your recruiting approach. During uncertain times like these, recruiting staff will be looking to their leaders for strong vision. They often seek reassurance that they are not simply being tossed helplessly by the turbulent environment around them, but instead are playing a role in actively controlling their destinies. A desire for driving the organization rather than simply being driven leaves employees far more open to change than they would be otherwise and supports a mindset that nothing should be accepted as a “given” just because it is the current approach.

Some of the key enablers for revitalizing your recruiting practices are the emerging technologies that have been creating huge value for their early users. The technological landscape is changing so rapidly, that what use to be the best way or the only way to accomplish a given goal is now far from optimal. New solutions and/or business models are significantly changing the way the game is played. For example, consider the impact on contingency search as a result of recent changes in technology and business models:

• Network Effect
The scale and reach of the internet has enabled employers to reach out to and work with thousands of headhunters with far less effort than it takes today to work with two dozen. Recruiting marketplaces aggregate tens of thousands of headhunters from around the globe who can provide deep expertise in every location and every job specialty. When marketplaces are built around strong communication platforms that eliminate the inefficiency that typically comes from working with multiple headhunters, employers can work with specialty firms and gain access to much larger candidate pools. As a result, employers are able to fill their hardest positions even faster and realize savings in both direct and indirect costs.

• Globalization
The communication platform within recruiting marketplace means that employers can now seamlessly work with headhunters around the globe. Your recruiting team will be able to fill a requisition in Asia as easily as they can fill a requisition for that a down the hall from their desk. When your global recruiting activity is managed on a single platform it also allows for much greater internal collaboration and management reporting than would otherwise be possible. This provides HR and corporate leadership comfort that all efficiencies being driven locally will result in cost savings worldwide.

• Reporting
When a recruiting marketplace provides an enterprise solution, data collection and analysis becomes entirely automated and universally consistent. The recruiting team will be able to provide corporate management with a level of visibility into worldwide recruiting efforts and expense that far exceeds what has been available for the vast majority of employers.

• Transparency
Recruiting marketplaces provide the recruiting team with much greater visibility into the activity and performance statistics of headhunters requesting to work with you. This includes information about their level of submission activity, detailed placement histories, etc. This transparency allows employers to maximize the efficacy of their search firm usage by allowing the recruiting team to focus only on developing relationships with headhunters who have proven track records in whatever areas of expertise or geographic reach.

These are just a few examples of how contingency search has changed in the past two years as a result of the development of recruiting marketplaces. BountyJobs is one example of this type of recruiting marketplace and they provide a solution which is completely free for employers to use and can be implemented across an entire enterprise in as little as a week.

Recruiting marketplaces like BountyJobs aren’t the only examples of technology that is changing the face of recruiting. SmartRecruiters and JobStick are disruptive technologies that each address a different need of your recruiting team. SmartRecruiters is a free ATS solution offered by Europe’s leading ATS provider MrTed. This ATS is completely online, as secure as traditional Applicant Tracking Systems, has better functionality, better ease of use, and can be implemented in two minutes. It can slash hundreds of thousands of dollars from bottom line spend and result in greater internal efficiency. JobStick has created a solution that automates resume screening using technology that eliminates the need for manual screening. This allows your recruiting staff to focus on other initiatives and can result in thousands of dollars in bottom line savings.

These are three examples, but there are many more areas where technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that we must constantly work to forget how we’ve always done things and look instead to how we could do them better. As long as technology is enabling the game to change you should be thinking about how you can take advantage of this economic crisis and use technology as a lever to revitalize your recruiting organization. As your staff begins to see the positive impacts new processes and solutions they will become more and more open to embracing change during both good times and bad. The positive improvements will compound over time and eventually create significant long-term value for both your team and the organization as a whole.


Having gone through the efforts of realigning your recruiting department with executive management and revitalizing the team using new processes and solutions, you will now be prepared for the fun stuff – capitalizing on the weakness of those companies who’ve done neither. As tough as this economic downturn may be, it will provide forward thinking recruiting teams with the ability to poach the very best talent that is either on the market due to forces outside their control or more amenable to a new challenge given the current environment. Even if you are decreasing overall headcount, there could still be huge value realized by adding staff in critical areas where it may have previously been far too difficult to expand given constraints in sufficient candidate availability. Refreshing your organization’s talent will bring new ideas, new synergies, and propel the company towards exceeding its long-term objectives – all thanks to the efforts the recruiting team undertook while others ran for cover.


One Response to “Erica Jayne Walsh: “Revitalizing Recruiting to Capitalize on the 2009 Economy””

  1. Malcolm Chlan on February 10th, 2009 5:07 pm

    I think as much as people do not want face the reality sooner or later many applicants might have to look in other countries for job opportunities. With so much downsizing occurring now people don’t really know where to turn.