CareerBuilder, in conjunction with Inavero, just released its 7th annual Opportunities in Staffing study which identifies key trends and performance benchmarks for staffing clients, talent and providers. The report provides a host of interesting statistics and information on a range of topics but I’d like to highlight something that I found particularly informative: on many questions there was a significant difference between the perceptions and realities between the groups. For example:

  1. 66% of staffing firms interviewed report their policy is to return candidate calls and emails within 1 day but only 40% of candidates reported having this experience.
  2. While nearly 60% of staffing firms say their policy is to return client calls within 2 hours, only 25% of clients responded that that was their experience.
  3. More than half the firms have policies requiring communication with candidates 2-3 days before and after the start of an assignment, but only 31% and 13% of candidates respectively reported this as happening.
  4. More troubling is the fact that 44% reported no regular interaction with their staffing firm at all, and only 23% of firms had a policy to contact a contractor at the end of the assignment.

It is perhaps then not a shock that client satisfaction dropped in 2012 and that talent satisfaction remained only level. This is a problem: these are two categories where you especially need to see improvement year over year. What good is increased utilization (reported for both clients and talent) if they aren’t satisfied? What good are policies if they aren’t put into practice?

If your phone calls aren’t getting returned as promised, find out why. Talk to your staffing provider; sometimes there are legitimate reasons a call is returned late but maybe you’re working with the wrong firm. If you’re a client, take a look at your own communication practices – are you getting back to your staffing firm as quickly as needed with feedback on candidates? Timely communication is a two way street, and a bottleneck on either side hurts your recruiting efforts. These numbers suggest that you should also be concerned with your staffing firm’s plan and performance for communicating with the contractors they place with you. What are their policies and how close do they come to meeting those goals? Retention of both permanent and contingent employees is always a concern, and increased communication is one way to influence that positively.

The study also reports a revealing difference between candidates, clients, and staffing firms when asked about the most important attributes for a successful placement (see Figure 1). Note the significant disparity between the three perspectives: no one agrees on what is most important!

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What does this mean? Well, for starters, your staffing firm may be recruiting for candidates that are a cultural fit more than worrying about their industry knowledge and experience and that sounds like a recipe for dissatisfaction. Since neither candidates nor staffing firms value industry knowledge as much as clients, it’s certainly possible that there are missed opportunities because one or the other is bent on a cultural or skill set fit when the results suggest that clients may be willing to train someone who has the right industry knowledge. More importantly, it highlights the importance of working with a staffing firm that understands your industry, knows it well and can find you the candidates that match your needs. It is tempting to give in to the simplicity of one stop shopping and to believe the promises of firms who say they can deliver everything you need, but the chart suggests that part of why they think this is because they don’t understand how important industry knowledge is to their clients. We do and that’s why we’ve specialized in IT since our inception.

Finally, there is another disconnect that the study reveals and this one is quite practical and could be preventing you from finding the talent you need. CareerBuilder reports that client usage of Social Media for recruiting declined slightly from 14% to 13% but that candidates who reported using it as part of their job search increased by 8% (especially Linked In and Facebook). These numbers suggest that if you’re not finding the talent you need, maybe it’s because you’re not looking in the right places. Does your company have a Facebook page and LinkedIn profile? Do you actively post and update information about your company and your open positions? It’s a real missed opportunity if you are not. You should ask your staffing firm how they incorporate Social Media into their processes. Using online resources to help source candidates isn’t a short cut it’s a smart use of technology because more and more, that’s where the candidates are. Just the other day, at 5:00 PM, we posted an entry level recruiting position on LinkedIn and had 22 responses the following morning, of which more than half made it through our initial screening. It’s great when candidates come to you but you can’t rely on that, a smart Social Media recruiting strategy is a must these days.

Sometimes you wonder what to do with all the studies and facts and figures that come our way every day. It can seem overwhelming, almost to the point of uselessness. No one survey or study will answer all questions, and you have to watch out for bias and reliability, but there are lessons to be learned out there. I found this particular study relevant and thought provoking and I’m mulling over how to ensure that my firm isn’t falling into these behaviors. I hope that you too found it helpful!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO
ATR International

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