Summer Hiring Season Is Over. Ready For September?

Best year in 15 years for hiring across the board, and as anecdotally reported by recruiters, permanent hires are through the roof, even in the month of June. That should tell industry veterans something. 

Normally, summer months are slower, because so many people are scheduled with vacations and early days off that interviews just take longer. It's also a weirder time, because companies who are hiring feel more pressure to get it done so they can head to the lake. That's certainly been the case this year. But like the winter holidays, those who work hardest in June reap the benefits of July hiring before August falls off the cliff. 

It's just hot in August, and it's a bad month to start for the kinds of jobs I work on. It is great prep time, as hiring in September is pretty much the last viable month if you want production out of someone in 2015. 

That's not just me yapping. An awesome digital salesperson in North Carolina told me to get on the phone and make his hire happen now, because if he started in September, with a month of training, his output for the year would be scraps, versus if he started now, he got the last great month in the year to grab his share of budget. 

In Retail Marketing, it's even more important. You can't hire a digital marketing in the 4th quarter, because they and you are so busy, getting together is nightmarish. 
It's July 17th. If your digital manager left this Spring after their bonus, and you've been searching since then, now is the time to call your recruiter or ramp up your sourcing efforts. September hiring starts day. You have 45 days to get it right. 

How A Client Should Pick A Staffing Firm

How does a company decide to pick a staffing firm?  In many places, RFP's go out and a group of acceptable firms are placed on a vendor list.  For others, salespeople call in and when there is a need, the manager signs a contract for a placement or two. When needs are regular, HR tends to manage the process with a heavy hand, laying down ground rules on when to contact and when to submit resumes.  

It works.  Sort of.

It's not as easy as it seems to determine if a firm is the right one for you.  The salesperson may be great, or you may have known the branch manager for years, but how can you tell if you're getting not only attention, but the best attention from the recruiters actually making the calls?

Some things to start out on.  This is the basic structure of a staffing firm. 

1) Salespeople (account managers) talk to clients.  Their job is to get jobs (requirements), and bring them back to the recruiters, like birds to their chicks in the nest.  The salesperson takes you to lunch, drives a nice car, and dresses well.  They may or may not understand what you're asking for, but they're good at taking notes and making you feel listened to.  The best salespeople understand the technology, your environment and the market, and are a vital source of information for managers.  The worst just dial a list 50-100 times a day asking you if you have jobs.

In the old days, salespeople were recruiters who got moved up.  These days, they tend to be professional salespeople.   

2) Recruiters call candidates, and work on open positions given to them by salespeople. They always have multiple jobs open at one time.  If they do not, the company lays them off.  The recruiter is responsible for sourcing, interviewing, and preparing candidates, as well as talking to contractors and permanent placements after a hire takes place. 

Both recruiters and salespeople are paid on commission. Some are base plus commission, some are on draw, and a very few are full salaried.  Knowing this, you have to know that low rates do not motivate them.  The lower the rate, the more likely the recruiter is to cut corners.  The salesperson is likely to put pressure on the recruiter to do a good job, but high rate, high margin, easy fills are the gold requirements that get the most attention. 

3) Branch managers, sourcers, admin staff.  There are other people at the firm as well. They interact with candidates, automate searches, and handle admin and management duties.  They have important jobs, but are not part of the recruiting staff in the way you might think. And that matters.  The more recruiters you have the more coverage you have.  An office with 10 recruiters is not the same as an office with 10 people.

Why Size of Company Matters

Big companies like to work with big companies, right?  They teach that in MBA classes. In recruiting, looks can be deceiving.  When you're working with a company, you're working with a person and their team.  Don't get fooled into thinking that a big name means big service.  It can, but I've seen national firms with two people working, and local firms with fifteen.  Generally, you're better off with a larger local presence.  How do you know if they have a large local presence?  

You have to be willing to visit their offices. 

You should, you know.  You should see what candidates see when they walk in the door.  There's no excuse not to, and it will tell you much about how the company functions.  Looks aren't everything, but you can tell if a company is thriving or sucking wind when you walk in the door.  That's a lot more revealing than a lunch, right?

Great recruiting companies have  a buzz around them.  They have a process. They have regular morning meetings to see what they're working on.  They have  boards up displaying the best requirements.  Are you on those boards?  Maybe they'll let you see it, maybe they won't.  If you're not asking, how do you know what level of service you are getting? 

Let me ask a question. Let's say I have a 30% perm placement requirement with a client I've known 10 years.  I have his cell phone, and he calls me back.  Let's also stipulate that I have a client that pays 20%, but wants to hire 4 developers, and claims he'll hire as soon as I find them.

To the 20% Client, he's offering a good deal.  4 placements, low rate.  But to the recruiter, a different story emerges.  The 30% is a done deal if we do our jobs.  We work hard, we know it closes.  The 20% positions are farmed out to 10 recruiters, top candidates are all called the same day, and even if we did find four, we know that the manager wouldn't hire all four.  They'd hire one or two, and then ask for better resumes (they'd never believe they got four resumes from one source).  

So who do you pick?  The bird in the hand. 

But let's reverse that.  Let's say that a difficult client agrees to pay 30%, but the close friend only pays 20%.  Certainly the 30% client will get a lot of attention.  Winning those deals makes you look good to your boss.  But the recruiters will focus on the 20% sure thing, because they know they will get feedback.

Many managers don't understand this.  Others don't want to hear it.  But if you're selecting a recruiting partner, shouldn't you be aware of how they work? Shouldn't you pick one that best aligns with your needs?  Why in the world would you base it off what you've been told by a salesperson?  

Step 1:  Ask to tour the offices.  

Step 2:  Ask about their process, and get them to discuss what they think is a good requirement. 

Step 3:   Find out exactly who is working full time on your positions.  Do you have a specific recruiter who runs your account?  Is it a pool?  Are you competing against other companies for the best recruiting team?

This is tough to ask, but you should be asking about the backgrounds of who works for you. When a requirement comes in from you, does it go to someone specific, or is it posted on a board?  If you spend an hour talking about the position, does that information get shared immediately, or does it sit on a desk for a week until someone can look at it?  How does it get defined?  An "A" req?  A "gold" req?  What is a bad req (everyone knows bad reqs.  If they don't, they are either clueless or lying. Bad reqs are vague, hard to fill, little response back from manager, low bill rate, or low gross margin rate)?  

Most companies don't think about such things.  They want to be sweet-talked into assuming a beaming workforce is just waiting to make calls on their behalf.  There may very well be a beaming workforce back at the offices, but do they roll their eyes when they hear your name? Does the recruiting manager tell them to check their boards, but work on the fillable reqs?

Bet you never heard the term fillable req from a sales guy.  


1) Find out if the account manager knows anything about the technology you're hiring for

2) Ask about the structure of their recruiting process, and where you fit in it.  Dig deep, and don't take vague answers

3) Ask to see the office, if only for five minutes

4) Ask the sales person who will actually work on the job, and what it takes to make your job a fillable req. 


Great companies will be eager to show you what they do. They know they're top notch.  They know that their recruiters are pleasant, smart workers.  They want to show you what they can do, and aren't afraid of pop-ins.

But do call ahead.  



Would You Ever Consider A 100% Search Fee?

Todd Kmiec writes today about a position he's working on.  It's  a true purple squirrel - a job so hard to fill, that you're more likely to find a purple squirrel than the right candidate. 

It's been open for two years.  Two whole years, and they haven't found the right person, and haven't compromised.  I wish Todd the best of luck in finding it.

But it got me thinking. 

95% of clients tell you the need is urgent.  By the time they are ready to actually sign a contract, they are ready to hire.  The manager usually does have that urgency, but in many cases, it's not an easy fix.  You can't just drum up a director of E-commerce for a major brand on a moment's notice.  If you do have candidates of quality, you still need to dig deeper and find more - you're getting paid to find the right candidate, not the available candidate. 

Urgency is always on the table.  It's one of the reasons you pay a recruiter.  Finding a candidate that they company hasn't screened is why they're coming to you.  It's what justifies a 20-33 1/3 % fee (recruiters charging under 20% shouldn't be taken seriously in my opinion - the economics behind their work just don't work out if they're doing real recruiting).  But if urgency qualifies you for 33 1/3 %, what would super urgency justify?  

What would you do if you needed some very specific needs in a nationwide or worldwide search and the impact of doing so would be the success or failure of your business?  What would be the ceiling for how much you would pay to find the right candidate?

You scoff.  We all would.  The idea of paying 100% to find a candidate seems incredible, but what if it guaranteed you the best recruiter in the world and their top assistant digging through thousands of profiles to find the right candidate and preparing them for job? 

I think it's not only possible - I think it makes sense.  

Let's do simple math.  Companies hire to generate more wealth from an individual than they pay them.  That's the point of hiring and it's why improving worker productivity is such a hot button.  If worker productivity is the key, what would you pay to get a more productive worker. 

Let's say that the average worker generates a 10% return for what you pay them, while an excellent worker provides a 50% return.  A super excellent worker provides a 300% return, and the numbers follow a basic bell curve.  In this scenario, a 100% fee, in one year, to hire a super excellent worker for  say, three years, still generates an 800% return.  That's a good investment.  It's easy math.  As long as it's correct math. 

There would be only three reasons not to take that deal. 

1) You don't believe the super excellent worker provided by the recruiter returns 300%. 

2) You don't believe the super excellent worker will stay for three years. 

3) You're afraid that paying 100% for a single worker disrupts the normal hiring process sufficiently that the impact on your workforce or your personal career is greater than the potential benefit. 

The first answer is a fair one.  Proving success from one company to another is not an easy task, and it's far easier to average it out with several hires than it is to hope for home runs on single employees.  The second answer can be handled with guarantees or performance bonuses.  But the third answer is the big one.  You can't afford to pay 100% for a worker because when it gets out, it will poison your workforce and your hiring strategies. 

Which says more about the workforce than it does the process by which we hire. 

So I leave you with this.  I don't expect anyone to pay a 100% fee anytime soon.  But if you have the chance, you ought to speak to executives about when it would be appropriate to do so.  The argument as to why could open up good discussions about your hiring process.  It certainly helps you identify what executives are open minded enough to consider why they pay what they do, and which simply pay what is the market rate. 

Choosing A Salary Level For Your Social Media Strategist

It's been a busy couple of weeks, with the phone ringing off the hook as companies look for social media employees.  A major difference in this year from the last couple seasons is that companies have realistic salary expectations for the positions they are searching for, in comparison to even 2010, when expectations and salary offers for off by 50% and more between candidates and companies. 

In fact, this year, not a single head of HR has blinked at the salaries I have given, as they did their research and have a good sense of what is out there.  That's the sign of a maturing market. 

So what are those numbers?  And if you're a candidate, how much are you worth?



You're going to kill me for this, but of course, the answer depends.  We've delved into grade school math before on this blog, discussing the mean, median, and mode of salary decisions

"When salaries are evaluated throughout the corporation, the relative value of each skillset based on its importance to the company has been established over time. "

In plain language, your salary in a maturing market is based on your perceived value versus other people at the same salary. 

For example, if you're a Vice President of Social Strategy, you're going to receive a similar salary as a Vice President whose budget and responsibilities are the same as yours. 

If you're a Senior Manager of Social Strategy, your salary might be similar a Senior Manager of Digital Strategy or a Director of Onine Marketing. 

What happens is the corporation evaluates the importance of their perceived value of your job, and pays you equally to someone else of equal value. 

It's really quite fair for everyone, as the dirty little truth is they aren't hiring "social" people so much as "Marketing" and "PR" and "Digital" people with social tacked onto their latest accomplishments.  These are of course high value positions - no one is calling me to find social media specialists at $24,000 a year, but then again, that's not so much a position as a title change from Jr. Copywriter.

The one difference I can see is in the Community Manager space, which is more of a pure social play.  Those salaries are still max out at $80,000 (unless you're part of a huge global empire), and go as low as $40,000 for smaller communities. 

If you want to share your salary level, confidentially of course, please forward me a note to jim with an at sign and followed by the domain social media