Traditionally, third party recruiting firms are designed so that direct-hire recruiters run a “full-desk” (i.e. both the client and candidate side), whereas temporary recruiters will typically run a “split-desk” (i.e. an inside sales person or staffing coordinator works to fill the job order which was generated by an outside sales person). 

This stratification of the sales process works in certain high-volume, low skilled specialties, but for most of today’s niche focused  always-be-closing staffing firms, the old “split-desk” model is obsolete. 

Here are three reasons why:

1. Always Be Closing.

At its heart, recruiting and staffing issales. Any successful salesperson or sales trainer will tell you that the most important quality one must have to make it in sales is persistence. Number two (and its close) is a belief in one’s product. Both of these qualities are better achieved by someone running both sides of a desk.

Regarding persistence, it’s very difficult for a recruiter to gauge the level of persistence and follow-up necessary on a particular job order, if that recruiter did not originally solicit or take the order. Inevitably, something is lost in translation from taking the order and passing it off to be filled. In other words, time is wasted chasing a lead or not enough effort is give to an “A” order.

A sincere and passionate belief in one’s product is also critical for sales success.  In recruiting or staffing, one’s candidates are the “products,” and a true belief in that “product” comes from recruiting, interviewing and building a relationship with the candidate.  It’s very difficult for someone who runs only the client side of a recruiting desk to effectively sell or market a candidate without having the true belief in that candidate that comes from building a real relationship.  At times, the client becomes the product when one needs to sell an opportunity to a candidate, and the inverse applies.  Again, it’s an understanding of both sides (candidate and client) that creates the basis for a successful sale.

2. It’s the Economy, Stupid.

Spoiler alert – job orders are harder to come by than they used to be.  Blame the economy, blame technology, blame bad luck – it’s just a simple fact.  That doesn’t mean that business isn’t being done, but it’s rarely being done in the paint-by-numbers format of getting a job order, working a job order and filling a job order.  As mentioned above with reference to the level of follow-up necessary on a job order, working both sides of a desk allows one to manufacture placements where perhaps there was no “order.”

Example: Company ABC is going through an ERP software conversion.  They planned the conversion for their slow season so that they have enough internal employees to dedicate to the project.  They also negotiated an incredible rate from their VAR for help in the form of a technical implementation team.  There is zero percent chance that they are going to call a staffing firm to request additional consultants or temporary resources related to this project.  However, because of sales activities and meetings with the client, you know that Company ABC has a unique concern about the new ERP’s ability to interface with their inventory system.  Since you work both sides of the desk, you remember recently interviewing a candidate who implemented the same ERP with Company ABC’s competitor who had the same inventory system concerns.  While you were never going to get a “job order,” because you were working both sides of the desk, you knew your client’s pain points and your candidates well enough to make a very specific skill marketing call that results in a contract placement where no job order existed.

Sure, as the economy begins to rebound, job orders will get more plentiful, but there will also be more competition.  Business produced in the manner described above will provide more value to the client, generate higher margins and allow you to work in a space with fewer competitors.

3. The Customer is Always Right.

I’ve been in the recruiting and staffing business for six years, and the number one complaint I hear from my clients about my competitors is that they never know who they’re going to be dealing with next.  Our industry is plagued by high-turnover and unscrupulous characters.  Clients know this and it takes a leap of faith and a certain amount of trust for them to call out a job order.  It likely took a lot of time and effort to build enough of a bond with the client to get that first chance at working a job order.  That bond is immediately broken when the client is passed off from the person he knows and trusts to someone else. In every “split-desk” firm, a certain amount of business is lost because the client’s perception is that he isn’t being cared for properly.  He feels that if he’s not getting personalized service from the person who he’s built a bond with, then why not go with the competition or shop around to the lowest priced firm?

Selfishly, this point is especially important for the successful future of the recruiting and staffing industry.  More and more, recruiting and staffing is being commoditized (read Typo by David Silverman to learn more about how an entire industry can go down in flames due to commoditization).  Running a “split-desk” counteracts the relationship building and consultative selling which overcomes commoditization and will be the future of the industry.  

Bottom line – taking the recruiting/staffing process from cradle to grave is the best way to effectively manage the sales process and successfully deliver value to the client.  It fosters client relationships and will lead to more business and higher profits.

 Josh_Hale Josh Hale, CAC, CSP has been active in the recruiting and staffing industry since 2004 focusing exclusively on high-end corporate accounting and finance placements.  Over his career, he has held every position within a staffing firm, including “rainmaker,” recruiter and manager.  Since 2008 he has been an Associate with the San Diego firm, General Ledger Resources, where he primarily focuses on project management and senior-level consulting engagements.  He has a bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego and spends his spare time working to improve his golf game.  He can be contacted at [email protected].

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