The Unusual Suspects

Local executive search firms are using glitzy incentives and guerilla recruiting tactics to gain competitive advantage in what continues to be a thin market for executive recruiters.
Sustained low unemployment figures haven’t made life easy for head hunters. The unemployment rate in Oklahoma reached 4.1 percent in September, compared to a 4.7 percent rate nationally, according to the latest figures from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The state unemployment rate for Sept. 2007 is down 0.1 percent from the August rate and up from a 3.8 percent rate during the Sept. 2006 period.

No Waiting by the Phone
The numbers are forcing recruiters to turn from Web-based candidate search applications like Careerbuilder and Monster to more traditional – and creative – recruiting techniques.
“One of our goals is to be seen in the community, so that when someone might be thinking about changing jobs, or changing companies, we come to mind,” said David Moore, founding partner of the Tulsa-based Addison Group, 9216 S. Toledo Ave.
“In order to do that, we have to be seen,” he said.
“With unemployment at 4 percent, you can’t take just one approach anymore,” said Robert Rinner Jr., regional director of Tulsa Professional Staffing for Express Personnel Services at 10816 E. 71st St. “You’ve got 100-plus staffing companies here in the area, and everybody is shooting the same fish out of the same barrel. We’re trying to think outside the box and do a lot of different things.”
Tulsa Professional Staffing has purchased a 42-inch Samsung flat-screen television and DVD players for giveaway from each of its five metropolitan offices to lure referrals.
“That has brought in a ton of extra response,” Rinner said.
In an effort to fill nearly 400 orders for positions ranging from clerical to professional, the firm still places ads in local newspapers and on 14 different Web-based candidate search sites. Tulsa Professional also recruits off-site using two highly visible mobile units that make regular stops about town and at local events.
Though they’re not giving away flat-screen TV’s, The Rowland Group does offer incentives for referrals to fill its dozens of orders in its engineering, accounting and finance and I.T. sectors, with 60 opportunities in engineering alone. The rate of the referral fee, which ranges from $50 to $1,000, depends on the difficulty of finding the level of specialty talent commanded by the open position.
The firm’s traditional referral rewards reflect its approach to recruiting.
We’re going to do traditional recruiting through old-fashioned networking and try to identify the candidates, who they are and who they work for, and what would make them want to make a change,” said Chrisie Bedsworth, CSP, engineering services group partner at The Rowland Group at 3851 S. 103rd East Ave.
Tradition isn’t static, however. When recruiting, the current job market challenges firms to get creative with networking and to dig deep.
“As opposed to basing all of our business on reaction – being reactive to a company that calls and says its looking for this and this – we’re having to be more proactive by identifying talent, and once we’ve got that talent, we build a kind of marketing plan around where to take that person,” Bedsworth said.

All Hands Already On Deck
Though Tulsa Professional Staffing holds hundreds of openings and “if the people come in, we could fill those tomorrow,” Rinner said. The candidates must be niche-specific.
“Most everyone who wants to wants to and can work is working right now,” Rinner said. “There are more people leaving the job market right now than are coming in.”
Where the increased expense to executive recruiting firms that are performing niche-specific searches during times of low unemployment comes in “is in the internal talent we have to have,” Bedsworth said.
“We have degreed engineers working in this office helping us identify other engineers. The same can be said for our accounting and finance groups, as well.”
“We have to pay more to get that internal talent, rather than people who can just do coordinating of the Web sites and placing ads and just relying on candidates to call us.”
Though the firm does employ talent specific to target industries in fleshier labor markets, now the firm employs a greater ratio of specialized staff to those with experience in just recruiting.

Name Your Price
One piece of advice for professionals looking to make a move soon: Get your resume ready, and do it today.
“People have an opportunity now that if they ever wanted to change positions and get more lucrative salaries, bonuses and commissions, they have a little leverage right now that they don’t have 4.5 or 5 percent unemployment,” Rinner said.
Each recruiter at The Rowland Group interviews an average of 20 people per month in an effort to retain as much of a pool of ready-to-work talented professionals as possible.
“That’s how we keep our talent pool fresh,” she said. “At any given time, some of that talent can hopefully fill some of the orders we have on the books right now. But, you do get those orders that make you say, ‘Gee, I don’t have anyone who fits that bill,’ so you’re going out doing specific recruiting for that position.”
The time it takes to find the right candidate for positions that command a specialized skill set and adequate experience can range from a week to upward of six months.
“I’ve seen our direct placement sometimes go that long, because the client needs something that’s very, very specific,” Bedsworth said. “A lot of times the talent can’t be found around here, so you’re doing nationwide searches for that talent. It can take a long time.” ?

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