Sara Stringer is a former business aficionado who left the corporate world to find her own path in business as a solopreneur. Her experiences recruiting staff and working with several staffing agencies have inspired her to express her thoughts and advice on the subject through blogging. You can find her on Twitter here.
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When job seekers choose a staffing agency, they're probably not going to take the time to thoroughly research your placement rates. Instead, they're going to base their decision on how friendly and approachable your website appears, and how easy it is to upload their resume and schedule an appointment. You could have connections to every business in town, and if your website isn't attractive and functional - and, even more importantly, if your agency doesn't appear "likable" - you won't get the job seekers.

It's the same when you're marketing yourself to organizations. When you talk to an HR manager, you have to win the manager over with your personality as much as with your credentials and track record. The truth is that the first question many HR managers will have isn't "is this person going to give me good clients?" It's "do I like this person?"

Because of that, many staffing agencies are taking the extra effort to stand out from the crowd and increase likability. Staffing Talk reported earlier about recruiters who throw cocktail parties to entertain job seekers. Other staffing firms make appearances at their clients' company open houses or public events, simply to say hello to HR staff and increase both their visibility and their likability.

In short: it's not enough to be good anymore. You also have to be popular.BecomingPopular

How do you become popular? Much in the same way that you train your own job candidates to get jobs: you dress a little better, stand up a little straighter, and listen more than you talk. You shake hands with confidence, you smile with warmth, and you show a genuine interest in the people with whom you're talking. You ask good questions. You always have a good question in the back of your mind ready to ask, even if you've planned it out beforehand.

Career guru Penelope Trunk spells it out for you in her guide to becoming enchanting, which is what she says separates popular and successful people from the rest of the crowd. Trunk notes that people -- job seekers, companies, or otherwise -- don't meet with you and your agency to find out whether you can do the job. They already know you can do the job. They meet with you to determine whether you are the most enchanting/popular/likable candidate.

So: it's time to step it up. Find a way to show a genuine interest in both your job seekers and your companies and clients. Learn what type of coffee or tea an HR representative prefers, and then send it over along with a set of custom coffee mugs that have your company logo on them. Keep track of your job seekers' hiring anniversaries and send them a card every year congratulating them on a job well done, for as long as they remain with that company. Call up job seekers about three months after their placement and ask if they have any friends who are out of work; becoming popular is all about increasing your friend circle and providing help wherever you can.

Your goal, as a staffing agent, isn't just to place people in jobs. It's also to be more popular than all the other staffing agencies working to place people in jobs. To do that, you've got to find a way to stand out. Don't worry, though - if there's anyone who knows how to sell a candidate, it's you. This time, you simply have to sell yourself.

Tags: Advice, Likability, Penelope Trunk