Everything is big at the Mall of America, the country’s largest shopping mall. And the 2nd Annual MNRSA Job Summit, attended by 1,000 people visiting the booths of 27 staffing companies, was twice as big as the original.
“We are thrilled with the turnout and see this as our way to both pay it forward and give back to those looking for employment,” says Marni Hockenberg, principal, Hockenberg Search, and a board member of the Minnesota Recruiting and Staffing Association, the event’s sponsor. “It’s been a tough couple of years for our industry, as well as for job seekers. This is something we can do to get people engaged and to share our excitement and enthusiasm for the improving job market.”
Four members of a panel discussion on the facts and myths surrounding working with a staffing company, or recruiter, all concur that business is “trending up,” as the economists say.
“The growth is slower than it may have been in previous post-recession economic rebounds, but it’s consistent growth,” opines Gary Nygaard, president and CEO of Northland Employment Services. “We are seeing constant improvement in our executive recruiting business, day by day, week by week, quarter over quarter.”
“Historically there has been about a three-month lag between staffing peaks and the wider rebound of the national economy,” states Thomas Thissen, president and owner of Award Staffing. “This time around we continue to grow steadily while the economy slowly rebounds. There is increasing demand for our services though. Lots of companies still seem rather tentative about hiring, so we can help them fill those gaps until their confidence comes back. People are buying what our clients are making and that’s great news.”
“The staffing industry is a barometer for the economy, and our sales and revenues tend to follow GDP,” according to Duane Hendrickson, vice president and general manager, Masterson Personnel. “Manufacturing and light industrial tend to come back first and we are having our best year ever so far in those areas. Hopefully that translates to professional services as well eventually.”
“Right now large numbers of job seekers are in transition,” Gena Johnston, recruiting manager, Doherty Staffing, says. “After people lost their last job, there was a time when disappointment and despair set in when they felt as if there wasn’t any immediate prospect of a new job. But now they might be getting interviews, or seeing job descriptions posted that are exactly what they want or hearing stories about friends getting jobs. There is hope once again so that’s why this event is so cool.”
What’s also cool is that the image and perception of the staffing industry may also be in transition. Several staffing firm executives told us candidates are beginning to realize that applying directly to a company for a position may not always be the best way. That in fact, relationships that exist between a staffing agency and the hiring company can be an actual advantage.
“A lot of companies no longer have the recruiting and hiring capabilities they once did, and they don’t do those things particularly well,” Johnston added. “As a result, a lot of companies are coming to us to perform those tasks today, and job seekers should as well. We stand between the jobs and the job seekers.”
“The staffing company exists to be an advocate for the job seeker,” continues Thissen. “We work for our paying clients of course, but we are really looking for the right fit so we can advocate.”
And how are the staffing executives and agency owners at the Job Summit 2011 panel discussion finding those candidates who are the right fit?
“The number one way we find our best candidates is through referrals,” said Judy Stolley, the operations director for the Minneapolis office of ProStaff.
“We find our best people through word of mouth and referrals from our current employees,” echoed Masterson’s Hendrickson.
Not much new there, though everyone we spoke to said they are also making extensive use of social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
So what has changed? I asked that question of several people and the most interesting answer I got wasn’t about technology or something quite as obvious.
The response I leave you with comes from Gena Johnston, the woman who manages the recruiting department for Doherty Staffing Solutions, one of the nation’s leading employment specialists in the areas of manufacturing, light industrial and clerical.
“Every staffing agency I know is being driven today by the job seekers themselves. No longer do people walk in off the street and say, ‘Do you have work for me?’ Instead, they want to know if you can get them a particular position in a particular business or industry or maybe even at a particular company. There has been a major shift towards specialization and customization. To succeed in that environment, you have to be able to steer the ship quickly in whatever direction the job seekers or the market dictates.”