I don’t know what it was about last Thursday, but every recruiter in the world seemed to suddenly contact me. It seems that I’m not the only one, either.

Recruiters Coming Out of the Woodwork

Last Thursday, it seemed that every recruiter with a contract or with a permanent job tried to contact me. E-mail came my way, all day, and my phone continued to ring. It was so crazy that it lasted into the next day.

In fact, I was talking to someone else I know and they had the same experience. So, I don’t know what it was about last Thursday. Apparently, it was a big day for new requirements to come out.

Actually, we all know these “perfect storms” seem to happen. For some reason, everyone ends up looking for people around the same time. No-one seems to know exactly why this happens but it does often seem to.

The other thing I should mention is that this isn’t as much activity as it initially seemed. When I thought back on it, a lot of it was merely duplication of the same efforts.

What It Means

First of all, it doesn’t mean other people didn’t start earlier than this to get their project staffed, this year. It doesn’t actually mean everyone waited until last Thursday.

It doesn’t mean that everyone uses a recruiter. Even though everyone working last week seemed to be a recruiter, some projects do directly call people. Most projects I end up working on happen because a customer calls me, directly, and asks if my company can handle a block of their work. That’s mainly because of my company’s LabWare LIMS / ELN expertise.

It also doesn’t mean that you have no hope of staffing your project if you’ve waited this long.

How It Works

Here’s how this all seems to work:

  1. A customer has a spot they want to fill so they create requisitions for the spots they want to fill.
  2. The customer hands this to all the consulting companies that they have access to in order to get that filled.
  3. Each of those companies goes out to multiple contract recruiters to try to fill that spot.
  4. Each contract recruiter goes somewhere such as LinkedIn to create what is essentially the exact same list of potential people that they will contact.
  5. The spots don’t get filled so yet more consulting companies and/or contract recruiters get added to the mix. All of these people probably contact the same pool of people who have already been contacted.

You can see that doing this doesn’t necessarily expand the pool of people that the customer has access to. It just means more and more people are competing for the same pool of resources. I don’t keep track of how many times I get receive the same requisition. It can be quite a lot of times, in some cases. It’s silly when you think about it. It’s such a huge waste of so many people’s time.

We also think these companies are more efficient than they are. We might think they have an actual list of resources. Then, that they split it up between several recruiters and keep track of who they call and who they don’t. Most of them don’t seem to do that. So, on top of what I just described, the same contract recruiters also have multiple people independently working on those same requisitions. So, on top of all this, I get multiple contacts for the same requisitions from just one of the contract recruiting companies.

In any case, there’s lots of activity, but little happens. It’s all just a whole lot of people calling the same small pool of people about a single position. Meanwhile, the customer thinks that, since there’s a lot of activity, that something is really happening.

More Issues

In any case, I mainly just say “no” to these because, if a customer really needed me, they’d call me, directly. That’s normally what happens with my type of consulting work. But I occasionally try to point-out to the recruiter where the given information is incomplete or doesn’t make sense.

To the on-site positions in Tampa or Kalamazoo, I pointed-out that I don’t live on those places. I never got any response as to why someone would send me jobs that aren’t close to me and that they’re not offering to move me to. I’m not saying I would have moved. I’m just saying that the entire thing didn’t even make sense that they would have sent those to me. When I pointed it out, got zero response. My response might have been something like, “I don’t live even close to there, so what would the plan be?”

My other point is this – just because someone tells you they contacted some number of people, it doesn’t mean they were quality contacts. It doesn’t mean they were unique, either. If two people from the same contract firm say they contacted twenty people, each, it could be basically the same twenty people.

More Conversations With Recruiters and Others

As it happens, I recently spoke with a manager who had only recently put out a requisition and I said to him that you can never tell when someone might come available that has exactly what you’re looking for. Anyway, let me give some of the usual tips I give people who started a bit later than everyone else.

Review your requirements. Recruiters don’t always know which part of what you’re asking for are absolute. One of the big requisitions that’s out, right now, allows people to work remotely. That is what you’re competing against when you’re asking for all your people to work on-site. One of the negatives to this big requisition that’s out (I won’t name who it’s for but I think we do pretty much all know that) is that it asks for things that aren’t possible. It asks for a certification that isn’t actually possible to get. It asks for someone who knows “everything” (yes, really).

Shorten it. Yes, you’re asking for too much. Yes, I mean you. No, really. If you think I’m being facetious about this, I’m not. There are too many items marked as “required” in requisitions. If I’m expert in the field and I don’t even have everything listed, I’m telling you that these are too often just unrealistic.

Another issue I see is that every recruiter insists that the requisition they have is full-time. If you’re not finding someone, would twenty hours a week get you what you need? Sure, it takes twice a long to get there but, in many cases, that’s still better than nothing.

Yet More “Radical” Ideas

Besides starting early, the other way to grab people is too find out who is actually available, what skills they have, what they’re looking for, and adjust if you can. Recruiters on the contract spots almost never ask me why I’m saying “no” to them. While my own reasons tend to be because I’m trying to focus on getting my own customers, I also see other reasons to turn down most subcontracts. Other consultants have their own variety of reasons. If you asked why, you might still not be able to attract those people but at least you’d have some idea what kinds of reasons people have. If your requisition is badly-written, that could help you figure that out.

Prioritize what you need beyond just “required” and “nice to have.” Change the priorities as you go along. For example, when you’re looking for a LabWare LIMS / ELN expert, don’t just mention ten LabWare modules you’d like people to know. Prioritize them. That way, if you can’t find people who know LabWare’s Lot Manager very well, you can make that now the tippy-top priority (yes, that’s my new prioritization category in a world where too many people already label everything as “priority 1”).

Recruiters looking for permanent people do sometimes ask why I turn them down. Not always, but I’m just saying that some of them probably use that to figure out why jobs don’t get filled. That same idea can be applied to contract work.

Giving Up

Some of you will end up giving up on your efforts. Then, you will have to recalculate what you’re doing to just go without the spot you’re trying to fill.

Truly, that does happen and can’t entirely be avoided. But if you badly-enough need someone and if you can make it clear to the pool of people you’re trying to attract that you have some flexibility, you still might be able to get at least something done. If not, plan differently for the next round.

I want to go back to my part-time suggestion, for a moment, though. When customers call me, we discuss how much time I have open, how much of it they can have, and exactly when they’ll be getting their work done. It’s not that I never take a customer full-time, just that it’s not the default situation. But for these requisitions that recruiters send me, never (as in, for real, “not ever”) have I seen any of these requisitions come back out with part-time options on them.

One More Factoid

I was recently reading there’s a real shortage of people out in the workplace. There is the suggestion that more of the older workforce will need to be employed.

I’m not suggesting that there aren’t issues with “disaffected workers” (the people who could have been available to you but that no longer are because they’ve given up). I’m also not necessarily suggesting you’ll get people out of retirement for some of this.

All I’m saying is that, if you’re not finding people and if there’s a true shortage, maybe it’s time to rethink the way you’re going about it.