The recruitment industry is one that expands and contracts quite drastically based on market demand for talent – which more often than not, is driven by the performance of the economy. I have seen recruitment organisations which have tripled in size during a strong market, suddenly reduce headcount by half or close shop overnight – a victim of the unpredictable cyclical demand that marks this industry.
So what would recruiters need to do to keep their heads above the water?
1. Develop your resilience
If you are looking in from the outside, the recruitment function might seem simple, straight-forward and relatively easy. However, anyone who has been in recruitment and still is, will tell you it’s a much harder job that they thought it would be. The resilience, drive, tenacity and commercial acumen required of a recruiter is often underestimated.
During a slower economy, these traits come into play even more. As a leader, I find it really hard to sit back and leave our success to fate when the market dictates your outcomes. So what can we do? In this industry, it’s really about the “survival of the fittest”. The tough gets going when the going gets tough. We believe the only way to break out of the sluggish rut is to be even more resilient.
The way I see it, the Singapore economy is still experiencing growth, albeit at a slower pace. The good news is the market is not in recession. The industries and organisations that have set up shop in Singapore are varied and diversified enough to look like an index fund; which means you can hedge your bets if you look deep and hard enough. There will always be pockets of demand for good and specialised talent, particularly in sectors such as life sciences, pharmaceutical, IT, engineering and even specific functions within banking where demand exceeds supply.
2. Keep your pulse on the market
The best recruiters I have seen quite simply follow the money. They are the ones who would always have a pulse on the market, ensuring they are well-read and kept up-to-date on relevant industry news. They have their feelers out every moment tracking talent movements, market changes, candidate motivations and hiring trends – and they share such information generously with their clients and prospects. They are constantly fishing for information from everyone they talk to, and are highly adept at collecting bits and pieces of information to form the bigger picture. They are experts in social selling – often using quality content, as well as the data and market information they have collated to develop deep relationships with their target clients as part of their sales process, and to build their personal brand online and offline. They work on building credibility and trust with their strong arsenal of knowledge and insights, so that they can provide solid consultation and add value to their clients’ talent acquisition strategy, even before they need it.
In every industry, despite how the market performs, you will find an area that is thriving. Find that sweet spot and make friends quickly. Clients and candidates know a sincere recruiter when they see one. When you show that you are eager to learn about what they do and are personally committed to helping them achieve their ambitions and needs, they will extend their trust and hand of partnership to you. There is no way you can achieve this high level of trust just by sitting behind your computer looking through Linkedin, or simply from chatting with existing customers. You need to commit time each day reading up on market movements and be acutely aware of where the money is going.
3. Be the voice of reason
Lastly, be the voice of reason to clients and candidates. For example, if you know the market has shifted, tell your candidates like it is. More often than not, they will be grateful for the honesty. You are better leveraged to advise a candidate to take up an offer, when previously in a good market, they would have been playing hard to get. Clients might also find more inertia from good talent with regards to changing jobs. Here’s where you can put your market insights and knowledge of candidates’ motivations to good use: advise your clients and help them understand what they can do to reduce the candidate’s fear about moving and how they can earn their trust.
So what is happening currently in the market? Redundancies have reached an all-time high since 2009 and we are definitely seeing a softening in the labour market. Would it get worse? It’s really anyone’s guess right now.
Rather than worry about what you cannot predict, your best bet is to prep yourself so that you are ready to take on any potential challenges head on. With the uncertainty in the global and local markets, your mindset has to change from how to make money – to how to capitalise on opportunities and win the survival game. The market might be taking a wait-and-see approach to see where the economy is heading; but if you want to be on top of your game, then you’ve got to remain ahead of the curve and keep your vision focused on the road forward. Resilience, drive, tenacity and commercial acumen – you’d need these in double doses now more than ever.
Written by Jaya Dass, Country Director at Randstad Singapore.