We recently sat down with IBS recruiter Keith McNeal to discuss the state of the staffing business heading into 2019. With 12 years on the job, we talked about where the industry has been, where it’s going and strategies he uses to navigate the competitive field.
Were there in any changes in IT recruiting that you observed in 2018? What caused those changes in your mind?
Keith McNeal: Absolutely. The biggest thing I saw was that our clients are moving toward Contract-to-Hire work, and that there’s way less traditional contract work to go around. This is good for candidates, but is difficult for us as recruiters.
This dynamic has sort of made it difficult to get passive candidates interested in contract work, because there’s so many Contract-to-Hire opportunities out there. Candidates are seeking more stability and benefits –weeks of vacation, bonuses, an identification with company culture – which they’re more likely to get in a Contract-to-Hire situation. This isn’t to say that those benefits are impossible to find in a traditional contract—IBS often does seek that out for our candidates. But generally, those benefits are more commonly found in Contract-to-Hire scenario.
Are you utilizing any new strategies or platforms in your recruiting, or do you prefer to stick to more traditional methods?
KM: You have to adapt to changes in the market, and alter your approach and the avenues you use to connect with candidates. LinkedIn is always a good resource, especially to reach passive candidates, and there’s also other job boards to use as well, like Monster, for instance. But for me personally, I use a lot of referrals, and rely heavily on past candidates I’ve worked with and relationships I’ve built up over the years.
Basically, relying more on referrals allows me to mix up my approach, if you will, when trying to reach potential candidates. In a way, it gives me greater access to a diverse pool of talent: candidates that will work Contract-to-Hires as well as traditional contracts. And a lot of this info is our database, so usually I’ll check the Applicant Tracking System first, before going out and pounding the job boards.
So, is the IT talent crunch real? Do you find it’s impacted the way you recruit? What do you do to work around a shrinking talent pool?
KM: Well let’s accept the premise that it is shrinking. If that’s the case then you have to be able to diversify your methods for attacking and finding potential candidates. And the main way I do that, is referrals. Now, of course, you can’t rely solely on that 100 percent of the time, but referrals have provided me with more stability and a higher conversion rate for placing candidates as opposed to finding someone new who I have no connection with.
And that’s not to say finding someone new or fresh is a bad thing. But when you start with a new candidate from scratch it’s always a case of them having to learn who you are and having to create that relationship. But, on the other hand, that’s the beauty of what we do as recruiters; that’s how the whole process gets started—but sometimes you want minimize the negatives and maximize the positives, especially in a tight job market. Simply put, it takes longer to place a candidate if you have no prior relationship with them.
As we wrap up, what trends and changes in the staffing business do you expect going forward into 2019?
KM: I expect to see a continuation of rapid technological change, that’s always going to be case. But more interestingly, I think businesses are going to start trending back towards hiring traditional contractors as opposed to Contract-to-Hire. If things continue to move offshore and company budgets continue to shrink, our clients aren’t going to able to hire permanent employees with high salaries. That’s where contractors come in: Companies will have to adopt a “quick fix model”, and look to secure short-term staffing engagements instead of trying to bring on full time, salaried employees.