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From Cold Calling to Inbound: How to Be Successful as a 21st Century Recruiter by Chris Ohlendorf

The recruiting industry has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years, and while many of the characteristics that define a great recruiter then are still critical, today’s recruiters must adapt to change and effectively utilize new digital tools to remain successful in the 21st century.

When I first started 20 years ago, the traditional way to advertise for a job opening would have been to put an ad in a local newspaper and have candidates mail their applications over to the hiring manager. In 90’s, people weren’t really using computers and we mainly got leads from the newspaper. The phone was our primary method of communication and resources like LinkedIn were over a decade from being realized, let alone properly utilized. The owner of the company I worked for also ran a full page ad in the yellow pages to get client leads and, at the time, all of these methods were effective when it came to marketing jobs and attracting clients.


To attract candidates, we focused on headhunting them out of competitors and tracked them using note cards. It wasn’t until internet use became more widespread and job sites such as Monster, CareerBuilder and Dice came into the picture in the late 1990’s that things began to change. But throughout all the change that’s affected the industry, one thing remains true: even with all the tools available today there’s truly no substitute for exceptional recruiting skills and having the ability to deliver a client experience worthy of a referral. However, the downfall of cold-calling as a recruiting method has left a big gap that traditional recruiting skills alone can’t fill. This is why the 21st century recruiter must utilize digital tools in conjunction with traditional skills in order to maximize success.


The Dot-Com Boom and the Rise of Job Sites


The birth  of the internet turned the recruiting industry on its head, giving business and recruiters the ability to post their jobs on the generic job board websites like those I mentioned above (Monster.com, CareerBuilder, Dice, etc.). Along with these generic job board sites, niche job board sites also became popular and gave recruiters the ability to separate from competition and promote their roles to a more relevant and targeted pool of candidates.


Companies paid to see job board databases filled with candidates actively and ready to switch jobs. While some companies had websites, they were typically used to provide basic information about their business and nothing more. It wouldn’t be until nearly a decade later that websites would start to become primary tools for selling and generating revenue. In the early 2000’s, companies began hiring in-house corporate recruiters to fill a high number of jobs in lieu of reaching out to third party recruiters or firms like us. When LinkedIn was officially launched, that’s when things started to change drastically. Traditional job sites began to fall at the wayside, as they weren’t able to remain useful and adapt to change and recruiters were just beginning to learn how to leverage the power of the internet to attract leads and candidates–those that didn’t adapt were quickly left behind.


The Downfall of Cold-Calling and The Beginning of Digital Recruiting


LinkedIn was launched in 2003 and it continues to be the number one networking tool for recruiters even today. The days of cold-calling were coming to an end, as social media offered a new tool recruiters could use to attract relevant candidates and clients. The implications of weak digital discovery became dire, because both clients and candidates started doing research online. This is one reason why it is arguably more difficult to start out as a recruiter today than it’s ever been. The internet provides an instant window into your credibility, so if your online presence isn’t optimized, your clients and candidates may not like what they find when they search your name in Google.


There should be a multitude of ways that clients and candidates can engage with your brand online. Between social media, digital advertising, professional social media networks and job boards, there are more tools than ever to draw in potential leads and candidates. However, they must be utilized properly with a well thought-out digital marketing strategy to deliver results. With digital marketing solutions, you can emphasize the strengths of both your company and your personal brand to your clients as a way to generate a steady supply of qualified recruiting leads.


One of the most important digital marketing tools that staffing firm owners and recruiters can employ is search engine optimization (SEO), which is the careful optimization of both your website’s technical structure and on page content. Optimizing your website for search  will ensure it appears at or near the the top of search engine results pages, which is where 80% of people click. The other 20% click on the paid ads at the top of the results. Pay-per-click advertising through search engines is yet another digital marketing tool that you can use to supplement your base of existing clients and referrals. In addition, you can execute social media advertising to attract targeted visitors, engage in thought leadership and earned media to generate inbound traffic and create a relevant mailing list management to nurture leads to move them down the sales funnel.


Are You Adapting To Change Successfully? Here’s What Still Matters In Recruiting

In the 1990’s, billing $400,000 meant that half that would come from cold-calls, but now that cold-calling isn’t nearly as effective anymore, how are your supposed to replace that 50%? First, what made a recruiter successful in the ‘90s is still true today and hasn’t changed. Doing good work with your clients will get your repeat business and referrals, but to make up for the remaining portion of revenue that cold-calling used to deliver, you can leverage the power of SEO, inbound marketing and social media strategy. When combined, these three tools can deliver great results. In fact, their combination makes up  50% of Versique’s  yearly revenue. There are clients searching for your right now, and without SEO, they may be finding your competitors instead of you, but it doesn’t have to be that way. All you need to do is explore how digital marketing can help take your staffing firm to the next level.


SEO requires expertise, strategy and know-how, so that’s why so many businesses reach out to specialized digital marketing agencies for help. And while there are a lot of digital marketing agencies out there, there are only a few that specifically focus on helping staffing firms get found online and become thought leaders in the marketplace through careful content creation. Parqa for Staffing, Versique’s in-house staffing-focused digital marketing agency, has helped a number of staffing firms revitalize their online presence and establish client lead pipelines. Your existing clients and referrals may still be your number one revenue source, but with digital marketing, you can do so much more. Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen the industry transform from tracking cold-calling clients to attracting clients through LinkedIn, social media and thought leadership. If you’re interested in learning how digital marketing can help your staffing firm attract more clients, reach out to me today.

Click Here to Find Out More About PARQA

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