Why you should ramp up recruiting now— and how!

Jul 27, 2009

With this kind of a statement, you might assume I am either stuck in a 90s time warp, or that I have finally lost my mind. But neither is true. Yes— I know times are rough. Yes— I also know that many of you have reduced your staffs by 15%-20% or more over the past year. “It’s time to cut back, not recruit,” you may say. But maybe you should be thinking about WHY business is down. Maybe it’s down because marketing didn’t do their job. Maybe it’s down because a critical principal in charge of a big revenue-producing unit went to sleep on the job. Maybe things got screwed up because the CFO didn’t sound the alarm soon enough. Maybe it’s down because you honestly did not produce your best work for some key clients and they dumped you once they had a good excuse (their own financial woes) to do so. In a nutshell, maybe someone or some people, in spite of being good folks, did not do their job and that’s why your financial performance suffered. What’s the remedy for these woes? Ramping up recruiting, of course. Besides investing in IT and marketing, recruiting is one place you can create a real strategic advantage for your firm. So how do you make it happen? Here are my thoughts: Resolve to do it. Make this activity a priority. Stop talking. Get rid of all task forces or committees. Make up a list of the key positions, both replacements and new additions, and go after filling them! Put resources on it. Make it real. Track your successes and failures. Make it a standing agenda item at your operations meetings. Devote an adequate budget to really do it. Stop thinking cost and start thinking investment in the future. A company doing $10 million a year in fees can and should spend about $250K a year on recruiting— including search fees, advertising, job fairs, etc. That is not an excessive amount for an activity that has the potential to radically change your firm for the better. Find someone with a real passion for it. If you want something done well, find someone who is enthusiastic about doing it. That just makes so much sense on so many levels, yet many firms want to assign just anyone, it seems, to this “non-billable” task. Make sure you are really spending what it takes. I just mentioned the $250K recruitment budget for a $10 million design or environmental firm. If the year is darn near over and you’ve only spent $67K, that is not a good thing. You didn’t do what you set out to do. That is not cause for celebration! It’s cause to bump some heads. Hire good people when they come along. This is such an important strategy! Even if you don’t have a specific opening you should be open to the idea and possibility of hiring anyone who could enhance your reputation and make you money. Get critical of the efforts! If it’s taking too long to fill key jobs, look into it! If you are getting too many turndowns to your employment offers, find out why. If those doing recruiting keep parading the wrong people in front of you, talk to them about it. Get critical and don’t accept anything less than the desired results. One thing really successful people can tell you: Get out of synch with the rest of your peer companies. That’s where the opportunity is. Ramping up recruiting is one of the few tools you’ve got. Use it. Originally published 7/27/2009

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.