In this episode of The Staffing Show, David Folwell, the President of Staffing Hub, interviews Melissa Howard, Data and Systems Analyst for IT Works Recruitment, about what recruiters get wrong when connecting with candidates, what new recruiting tools lead to success, and how IT recruiting is changing for the worst.

This interview took place at Bullhorn Engage 2018.

Here’s the transcript of the episode.

Staffing Hub: Melissa, thank you for joining us today. Super excited to have you on the Staffing Show.

Howard: Absolutely.

Staffing Hub: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your background?

Howard: Absolutely. So, believe it or not, I actually went to school for staffing. No, I’m joking. No such thing. But, I went to school for acting. I got my Bachelor of Arts in Theater, but previously to that, I’ve always been a part of the people business. I’ve worked with a couple of nonprofits, was a participant, as well as working with them as far as raising money.

I understood the power of people, and influence, and connection at an early age.

Started off in high school. That expanded into me being a bubbly people person, which then enabled me to get an opportunity with a wonderful staffing company called IT Works Recruitment.

They saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself. I started off as a Talent Acquisition Coordinator there, at IT Works Recruitment. I transitioned on, and got promoted to Talent Acquisition Specialist, so I was handling a lot of the recruiting for our company, internal recruitment, and the processing and onboarding, and the like. I’ve always had a passion for technology. Computers have always been my thing. I developed software, apps, on the side, as my hobby.

Staffing Hub: Awesome. Very cool.

Howard: That transitioned into my current role now with my company. The CEO, Gary Dytor, giving me an opportunity to really expand upon my skill sets, and the like, and so now I am the newly formed and fledged Data and Systems Analyst for IT Works Recruitment Inc.

Staffing Hub: Oh, fantastic, fantastic. That was a great background. I appreciate that.

Howard: Well, thank you.

Staffing Hub: How’s the conference going for you right now? We’re here at Bullhorn Engage, and I was just wondering how you’re enjoying the conference.

Howard: Oh man, it’s amazing! It’s really, really awesome. I’m having such a great time. This is my first time here. I’m enjoying just learning about the different technologies, the different features that you can use with Bullhorn.

We’ve been using Bullhorn for some time now, but I don’t think we really are taking advantage of the features as a company. I think it’s our CEO’s goal to want to take advantage of it, and he knows how individually, but he’s a CEO, so he’s only one guy. Part of me taking on this new role, I’m able to come here and learn so much about … okay, what’s a data loader? What is Canvas? What is that like? Talk to people that are actually using the system. Talk to them about how it’s beneficial to their company. Talk to them about current extensions that they’re using, and seeing what’s the next best step for productivity when it comes to our business. It’s amazing. You never really get all of the people, that are competing against each other in an industry, in one place, and be friendly. Bullhorn accomplishes that at Engage.

Staffing Hub: I heard some of the others today describe it as the tribe, and that … It sure feels like that. It’s a great place, really awesome.

Howard: It’s a mini-cult of recruiters. If you get a good group of recruiters in one room, great recruiters, great recruiters, you will have some friendly time with each other.

Staffing Hub: Absolutely, and so you mentioned tools and kind of like some different technologies. Anything specific that stands out? Any things that you’re super excited about that you’ve learned so far?

Howard: A few things, actually. I definitely am highly interested in data loader. Completely, completely interested in data loader. Just the functionalities. I know they’re about … they’re tentatively three months out for rolling it out, but I’m excited too, because our database. We have a million records within our individual database of candidates in our niche IT industry, so we need to be able to extract in a more efficient way, and right now we don’t have an efficient tool to do so without manually inputting the data, and so data loader was able to take that … the functionalities of what we would ever want to accomplish, and put it together. We can even add a bot to data loader. We can add functionalities and tools to it that integrates with Bullhorn, and speak to each other, and that just blows my mind as a techie. It blows my mind to do so, so that by far is one.

And Canvas, the reporting tools … I saw Canvas on the Bullhorn’s website, but I didn’t really … I understood it, and I said, well, we can do reporting tools by ourselves. We can do the reporting tools now with our enterprise license. That’s easy. We can do that. But when I started talking to a couple of the users, and they said, no it’s a lot more intricate than that. You can take this, and you can pull this out, and you can have real-time reports on Canvas. I was listening to her, and I’m like, wow. Okay, so maybe we need to sit down and go to Bullhorn connect and talk to the professional services department about Canvas. Maybe we need to check that out. So, those have been the two highlights, and Recruitics, as well is … Don’t get me started on Recruitics.

Staffing Hub: Tell me a little bit about Recruitics.

Howard: The data side of me … my brain, my mind. It’s similar to … It’s taking a marketing perspective, so for instance, our marketing manager, Molly Dennis, she’ll be really excited about Recruitics because it takes your ROI in terms of what you pay for advertisement, and how he described it was they measure cost … your cost per click, whether it’s cost per click advertisement or cost per post. They take it, and they break it down over your time to fill ratio, what the submission was like, how many candidates were qualified from that ad, and they take it and they provide a report for you so you can look at your investment. They said a lot of the companies that they’ve been investing in were able to cut their budget in half just by using that tool.

It’s phenomenal, and they were able to increase, I think about 27% increase their ROI as far as just strategic advertising and marketing. That’s amazing in this industry, and it’s just so important, and so vital, and many people don’t realize it.

Staffing Hub: As I told her, it’s incredible to me to see how many staffing firms don’t know what their cost per hire is by channel-

Howard: Not a clue.

Staffing Hub: It’s not something that … that data is missing for a lot of people, so it’s cool to have the tools to do that. Sounds like a lot of what you’ve been doing is looking at marketplace partners. Has that been a big part of the-

Howard: Yes, absolutely. Part of my new role … and it’s the human connection behind it with me coming from the corporate HR side, or corporate recruiting side, rather. I’m a fan of building relationships, so I’m really looking at the marketplace partners, and I’m looking at not only the system, but I’m also paying attention to the reps, because I’m a relationship person by nature, and in this industry … that’s why I think I enjoy this industry so much. I’m about building relationships. It’s not all about, okay, how can this benefit you? When I’m having conversations with marketplace partners, I’m going and I’m talking to someone at a roundtable, and I’m telling them “hey, you should check out Recruitics,” or “hey, you should check out DaXtra.” They’re really awesome for what you’re sounding like you would do.

Me, personally, I think I’m all about helping the greater good, and productivity in general. I’ve been checking out the marketplace partners just to see where we are, and how we can improve as a business, but also maintaining those relationships … gaining long lasting developments with people. Hey, you’re in this market? You’re in this industry? Let’s connect. Here’s my card. Let’s talk about some fun features that you didn’t know existed with Bullhorn Enterprise, and that company that just had Bullhorn for a year. I’m like, well, we’ve been using it in our company for about three years, or four years, rather. We can tell you some tips and trades. Let’s chat.

Staffing Hub: Have you been using the marketplace partners the entire time, or is that something you’re new to this year?

Howard: No, we have not. The short answer’s no. We’ve introduced TextUs. TextUs is our first, that I know of, on the US side. We’ve been in the US for about four years now. So we’ve just incorporated TextUs as a marketplace partner.

Staffing Hub: There’s always a lot. The integrations are always a challenge.

Howard: It’s been wonderful. With TextUs as a tool that we’ve been using, and it’s awesome because within three months we were able to see a great ROI.

Staffing Hub: Oh, really?

Howard: A fantastic ROI within just three short months. Really, the first month of us using it we were able to get candidate feedback, and our average rate was over 40% average response rate.

Staffing Hub: That’s amazing compared to phone rates and all that.

Howard: It’s kicking phone and email.

Staffing Hub: That’s great to hear.

Howard: It is. We’re taking advantage of it.

Staffing Hub: Tell me a little bit more about your company, and how you guys are addressing the market a little bit differently than some of your competition.

Howard: I love talking about this. This is the talent acquisition side of me right now. At IT Works Recruitment, we specialize solely in the provision of placing niche business systems experts, IT experts, with clients nationwide. We focus in on 11 specific markets, actually ten specific markets that we focus in on, consisting of sale things like Salesforce, JD Edwards, and for Lawson, Workday, IFS, NetSuite, just to name a few. How we tackle the market and the industry differently, is that our staff members and our team spend 100% of their time on that market, so they’re learning the system in and out. They’re knowing everything, and everything all around about that system specifically. They know what Salesforce is. They know what the modules are. They know what the difference between a Salesforce business analyst is, and a Salesforce system architect, or Force dot com developer, coupled with the marketing cloud developer. They know the difference between that, and they’re able to provide that resource and create that perfect matchmaking blend between that candidate and that client because we know our stuff. We’re experts.

We do things differently, because we take a consultative approach to the market, and it’s a part of our training. We do it from the company back out to the client, so it’s not .. you’re not given a book in this typical recruiting industry. Here, here you go. Here’s a book called The Names, go. So, it’s not like that with our company. That’s what makes us unique. That’s what makes us different, and that’s why I enjoy working for the company, and it’s a unique culture. One of the things that … One of the breakout sessions was talking about with how culture is so important in the industry, and how having culture, and having a streamlined focus on a specific tackle, especially in the niche IT field, how it’s important, and that’s something that stands out amongst the rest. We have a culture that is unlike any other, especially in the Atlanta market.

Staffing Hub: That’s fantastic. So, it sounds like there’s actually a hyper-specialization.

Howard: It is. It’s a niche within a nice.

Staffing Hub: With each recruiter … When you think about IT recruiters, a lot of times they’re talking to the developer and they don’t know anything about job offers role.

Howard: Yep, they have no clue. They don’t know the difference between Java and JavaScript.

Staffing Hub: They can’t speak their language.

Howard: They don’t get it.

Staffing Hub: I’ve been that guy. That’s why I’m on the other side.

Howard: I get it.

Staffing Hub: It’s all about when you’re specializing in it. So, are the recruiters themselves each … I mean, is it going down to one recruiter on NetSuite? Is it that specialized?

Howard: Yeah, so how we do things, and even within the subset of our business model, we have … when Gary Dytor came over to the US, our CEO, when he came over to the US … in the UK, this traditionally full desk, so 360 recruiting. So, one person is handling the client, as well as the candidate, in this specific market. So coming over here that’s how we started. When I joined the company a little over a year ago, that’s how we started. We started … we still were the full 360, and then we realized with our markets it was a lot more easier to scale … to scale doing a split desk model with certain markets, so we decided to split up into two of our markets, the healthcare IT market, as well as Salesforce market, to split up into a split desk approach. So, we still maintain our business systems division where it’s the full 360 because it’s just a specialized niche focus, but we have no more than two people per market.

With some markets, depending on the revenue and demand, it calls for more than two. We typically keep it around two for the nation. When you come in and you need to get a Workday specialist, you’re calling Hillary Vogul, or Alicia West, period. While there are competitors out there that focus on that, or they have one recruiter that does Workday in this, and this, and that, and that specialty, a 100% of our time-

Staffing Hub: Two people that are dedicated to that specific thing, and so if you’re looking for the best and the most knowledgeable.

Howard: You’re looking for the best. That’s why people come back to us, and clients. What we find in our industry, even though they’ll say I hear from you guys, but no, you guys are too expensive. You guys are this. Well, they always come back to us because they find out, oh, these other people just gave me resumes and thought that they were gonna stick, and they weren’t great. They weren’t good candidates.

Staffing Hub: Sometimes you get what you pay for.

Howard: There you go. There you go. You do. You do. We care about people, and that’s what’s important for us.

Staffing Hub: Awesome, and you already talked about this a little bit with culture, but I noticed you guys won awards for client satisfaction, talent satisfaction-

Howard: Yes, we actually won in 2018-

Staffing Hub: Best staffing firm to work for. It was a whole series of awards. It looks like you guys are just piling them up, so what’s your secret?

Howard: The secret … I would say the generic response is the people. That’s one of them. It’s really … We’re really picky about who we let in our company. We’ve had some hiccups in the past where we’ve had some people, and I think where we started as a company, our CEO, Gary Dytor, he was extremely hands on. He still is to some extent. When he first started, he was responsible for bringing on everyone and giving people opportunities, so you have people in our company that are top earners that came from the hospitality industry, or you have someone like myself that had no experience in staffing and started out in, and now I’m a data and systems analyst for a company, but he really started out believing in giving an individual an opportunity because we hire for attitude with our company. It’s not necessarily … We can train skill, and so we’ve set out … we’ve revamped our training program to be able to facilitate and scale skill effectively.

Kyan Wei, our director of training, was able to move into that role fully and has done a great job, and so we have about four-week dedicated training, but then we have … there a 13-week process, and it’s ongoing. It’s constant, and so Gary has really learned to build the company around the individual. So, he’s building a company. You’re great. You’re awesome. Not only are you making yourself money, you’re making yourself commission, but you’re making the company money, so let’s put everyone and resources behind you. Let’s get you a team. Let’s get you dedicated recruiters underneath you. Let’s make something happen. Let’s work this out. Let’s you become a mentor, and so you’re forced to this model to be able to boost everyone else up. It works for us. No, no pun intended. It works, and we are not the It Works green body wrap tea thing. Not at all, but we’ve won 2018 best of staffing, as well, client, and talent, but yeah. It comes back and the clients know about our specialty, and they trust us.

Staffing Hub: It sounds like training is just a huge part of that. The training, the culture, the people-

Howard: Yeah, we have our secret sauce. We have our best practices. We have a unique touch system that’s unlike any other industry, and we had a director that came in and joined our company, and one of the directors was saying, if I would have had what you guys offer ten years ago, I would be a billionaire right now. But it’s unique, and it’s us, and that’s why we are efficient, and that’s why we do what we do and we’re good at it. We are … and the guys there, and the ladies there, and they make it awesome. Our director of HR, Rachel Fletcher, she came aboard in August and she was able to facilitate a great deal of structure and process improvement. Something that we didn’t necessarily have before, but she was able to facilitate that, and that made us even better, and a more well-rounded company. So, it’s a collaborative effort. Team effort, for sure.

Staffing Hub: That’s fantastic, fantastic. So, what are some of the top challenges faced in the industry right now?

Howard: IT industry in general?

Staffing Hub: Yeah, your industry, so some things that you’re seeing from your perspective that you’re seeing with IT recruiting, or if there’s anything even broader from the staffing industry perspective.

Howard: Yeah, well I think the main one a lot of people are facing the challenge of the unemployment rate. That seems to be the hot topic nowadays, but because it’s affecting us so greatly. So, you have to approach the market in a more creative way than just the traditional way of picking up the phone and dialing them. You have to incorporate things like texting. You have to incorporate things like building relationships, and building rapport, and following up, and making sure that you’re connecting with that candidate beyond just a simple, how much money are you making? Do you have the skillset? Great, I’m going to submit you. It’s more so, how’s your family? Do you have any children? Or, I’m going to move into this area. That’s gonna help affect your decision. Let me do some research on the schooling for you, so that way that you feel that the candidate is going to invest in you.

I feel like so many recruiters in the industry are not focused in on that, and so that can be a major challenge, because sometimes … We were guilty of it, too. We can drop the ball on some things, but we know how to pick it back up. I think that’s the main thing, is just not really caring, caring enough. A lot of times recruiters only want what’s beneficial to them, like, you don’t fit my job requirement. You’re not good. No, I don’t care about who else I may know that could help benefit you. We’re losing the human approach.

I would say that the unemployment rate, but the creative way of getting to the candidate is definitely something … how we can overcome the challenges. I know I didn’t really do a good job of explaining that, but that’s really where it’s at. So, a lot of candidates are saying I’m happy where I’m at, especially in the new sector. They’re making the money that they wanted to make. They have the position that they wanted to make. Why would they want to move from Denver, Colorado, back to Washington D.C. and have to deal with the traffic, right?

Staffing Hub: Yeah, it’s a hard one.

Howard: It’s a very hard one. That’s where the approach to the client helps out a lot. You know, the consultative reports to the clients say hey, the unemployment rate is low. This candidate is your prime ideal. He’s not interested in leaving, however, this is what can sweeten the pot. This is what you can do. This is how we can attack it. So, you begin to become a partner with the client versus I’m not sure I can get you this candidate because I’m not sure this is the purple score you’ve wanted, but I’m not sure if you can afford him. You’re making sure that that approach comes naturally.

Staffing Hub: It actually reminds me of one of my favorite podcasts — Seth Godin talks about caring being a competitive advantage.

Howard: There you go.

Staffing Hub: And I think it absolutely can be, and it sounds like in the tight talent market that it even more so than it may be in normal times like that. The human touch is … it’s important.

Howard: Absolutely. It is. It is.

Staffing Hub: It’s amazing to me, all the staffing firms I still hear saying, well I just have to dial more. I’ll pick up the phone and more cold calls.

Howard: That’s old school.

Staffing Hub: That is old school. I agree.

Howard: But granted so, there is a benefit in picking up the phone.

Staffing Hub: You’ve got to work.

Howard: You have to put something in, something in. When you think about them, a lot of staffing industries do the metric based, and they have the turn and burn environment. Whereas that … you know what, you’re not making 50 calls. Even though your submit to fill ratio can be … instead of three to one, it can be two to one.

But you’re not making enough calls to make it happen, and so they will let go of a quality star because of that very nature. I think it starts from the top, top down to be able to facilitate that change. It’s not just about the phone calls, but it’s about what’s going to be the ROI from just the perspective of how many placements can you make, and caring enough about your staff team, about your staff members to be able to say I’m willing to invest in you and take a chance on you. Are you having an issue with the candidate? How can I help you? There are many times where our directors, or ourselves, will take employees into their room, like we’ll call the candidate on the phone with them, walk them through a process of whatever they need to have just to make it happen. Just because they know they want to invest, and they want to make it happen. They want to make everyone satisfied on both ends.

Staffing Hub: Absolutely, so how do you see the industry change over the next few years?

Howard: I see it changing for the worst, honestly. Just to be honest. As far as the general IT staffing, especially in this industry, because I’m looking at the different trends. IT staffing, the amount of talent, I just really … I took a breakout session talking about market trends and growth in the tech sector, and he was saying how since April of 2018 the IT staffing industry has only grown by 0.3%. And you would think that it would be a lot more.

Staffing Hub: I would have imagined it would be a lot more.

Howard: Right, right, and it was just a fascinating trend to look at. One of the things that he said behind that is because of the workforce. We’re not really … the jobs are getting a lot more scarce. They’re getting a lot more specialized, and a lot more specific, because you think about the contingent workforce. A lot of people want to move to the contingent workforce space now, and the millennials want to have this work-life flexibility, and they want to be freelancers, and so you have to battle that approach and figure out what’s the best way to attack the market in that way. I don’t think … I think a lot of companies are set up to that path to where they’re still doing the general because that’s just what they’re good at, and that’s what they’re always good at, but unless they introduce a mode or a method to say we’re focusing on this industry. We’re good, but let’s also attack this market that hasn’t been touched, or maybe has only been touched a little bit to see how we can diversify our client base to make sure that we can stand the time when this workforce goes down, and when this workforce isn’t growing.

Because as unemployment rates increases, guess what? The demand increases, which means staffing prices increase, which means business have to really focus in on what that looks like, but that in turn can approach businesses, and businesses will say, you know what? Let’s get a corporate recruiter instead … instead of spending money on staffing firms. I think that’s why it’s so beneficial to focus in on a niche. It’s so beneficial to focus on a specialized recruitment because a lot of times you just can’t find … you can’t find it out there. I see it getting worse for general … for general focus firms, but niche specialty it definitely … I think they will stand the test of time, for sure, without a doubt.

Staffing Hub: I think it’s a great strategy, and I really appreciate your time today. I appreciate you joining me on the podcast, so thank you so much.

Howard: Thank you for inviting me. Thank you for having me.