The power of word of mouth

No matter how great the conversation is, when a business reaches out to a potential customer, there’s always the thought — I know you’re only here to sell me something. It’s not exactly a great way to build a relationship.

Staffing is no different. Our clients are skeptical about whether we can really deliver the great quality candidates they need, and our candidates are doubtful about whether we can place them in a position that really fits. There’s a suspicion that we’re just trying to move bodies through the door.

Obviously, we can deliver high-quality, great-fit candidates. The question is, how do we build the trust that we need to do that?

Putting the relationship first

For Rebecca Martinez and Justin Brandt, cofounders of the healthcare staffing firm Ideal Personnel, the answer to that question has always been clear. “We all hate salespeople that are pushy,” said Brandt. “Our goal is to sell without selling, if that makes sense, and do the complete opposite of what you hate. … It’s about developing relationships, long-lasting relationships.”

Recruiting and sales have a lot of overlap — both rely on building rapport, identifying the other party’s needs, and addressing those needs. And in both recruiting and sales, you only begin to see results once you stop focusing on the outcome.

Instead, recruiters should focus on candidate relationship management. That way, you’ll have a much easier time identifying your client’s needs, evaluating the kind of candidate who has come to you looking for a job, and developing the great reputation that staffers need to be successful.

Ideal Personnel is proof of that strategy’s efficacy. By prioritizing the relationships they build with their clients and candidates, they’ve netted over 250 reviews on Google that average 4.8 stars, outstripping the next-most reviewed staffing firm by hundreds of reviews.

Candidates wary of the staffing industry read Ideal Personnel’s many glowing reviews and head their way when looking for work. “People are hesitant to work with a staffing firm because there are so many bad ones out there,” said Brandt, “and the reputation is not as strong until you find an agency that you trust that really has your best interest in mind.” At the same time, clients can rest assured that they’ve partnered with a firm that’s proven itself in the past.

Prioritizing candidate relationship management doesn’t just send more candidates Brandt and Martinez’s way — they also gain access to job-seekers who aren’t always in the active candidate pool. During the episode, Martinez and Brandt relayed that three out of five of their candidates come directly from referrals. More often than not, these referrals tend to be highly skilled, highly desirable job-seekers who have just begun their searches.

Here’s how Brandt and Martinez baked that relationship-first attitude into their firm and started generating these positive reactions from clients and candidates.

The right people with the right tools

First and foremost, Ideal Personnel looks for the right kind of people — after all, building a great relationship with a candidate or client is a two-way street. When hiring staffers, Brandt and Martinez look for people with empathy and with the drive to constantly improve themselves. “Those are two skills that are hard to train; they have to be part of someone’s DNA,” said Martinez. “The rest of the stuff that we do is very much trainable.”

They showcase their internal staff through social media, demonstrating their company culture and values to both clients and candidates. It’s difficult to build trust with another individual if they can’t get to know the people they’re working with; social media presents an opportunity to put faces to names and to become familiar with the personality and principles of a staffing firm.

When reaching out to their candidates, Ideal Personnel uses Herefish by Bullhorn to follow up with clients after a new hire starts to see how they performed, and to email candidates about new jobs opening up in their market that they may be a good fit for. “We send out one [email] blast a week, and we ask for referrals back with that blast,” said Martinez. “We probably get over 100 responses once a week.”

The future lies in video

Martinez and Brandt are also big proponents of video interviewing. At Ideal Personnel, they use a technology called SparkHire, which enables you to send questions to a potential hire and have them film their answers as well as conduct two-way interviews.

Notably, Martinez and Brandt embraced video interviewing before the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though it’s just a relatively small process change, Martinez and Brandt have seen major results and believe that video interviewing is going to be the norm for the long-term.

“How many interviews have you been on that, within the first minute or two, you realize there’s no way I would hire this person?” asked Brandt. In-person interviews are time-consuming procedures, and they’re especially frustrating to candidates who, after weeks of preparation, often walk away with no idea of how they performed.

“Most of the time, culture fit and personality is what everybody looks for. It’s probably 50-50 between that and experience,” said Brandt. Culture fit and personality, however, can only be assessed in person — or on video. Staffers can ask for short videos alongside candidate resumes to help them assess for personality, presentation, communication skills, and all the other attributes that can’t be conveyed through a piece of paper. This saves the staffer, the candidate, and the client a lot of time.

“By the time you actually meet with them, you pretty much know a lot about this person,” explained Brandt. At Ideal Personnel, they found that this technique significantly lowered the number of interviews they had to conduct and increased the number of placements they made from the interviews they did conduct.

It’s these small but impactful decisions that Ideal Personnel makes which give them such a great reputation with their clients and candidates. By treating their candidates with empathy and focusing on building their relationship before “selling” the candidate a job, recruiters can create the trust that leads to matching high-quality candidates with great-fit jobs. This is both inherently rewarding and a great way to build up a reputation as a reliable recruiter worthy of referrals.

If you want to hear more of Brandt’s and Martinez’s input on the state of the recruiting industry, the power of a great reputation, and the importance of building relationships with your candidates, you can listen to them on the You Own the Experience podcast here.

Tools, tips and key takeaways from the episode

  • Bullhorn: Ideal Personnel uses Bullhorn as their ATS and the central platform of their recruiting operations.
  • Herefish by Bullhorn: Communication is key to how Ideal Personnel built up their reputation with clients and candidates. They use Herefish to send texts and email blasts to keep in touch with their candidates throughout their journey, solicit feedback from their clients and ask for referrals.
  • SparkHire: Video interviewing has had a huge impact on Ideal Personnel; they use SparkHire for interviewing and screening to respect candidates’ time.
  • Referment: When discussing the impact that referrals can have, Robert brought up the Referment app. Rather than rely on recruiters, Referment lets candidates’ peers refer them for positions they’d be a good fit for.
  • Visus Group: Ideal Personnel regularly attends roundtables hosted by the Visus Group to collaborate on growth with leaders from the staffing and recruiting industry.
  • Florida Staffing Association: Ideal Personnel is also a member of the Florida Staffing Association, the premier trade association for staffing and recruiting firms in Florida.