Want to Keep Your Staffing Firm Alive? Learn from Amazon.com

Matt Franklin

Director of Recruiting, Mitchell Martin

Matt has 20 years of experience architecting, building, and leading Mitchell Martin’s (MMI) IT recruitment practice. MMI’s delivery team has grown to include more than 70 individuals in three different countries supporting U.S. clients in 34 states. Matt has been guided by innovation throughout his career and has long felt that talent acquisition technology will become a core differentiator in the staffing space.

Every Staffing Firm Is the Same…

In the past five years, the industry research has echoed the same theme: our clients struggle to differentiate one staffing firm from another.  We all look the same to them. To make matters worse, when going through the RFP process, procurement teams often joke that all staffing firms answers questions in the same way.  Not surprisingly, this has led them to make decisions based mostly on pricing – a toxic trend that pushes all of us into a downward spiral towards more commoditization.

“We can all do it cheaper and faster until we cannot!”   

Commoditization has been a buzzword in the staffing industry for more than five years now.  Usually this word strikes fear into staffing leaders and eventually leads to the “industry is dying or remember the good old days” conversations at the bar at conferences I have recently attended.

While there are indeed many challenges facing our industry, I believe there are even more opportunities that lie ahead.  It will be the firms that are willing, able, and eager to be unique that survive and prosper.

What can we do to break this cycle of commoditization? How can our firms be viewed as unique, special, and different, but most importantly – memorable? How can we get our customers to become our brand ambassadors?

I believe the so-called experts are focusing on the wrong audience. It’s not the Fortune 500 companies with which we should be infatuated: it’s the candidates.  How many staffing leaders view the candidate as equally important to their clients?

After all, candidates are the most precious currency to which our firms have access.  With the talent shortage forecasted to get worse in the future, skilled candidates will only become more valuable.  It will be our industry’s ability to find, present, and retain key talent that will differentiate our firms into the future.  How does your customer/candidate experience stack up?

Amazon.com and Staffing:

What’s the first step in amplifying your candidate experience? Start by visiting Amazon.com. The user experience is still quite simply amazing.  Its frictionless, fast, and although thousands have tried to duplicate it, it remains unmatched.

User experience is their only secret sauce.  CEO Jeff Bezos proclaimed in his annual remarks to employees and shareholders: “Obsessive customer focus is the only thing that stands between a company and inevitable brand demise.”  For most staffing leaders, this should be a major wake-up call.

Are you candidate-focused? Or are they just a means to an end for you, another commodity?

Hard Questions that Can No Longer Be Avoided

How do candidates interact with your staffing firm?  Your recruiters? Your back-office personnel? Your brand in general?  More importantly, how do your candidates view these interactions?  Is your staffing firm truly candidate-friendly? Is your candidate experience a differentiator?  Do candidates view you as an industry leader and a frictionless partner? Are they “ravenous fans” and brand promoters going out of their way to refer associates to your firm?

Most staffing leaders cannot honestly answer these questions, or if they can, those answers are unsatisfactory.  Most will make assumptions based on feelings, not data, and simply move on to the most pressing brush fire of the day. Newsflash: candidates are the brush fire you need to rush towards.

How Do We Fix It?

To get started on the road to better candidate experience, you first must learn where you stand today.  It’s time to survey your consultants and get some real intelligence about your candidate experience around the following:

  1. Job application process on your website and other properties
  2. Onboarding process prior to start
  3. Consultant care process during engagement
  4. Effectiveness of your front office personnel: recruiters and salespeople
  5. Payroll process
  6. Offboarding process
  7. Communication effectiveness overall
  8. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  9. How your firm compares to others

There is plenty of technology available to help make this task manageable for firms big and small: try it out. You will learn a lot about your service offering and get actionable feedback from your most valuable customer, your candidates.

This will lead to effective changes inside your organization which can only result in higher customer satisfaction, better candidate experience, better candidate retention, and perhaps begin to chip away at the “commoditization” myth that plagues us all. Ultimately, only those who serve the candidate community better over time will be left standing.