May 8, 2023

Interview with Julie Labrie

Julie Labrie

President, BlueSky Personnel Solutions

We are going through very uncertain times. What are the 3 things that will differentiate top performing staffing companies from others?

First, the quality of relationships that a staffing company has with its candidates and clients – with goodwill built-in, is the most important differentiator in our industry today. For top performing staffing companies, this is their most important asset.

When the pandemic hit our market in 2020, it felt like our business had gone from 100 to zero almost overnight. At that time, when my team suddenly had nothing in their queue from clients, I asked them to contact candidates in our network instead, just to touch base and see how they were doing. We saw this as a valuable investment in cultivating our candidate network. And our candidates greatly appreciated the gesture. Then, when our phones started ringing again, and client requests started coming in, we were reaching out to warm leads from our jobseeker pool.

Second, top performing recruiters make it a point to constantly stay abreast of what’s happening in the market. In Canada, early on in the pandemic, we saw that jobseekers had gotten used to working from home, and wanted to continue to do so. We could see that this was a trend that would be here to stay for the long run. Moreover, we could see that salary expectations were starting to climb in our market, long before there was such widespread talk about inflation, as there is today. Speaking to candidates every day, and actively listening to their needs and wants, helps us keep our ears to the ground. As a result, as these changes were unfolding in our marketplace, we were able to keep our clients informed and well-prepared in their recruitment strategies.

The third thing in my opinion is having trust and transparency with clients and candidates. Great staffing companies aren’t afraid of telling their clients the truth, even when the news is bad. This is because the best returns-on-investment in recruitment come when clients and agencies work together as one team. Our clients know that if we can’t find a candidate for them for a position, we will tell them that out right. But they also know, given our work ethic, that we would have already done everything we could have from the very beginning, leaving no stone unturned. They appreciate not being left in the dark, and not having to scramble at the last minute based on false promises. Such trust and transparency is what has led us to having many long-term client relationships, many that have lasted for more than a decade.

It is not a secret, we have a recruiter shortage. What are the most helpful tools to make your recruiters more efficient?

We use lots of tools to enable us to be more efficient, and I’ve shared some that we find most useful below. However, in my opinion, the #1 tool in a great staffing company’s arsenal, is the quality of their network. At the end of the day, it’s the people that you have in your network that you can reach out to, that can make all the difference – and make you the most efficient in your search. Our deeply cultivated candidate network spans across our country, and it is our key differentiator in our client’s eyes. It is undoubtedly an enviable competitive advantage in our industry.

Now, in terms of tech tools, here are a few that we find useful from an efficiency perspective:

StaffTrack from People 2.0: This CRM software allows us to house our candidate profiles, their resumes, and all of our team’s notes from their ongoing communications with jobseekers. Our team is very disciplined about keeping good notes, and this helps us build stronger relationships in our candidate network.

Calendly: We find this tool to be great for scheduling interviews. It saves us a ton of time in terms of back and forth coordination.

LinkedIn Recruiter: It’s likely not a surprise that this tool makes a staffing company’s list, but we find it to be a great tool to help us in targeting with our outreach with laser sharp focus, where we can send prospective candidates job opportunities directly, and then ask them to connect with us. This enables us to consistently build our candidate network.****

Everyone talks about the candidate experience, but what about the client experience? What tools or best practices do you implement to ensure an outstanding experience for your clients when working with your firm?

When it comes to the client experience, we find that simple considerations like maintaining ongoing communications – e.g. sending emails to clients letting them know what’s happening with their search in real time – is an invaluable way to build rapport and trust. We let them know what is happening, what challenges we are facing, and what successes we’ve had so far, in finding the right people for them.

This approach allows us to have open and honest communications with them, and that’s what our clients want, more than anything else. In our market, we are currently experiencing a significant labour shortage, and jobseekers are holding all the power right now. They are calling the shots.

So, our conversations with clients will often go like this: “We can get candidates with X experience for you right now, are you open to this?” (Even though they were asking for candidates with “Y” experience.) By being direct and forthcoming like this, I can’t tell you how many times our clients have asked for “Jupiter” let’s say, and we’ve presented them with “Saturn” instead. And it turned out, that is exactly what the company needed at that time.

Little updates, even when there is no real news, makes a difference – for example: “I haven’t forgotten about you – this is what I’ve been getting so far,” or “This week has been terrible for people getting back to us, but please know, we are on it.”

Helping clients to be on the same page with us during the recruitment process is, by far, the best way to deliver an outstanding experience.

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