An interview with Tom Erb

May 6, 2021

Tom Erb: « The only way to win the talent game is to develop relationships with candidates that aren’t actively looking for work today».


With more than 25 years of experience in the staffing industry, Tom Erb will be a guest of honor at the coming ACSESS conference. At PRIM Logix, we were won over by his approach and his words and had the chance to ask him a few questions about his area of expertise: the relationships between the agency and the candidates within the recruitment process.


The annual national conference of ACSESS – the Association of Canadian Search, Employment & Staffing Services, will be held on May 12th and 13th. Of course, special conditions lead to special measures: this year, the conference will be held entirely online. Alone or in a team, it will therefore be possible to attend these two days of conference from your office or in your living room (see below).


PrimLogix is proud to sponsor Tom Erb’s talk, “It’s All About Building Relationships: How Candidate Conversations Can Transform Your Staffing Business?”


Tom Erb is the founding president of Tallann Resources, a consulting firm specializing in the staffing and recruiting industry. His fields of expertise and his experience make him a privileged witness and a relevant commentator on the evolution of the sector. In the context of his upcoming conference, we had the chance to speak with him.


  • In 25 years, have you observed a real change in the way in which softs skills are considered in the recruitment industry? Do you think this marks a real turning point or is it a fashion of the time?


Soft skills have always been important in our industry, as we are in the business of people. But at times I believe it has been devalued, and staffing firms have even shied away from the “case worker” mentality, sometimes viewing empathy as a weakness in the recruiter role. Now as we face an unprecedented and sustained talent shortage, companies are again starting to see the value in having friendly, compassionate employees.


  • Covid-19 has shaken up our work habits, by making teleworking more widespread and by forcing contacts through interposed screens: how can we make this situation an asset to improve our connection with candidates and employees?


We’ve already seen several benefits that have unexpectedly arisen from the pandemic. Before staffing firms were forced to work remotely, many believed that it couldn’t be done. Not only was that disproven, but in many cases it forced us to refine our processes and create new efficiencies. And in some cases it has actually improved communication with candidates and employees. Widespread adoption of candidate engagement, mobile workforce apps, video conferencing, and self-scheduling technologies have all resulted in more interaction with candidates and employees, not less. And while some may argue that those interactions are technology-driven and therefore less personal, in most cases they are in addition to and driving more one on one personal communication.


  • In your conference, you discuss the importance of building lasting relationships: how does it apply in a context of high competition where turnover is so frequent?


The only way to win the talent game is to develop relationships with candidates that aren’t actively looking for work today, which usually makes up 85-90% of the talent pool. Unfortunately, almost every staffing firm is solely focused on the candidates that want a job today. When we do reach out to less active candidates, most make the mistake of still treating them like they are actively looking for work. We pepper them with open jobs and referral requests, which they don’t care about right then. Staffing firms need to expand their reach to the entire talent pool and engage them with messaging and content that is relevant for them in their career life cycle stage. Then when they are ready for a new position, they are more likely to come back to us than hit the free agent market, also known as the job boards.


  • We talk a lot about inclusion and diversity today. Can the emphasis on emotional intelligence be a response to these needs for inclusion? Are there some softs skills that are more inclusive than others?


Absolutely. There are several areas of emotional intelligence that are critical to inclusion and diversity. Empathy is the ability to understand things from the other person’s perspective. Curiosity is the skill of asking probing questions and getting to know people at a deeper level. And self-awareness is the ability to recognize one’s own emotional state, behaviors, and biases. All of these traits are essential when building an environment of inclusion and diversity.


  • PRIM Logix’s philosophy is to bring our partners to relax, to free themselves from stress thanks to technological support. Can technology also play a role in building strong interpersonal relationships?


Used the right way, technology absolutely can reduce stress through automation of certain tasks, and through replicating our actions on a broader scale than we do manually. One example that I mentioned earlier is candidate engagement software. Used effectively, candidate engagement can significantly expand a recruiter’s reach to communicate with candidates and employees on a regular basis. The best users of candidate engagement software leverage the technology to not only keep in regular touch with individuals, but drive them back to the recruiter for meaningful live conversations. This technology actually enables the recruiter to build more long-lasting relationships.


The annual national conference of ACSESS : What is on the program?


During the two days of the conference, from around 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., participants – individually or by work team – will be able to attend lectures given by prestigious players in the staffing industry, whose experience as well as their analyzes are recognized and shared.


The program, available online, notably includes thematic sessions dedicated either to agency managers or to recruiters, to specialize in the speech and to allow everyone, within the agency, to find interest and profit in these two days.


For more information and to register, visit the conference website.


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