I'm reading a book called Starbucked right now - it's the story of the little coffeshop in Seattle. There's a some things that we recruiters can learn from how Howard Schultz ran his company and grew it from a small niche coffeeshop to the corporate juggernaut that it is today.
Starbucks delivered quality coffee in an era when the coffee in the US was terrible and had been for decades. The majors used lots of low quality "robusta" beans to supplement the "arcadia" beans that make up the consumable product. Starbucks never used filler and part of the reason they grew was the quality of the product.
More importantly Starbucks grew because they provided more than coffee - there was a mystique and passion about coffee that caught at Starbucks. They took 2 very basic commodities (coffee beans and milk) and marketed their way to the top. They placed retail shops directly across the street, a bold move that everyone thought was crazy until it worked. Think back to the first time you tasted REAL coffee - it very well may have been a Starbucks. They pretty much revolutionized how coffee is consumed in the US.
While I don't expect to revolutionize the recruiting business there's some lessons to be learned from this book.
The first is quality. You need to be able to recognize the good beans from the bad. The majors are still using a lot of robusta beans which are extremely bitter and make terrible coffee - the stuff that you found in a truck stop in 1972. But now they basically pull all the flavor out of the bean and inject it with artifical flavoring. You really don't think Folgers has "vanilla hazelnut" coffee trees in Brazil do you? Robusta beans are filler. Starbucks doesn't use them - period. If you're sending "filler" candidates, stop it. I think your clients would rather see no candidates from you.
The second is passion. If you don't care about your customers, your candidates and your company you should not be in this business. If all you want is the placement fee you're sunk. If you don't care about your candidates desires, goals or lives find a new business. If the only reason you walk into your customer's place of business is because they write you a check when you invoice it shows in your attitude and demeanor. You have to treat everyone as a valued customer, understand their wants and needs and deliver what they expect, not what you expect.
The third is doing something no one else is doing. Like putting a store across the street from your store. Do stuff that makes your competition think you're crazy. Crazy like a fox. Cancel your Monster account and start recruiting. Pass along a strong candidate to a client you've targeted as a freebie. Be different. At Starbucks you have to order a "tall" "grande" or "venti". The smallest cup of coffee they have is "tall" (by the way - venti is Italian for 20, guess how many ounces that cup of coffee is). What's wrong with "small / medium / large"? Nothing except everyone else is doing it. Market your jobs, don't just post a recipe list of skills that the client asked for and forget about what the job really entails. Make your company stand out. Stay in touch with people - I think we all know how important that is and how it is neglected by so many recruiters.
Starbucks never should have made it. They charged $4.00 for something you could get anywhere in the city for 75% less. Yet they have tens of thousands of stores across the world.
Oddly enough, I don't drink coffee - makes me jittery.