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February 13, 2014

WorkWise: Applicant-centric staffing favorable to job seekers

Job seekers will be relying more and more on staffing companies that are friendly to applicants in a market filled with legions of job hunters.

Job seekers will be relying more and more on staffing companies that are friendly to applicants in a market filled with legions of job hunters. One reason is obvious. In some fields, full-time, permanent positions are declining. In others, highly qualified job seekers create competition for companies bringing them on board. Applicant-friendly staffing benefits job seekers in declining and robust industries.

Is this the best job-hunting target? It might be, but it’s only one of many. Be judicious. When you encounter a cattle-call atmosphere, go elsewhere. It’s eroding as firms develop more in-depth relationships with job seekers. Is this purely a business decision based upon what firms, clients and applicants want?

Edward Ryabovsky has both planned the recruiting process and recruited. He’s program manager, talent acquisition at Verizon Corp. in Baskingridge, N.J.

“Any agency that focuses explicitly and specifically on increasing the probability of candidates getting employed is applicant-centric,” he explains. “They spend time and effort developing applicants through career counseling, resume development and interview coaching, including dress and understanding culture.

“An applicant-centric approach involves working with fewer applicants, providing them a high level of service and getting a higher hit ratio on placeable candidates,” he continues. “It’s all about numbers for agencies that aren’t applicant-centric.” He adds that agencies don’t generally charge for these services.


Atrium LLC, headquartered in New York, N.Y., and Optech LLC, headquartered in Troy, Mich., serve different customers. The latter has IT and engineering clients; the former, clients in multiple industries. Marcie Wechsler, Atrium’s executive director of staffing, extols the applicant-centric approach, which replaces the superficiality that annoys applicants. She’s been in recruiting for more than 15 years and now oversees temporary administrative support.

“It starts and ends with the associates,” she says. “We cultivate them, provide consultative services and forge long-standing relationships. The payoff is absolutely worthwhile” in terms of the retention the firm offers clients, associate loyalty and job satisfaction on Atrium’s staff. She adds that applicants receive benefits, some even before they begin assignments.

Wechsler mentions a range of professional development opportunities, including professional education through Atrium University, guiding applicants to their market value. It helps that “clients want to see the top five ... quality matches,” she comments.

Scott Goodwin, Optech’s COO, recruits and places applicants in staffing assignments of a year or two and projects, in addition to placing executives in permanent positions. His company has become increasingly candidate-centric because of its tight market.

“Optech’s view (centers on) the whole candidate experience,” he remarks. “Where do you want to go as a technical person? What are you looking for in the next move?” Predictions that the number of employees changing jobs will rise this year reinforce the need for this orientation.

“If you approach candidates as trying to sell them things,” the COO observes, “they won’t return the call. Find unthreatening ways to meet them and position you as a consultant. We do a lot of work meeting passive candidates who aren’t actively looking but are willing to listen by going beyond the job to association meetings, where we meet them on a professional level. The interview there isn’t just about a job.”

Why would a firm become applicant-centric? Verizon’s Ryabovsky sees it as a business decision: “lower numbers, better knowledge of candidates, higher placement ratio.” Goodwin’s answer, “to survive,” suggests urgency to those who haven’t joined the trend. Wechsler says it works all of the way around.

Mildred L. Culp of WorkWise® welcomes your questions at

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