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VOL. 124 | NO. 144 | Friday, July 24, 2009

Executive Recruiter Copes With Economic Challenges

By Tom Wilemon

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“Where we saw in 9/11 the fear of the unknown and people wanting to be closer to home, now we have the fear of the unknown from an employment perspective. Sometimes, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know from an employer situation.”
– Whitney Hodges
Whitney Hodges
Position: Owner
Company: RSG Recruiting Service Group Inc.
Basics: The Germantown-based company recently was awarded a contract by the United States General Service Administration to help recruit employees for government agencies.

Matching employers with management personnel is challenging during any recession, but the current economic downturn poses unique obstacles, said Whitney Hodges, the owner of RSG Recruiting Service Group Inc.

The Germantown-based firm, which traditionally has served manufacturing and supply chain businesses across the nation, is now looking for opportunities with the federal government. It has been awarded a contract by the United States General Service Administration to help recruit employees for government agencies.

“We started looking around thinking about who is doing the hiring and who is expanding,” she said. “That’s the federal government. We looked at getting our GSA contract a number of years ago, but it is a very time-consuming, very arduous process. I just decided to take some time this spring and go on and do it.”

Difficult situations

The firm sent its application in mid-April and got an acceptance letter about 90 days later.

Hodges founded RSG in 1995 and also has a branch office in Virginia staffed by recruiter Terry Pope. RSG has weathered two prior recessions.

“Quite frankly, it feels different than any other recession we’ve seen,” Hodges said. “Between the difficulties that companies are having getting funds to expand or getting paid by their customers, the real estate market has made it doubly more difficult to get people to move.”

One factor is economic. The other is psychological.

“Where we saw in 9/11 the fear of the unknown and people wanting to be closer to home, now we have the fear of the unknown from an employment perspective,” Hodges said. “Sometimes, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know from an employer situation. On top of that, we have people who can’t afford two mortgages and companies that obviously aren’t going to buy your house.”

RSG is an employer-fee-based firm that recruits candidates. The positions range from the purchasing director of a Fortune 500 company to the chief executive officer of a $10 million operation, Hodges said. RSG also offers a dual career program for the spouses of relocated executives.

People looking for jobs can upload resumes through the firm’s Web site, www.rsgexecsearch.com.

Beginning of the end?

Although Hodges is beginning to see some signs of an uptick in the job market and has hopes that the economy will start recovering in the fourth quarter, she said the firm has had to find some creative ways to get people in the door.

“Oftentimes, right now, we’re halfway through placing somebody permanently and the position gets cut or the funding goes away so we’re then working on getting that person in on at least a contract basis,” Hodges said.

However, private equity firms that are buying majority interest stakes in companies have started looking for executives, she said.

“We are beginning to see interest in hiring,” Hodges said. “We are getting a number of calls about a number of mid-level and higher-level leadership roles. Again, it is slow.”

Many people are looking to transition into new careers, but that may take time.

“Companies typically hire us to find a very specific type of person,” Hodges said. “With the market the way it is, they want what they want and they don’t want anything less than that. I suggest to candidates all the time that they think outside their own industry and where their skills will be applicable elsewhere and to kind of open up their horizons just from a mental perspective of where they see themselves in the future. But you are most marketable in the area where you have the most experience. That is certainly true in today’s market.”

Candidates for government jobs will have to be patient in most cases, she said, because the hiring process can be arduous and take as long as eight months. The opportunities, however, could be worth the wait.

“The federal government, like a lot of businesses, is going to have a huge gap in terms of people that hold all the knowledge retiring in the next four to six years,” Hodges said. “From what I understand, they have been very aggressive in putting together some internship programs, but you still have that gap in terms of just leadership skills. That is going to be evident in the next five years.”

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 152 543 12,121
MORTGAGES 153 577 14,093
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 0
BUILDING PERMITS 161 1,030 25,418
BANKRUPTCIES 43 288 8,160
BUSINESS LICENSES 27 159 4,113
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 136 387 8,962
MARRIAGE LICENSES 22 90 3,006

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