Harvey Bass has seen it all since he left corporate America in 1987, purchased a franchise of a management recruiting firm and launched his business, Stascom Technologies in Sparta.
Here's what he sees now: A U.S. economy in the midst of a recovery that Bass said is spurring employers to step up their hiring.
Bass, however, warns that it's different than before.
Bass said the greatest amount of hiring in New Jersey is by small businesses: "If you talk to owners of companies with less than 50 workers, I'll bet 80 percent of them are hiring."
The job market has had an uneven recovery, with the long-term unemployed continuing to struggle, he added.
And if you're looking for a big-business job, Bass said you better lower your expectations.
"Management jobs are few and far between, and people have to get over the fact that the money is not like it used to be," he said.
That is not the case for Bass. At least it wasn't in 2013.
Bass doesn't disclose his revenues, but he said they are up 80 percent this year compared with 2012.
But it hasn't been easy. Stascom, a franchise of the MRI Network (formerly Management Recruiters International), has had its ups and downs over the years.
Before Bass decided to become his own boss in 1987, he held six corporate jobs, which is where he got an inside peek at the recruiting world. Bass was recruited for four of his corporate jobs and used recruiters himself.
"If I hired 100 people in my career, 80 of them came from recruiters," he said.
When he started Stascom, he built it into a diverse recruitment firm serving a variety of industries, including medical, financial, consumer, printing and graphics.
"But what really propelled us to enormous success was the dot-com era," he said.
"(Technology companies) had the money to use recruiters, and they didn't have time to do (the hiring) themselves," he said. "We rode dot-com like a wave."
Then the tech bubble burst, followed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Stascom had 76 employees in 2001; by 2004, Bass had slimmed the company down to four people.
"Small business owners are the worst at letting people go," he said. "Unlike the corporate world, you tend to look at your employees as your second family. So how can I put this person out on the street?"
But Bass was tapping credit lines and personal savings to keep people employed and knew he had to downsize.
He stayed in Sparta but moved to his current office, which has enough room for only 14 people.
"I have a tendency to like to hire, so this space has capped my ability to over-hire," he said.
Bass had rebuilt the staff to 14 by the time the financial crisis hit in 2008. That plunged his company into a two-year rough patch during which Bass cut his staff back to six. Still, he managed to ride bad times out.
"We made a profit every year," he said. "Companies still hire, even in the worst of times. You just have to find the niches and work extra hard."
Stascom's upturn began in 2010, and today, the company is back up to 12 people. The majority of Bass's clients are in the technology sector, which Bass said is a true barometer of the economy.
"(Technology) is the first to drop when the economy starts to tank, but it's also the first to bounce back," he said.
Bass and his staff recruit candidates for jobs throughout the U.S. and Canada. Amazingly, they usually do it without meeting a candidate face to face.
"A company in Boston might give us an assignment to hire a sales rep in Houston," Bass said.
The Stascom recruiter will then cold-call potential candidates who are already employed in Houston.
"If we find a good fit, we will call Boston and say, 'We have a candidate in Houston; do you want to set up an interview?'" he said. "We never meet them (the candidates) — we don't have to meet them. We are placing people based on their skill set and experience, how they sound on the phone and who they've worked for."
Bass said Stascom finds candidates through its database of 300,000 candidates and its knowledge of companies and the job market.
About a third of his clients are in New Jersey, but they aren't necessarily hiring locally: "We have firms in New Jersey that use us to hire people in Vancouver."
And Stascom works strictly on contingency.
"If we can't perform, then I don't feel we need to be paid," he said.
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