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The Resilient Recruiter

Feb 8, 2021

Do you want to build a recruitment business that operates without your day to day involvement and maybe even sell it someday?

If so, you’ll really enjoy my interview with Joel Slenning.  

Joel is the President of Innova People, a healthcare and IT staffing agency based in Oregon. Prior to that, Joel was the founder and CEO of Icon Medical Network, a locum tenens provider which he scaled to £16,000,000 before selling in 2019. 

Most recruitment firms are “lifestyle” businesses run by owner-operators. Few recruitment businesses ever grow beyond 5-10 people, and fewer still give the owner the potential for an exit. There is a simple reason for that - scaling up your staffing and recruiting is extremely challenging.

In this episode, Joel breaks down exactly how he was able to rapidly scale his recruitment business and gives detailed advice on how to structure the firm, bring the right people on board at the right time, and set them up for success.  

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [4:30] Starting a recruitment firm during the recession - hear Joel’s journey of “going out on his own in the worst market possible” 
  • [9:35] What Joel is trying to achieve - and why
  • [12:30] Joel describes the “scary” first 12 months of starting the business 
  • [16:30] How hiring a virtual assistant can help you increase productivity
  • [18:35] When to make your first or second hire - listen to Joel’s revenue-based “12 months” rule and other hiring principles when scaling
  • [27:22] How to use metrics to make sure everyone is on the right track
  • [36:10] Reality Check: So you want to scale your recruiting business? Here’s what you should expect… 
  • [44:55] The importance of closely tracking your ‘first-time interviews”
  • [47:10] Key roles and responsibilities you have to bring in so you can free up yourself and scale your business

Building a Recruitment Firm During the Recession

Joel is not only a successful recruiter, but he is also a successful firm founder who built a scalable business model. It started around about the time of the last big recession. Not the best time to start a firm, and as he said, “For some reason, I had this crazy notion that I needed to go out on my own in the worst market possible.”

Some of the business philosophies he mentioned are the following:

  • Lay the foundation - have specific values for your company.
  • Surround your recruiters with tools to make their job easier for them to focus on deal-making.
  • Surround your talents with other talented people.
  • Replicate this business model to different disciplines in healthcare.

Setting the Metrics for Successful Hires

When I asked Joel about the hiring metrics that he used to allow him to know that they’ve hired someone on the right track, he admitted that it was not easy at first and they also made mistakes. As Joel puts it, “Early on, we totally screwed it up, you know, 10 times over.” One question he had to solve was, how can you measure the contribution of someone who is not making placements? He realized key metrics - key components of the business that were being done. Some of the key pointers that Joel shared when setting the metrics are as follows:

  • Set a number of calls/emails a day
  • Set a number of people that they can connect with
  • Set a number of jobs that they can pitch (hear the why and the how of this metric)

On the above, an excellent example that Joel stated was setting a minimum of 45 outbound calls a day, resulting in at least 2 to 3 connections where they are pitching, typically resulting in 1 submission. Setting the metric is just the beginning, hear the rest from Joel on the specifics on how this system is being applied and the results it produced.

Joel Slenning Bio and Contact Info

Joel is a talent acquisition expert, talent strategist, tech investor, and tech startup guru based in Portland, Oregon. With a recruitment career spanning for more than 20 years, Joel has always been a consistent top performer and an award-winning billing manager. He is the president of INNOVA People, a Human Resources Solutions agency that utilizes AI platforms to solve complex HR problems mainly focused on healthcare and information technology.

  • Joel on LinkedIn
  • Email address:
  • Innova People website link
  • Innova People on Facebook

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