Written by Steve Brennan
5 min. read
Having been in the recruiting industry since the mid-'90s, something that also surprises me is how varied clients are in their ability to adapt to changes in the job market. Changes in the job market occur primarily for economic reasons. However, technology has a significant impact on the job market as needs change due to automation, outsourcing and shifts in demand for particular products or services. For example, during the infamous Y2K period I was recruiting COBOL programmers to re-write code from the two-digit date YY to the four-digit date YYYY. At the time the thought was that once banking, government and multi-national conglomerates whose systems relied on this program flipped over into the year 2000, the world would come to near disaster as programs would not be able to determine the date 00, is it the year 1900 or 2000, or the stone age? We were all hoping that bank machines would spit out wads of cash on January 1st, 2000, but sadly that did not happen.
Anyway as catastrophe was imminent candidates with COBOL programming skills were in high demand for about 18-months in 1998 and 1999, however, on January 1st, 2000, we all breathed a sigh of relief that the world did not end as the re-programming was done and consequently the demand for COBOL programmers fell through the floor. What I remember most about this time was how competitive it was to secure top talent, companies were offering insane hourly rates and perks and hiring candidates on the spot to get them started as soon as possible.
Some companies are strategically designed to see change coming and therefore prepare for either a market with a shortage of candidates or a market where there are excess candidates. Both types of markets offer unique challenges, and while a candidate-rich environment favours the employer there is almost always a need for those in specialized and leadership roles. Many companies can be slower to adjust to market conditions and miss out on opportunities to hire top talent. Fast-moving companies secure strong talent through streamlining processes, maintaining priority at the executive level on hiring and generally seeing the right people as the backbone to their success. Here are some ways to rejig your processes to secure the best talent in a fast-moving market.
Job Postings vs. Job Descriptions
Many companies make the mistake of posting job descriptions on their website and various social media platforms such as Linkedin and expect great candidates to flock to their postings. A job posting should not be a dry job description, which states what you want from the candidate. One sidedness is not the best way to start a relationship, focusing almost exclusively on your expectations, adding one or two sentences at the end stating what you will provide the candidate which typically reads, a competitive salary and benefits package. Everyone says that! Your job posting is top of the funnel that should reflect your company culture, the advantage of the role to the individual who is qualified, and where the position might lead. Mostly, what's in it for them?
Your job posting should answer one crucial question;
Why would a high performing candidate want to work for your company?
Refining the Interview Process
Companies can get away with a drawn-out interview process in a market where there are an excessive amount of qualified candidates to choose from, but in a candidate-short market, which is what we are experiencing right now, this is an Achilleas heal for companies who have not taken the time to streamline their interview processes. High performing candidates are sought after and tend to stay on the market for a short period. The best candidates receive offers quickly as fast-moving companies who have:
created accelerated interview processes evaluate candidates
use efficient outside sources to find the best talent
run background checks
Even something seemingly as minor as the paperwork process can be a factor. Just this week, we had a client who had been dragging their feet on a strong candidate who was genuinely interested in their opportunity. After several delays due to red tape internally the company was finally prepared to make an offer, but when we called the candidate who had been waiting for a week, he told us he accepted another offer just the day before. It was too late. Nobody likes to have their time wasted; companies need to ensure that the things they can control are done as quickly as possible.
Outdated compensation and benefits packages
Companies need to do their homework on competitive salaries for their roles. Just because candidates have accepted their salary, it doesn't mean that they are competitive. There could be a variety of factors why a candidate may accept a lower offer, but what companies don't think about is how vulnerable this leaves them to candidates not taking the offer as well as turnover internally. I advise my clients to do their research, or I provide the data if I can on what a competitive rate might be for their role. And when I tell them the scale, I suggest adding more. Don’t make it easy for their competitors to snatch up your best employees. The cost of having to continually rehire, particularly for a specialized role is much higher than paying your employees at or above market rate.
Benefits are also creating a competitive advantage for many employers. Too many companies are removing benefits to save on costs. This is a big mistake. Even if the benefits package offered is more of an affordable plan, it's better than not having one at all. At the very least be willing to offer candidates a higher salary for them to afford to pay for any of their healthcare.
Time from selection to hire is something companies need to track and continually try and improve to build their teams with top talent. For this to work, everyone needs to be on board from the CEO to Hiring managers to your front-end recruiter. Recruiters who can identify top talent get very excited in bringing them into the organization, but as they experience push back internally through drawn-out processes, lack of executive availability and red tape in decision making they can become increasingly discouraged. But that's not the worst part, long term vacancies in roles put a strain on other staff who become increasingly frustrated and when you miss out on hiring top talent and you are left with candidates less qualified who will inevitably bring down the quality of your work overall.