If there’s one thing the past year has taught us, it’s that things can change in an instant. An estimated 22 million U.S. workers lost their jobs in the first few months of the pandemic, with unemployment rising faster in the first two months than in the first two years of the Great Recession. Fast forward 15 months, and good talent is increasingly difficult to find. People are quitting their jobs in record numbers, and recruiters are racing to find quality individuals.
A Year of Recovery Like No Other
After a year of quarantine, remote work, social distancing and time apart from friends and family, the pandemic has created a job market unlike any other we’ve seen during times of recovery. Adam Dalva, President of national recruiting firm Search Max, says the most dramatic shift is choice. With more vacancies than candidates available to fill them, candidates have the upper hand. They’re seeking increased flexibility, better wages and great places to work — and they aren’t afraid to say no to organizations that are unable to deliver.
Bryan Painter, Executive Recruiter at Management Recruiters of Raleigh, says turndowns are at a level he hasn’t seen before. Candidates are receiving multiple offers, and are more selective in what opportunities they’re willing to accept. Painter believes the pandemic has made people more reluctant to move. They want to stay close to family, and also desire increased job security after a year of furloughs, layoffs and downsizing. Competition for in-demand skills is asking more from employers and recruiters, in order to attract and retain top talent.
Getting Back to Basics in a Candidate-Driven Market
Without a strong inventory of top talent to pull from, many search firms and recruiters are going back to the basics to continue to grow. Relationships, communication and networking are three keys to thriving in a market where talent is in shorter supply, according to industry experts within the MRINetwork.
Relationships. Relationships are critical in recruiting. As Painter says, relationships allow a recruiter to build trust with both clients and candidates. With trust established, candidates are more willing to discuss information and concerns that may raise potential red flags. Clients are more open to disclosing details when they feel they have a partner they can trust. Cultivating relationships, recruiters have a more solid foundation to build on, and a more trusting and responsive talent pool to pull from.
Ongoing Communication. At Search Max, Dalva is in constant communication with past placements and candidates. He frequently sends text messages and emails to keep his name in front of potential candidates, being careful to provide support to individuals at each step in their careers. As he says, “Getting in front of candidates is a constant, no matter the economic conditions. Our process remains the same, but the numbers need to increase to match the choices candidates now have.”
Networking. For the past five years, Emily Wahler has devoted 20 minutes at the beginning of each workday to connect with people, and build her virtual network in the mortgage industry. As Director, RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) and Assistant Controller at StraussGroup, Wahler has placed over 300 candidates since 2016. Rather than sending out messages in bulk, Wahler takes the time to customize each message, in order to better connect with candidates and secure introductions to others within their networks.
Gaining an Edge When Candidates Have the Leverage
Beyond tried-and-true tactics, recruiters in the MRINetwork are investing more heavily in marketing, branding, and ongoing engagement strategies, to improve their reach and results. Here are some simple ideas to help connect with candidates when top talent is hard to come by.
Let Your Expertise Shine. Expertise is a powerful differentiator, and a competitive advantage knowledgeable recruiters shouldn’t be shy in sharing. Wahler has experienced success on both the recruiting and business development sides of the business by leveraging her expertise. By keeping a close eye on the mortgage industry, she’s able to offer market analysis in addition to recruiting services. She also takes time to craft content to help guide candidates through the job-seeking and interview process, authoring articles such as “Acing The Video Interview” and “Interview Etiquette.”
Leverage Your Past Wins. Building a strong list of former candidates can help to increase your inventory so you can better respond to opportunities and place individuals more effectively. Painter recommends building up your inventory, and putting a plan in place to engage potential candidates on an ongoing basis, “If candidates feel valued and important, they’ll want to help you,” he says. “They’ll feel comfortable referring friends and peers to you.”
Improve the Candidate Experience. In the old days, recruiters and companies could afford to string candidates along, and potentially hold out for something better. In today’s market, that’s no longer the case. Take too long, and you’ll lose out. To place candidates in a competitive market, Wahler is diligent about keeping candidates engaged throughout the entire process. She sends text messages in between stages in the application and interview process, while also sending weekly reports to hiring managers to ensure prompt feedback and provide a heads-up on candidates early in the process.
Dalva says a clearly defined interview process is a must. He actively seeks out companies with an efficient process, doing a deep dive into the process and length of time from submittal to offer. Should the interview process be inefficient, he says, Search Max will pass, regardless of nearly all other factors. Dalva and his team also work hard to offer candidates more options.
Solve Problems Creatively. Where some see challenges in the current market, many see opportunity. Clients are typically more open to creative solutions or revamped offerings when they are struggling to find talent. Recruiters can propose solutions such as contract and interim staffing, as a value-added approach. Dalva and other firms in the MRINetwork have found success by providing total talent access solutions.
Meeting Candidate Expectations to Drive Growth
In the current market, many recruiters and search firms are dusting off their playbooks, and getting back to the basics to build inventory, keep candidates engaged, and garner referrals. Recruiters are also increasingly leveraging online channels to build their brand and reputation, while sharing their expertise and guidance. After a year of uncertainty and unprecedented challenges, one thing’s for certain, many candidates are eager to work with recruiters and employers who share their goals and priorities. Recruiters who engage candidates openly on their own terms are sure to gain the advantage now and in years to come.
Looking for more ideas to accelerate growth in a candidate economy? Contact us.