As a member of industry and fraternal organizations, I often get asked by people I know if I can help them find a job. Sadly, some of these individuals have been out of work for a year or more, making them members of the long-term unemployed. You can see the look of desperation as they actively look for their next opportunity. Many were laid off during the economic downturn, dubbed “The Great Recession”. I wish I could do more to help. Many of us know individuals in similar circumstances and feel bad and want to help. Then I come to the office and the exact opposite occurs: I can’t find qualified candidates for our open roles. Management often complains, “Why can’t we find any qualified individuals?” or “How come we are not getting responses to our posted job ads,” and my personal favorite “why should I pay a fee to a recruiting agency when so many are unemployed?” With about 400,000 unemployed people looking for jobs, you would think recruiting would a cinch. However, the “war” for talent still rages. A recent study examining the experiences of senior HR leaders found that more than half have struggled filling their open positions in the past six months and 70% attribute a skills shortage in the market for these difficulties. We can all take some solace in our shared experiences!
Prior to this current economic downturn, some economists and demographic experts predicted there would be two types of job seekers. The first is a large pool of unskilled labor struggling to find work. Second, a small, highly talented and well educated labor pool which creates a talent shortage. These two labor pools are evident already in today’s recruiting market. Many firms would have little problem finding administrative assistants but struggle to find a qualified controller. This divide will only become exacerbated when the baby eventually retire, taking their knowledge, skills, and abilities with them. This brain drain will have an incredible impact on firms of all sizes and planning for it now is extremely necessary. To further complicate matters, cost constraints is also a factor. It would be easy to hire an agency, but at 20-25% of compensation per search, those fees can add eat up your recruiting budget fast. All of these factors, plus the need to fill the positions in a timely matter, keeps up HR Directors, Recruiters, Hiring Managers, and C-Suite Executives. We all agree on what the issues are, however, how to solve them is a totally different matter. There are no easy solutions, and it will take some creativity and an investment by each firm. My recommendations are:
These are not going to be easy. Many firms have deeply entrenched interview and hire processes but in this war for talent, removing obstacles is critical to landing a top candidate.
Many readers are probably asking, "why quality"? Quality generally equals increased cost that we might not be able to compensate. How do you define quality? While they are very valid concerns, however, quality is important as it will allow you to better position your firm when the economy does recover. Remember, you are not just recruiting for the short-term; you need to keep your long-term needs in mind. Where does your firm want to be in one, three or five years? Do you currently have the quality in-house now to achieve your strategic goals? As more and more strategic plans are developing from grass-roots efforts vs. a blueprint from the Board of Directors, HR departments can no longer wait for the strategic plan to arrive like manna from heaven prior to begin recruiting. Recruiters need to spend time with the hiring managers probing them for what the key driving factors in their businesses are for the next one, three or five years. Translating the articulated business drivers into a recruiting strategy, while not easy, will allow you to recruit for quality that will position your business for the future. It is difficult to think this way, however, you are not just recruiting for your current needs but for tomorrow’s needs as well.
As this is graduation season, many firms have already hired or decided to skip hiring from the 2011 graduating class. Whether you hire an entire cohort of students or just one or two during the course of the spring/summer, you are certainly ahead of the pack. During an economic downturn, it is easy to stop college recruiting efforts. On-site college recruiting and attendance at job fairs can be expensive and the dollars might be needed elsewhere in the firm. You might not have an immediate need for entry-level staff, however this can be shortsighted. As already noted, baby boomer employees are getting ready to retire (and majorities will retire once their 401K’s and other retirement assets regain their value) and having this next wave of employees ready to step into the baby boomer shoes can minimize the brain drain that will occur. Hiring these recent college graduates will take a bit of an investment that might be difficult to justify during this economic downturn. However, the investment will reap major rewards when the 2011 class of hires learn from the baby boomers prior to their exit from the workforce. The baby boomers will retire, the only question is. "do you have a labor pool ready to take their place?"
The fast-pace of technology development allows firms to continually re-evaluate many of their processes. However, recruiting seems to be stuck in neutral. Smaller firms that cannot afford, or do not have the need for a large talent management technology solution (and there are some really great ones on the market) will still benefit from updated and making their recruiting process more flexible. Whereas these talent management systems are good for managing the data (such as census, sources, and core skills), firms still need to go out and find the right candidates. Flexibility does not just mean who, where and when the candidate interviews. Nor does flexibility mean using recruiters over job board and networking. Using recruiters can be very expensive. Flexibility, in terms of the war for talent, means that you can’t hire only those candidates that tick every box of your requirements. Hiring only those individuals that meet every qualification on a job description will only prolong not only your recruiting efforts but in general the war for talent. This does not mean you have no hiring criteria. The candidate should posses the basic criteria to accomplish the functions of the job, match your company’s values and be fit into the strategic vision of the firm. However, if your firm holds hard and fast that every candidate has to tick all of the boxes and only the boxes found on the job description, you might be continuously losing out on talent that can help grow your firm. Firms need to ensure that recruiting is not a box-ticking exercise and train managers to access interviewees on core behavioral aspects that match the values of your organizations in addition to meeting the basic job requirements. Below are the behavioral interviewing guidelines we use to train our managers:
Behavioral Interview Guidelines & Sample Questions
Objective: A systematic approach to interviewing where both HR and Line Management evaluate candidates past behaviors to ascertain future success.
Process: Both HR and Line Management ask similar questions to identify key knowledge, skills & abilities (KSAs), behaviors, and core competencies that are critical for successful job performance.
Take notes during the interview. Post-interview, complete the Candidate Assessment form, scoring the candidate on a scale of (1-5), adding comments that can used for future reference. Return the complete Candidate Assessment form to HR.
HR will compile all date and finalize an average score for candidates. Once all candidates have been interviewed and scored, we can use scores to assess future job performance and company fit.
Sample Questions: Below are sample questions for each of the 11 sections on the Candidate Assessment form. You do not need to ask every question listed; however, you do need to ask at least 1 question from every category. Ask follow-up and drill down questions. You should ask enough questions to be able to score the candidate.
Section 1: Educational Background
Section 2: Prior Work Experience
Section 3: Technical Qualification/Experience
Section 4: Verbal Communication
Section 5: Candidate Enthusiasm
Section 6: Knowledge of Company
Section 7: Teambuilding/Interpersonal Skills
Section 8: Initiative
Section 9: Time Management
Section 10: Customer Service
By removing obstacles and giving hiring managers tools for accessing talent based on behaviors and values versus matching to the job description will give your recruitment process and add value to the long-term, strategic success of your recruiting.
Even in a bad economic climate, recruiting is tough. Recruiting will only get more difficult as the economy improves, and then the wave really hits when the baby boomers leave the work force altogether. However, there are steps you can start to do now to help make your firm’s recruiting more strategic: focus on quality, invest in college recruiting, and add flexible to your process. It is not going to be easy nor is it going to be achieved quickly. However, over time, you will reap the rewards and hopefully a good night sleep!
Alexander Mann. “How do you balance short-term financial needs with strategic requirements?” Found at www.alexandermannsolutions.com/news-and-insights.
Schramm, Jennifer. “Jobs and Joblessness”. HR Magazine. May 2011: 88.
Smith, Dave Sumner. “Companies struggle to recruit good staff-despite high unemployment levels”. Found at www.b2businesshub.com.
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