Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No Longer a Candidate's Market: The Corporate Recruiters Challenges in Today's Economy (Part 1)

Just over a year ago the buzz in the market was all about how much today is a buyer’s (candidate’s) market and how there were more jobs than there was talent to fill the openings. From about 2001 to the end of 2007 the economy was souring and the number of jobs being created was increasing at fast rates. During this time the anticipation of the baby boomers retiring as the economy continued to boom created one major question in every recruiter’s mind -“How are we going to find the talent we need to fill our openings?”

The numbers were staggering to think about:
• 44 million Gen “X”ers in the workforce to replace 77 million retirees
• 11,000 people are reaching age 55 every day

The new reality is that there is no longer a shortage of talent. So while these statistics don’t necessarily cause panic in the hearts of hiring professionals today, a new concern has risen. As the economy began taking a noticeable downturn in January 2008 and as the unemployment level continues to rise at a substantial rate, the new concern is not the quantity of candidates to source from, it is finding the quality of candidates amidst all the piles and lists of unqualified applicants. Seventy percent of organizations globally report difficulty attracting critical-skill employees, and 67 percent report that it’s hard to find top-performing employees, according to the results of the 2007/2008 Global Strategic Rewards survey taken among 946 companies by Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

The current problem facing us is that the unemployment rate is the highest it has been in 16 years. In June of 2009 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the unemployment rate at 9.7%. The last time it was above 8% was in January of 1992 when it hit 8.1%. Just a year ago in June of 2008 the unemployment rate was at 5.7%.

While new challenges in finding top talent have surfaced, the message on how to find the right talent does not really change at all. Company’s still need to market themselves to target the right audiences. We may advertise or push our brand in new ways but the underlying goals remain the same. We still need to answer the same questions: “Who is the target audience?” “How do you find or reach them?” “What are we offering?” “What are our competitors offering?” and “How do we engage them?”.

So what can we do as recruiters and HR professionals to answer these questions and target the audience we are looking to attract to our company? The best thing to remember is that Recruiting is Marketing. Recruiters and Hiring Professionals are advocates for the company. We have to market the company to potential applicants through strong job advertisements, career site enhancements, building up of networks internally and externally, embracing to new technologies such as internet marketing and social networking and much more. The way to overcome hiring challenges is to stay ahead of the game. We need to keep on top of market trends and new technologies. And we need stay abreast of what active candidates are doing to find a new job and what proactive prospects are doing and how we can find them.

So what do we conquer first? The simplest and easiest to overcome and enhance would be job postings. Job postings are simply advertisements for the company. In additional to a traditional description a job posting is an opportunity to market something about the specific division or business unit. It also allows the company to give a taste into what the company culture is like or maybe intrigue them to learn more about our products and services.

In a nationwide study in 2007 it showed that an average of 41% of applications are directly tied to the internet. Internal research into my own company confirmed that those statistics are in line with our applicant pool in recent years as well. That means that affective job advertisements are crucial in attracting the right talent.

The first step in writing a great job advertisement is in the job description. All too often job descriptions are far too long, far too short or otherwise just not clear. Some companies tend to focus so much on marketing the company that the description itself does not give clarity to the actual position being advertised or even of the division in which the position is located. On the other hand job descriptions that are far too lengthy and detailed will scare away many applicants from applying. So on one hand you don’t want to be too vague and have every Tom and Jane applying for the position but you also don’t want to scare away those that may not be perfect for the job but could still be a considerable candidate. It is important to find middle ground.

Before posting a job on a career site or external board I would recommend saving the job description as a word document for editing and review. That way you can visually see what it will look like before posting it out for others to see. Then think about who your target audience is going to be and make sure it is written for that target audience.

Secondly, you should begin the advertisement with an attention grabber, something to entice applicants to want to keep reading. Use powerful and attractive words to set the appropriate tone and message. Highlight something great about the position or about the division. Then give a full description of the position followed by the qualifications for the role.

Remember to make sure that the wording is properly formatted and that there are no grammatical errors. Keep in mind that it is important to adhere to company brand. We want the first impression of the company to be as positive as possible...

Stay tuned for part 2 on additional ways to overcome recruiting challenges in today's market.....

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