Pity your HR team. Covid has sparked a wave of resignations, would-be replacements are demanding to work from home with better benefits, and recruitment processes are looking pretty broken. Broken how? Research suggests a third of new hires in the US quit within their first year. A report from recruitment firm Thomas shows that half of new hires don’t work out, which the company’s survey pinned on complex recruitment processes, difficulties in testing culture or role fit, and an “overreliance on gut instinct.”
While such problems existed long before the pandemic, the challenge of hiring the right staff has been exacerbated by the high rate of vacancies and desire to continue working from home, with three-quarters of employers struggling to fill roles, according to professional services firm ManpowerGroup.
“In my 25-plus years within the recruitment industry, I can honestly say that I’ve never witnessed such a hot, candidate-driven market,” says Nick Kirk, UK managing director at recruiter Michael Page, saying that internal data from the recruitment company shows applications are down by a quarter on average for each role. “There’s been a lot of disruption over the past year and a half, but suddenly we’re seeing clients vying for talent to help them either restructure teams post-Covid or build back after the cuts they made early on in the pandemic.”
So what can be done to fix recruitment? Here are six ways to recruit better right now.
One solution is to simply give people what they want. Kevin Parker, CEO of recruitment tech company HireVue, argues there isn’t a shortage of candidates, but job seekers are demanding better from new roles. “Candidates are resuming the job searches they put on hold at the start of Covid, they’re applying for roles outside of where they live, they’re expecting higher wages and a better work-life balance,” he says.
To attract the best candidates, employers need to offer flexibility and genuinely useful benefits. “The shift to hybrid and flexible working has made it difficult to attract talent simply by having a ping-pong table or a drinks fridge in the office,” says Kirk. “The reality is that flexibility isn’t just a ’nice to have’ anymore, but some employers are still trying to dictate what it looks like. In a candidate-driven market, that will inevitably put them at a disadvantage.” Simply put, if you want to hire the best talent, then you need to offer the best benefits.
Research by HR membership organization CIPD shows that 43 percent of organizations take an ad hoc approach to hiring, rather than understanding the skills they need and taking a long-term, strategic view on recruitment.
To change that, companies need to audit their existing staff skill sets, understand what gaps they have now and may face in the future, and have a plan for how to find those people, says Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser for resourcing and inclusion at CIPD. “They need to collect more data on their current and future workforce needs and better evaluate their recruitment activities to see what works and what doesn’t,” she explains. And if you don’t know what skills you have, how can you know what you need? Run an audit and find out—before you pay to list that job posting.
That understanding of the talent already in your company can help if a particular position is proving difficult to fill. Rather than searching externally for skills you’re missing, consider developing the existing talent you have, says McCartney.
Chia-Jung Tsay, assistant professor at the UCL School of Management, agrees, adding that supporting existing staff can help with retention—thereby avoiding the need to recruit a new employee in the first place. “Although companies may decide to hire externally, this may not always be easy and external hires sometimes have difficulty maintaining their performance with a new employer,” Tsay says. “It may be prudent to consider investing internally in employee development and creating conditions such that an employee believes that his or her work is meaningful and feels valued both as an employee and as a person.”
Consider the struggle to hire staff for hourly roles, which Parker describes as some of the hardest to fill at the moment. Such would-be employees aren’t always available during normal working hours, so recruiters should make it easy to apply for jobs using a phone, as well as set up interviews at times that suit the people they’re trying to recruit. “Today’s candidates all have one thing in common: Their phone is either in their hand or within arm’s reach,” Parker says. “Because of this, people prefer text-based communications over anything else, and the text response rate is as high as 98 percent.” In other words, use technology that helps candidates, rather than just HR teams.
Lockdowns make hiring hard, especially by pushing already awkward interviews to Zoom calls. Rather than just ask the same tired questions via video, recruiters should take the opportunity to conduct interviews differently, helping to reduce bias and discrimination in unstructured discussions.
“By removing idle chat that’s often a major source of bias, and designing consistent competency-based interviews, companies can see some of the biggest gains promised by video and improve fairness and credibility,” says Parker. “Asking every candidate the same question matters, but it matters most when they’re really good questions.”
That can be further improved by letting candidates practice and even re-record their answers, rather than holding an anxiety-inducing live interview. “Many neurodiverse and autistic job seekers actually prefer the experience of an on-demand video interview to an in-person experience,” says Parker. “And that positive feedback about video extends to neurotypical candidates as well with over 80 per cent of candidates feeling it provides an effective and fairer hiring process.”
Just as we’ve learned over the last 18 months that there are benefits to working from home, virtual interviews can make hiring better.
Can’t find the talent you need? Consider a wider pool of candidates—geographically and demographically.
Businesses can benefit by actively encouraging diversity, such as offering HR inclusion training, removing biased language from job descriptions, or by reworking interview processes. “A lot of companies continue to search for the same type of candidate over and over again, without considering that someone else could bring a fresh and much-needed perspective into the businesses,” Kirk says. “Having a broader, more diverse selection of candidates to interview increases the chances of finding the ideal fit.”
That could include developing pathways into careers for younger people as well as those looking to switch to a new field, says CIPD’s McCartney. “Organizations might also want to develop ways of attracting career returners and people looking for mid-career changes as another potential pool of experienced employees,” she says.
Flexible working practices could not only encourage more diverse hires, but allow companies to search further afield, widening who can apply beyond those living locally to an office or headquarters. “For the first time, there is a real opportunity to extend the talent pool far beyond those who live in close proximity to an office,” says Kirk. “I would strongly encourage leaders to take note of this and build it into hiring plans.” If you can’t find the talent you’re looking for, perhaps you’re not looking hard enough—widen your search to a more diverse group of people, and everyone wins.
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