People & Leadership

The great realignment: How to innovate and win in a candidate-driven job market

The war for talent has got a whole lot fiercer, thanks to the Great Resignation. Find out how to get ahead of the competition.

The war for talent has got a whole lot fiercer, thanks to the Great Resignation.

Job openings in the US hit 11.5 million, while job quits reached a record 4.4 million in April, with a similar story in the UK as vacancies ramped up to a record 1.3 million in February to April 2022.

Recruitment is at unprecedented levels.  

At the same time, the balance of power in recruiting has shifted; in a landscape filled with job vacancies and hybrid working widening opportunities for many, candidates can afford to be choosy.

For HR and talent professionals, succeeding in this tough new world of recruitment means being innovative like never before.

We spoke to a range of HR leaders and recruiters to understand more about the talent issues companies are facing and how they are tackling them.

They shared their four big recruitment challenges and top tips on how to overcome them. We cover them in this article:

Challenge 1: How to source the right candidates

It’s not just about finding talent, it’s about finding the right talent—something that’s proving increasingly difficult and costly.

That means having to cast the net further, wider, and deeper.

“We’re anywhere we know the candidate spends their time,” says Chris Morrow, managing director at recruitment agency Digitalent who do a lot of paid advertising within social media platforms.

He explains it’s about trying to grab candidates’ attention with “something that makes their thumb stop scrolling” and start the conversation that way.

“We’re just trying to leave no stone unturned,” he adds.

Increase exposure with new channels

While LinkedIn remains a top recruitment channel for most organizations, HR leaders say they’re being more proactive with outbound avenues, exploring job boards, word of mouth and partnerships, among other channels.

They’re also seeking out new collaborations to create additional inbound methods of recruiting, especially to reach more diverse applicants, Gen Z and people who may not have a university degree.

Vary when and how you do outreach, then measure success

Experimenting with different forms of outreach to potential candidates is critical to increased success in finding talent.

Speak to your ideal candidate about where they spend their time online, or make an educated assumption based on what you already know and then test that assumption.

Use the same approach with imagery, headlines and copy to test which avenues yield the best results—just like how marketing teams might.

This allows you to double down on the recruitment channels that have proved most successful.

Hire for potential

When it’s difficult to find candidates with the necessary skills and experience, companies that are getting ahead are looking for someone who knows the sector inside out, has creative ideas and infectious enthusiasm on how to execute them.

They focus on what a candidate can become—by considering transferrable skills, learning agility and the right attitudes and behaviours—not what they have been in the past.

Challenge 2: How to deal with candidates’ evolving needs

Attractive salaries and flexible working aren’t the only tools anymore—it’s about listening to employees’ different and changing needs, and how a company cares for its workforce.

Opportunities for learning and development and clear career pathways are also attractive for top talent, explains Tracey Elvin, People and Culture Director at HR firm Hive: “There’s this new sense from candidates: ‘You’ve hired me, so develop me.’

“People have different expectations of what is meaningful work for them. They expect learning and development.

“They expect feedback on a regular basis, they expect coaching and mentoring—the whole package. It’s a case of ‘use me or lose me’.”

Gain your ideal candidate’s perspective by developing personas

Spending time developing candidate personas can significantly improve your talent acquisition strategies.

That means thinking about what your ideal candidate looks like.

What characteristics, skills and traits make up your perfect hire? More importantly, what do they want from a job?

The candidate persona gives HR leaders an edge, helping them stay laser-focused on the target candidate to understand exactly what will entice those candidates to apply.

Create a killer employee value proposition (EVP)

How do you get candidates to come looking for you when they’re being given multiple job offers?

The key is to develop compelling branding and messaging that will continually grow your pool of high-quality applicants.

Think about what’s going to make your organization stand out and appeal to candidates.

Developing a killer EVP supports your long term, inbound recruiting efforts by proactively continually attracting candidates to you to build your pool of high-quality applicants.

Think beyond financial reward and reimagine your employee experience

HR leaders are now focusing on other benefits they can offer to attract top talent.

Perks such as four-day weeks, more paid leave, private health insurance and gym memberships, as well as work compensatory days (also known as time in lieu) and organized company-wide days off are now all part of the HR recruitment arsenal needed to compete for top talent.

Challenge 3: How to fast track top talent

The average time it takes to hire someone is currently between 33 to 49 days, so speed of hire and quality of development are crucial for organizations to win and retain top talent.

Using HR tech to speed up and streamline recruitment processes helps organizations stay in the competition and attract the best candidates quickly.

“If you have a recruitment process any longer than two stages, you’re not in line with the competition,” says Emma Gardiner, associate director at global recruitment consultancy Harvey Nash.

“The window to secure talent is getting smaller and smaller.

“There are still a lot of organizations using old fashioned recruitment processes out there, and they’re the ones suffering the most.”

Save time with technology and streamline processes

Minimising any friction in the recruitment process is key to reducing the risk of losing top talent in the initial stages.

Use technology to reduce the time taken to process candidates provides a massive benefit to HR leaders, keeping the recruitment teams on track and candidates engaged.

For example, systems that automatically track applicants can prove indispensable in alleviating some of the manual labour, therefore speeding up the process.

Likewise, think about reducing the number and length of interview rounds to keep the process as slick and streamlined as possible.

Emphasise internal flexibility and agility for hiring teams

Speed of hire shouldn’t come at the expense of the human side of recruitment.

As technology helps accelerate the speed of recruitment, it also frees up valuable time for HR teams to invest in those high quality, human aspects of the interview process.

That means placing an emphasis and insisting on internal flexibility by making sure the relevant people in the organization are aware of the need, and equally committed, to shortening the hiring process and being available for interviewing.

Challenge 4: How to provide a first-class recruitment and onboarding experience

Creating a great recruitment experience reflects well on an organization and creates an attractive proposition for candidates.

With as much as 20% of staff turnover occurring within the first 45 days of a new hire’s employment, a smooth, seamless onboarding experience is a vital part of the process.

Evaluating the entire recruitment journey to see where improvements can be made is beneficial for both candidates and hiring managers.

Surface candidate and employee feedback, then act on it

If you want to know how to improve your organization’s recruitment and onboarding experience, the best people to ask are the ones who’ve been through it.

Listen to what candidates have to say about their own experience and use automated surveys that capture feedback throughout the process to drive a pathway of improvement.

Use your People data to spot trends

Digging into employee data to recognize any drop-offs in engagement or patterns of absenteeism can be useful for heading off attrition at the pass.

Regular ‘temperature checks’ of employee engagement, using pulse surveys and other feedback is essential to hold on to talent—especially when considerable time, energy and expense has gone into winning top talent in the first place.

Final thoughts: The key to success? Be the honey pot

Becoming an attractive proposition for candidates means using every tool available, adopting a healthy mindset of test and fail, and tapping into previously untapped talent pools—realising that great talent can come from anywhere and everywhere.

HR leaders who are rising to these recruitment challenges are demonstrating remarkable agility, innovation, and creativity in finding solutions to win the intense war for talent and keeping their organizations competitive—both now and in the future—in a much-altered recruitment landscape.