I don’t have to tell you that the last few years have been … intense, especially from a talent acquisition perspective. We’ve seen ups, downs, and whatever is going on now. And I say “now” loosely because what happens between the time that I write this piece and RecruitingDaily publishes it is anyone’s guess. The variables are plenty, the predictive indicators are few, and most of us are just trying to get through the workday. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? To not know what to expect. To not know what’s to come. I’m with you. But, if there is a light at the end of this proverbial tunnel that I’m referencing, it’s that we know more than we think we do about today’s talent mindset. 

For starters, we know that seemingly everything has changed. A small comfort, sure, though it represents our ability to shift the narrative in our favor – to one that we can make sense of and master even as circumstances continue to evolve. Let’s consider.

The Market

To echo the sentiment from the top of this article, today’s job market is … intense. The monthly jobs reports seem to show growth and increased wages, while economists scratch their heads and issue warnings. At the same time, some companies are experiencing massive layoffs while others are hiring like crazy. This “will we, won’t we” recession dance adds exhaustion on top of frustration and makes it much harder to figure out what’s going on. Sadly, I do not own a crystal ball, nor do I pretend to possess some seer ability. Rather, when it comes to figuring out the market, I tend to abide by the following advice: 

  1. Don’t look back. This is not 2008. What’s happening now has nothing to do with toxic mortgages. Do not use the Great Recession or Dot-com Bubble as a touchstone. 
  2. Don’t panic. As the saying goes, this too shall pass. There may be some turbulence, but nothing you can’t weather. 
  3. Do look ahead. Even without a map, you can still plot a course. Assess the tools and resources at your disposal and create actionable strategies to get through the coming weeks and months. 
  4. Do stay grounded. Even during periods of prolonged instability, there is still work to do. Focus on enhancing and improving what you’ve got now.  

The Candidates

Now that we have the markets out of the way, it’s time to talk talent, and this is where we’ve seen the most significant shift as of late. Candidates are more critical of potential employers than ever before. They are the prize, and they know it. The impact of the pandemic and the ensuing Great Resignation brought about a power shift that crosses vertical markets, generations, and other distinguishing characteristics. Today’s candidates hold all the cards, especially in sectors like healthcare and light industrial. 

Even in the face of a slowdown, candidate expectations have changed, and they aren’t willing to settle for any ol’ job. As such, navigating the candidate engagement gap means understanding that engaging with a candidate is no longer a chance for them to impress you; it’s a chance for your organization to impress them. So, what does that look like? An emphasis on values, culture, team, and opportunity are all strong openers. Competitive compensation and benefits, flexible work environments, and an open, transparent hiring process will also help. But at the end of the day, each candidate is different and recruiting and retaining the right ones for your organization will require high-touch relationships. 

The Process

Despite the need to emphasize relationships, in the eyes of most organizations, successful recruiting is about three factors: speed, cost and quality. Still, when you operate in a world where talent is the prize, scarce even in an unpredictable market, your recruiting processes must reflect this shift in mindset from end to end, pre-hire to post-hire. That’s not to say that speed, cost and quality don’t matter anymore. Always have and always will, but you need to balance the quantitative against the qualitative. 

A recent CNN segment looked at how this plays out on both sides of the process, with candidates hoping for quicker response times and recruiters still relying on tactics like evergreen job ads to create pipelines. Ultimately, this is the type of gap we need to close, adapting current processes to current candidates versus trying to replicate what worked in the previous markets. Technology helps, particularly with the metrics, but at its foundation, recruiting is really about connecting with others, which means meeting candidates where they are today, not yesterday or the day before. 

Shafiur Rahman

Shafiur has been the right-hand to founders and have built out the operational infrastructure for several companies, including Airbus Aerial, Specright, Connectifier, and Airware. He has extensive experience driving the day-to-day and long-term requirements to ramp up a successful, high-growth startup.