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Ensure a Positive Candidate Experience When Hiring Contingent Talent Remotely

As digitization, coupled with the global pandemic, propels contingent hiring online and with more individuals relying on employer reviewer sites to evaluate businesses, delivering a positive[...]

March 10, 2021

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A Business Boom for Independent Recruiters Who Overcome the Skills Gap

“There’s hardly ever been a better, or busier, time to be a recruiter in America.” That’s the opening sentence of a July 6 article from Bloomberg, written by Patricia Laya and Daniel Flatley. Says it all, right? According to figures from the American Staffing Association, revenues for recruiting services in the United States have tripled since 2009. Search-and-placement agencies now rake in about $21.9 billion, and analysts predict these numbers to keep rising. It’s no wonder so many professionals, especially those with entrepreneurial aspirations, are becoming independent recruiters or starting their own recruiting businesses. Low unemployment, tightening labor markets and lots of job openings are fueling the demand. And yet, finding skilled workers remains a challenge. Let’s look at how independent recruiters can overcome the skills gap and place exceptional talent.

Boom Time for Independent Recruiters

The staffing companies interviewed by Laya and Flatley all reported an incredible demand for their services -- some saying they’ve never seen such a high volume of requests.

“A 16-year low unemployment rate and a record-high number of job openings are turning workers across all sorts of industries -- from construction to trucking to software engineering -- into hot commodities,” they wrote. “The need is so dire that employers are handing out large signing bonuses, giving second looks to people with blemishes on their resumes and reaching out to professional recruiters more than ever.” Other factors have also influenced this trend.

  • The unemployment rate has fallen to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.
  • In addition to waning jobless levels, as Reuters noted, wages have increased: “Average hourly earnings rose 4 cents or 0.2 percent in May after a similar gain in April, leaving the year-on-year increase in wages at 2.5 percent.”
  • These catalysts are creating a candidate-driven market, which will leave companies scrambling as highly skilled talent consider switching employers for more lucrative positions.
  • Data from the Federal Reserve show that workers who change jobs have enjoyed spikes of 3.9 percent in their earnings.

Across the pond, the situation seems strikingly similar. BBC News pointed out that unemployment in the United Kingdom has fallen to its lowest rate since 1975. British companies have also posted high numbers of job openings. And yet, BBC explained, “Almost all firms in a survey of 400 by the Open University said it had been difficult to find workers with the skills they needed.” This problem has cost organizations about £2 billion a year, based on calculations. Writing for Undercover Recruiter, Polly Allen posed the burning question: “How can recruiters deal with the skills gap and keep matching candidates to roles, without losing momentum or credibility?”

How Recruiters Can Overcome the Skills Gap

Aim at Your Targets

In military parlance, “spray-and-pray” is a derisive term for firing an automatic weapon in long bursts, presumably toward the enemy, and hoping some of the bullets hit the mark. They rarely do. It’s a terrible warfare tactic. And it’s no less terrible in the war for talent. Sending out a barrage of generic emails, boilerplate job postings or canned voicemail messages won’t strike the bull’s-eye -- in this case, motivating candidates to pursue your opportunities.

  • As Allen suggests, show candidates that you see them as the fully rounded individuals behind their resumes. Personalize messages that reflect the specific attributes you believe they will bring to the role.
  • Identify the precise skills that captured your attention, and discuss why you think those qualities would be ideal for the client.
  • Illustrate how particular skills and experiences match the hiring organization’s values, mission and culture. Demonstrate alignment.
  • If, during your interactions, you discover that the open position isn’t a great fit, keep the candidate on the hook. Explore other opportunities you have that are well suited to the worker’s skills.

Focus on Rounding Out Skill Sets

As I wrote last week, searching for candidates with years of experience and a wealth of established skills may not produce the best results. Without the fog of past experience, workers can approach challenges and obstacles with fresh outlooks. Capable talent without direct experience in a role often demonstrate a willingness to take risks, share unconventional insights and spur innovation. They also understand that a lack of experience requires them to prove their mettle in other ways. These individuals tend to question established practices, which can lead to the implementation of improved methodologies, strategies, approaches and concepts. They’re also more versatile and likely to devote their energies to building relationships, new skills, teams and collaborative problem-solving techniques.

Even with experienced talent, new skills must be acquired at some stage or existing skills enhanced. After uncovering candidates with great potential, Allen recommends encouraging them to hone or develop skills that make them more competitive.

If they’re willing to set aside some free time, an intensive practical short course – which can sometimes take as little as one day or a weekend – might nudge them ahead of the competition.

For example, short courses in HTML coding, podcasting and video production and editing are now in high demand for creative industries, marketing and media sectors. Most reputable courses will offer accreditation, so your candidate’s new skill stands out on their CV.

Challenge the Hiring Manager’s Requirements

Research performed by The Ladders indicates that candidates spend an average of 49 seconds reading a job description before deciding whether to pursue it or dismiss it. You read the number correctly. Less than a minute. There are many seemingly time-consuming activities that actually take less than a minute to perform: washing a dish, throwing trash in the bin, replacing toilet paper, putting one’s shoes away and, yes, forgetting an uninspiring job description. Here are some of the red flags.

  • Incessant lists of responsibilities or unrealistic qualities, usually listed as “required skills.”
  • Vague descriptions of the company, the role, the expected duties and the culture.
  • Negative tone or unappealing language that could turn off candidates.
  • A sense of apathy, disengagement or detachment -- as though workers are fungible commodities to be used up and discarded after their usefulness ends.
  • No real distinction between required skills and desired skills.

“As a recruiter,” Allen says, “you have the power to look beyond those words and talk to the employer directly. Are they making your candidate’s potential dream job sound dull or restrictive? Are they adding entry-level duties to a mid-level vacancy? If it’s a recurring problem, you’ll know why jobseekers are steering clear.”

It’s imperative that recruiters -- especially independent recruiters -- establish an assertive and direct dialog with client hiring managers or the agencies representing them (e.g., MSPs, staffing firms, etc.) to learn everything about the position. Recruiters must determine what skills are truly essential and necessary every day, rather than lofty traits hiring managers deem ideal. Help companies define and separate the must-haves from the nice-to-haves.

Culture Counts

This scenario plays out more frequently than you might imagine: brilliantly crafted job description, great salary, prime location, thriving industry and a perfectly matched candidate -- with no interest. What happened? Highly skilled talent have every reason to be selective. They also flock to innovation, big-picture thinking, challenges and dynamic business environments. Let’s face it, you can find a company with a terrific consumer brand that’s struggling to bolster or cement an enticing employment brand. Even giants like Amazon, Uber and Facebook have encountered obstacles.

  • Highlight opportunities that have flexible working policies.
  • Look for meaningful incentives, such as advancement paths and ongoing learning, rather than just pay. A report from the Telegraph in Britain revealed that workers clock in over 9,000 hours of unpaid overtime in their careers. Incentives like alternative hours, remote arrangements, extra days off or liberal vacation policies may far outweigh compensation.
  • Benefits matter. Those that surpass the bare minimum for compliance matter more.
  • Highly skilled and creative Millennials gravitate toward people-centric cultures that foster mentoring, collaboration, mission and values over rank or politics.

Allen also illustrates the benefits of culture to recruiters: “Placing that candidate in the right environment can lead to further opportunities -- they might recommend you to friends and family, or to former colleagues, and they’ll feel valued as they move through their probation period. Having a greater work-life balance, and a happier workplace, is a huge consideration for many job hunters, so use it to your advantage when dealing with skilled candidates.”

Companies today are fighting for their competitive edges, which means they’re on the prowl for skilled talent. Workers, endowed with the luxury of choice, are considering their next career moves. For independent recruiters, now is the time to start reaping the rewards of the recruitment boom. By diligently working to bridge the skills gap, they can!

Casey Enstrom
Casey Enstrom
Casey is one of the staffing industry’s household names, specializing in sales and operations leadership. He brings extensive knowledge of business development and sales strategies, predictive analytics, leadership, and human capital solutions. Prior to Crowdstaffing, Casey served as the Vice President of Technical Sales, North America, for a Fortune 1000 staffing firm.
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