The Talent Textbook: It’s a candidate’s world


Recruiters: You have approximately 15 minutes to engage a candidate as you begin the recruitment process. Why? Because in today’s market top talent picks you, you don’t pick them.

“[The candidate] has only 15 minutes because not only are they employed, 42 other companies are after them,” Tara Wolckenhauer, vice president of global HR strategy and planning at ADP, told me in a phone call.

I had an enlightening conversation with Wolckenhauer about adapting to a candidate-driven market, including non-traditional ways of recruiting. But before we get to the details, a little background on jobs.

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In December 2019, U.S. employers added 145,000 new jobs, which was less than the 160,000 economists expected. Still, the final jobs report for 2019 reflected 10 straight years of job gains —​ a tough market for employers.

The pressure for recruiters is on. Before candidates decide to accept or reject an offer, they consider the quality of the recruitment process and their impressions of the recruiters, according to December 2019 survey results from career site Zety.​ More than half of respondents said they expect to hear a final decision from an employer one to two weeks after a first interview.

Adapt to technology
To stay competitive in a tech-driven landscape, non-traditional methods of recruiting are becoming the norm.

“I just did a FaceTime interview on the platform waiting for a train,” Wolckenhauer told me. “Do I prefer that? Absolutely not. I’d rather see anyone in-person. But can I accomplish it and be able to give feedback and move it along? Yes.”

From the use of smartphones to social media to AI technology, a recruiter’s tool box may need to include a charger.

Wolckenhauer said that nowadays “we run into challenges” in terms of technology and “what the experience needs to be [due to] the new generations entering the workforce, especially Gen Z.”

Gen Z, those born after 1997, is native to technology, according to Pew Research Center. The older members of the population are now finishing college and entering the workforce. Gen Z employees will be “your resident tech experts,” according to a January Nintex report; “They know it, and so do their employers, who proactively adopt technology and tools suggested by Gen Z.”​

But recruiters need to acknowledge that maybe one size doesn’t fit all and have “very nimble solutions,” Wolckenhauer said. “Appealing to everyone is really becoming the complexity of attraction in today’s market.”

She explained that at ADP, when recruiters are seeking a tech-savvy candidate, the process often is very digital, perhaps even featuring a virtual or AI experience.

“I think we have to understand the expectations of the base … we’re trying to attract to our company,” she said. For example, one candidate might prefer to talk over the phone or in person. “I’m recruiting right now for one of our most senior positions, and we’re still going to dinner,” Wolckenhauer​ said.

Meanwhile, another candidate could want a “self-service” recruiting process that includes a virtual experience showing what work might look like at ADP, she said. “Your solutions have to fit both of those [methods], otherwise you’re not going to get the candidate. The competition is too high today.”

And sometimes, recruiters must strike a balance. With the emergence of ​hybrid jobs, many employers need candidates with a blend of technical and soft skills.

I asked Larry Clark, managing director of global learning solutions at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, how this changes the process. In these situations, Clark said recruiters need to think differently about “job fit.”

“The standard recruiting practice is to look at proven experience in similar roles and drill into past performance,” he said in an email. However, “recruiters need to look for someone who has a track record with some of the skills, an aptitude for the others, and a hunger to learn.”

Hybrid roles, like all roles, will change depending on business needs but “recruiters need to find those uncommon people who can take on a broad role, and the desire to grow as the role grows.” To that end, Clark predicted that there will be growth in the use of pre-employment assessments and other tools that allow employers to evaluate both current skills and learning agility.

Keep an eye on the fundamentals
Although it’s 2020 and the world is more digital that it has ever been, some things have stayed the same. The flying cars predicted in “The Jetsons” remain unrealized, and hiring professionals still have to keep the basics in mind.

“There are fundamentals of business that are never going to change,” Wolckenhauer ​said. “I don’t care if you’re a Baby Boomer or a Gen Zer. The way that the markets and economies work is not going to change in any foreseeable future.” She said it’s essential, for example, for a recruiter to know how the company they work at makes money as it is “critical for attracting and retaining the right person for that company.”

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“If you don’t understand how a company makes money, if you don’t understand how that translates into the dynamics of the market, you are no way going to be able to find me the right candidate,” she said. “It’s mandatory.”

Wolckenhauer explained that a recruiter or talent acquisition professional that is “really schooled in business” will be able to match the career growth expectations of the candidate, which will ultimately increase engagement, thus supporting the company’s needs.

And here’s another fundamental that likely won’t change: interpersonal communication.

According to that Nintex report, many Gen Zers want actual face time. “We found weekly, in-person check-ins to be the optimal cadence for both employee happiness and productivity,” the report said. As many companies continue to fine tune how to make a candidate’s experience positive throughout the hiring process, recruiters who stay in-the-know remain the best line of defense.

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