2020: The year of the candidate

You snooze you lose, we’re told, and with a serious lack of talent in many sectors, Donal O’Donoghue, president of the National Recruitment Federation, says employers who deliberate too much can lose out on the best hires.

Dubbed ‘the Year of the Candidate’, the advice to employers seeking staff during 2020 is to move swiftly! Counter offers with better salaries and perks typifies the marketplace right now, as organisations seek out the best talent. A quick but informed recruitment and selection process is essential, as top people don’t hang around, and lengthy hiring processes can mean losing the best candidates.

A recent Irish survey confirmed that long hiring processes deter job candidates. Over a quarter of job seekers surveyed said they experienced a lengthy interview process of between two to five months, with a further 3pc involved in assessments taking more than five months to complete. 

While employers must dedicate significant time and resources to finding new hires, a properly structured process is needed to avoid losing candidates to competitors. In an era where competitiveness and expansion is seriously impacted by a tightening labour market, a timely and efficient recruitment process is essential. 

Hiring is one of the most important decisions a firm makes, and mistakes can be costly. However, its importance can lead to paralysis in the recruitment and selection process. 

Top talent tips

For employers and recruiters feeling the pressure of the current war for talent, this advice will help in managing the selection process.

  1. Define the Role

Be sure the role and hiring criteria are clearly outlined. If staffing an existing position, consider how needs have changed since the job was last vacant, and any ‘added-value’ to seek in a new candidate.

  1. Craft the Job Description

Be honest about the duties and opportunity the position entails and clearly state the qualifications and experience required.   Not only will this attract properly qualified candidates, it serves as a business role descriptor for co-workers and a performance evaluation tool.  

  1. Approvals

Secure the sign-off to staff the job and the time-frame, along with an approved salary range, and get buy-in from all relevant stakeholders that hiring is a priority. This means you’re in a position to act promptly when you find the perfect candidate.

  1. Set a Schedule and Deadlines

Block out time for the hiring process and commit to it, consolidating initial meetings in one or two days. Set dates for key steps, especially if the hiring process involves aptitude or psychometric assessments, and schedule deadlines for advertising, assessing candidates, interviews, offers and a start date.

  1. Be Consistent, Objective and Realistic

Decide on the ‘must-have’ attributes and apply them to every candidate, creating a scoring framework according to the significance of each attribute. Take notes during interviews so you can objectively review every candidate at the end of the process.  And remember, perfection may not appear, so look hard for solid candidates with good aptitude and potential.

  1. Check References

You want to be efficient, not foolhardy, so don’t speed up the recruitment process at all costs. Checking references in person is not a step to be rushed; it could be crucial in avoiding mistakes.

  1. Get back to Candidates

During the interview process, let candidates know when they can expect to hear back from you, and follow through. Your silence may mean you’re polishing the offer package, but a potential hire may interpret it as disinterest and pursue a job elsewhere!

  1. Make the Decision

When you find the best addition to your team, make a verbal offer pending any reference checks. This should be followed with an offer letter and contract of employment to be reviewed, signed and returned by the successful candidate.

The costs of slow hiring

Where top applicants lose interest or accept a faster offer before a firm makes a decision, there can be significant economic costs.

A slow hiring process may result in lower ranked candidates still available after a month or more.  Employers need to think about the cost of potentially multiple years of lower performance, as well as direct revenue or business loss, especially where there are long vacancies in revenue-generating or customer service positions.

Multiple vacancies don’t just impact productivity in individual roles, but can affect a whole team. Stress and overwork on account of vacancies and lack of leadership will impact quality and output and thereby affect the bottom line.

Losing top talent to a business competitor because of slow hiring can also be costly.  

So too, the longer a strong candidate is on the job market, the more expensive they become. They’ve had time to look elsewhere and it’s likely multiple firms will be bidding on them.

Candidates routinely view their experience with the recruiting process as a reflection of how a firm operates.   Slow hiring decisions and protracted processes are discouraging and can damage an employer brand image and reputation and affect future applications.

At a practical level too, slow hiring may result in poor decision-making. Lengthy processes make candidate comparisons difficult. When you are interviewing multiple candidates over a long time period, it is harder to make side by side comparisons. 

The bottom line; talented candidates are in high demand and short supply in today’s labour market. In the Year of the Candidate, waiting too long to hire can mean lamenting the one that got away! 

Donal O’Donoghue is Managing Director of recruitment firm Sanderson. With over 20 years’ experience in the industry, Donal is President of the National Recruitment Federation (NRF) and a Fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals (IRP).

Published: 27 February, 2020