Four Lessons We Should Have Learned This Year

Adversity is a great teacher, and the past two years have been some of the most adverse and professionally difficult that we will ever experience.

This year, especially, has been a year of paradoxes and contradictions: There are thousands of job openings but few applicants. Most organizations cannot find the qualified people they need yet; rather than restructure work or rethink how work gets done to attract people, they continue to force people to work in traditional ways.

Even though more people are looking for part-time, temporary, or contract work, only a tiny percentage of companies embrace this kind of worker. Many firms require workers back to the office even though many prefer to work from home. The latest stats from LinkedIn show that only 14% of organizations globally allow fully remote work,

Recruiters are being laid off in droves in the technology companies that vastly over-hired and underperformed. It seems that all the fuss over talent shortages and how hard it was to hire good people was a race to the bottom rather than one to the top.

But there are at least four lessons we should have learned this year.

Lesson #1: Building and maintaining candidate relationships and generating referrals are keys to survival.

Job descriptions should be dead, but I do not doubt that they will live on for a long time. We should all agree that they are not the best, cheapest, or fastest way to attract good people.

In general, you will not find the people you need by posting on job boards. The most successful recruiters use social networks, ask employees (and others) for referrals and focus on building talent communities of potential candidates.

Learn from product and service marketing how to do a better job. Watch and emulate how consulting firms advertise and market their professional services. Go for targeted messaging and quality, not volume. Generate candidates from relationships you form using tools CRM tools and by asking for referrals. Make it a rule of thumb that if you generate hundreds of responses to a job posting, you are doing something terribly wrong.

Lesson #2: Use targeted, bold marketing and branding to appeal to the types of candidates you want.

Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Focus your marketing messages and media on the type of candidate you need most. KPMG and other organizations target college-age candidates with videos and other media designed to appeal to that age group and the personalities of the candidates who usually want to work for them.

They don’t spend any time or money on generic marketing that appeals to older potential candidates.

The best marketing is always targeted to a specific audience and discourages, although subtly, those who don’t fit the target. This is done through words and pictures and partly by placing the information where the people you are targeting are most likely to see it.

For example, Mercedes advertises on television at the times and on programs where their research shows highly successful and well-off people watch. They place print advertisements in magazines that these types of people read. They do not advertise on Superbowl, nor do they advertise in mass publications. Targeted marketing requires research, focus, carefully thought-out graphics and tested writing.

Wording is also key; what you say makes all the difference. If you say and imply that you are seeking only those with very specific backgrounds and qualifications, you will reduce the numbers who apply and improve quality. Even your career site needs to be worded in a way that is attractive to those you are most anxious to hire,

Lesson #3: Do not just use but embrace emerging technology

As I have written many times, artificial intelligence is increasingly capable of augmenting the recruiting process at many levels. Today tools are readily available that can help create job descriptions based on analytics showing which features and wording are most effective in attracting the talent you want. Conversational chatbots such as Olivia by Paradox can communicate with candidates and intelligently answer their questions without recruiter involvement.

Sourcing tools can help find people with the exact skills and experience needed. These tools can search multiple sources of candidates and quickly help identify the most likely candidates based on comparing desired skills with those candidates indicate they have.

Other tools can screen candidates and even assess their skills, avoiding the need for numerous interviews.

Technology can help recruiters be far more productive and free up their time to build relationships with hiring managers and candidates.

Lesson #4: Accept change as a way of life

We will not be returning to the more traditional recruiting methods, and the contradictions and paradoxes I outlined at the beginning of this article will be with us for a long time. Traditional recruiting skills will be liabilities and will generate little profit.

Everything from face-to-face interviews to onboarding new employees will be more automated. Software applications and mobile technology will dominate the recruiting space.

To be a thriving recruiter, you need to focus on building a new mindset centered on accepting change as a constant and leveraging technology.

Perhaps the greatest lesson of this year is that we are now at the place where we can use this technology to target our marketing, focus on a smaller number of candidates, allow more direct communication between candidates and hiring managers and spend more time on raising awareness and marketing key positions using the various technical platforms we have available.

The ability to do this will be seen as strength and generate returning profit for years.

This article first appeared in the Future of Talent Newsletter and has been re-published here with permission.

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