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Oct 10, 2013

Talent acquisition — despite the mass adoption of new tools and technologies to make the process data rich and workflow friendly — remains a major challenge for companies in the post-recession labor market.

A 2013 CareerBuilder survey found that 45 percent of human resources managers say their company has open positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates. While this is driven in part by an emerging skills gap for certain high-skill occupations, there are many recruiting tactics that are detrimental to an organization’s candidate pool and can even tarnish the employment brand.

Here are four (4) surprisingly pervasive behaviors (based on CareerBuilder/Harris Interactive survey data) that if done away with, will go a long way toward reducing time to hire and preventing costly vacancies.

1. Screening candidates based on past job titles

Some 55 percent of hiring managers who have job openings for which they can’t find qualified candidates typically hire people who previously held the same job title as the open position. This potentially means that every other candidate, regardless of experience, skill level or potential, is put at an arbitrary disadvantage.

Sure, job titles can sometimes be a good signpost of one’s career history, but they also have major limitations.

For one, job titles vary wildly by firm and are rarely precise measures of one’s ability. Secondly, such a preference holds back up-and-coming professionals or comparably skilled workers in other professions. If the only way to get a job is to have had that job previously, making vertical career moves becomes a challenge.

2. Filtering out the long-term unemployed

Our surveys consistently show that hiring managers are open to hiring long-term unemployed workers, but there’s a major caveat: When given the option, more are willing to hire or interview the currently employed candidate.

Hiring managers shouldn’t make it a blanket policy to eliminate the long-term unemployed from consideration. Doing so inadvertently tosses out untold numbers of qualified candidates who may have only been unemployed due to a stroke of bad luck or a personal decision.

There’s plenty of empirical evidence to back this up, as well. A study by workforce intelligence company Evolv found no correlation between length of unemployment and future tenure or performance among hourly workers.

3. Failing to raise wages for tough-to-fill positions

In the market for skilled labor, the employer who wins is usually the one that bids highest.

Many companies, however, aren’t responding to the skills gap in accord with this economic principle. In fact, 64 percent of hiring managers who have job openings for which they can’t find qualified candidates aren’t planning to raise wages for their new hires.

Flat or uncompetitive wages will result in more offers turned down and a weaker applicant pool. Rising wages signal the labor force to acquire in-demand skills in greater numbers, which in time will ameliorate any supply and demand imbalances.

4. Recruiting only when a vacancy arises

The recession undoubtedly stretched many HR departments thin, often times forcing cuts to recruiting budgets and personnel. As a result, retention efforts directed at key talent became top priority while all too often recruiting became a reactive effort to fill high-priority vacancies.

However, recruiting only when a key position opens has significant drawbacks. It can leave the recruiter or hiring manager flat-footed and without the resources needed to fill the vacancy quickly.

The alternative is to introduce a continuous recruitment strategy where the organization may not have an open position today, but still engages and networks with prospective candidates. More than a third (36 percent) of HR managers say their company doesn’t continuously recruit, but among those who do, 57 percent say the tactic reduces their time to hire by two weeks or more and 58 percent say it reduces cost-per-hire.

There’s ALWAYS a way to improve the candidate pool

Whether it takes the form of an employee referral incentive or a formal talent network, developing a talent pipeline is essential in a competitive talent market.

Even if none of the above affects your organization, the takeaway here is that there is almost always a proven way to improve the quality of your candidate pool and navigate skill shortages.

Sometimes that simply involves HR leadership advising their hiring managers on best practices; other times new strategies and tools are in order.

In any case, it’s critical that the conversation is ongoing and always aimed at maximizing the chances of finding the right person for the right job.

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