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It’s a Candidate’s Market – How to Compete to Hire the Talent You Need

talent acquisition

It’s a candidate’s market, pure and simple. Hiring for leadership and professional roles is more challenging than ever.  The competition for talent is increasing—a colleague of mine would say, “it’s fierce.”  In a candidate’s market, candidates have more options, preferences, and expectations in considering making a next career move.  Could it be a transient symptom of the pandemic world that we have lived in since March of 2020?  Transient—I don’t think so.  I believe the recruiting and hiring challenges are with us for the foreseeable future and it will require more resilience and versatility than ever before.

The world of work has changed and recruiting and hiring practices have pivoted well to respond to those circumstances.  Recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training have become more virtual and driven some overdue efficiencies; many organizations are doing a very nice job balancing the technical efficiencies with personal experience to assure candidate engagement.  Achieving the right balance is a work in progress and requires a candidate (customer) centric approach.  Candidates have choices as they are being highly selective in what positions and employers they are choosing to pursue.  The initial touchpoints with candidates are more important than ever and set the tone for the possibilities.

For some organizations, the business needs require a return to full time, onsite operations, or there is a preference for a return to “normal” and a pre-pandemic work structure. Others are opting for a hybrid or remote scenario, particularly as COVID variants continue to emerge. A strong argument can be made for the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Turnover is on the rise and employees are leaving jobs in greater numbers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, during the months of April, May, and June 2021, a total of 11.5 million workers voluntarily left their jobs. Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index predicts that 41% of people are likely to consider leaving their jobs within the next year for varying reasons.   A Gallup poll similarly found that 48% of employees are actively searching for new opportunities. Citing federal surveys, a Bloomberg article also reported that “about 2.7 million Americans aged 55 or older are contemplating retirement years earlier than they had imagined,” embracing a “life-is-short” mentality.   Everywhere you look, these predictions are the same; every business and HR leader we talk to names talent acquisition and retention as top concerns.   It is a trend being dubbed “the Great Resignation.”

A few other major trends the CCI executive search team are seeing include:

  • Flexible work schedules: Many candidates have had remote work circumstances for 16 months now and have learned to not only appreciate the flexibility of that schedule but also feel they have proven their ability as high-performing and productive contributors. The desire for flexibility is a trend with all levels of roles through to leadership positions; it is frequently a key factor in a candidate’s consideration of an opportunity.
  • Compensation is trending high in the market: Compensation is always a combination of art and science, taking into consideration three components:  survey data, budget, and marketplace compensation (actual candidates’ information and what it takes to compel them to make a move). Often, we are seeing that companies have compression issues with legacy employees being paid less than the market.  This further complicates the recruiting and hiring challenge.
  • The “happy in place” trend is on the rise. While this seems to be contrary to the Microsoft survey around turnover, it is likely a combination of candidates being highly selective in what job opportunities they are open to considering, enjoying the culture of the current organization, and being satisfied with the compensation structure.
  • Culture of diversity, equality, and inclusion: 2020 brought a greater focus on the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is top of mind for candidates and speaks to the overall culture of the organization and what it will be like to work there.
  • Career management and development opportunities: Candidates are drawn to organizations that are focused on developing their employees and helping them with internal career management and progression.  Companies that have a culture of developing, mentoring, and growing talent are viewed as employers of choice.  It is a differentiator for candidates and has never been more critical than today when the talent shortages we are seeing are expected to continue.

With these predictions and trends looming over an already tight candidate market, it is prudent and compelling for organizations to candidly reflect on: Why should the candidate choose you?  Yes, choose you.  It is a mutual choice: the employer’s and the candidate’s – and candidates have, and will continue to have, more choices and competing opportunities.  Consider your organization and the opportunity from the candidate’s perspective.  While you are evaluating the candidate, they are evaluating you.

To stay competitive and improve your positioning as an employer of choice, consider the following:

  • What differentiates your organization, team, and role?
  • How is the company culture appealing and engaging; are you embracing a culture of inclusiveness?
  • What is your brand in the marketplace?
  • Is your website compelling to the candidate audience?
  • Are hiring managers’ LinkedIn profiles updated and engaging to job candidates? It’s one of the first places candidates will research.
  • Is the compensation marketplace competitive?
  • Are the benefits attractive and competitive?
  • Can you offer a hybrid or fully remote work structure?
  • What career development opportunities do you offer?
  • “Time kills all deals” is a phrase I often hear; today, more than ever, it means that your hiring process must keep a good cadence and momentum – or you risk finding the talent you need but losing them to a competing opportunity with a faster process.

It’s been, and will continue to be, a learning experience for some companies and hiring managers to grasp how quickly the dynamics of hiring talent have shifted in this competitive marketplace. The trends outlined above certainly represent significant challenges. But they also represent opportunities to bring in new leadership and perspectives and think about new ways of working and building culture. Our executive search team is providing our clients with the real-world perspective and the advisory partnership needed to overcome the challenges of this workplace exodus. If you’re seeking to hire, being aware of the factors and trends impacting recruiting right now will help maximize the likeliness of success for your organization.

Mary Riccobono
Vice President and Practice Leader, Talent Acquisition
CCI Consulting

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