By: Mel Kleiman, CSP
It’s hard to believe that just two short years ago North American employers couldn’t scare up enough job applicants to recruit employees fast enough. Hourly employees could quit a job and be hired somewhere else two hours later; recruiters were offering sign-on bonuses; business school professors were writing books and articles about The War for Talent. It was truly a seller’s market.
Today, as we all know, employment trends have flip-flopped -- today everyone’s writing about The War for Jobs. In fact, the exact same job board ad that elicited 156 resumes just over two years ago more recently generated 8600 responses.
Everyone is keeping a nervous eye on unemployment rates; the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says unemployment may stay above the pre-crisis level until at least 2013. It appears that it will remain a buyer’s job market for the foreseeable future.
War for Talent is Still Being Waged
Although it appears employers now hold all the cards to hire the best talent, the truth is that their resources are being stretched more thinly than ever because now they are fighting an HR war on two fronts.
Just because we’re in the middle of a War for Jobs doesn’t mean the talent war is over. While there is a surplus of potential employees, recruiting great employees is still challenging. And besides, many great employees are already gainfully employed and not inclined to jump ship in these uncertain economic times.
Surveys and studies report that despite lots of people being frustrated with their jobs right now, they have postponed a job search until a recovery is well underway, while companies work hard to drive employee engagement and employee motivation.
Unfortunately, the acknowledged crisis of our public school system makes it a sure bet that finding and keeping talent will be a challenge for a long time to come.
The Job War and Finding the Sharp Needle
So, the talent war has actually intensified while the job war has made it that much harder to find talent. Finding great employees has never been easy, but when every job opening attracts a deluge of applicants, finding “the sharp needle” is a lot harder because the haystack is ten times bigger now.
The good news is there are several things proactive employers can do to recruit employees and hire the best, in spite of the fallout from these two wars:
1. Become an Employer-of-Choice: Studies consistently show that employers-of-choice enjoy better financial results, a bigger pool of job candidates, and higher levels of engagement and retention. Being an employer of choice means you have to build a unique company culture. Every employer can do this, but few choose to. It takes a great deal of effort to build your employment brand and establish the transparency that creates trust and attracts great people.
2. Spell Out Exactly What You Are Looking For: How can you possibly hit the target when you don’t know what it looks like? Go beyond experience and/or education requirements in writing a job description and spell out exactly what is needed in the way of intelligence, attitudes, personality traits, and skills. Think too about using personnel assessments in the interview.
3. Make the Job Hard to Get: Ask applicants to do something more than just push a button to send a resume. For instance, as part of the employee selection process, request a cover letter that includes three reasons why the applicant is a good match for the position as well as two references. An additional requirement like this will enable you to quickly screen out people who don’t follow directions; it will also help to cut down on the number of applicants who respond and increase the overall quality of applicants. Also, consider actively targeting job candidates early on in the recruitment cycle.
4. Audit Your Employee Recruiting and Employee Selection System: As professor and renowned consultant W. Edwards Deming said, “The system always gives you 100 percent of what the system was designed to give you.” If your system is not creating the results you want, it’s time to bite the bullet and retool. Look at where and how you’re recruiting. Look at the process for screening candidates and reference checking. Do you require a college degree when someone with experience might be the better choice? Do you have interviewing best practices in place that asks all applicants the same questions and helps you compare apples to apples? Do your interview questions cover the core competencies required; do you utilize behavioral interview questions that probe for the attitudes, values, and work ethics that fit with your corporate culture?
Yes, it’s a battlefield out there, but it’s a talent war worth waging because the most im-portant decision you’ll ever make is who you allow in the doors to run your business and take care of your customers.
Mel Kleiman is a Certified Speaking Professional and internationally recognized consultant, author, and speaker on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees. He is the president of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems, training processes, and tools for recruiting, selecting, and retaining an hourly workforce. To read an excerpt and order copies of his latest book, The Five Firsts: A Simple System to On-board, Engage and Retain Top Talent, visit: The5Firsts. For more information, call (713) 771-4401 or email email@example.com.