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The Current Candidate Market: Tips, Tricks, and Things to Consider

By hire-up in Industry Resources

Lauren Milam

Regional Vice President – West Coast

Hire Up Staffing & Healthcare Services


May 3, 2021

It is without question that the COVID-19 pandemic has created disruption around the globe. At the height of it, our country witnessed fast-tracking spread with a devastating number of lives lost every day. Countless workers had to adjust to the implications caused by the sudden impact of unforeseen unemployment. While other essential workers have had to juggle the challenges faced with continuing to work within new conditions. Many essential workers have had the added struggle to figure out how to best care for their little ones now required to learn from a laptop screen at home.

We are seeing slight changes with a nod back to normalcy; however, we are not out of the woods yet. Just as many who contracted the virus have experienced long-term effects far beyond the onset of illness, parts of our world may too. Within this country, one key area to have an anticipated longer recovery is our job market. While there are glimmers of hope in the numbers, it is likely to be an uphill climb, and in ways, we have not seen in decades.

A glimmer of hope can be seen in the April 2, 2021, US Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary, “The unemployment rate edged down to 6% in March (2021). The rate is down considerably from its recent high in April 2020 but is 2.5% higher than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. The number of unemployed persons, at 9.7 million, continued to trend down in March but is 4 million higher than February 2020.”

The improvement in unemployment likely reflects the changes associated with an increased number of Americans getting vaccinated and more states lifting lockdown orders around the country. 

However, the issue with unemployment does not appear to be for a lack of jobs.  

Early this month, Bloomberg Businessweek reported information from a survey conducted in March by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), “…a record-high percentage of small businesses surveyed said they had jobs they couldn’t fill: 42%, vs. an average since 1974 of 22%.” This report further identified, “a stunning 91% of respondents said they had few or no qualified applicants for job openings in the past three months, tied for the third-highest since that question was added to the NFIB survey in 1993.”

This is sure to add insult to injury for employers who were forced to adjust their business strategy on the fly amid the onset of the pandemic. Many small businesses had no choice but to temporarily close, laying off tenured staff. These same small businesses see the hope of reopening met with the challenge of bringing back their teams and facing trouble doing so. It is our prediction that this trend will continue at least through the end of the year.

Why?

There are many identified reasons for this recent shift. Some include:

Childcare Issues: With some school districts slower to return to in-person learning, parents employed pre-pandemic are having to make the tough decision to have someone stay home with the kids.

Some are Content to Ride It Out: For others, the WIIFM (What’s In It for Me) appears to be far less than the perks of a job pre-pandemic. Some choose to stay out of work through the duration of their extended unemployment benefits. The stimulus checks provided additional support –and for some, additional reason for not returning to work.

Discouraged Workers: In an April 3, 2021 article for thebalance.com, Kimberly Amadeo, an expert in the US and world economies and President of the economic website, World Money Watch, explained what constitutes a discouraged worker,

“Discouraged workers are those who want—and are available—to work but have dropped out of the labor force because they believe there aren’t any jobs for them. In March 2021, there were 523,000 workers categorized as discouraged, an increase from the 522,000 reported in February.”

Within the article, Amadeo cited several reasons for the discouragement, including long term unemployment and the belief there is not anything out there for their skills/abilities; they feel they lack the schooling or training to do the jobs available; they feel they have been discriminated against based upon their age, gender, or race.

Personal Health: Some have health concerns that place them at a higher risk for illness. Regardless of a vaccination, they feel the health risk associated with returning to work is greater than the financial risk of remaining unemployed.

Boomers are Retiring: In a recent Pew Research Center Survey, “In the third quarter of 2020, about 28.6 million Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – reported that they were out of the labor force due to retirement.” The study found this to be 3.2 million more Boomers than that of the same quarter of 2019. It seems likely COVID-19 is a contributing factor to the rise in these numbers.

So, What Can You Do?

It is wise to reassess your efforts and realign them to better meet the needs of today. What may have worked well the last few years likely will not now. It takes serious self-reflection to identify how you may be impeding your own success. Seeing things from a new perspective can be a challenge for some, even within the best of circumstances.

We deeply empathize with business leaders who feel the stress of having worked so hard over this last year simply reacting to the ever-changing needs of maintaining a business. The thought of having to now reinvent a recruiting strategy simply to find candidates can feel exhausting. We get it.

Sometimes an external perspective is just what we need when looking to improve current practices. Partnering with someone from the outside can help identify things you may not see simply because you are so involved in it every day. If you would like support with this, contact us— that is why we are here! Together, we can help create a plan for you that addresses your needs in a more targeted and strategic manner. We can take some of the weight from your shoulders.

However, if you are interested in forging ahead solo, we encourage you to consider the following actions:

Reassess Your Strategies: Reassess your online brand image and review your current recruiting practices. You must consider how your potential candidates are interpreting your brand, if at all. We also recommend rethinking your recruiting processes to get the most value for your effort and dollar.

Do you have a company website with outdated information?

Do you have a social media presence that shows inactivity and an inconsistent brand image?

Does your company currently pay expensive licensing fees for access to online resume databases? Only to spend countless hours culling through them with lackluster results?

Are you spending your time uploading job opportunities to free sites and not getting any bites?

Are you using antiquated job descriptions that do not offer a realistic picture of what the actual needs of the job include?

Identify the ways in which you are spending your time and money on things that are not producing results. Consider your communication vehicles and what they are currently saying about your brand. If you cannot find the time to celebrate your business through the same channels you are hoping to recruit, you are missing opportunities to connect with candidates in a more meaningful way.

Shift Your Perspective: Are you rigid in your approach to perfectly matching the needs of your current positions ONLY with the candidates that have EXACT previous experience? If so, you may be overlooking otherwise strong candidates with translatable skills. With fewer candidates on the market, you do not want to miss any opportunities for finding your next hire!

Example:

If I am hiring a new sales rep, I will consider a candidate without previous sales experience if they show a competitive nature, a sense of urgency, and an ability to stay positive and persevere through challenging situations. I may select them solely on their translatable skills and personality characteristics alone.

Why?

By hiring a less “experienced” candidate, I will likely find them faster and can spend time training them with my own tried-and-true techniques. I can coach them to the standards with which my company expects, ultimately creating a stronger and more effective salesperson in the long run.

A client recently shared with me that since shifting their recruiting perspective, they have found considerable success with hiring. (For anonymity, I will omit their name.)

With the current supply shortages in the candidate market, we’ve had to adjust our talent acquisition strategy to stay competitive. We’ve had to focus less on experience in our industry (manufacturing) and focus more on the skills and traits we know work well in our business and with our company culture. Since we are more focused on the translatable skill and culture fit, we rely more on candidate skill testing to help us make hiring decisions. Across the board, we’ve had to increase our pay rates, especially for skilled trade and professional positions. We anticipate we will have to continue making adjustments to our strategy as the competition in the employment market continues to heat up!

Consider shifting your recruiting perspectives regarding experience and remain open to translatable skills, then brace yourself for the endless opportunities that follow!

Recognize That You Get What You Pay For: With all market fluctuations, there are correlating changes in dollars. It is simply a matter of supply and demand. We see this often within real estate, where a drop in inventory will drive up home prices, creating subsequent bidding wars and cash offers, creating a seller’s market. It becomes a fierce competitive world.

Today, we are most definitely operating in a candidate’s market. We have an increasing number of jobs to fill with fewer candidates applying, thus giving candidates the upper hand. Given the laws of supply and demand, employers must decide what is most important to them. Often, for best results, clients opt to stay competitive, paying a higher dollar to get their employment needs met in a market that favors the candidate.

At the height of the pandemic, as more essential employers struggled to keep their workforce at capacity, many found it necessary to offer financial incentives. Some offered sign-on bonuses and/or a higher hourly rate as temporary hazard pay. Recently certain cities within select states are mandating hazard pay for first responders, grocery, and drug store workers.

If you are not able to increase your wage, you may find it difficult to stay competitive within the current market. As such, staffing agencies are also faced with increased costs of doing business. The very nature of our business is in finding solutions to your job needs, and we are skilled in doing that. However, we too have had to increase efforts in targeting potential quality candidates, which increases our cost of doing business.

Prioritize Your Needs: Each business has its own unique set of circumstances and needs. The staffing solutions for one client may not work for another. However, with most organizations, especially with our smaller business clients, we find that prioritizing your organization’s needs to be most helpful when building a recruiting strategy. This is important because it helps to set realistic expectations regarding outcomes.

Our best advice is that you consider prioritizing three key categories:

Speed

Quality

Price

In terms of your organization, which of these three categories would you place as the top two priorities when it comes to your recruiting needs?

Here is a look at our take on the pros and cons of these combinations of recruiting priorities:

Speed and Quality: If you selected these two options, this means you need quality and skilled candidates, and you need them now. When choosing these two, the price increases. Think about when you order something online; standard shipping is always the cheapest. If expedited shipping is important to your needs, you may find that the added cost is warranted. The same rule applies here. Our teams are trained to find you the highest quality candidates at record speeds, and with that service, a higher premium is charged.

Speed and Price: This selection means you need candidates ASAP and at the lowest price. When choosing these two as a priority, unfortunately, we are often sacrificing quality. It will be important to adjust your expectations a bit regarding skill level and overall experience for the position you need filled. Prioritizing speed and price means the hire would be an entry-level candidate that you plan to train up. Our teams are qualified to find these entry-level candidates and send them to you quickly.

Quality and Price: By selecting these two categories, you are saying you need a qualified candidate at a low price. Choosing these two does mean we are sacrificing speed. It will be important to adjust your expectations regarding how quickly this position will be filled. We call this option “finding the needle in a haystack.” This combination is by far the hardest to fulfill. When selecting this option, you understand that the role may never be filled, but if we happen to find that “unicorn,” we will submit them over to you.

Get Creative: Find new ways of reaching your potential employees! The phrase, “meet people where they are,” comes to mind when looking to recruit the types of candidates you are hoping to meet.

Identify ways to highlight your fun culture through social media, show that you are an employer of choice! Get creative by trying something new and different with your recruiting efforts. Something unique is sure to get people talking and may bring forward a different type of candidate than you have previously targeted.

In that same April 5, 2021, Bloomberg Businessweek article that speaks to the increase of employers holding jobs they cannot fill shared an example of an unconventional recruiting strategy from a company in rural Northern California, “…the Red Bluff Job Training Center is trying to lure young people with extra-large pizzas in the hope that some who stop by can be persuaded to fill out a job application.”

If pizza is not in your plan, that is ok. You may find it helpful to use the information derived from research on generational data and the varying demographics of our potential workforce. This information can serve as a guidepost.

It is important to recognize that not all candidates within each demographic adhere to the generalized statements. However, using the information within a broad view can be helpful when looking to strategize your recruiting efforts.

Better Target Your Candidate Pool: An infographic* created from the research conducted by Dr. Bea Bourne, DM, a faculty member in the School of Business and IT at Purdue University Global, provides helpful information for Generational Differences in the Workplace with which we can leverage.

While previously mentioned in this blog, Baby Boomers have recently retired.  Yet, it is important to note that certainly, not all have. Baby Boomers are often loyal and well-connected within their industry. They can offer valuable and extensive knowledge, skill, and experience.

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964): Optimistic, competitive, workaholics, team-oriented. Motivated by company loyalty, teamwork, and duty. Prefers efficient communication by way of phone or face-to-face interactions.  

Where and how would you target recruiting efforts for these potential candidates?

This generation is most used to traditional forms of recruiting. They likely will prefer a formal job description with a call out for your need for their experience.

Boomers may find interest in benefits like a phased retirement, flexible work schedule, and/or mentor opportunities.

If looking to target a more experienced candidate, you may want to investigate exclusive job boards that target job seekers 50 and over.

When connecting, consider offering the choice of an in-person interview, zoom, or a phone call.

Generation X (born 1965-1980): Informal, skeptical, flexible, independent. Motivated by diversity in the workplace and work-life balance. They prefer efficient communication, including phone calls and face-to-face interactions. They seek opportunities for personal development.

Where and how would you target recruiting efforts for these potential candidates?

Key in on their preferences to efficient communication, likely social media.

Create job descriptions that speak to their interest inefficiencies, diversity, work-life balance, flexibility, and independent nature.

Show your company’s dedication to continued training and company-paid learning opportunities.

Work to demonstrate transparency and trust. Perhaps share firsthand testimonials from current and/or past employees.

When connecting via phone, be succinct and show respect for their time.

Millennials (born 1981-2000): Competitive, open-minded, achievement-oriented. Favors texts, IMs, email. Seeks challenges, a fun work-life and work-life balance,  

Where and how would you target recruiting efforts for these potential candidates?

Highlight your brand through social media, especially the fun!

Connect to their thirst for competition by showcasing how your brand stands out above the rest.

Underscore the flexible nature and autonomy your team embodies when finding solutions to work challenges.

When connecting via email, text, IM, make it personalized and do not use a cookie-cutter template. Show you value them as an individual.

Lean on Your Alumni Alliance: In our recent blog on Boomerang Employees: The Pros and the Cons, we highlight a Hire Up Pro Tip regarding the benefits of creating a group of loyal former employees. This group can serve as an extension of your marketing team by sharing opportunities within your organization through their own personal social media channels. It always feels better when an employer or an employee can be vouched for by someone we know and trust.

You are Not Alone.

Running a business within “normal” circumstances can be challenging enough as it is. Learning to jump through hoops and weave through operational hurdles within a pandemic is a completely new beast. While our team is also learning, we have had the additional advantage of a concentrated opportunity in discovering the best ways to navigate these unchartered waters. Given the number of clients looking to us for their recruiting needs, we have learned a lot within a short amount of time.

We have a team of experienced and well-connected professionals working together to serve you best. We are making every effort to identify any new challenges facing our clients, which means our team. We aim to be proactive in our approach and offer as much as we can in partnership to get your organization running at optimal speeds.

If you have ever thought about utilizing the services of a staffing agency, we encourage you to give us a call. There is no better time than now. We would love to discuss your needs, answer your questions, and identify how we can put our team of professionals to work for you.

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There is no doubt that 2021 will bring forth opportunities to leverage new and emerging employment trends. Follow the Hire Up Staffing & Healthcare Services Blog to stay connected with a variety of topics aimed to help support you! Whether you are an active job seeker looking for tips and tricks to land your perfect job or an employer looking to fill a challenging position, we are here to help you HIRE UP!

References:

Businesses Can’t Fill Jobs Despite High U.S. Unemployment – Bloomberg

Employment projections in a pandemic environment: Monthly Labor Review: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov)

Labor Force Participation Rate March 2021 (thebalance.com)

Employment Situation Summary (bls.gov)

State and Local Hazard Pay – AAF (americanactionforum.org)

More Baby Boomers have retired since COVID-19 began than before | Pew Research Center

Why 523,000 Job Seekers Are Discouraged (thebalance.com)

Businesses Can’t Fill Jobs Despite High U.S. Unemployment – Bloomberg Generational Differences in the Workplace [Infographic] (purdueglobal.edu)

Targeted Benefits Help Baby Boomers Stay at Work, Prepare to Retire (shrm.org)


Lauren Milam | Regional Vice President – West Coast | May 3, 2021

As the Regional Vice President of the West Coast operations, Lauren focuses on the development of each Hire Up team member and office to ensure they have the tools and ability to meet the needs of all the clients and candidates. Lauren’s vast experience in the staffing industry and her passion for people, results, and success is what drives her daily. This experience includes leadership, management, employee development, sales, marketing, recruitment, client retention, and candidate retention.  Her goal is to ensure every client and candidate receives excellent service through every aspect of the process. Lauren would love to speak with you so she can help your business reach new heights.

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