Talent Acquisition in a Wacky Economy

April 27, 2009

What happens to the recruiting process in this unsettled economic cycle?

Companies tighten their belts. So do candidates. Those really talented people that may have been sniffing around last year have stopped their search or have pulled back significantly. This means that if you are in a hiring mode (and many companies still are) you can’t simply rely on job boards to provide you a flow of good candidates. Yes, there are qualified folks out there and you will be able to find them; so will your competitors. An unstable employment market creates a lot of noise for candidates with solid skills so you will have to differentiate your opportunities from others. Salary will play a role, but so will company financial stability, perks, culture, growth and the other smart people you already have on board.

Candidates who are unemployed will begin broadening their search by applying for any and all positions available. Your volume of applicant responses will go up, but your quality will go down. You may be thinking that this is a great time to hire, there are plenty of people to choose from. Well, that may be true, but as a business executive, if you have to cut 10% of your team, will you layoff your high performers or the under performers? Guess who is on the market right now? You’re best course of action when your applicant volume begins to swell, is to make sure that you automate and delegate. Have a simple auto-reply in place so that applicants know you’ve received their information (to reduce the follow up emails and calls). Engage your future leaders (in the applicant review process. These are the individuals who you’ve identified as having real potential in your company. It’s a great way to get them involved, keep them engaged and make sure that someone is seeing every applicant who responds to your open positions.

Protectionism kicks in. Those current employees who have been a tremendous source of referrals will begin protecting themselves. The good news is they will do their very best at work; the bad news is that they may not be as externally focused as in the past. Now is when you NEED those internal referrals. Great people know other great people, so consider INCREASING your referral bonus program as both a retention effort for your current people and a recruiting/pipeline engine for future talent.

Overqualified candidates are bountiful. This is a mid-manager business cycle. The last time we experienced these characteristics was in the mid-90s. Middle managers were laid off, and as a result sought staff level positions. They may be a great hire for you today. They are talented, experienced and not asking a market salary. Hire with caution though. Making an overqualified hire is fine as long as you go into it realistically. If your company has a career path program then immediately make progression part of the candidate’s performance plan. If you are a small company and don’t have career planning in place then understand that you will only keep them around for a year or two. Make the best use of their experience as possible and gracefully congratulate them when it’s time for them to move on.

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