Companies Find Filling Jobs Isn’t Easy, Even in a Recession

There were 3.1 million job openings on the last business day of February, an increase from 2.7 million in January, according to the U.S. Bureau of labour Statistics. At the end of March, unemployment stood at 8.8 per cent, with employment increasing by 216,000 and 13.5 million still unemployed. Sounds like an employer’s market, right?

“Many companies have ‘gone without’ for so long that they are willing to wait for that ‘dream candidate,'” explains Ian Ide, partner and general manager of Winter, Wyman‘s New York technology division. “Based on media reports and unemployment rates, they may also mistakenly believe there is a glut of talent in the market. When in reality, what they will find, is that their ‘dream candidate’ has multiple opportunities — and job offers — and may not still be available when the company is ready to make their offer.”

David Smith, managing director at Accenture, a global management consulting company, adds: “In some cases, companies have modified their business models as a result of the recession, which in turn has led to changes in their skills needs. In other cases, the development of skills among job candidates is not keeping pace with employers’ needs.”

According to an analysis of 1.3 million applications and 26,000 hires in 2010 by Jobs2web Inc., an interactive recruitment marketing company located in Minneapolis, companies look through about 219 applications per job from job seekers who discovered the posting on a major board before finding someone to hire, 33 applications per hire from job hunters who find the job on the company’s own career site, and 32 per hire when a job seeker types the job they are looking for into a search engine.

This is interesting data, considering where companies put the majority of their hiring efforts, as reported by the 10th annual Source of Hire study by CareerXroads:

  • Referrals: 27.5 per cent
  • Job boards: 24.9 per cent
  • Company career site: 18.8 per cent

So what can — and should — companies be doing to attract the right hires?

Define the role properly: “Many companies waste a great deal of time searching for candidates with poorly defined position descriptions and the attributes they are looking for. You get what you go after when recruiting, and it’s critical to get the initial search criteria right,” says Tom Armour, co-founder of High Return Selection, a company that helps small and mid-size companies build their recruiting effectiveness.

Understand generational issues: “Unlike the Baby Boomers, today’s employee is not programmed to work at the same company for 20 years. Companies need to be a little bit more flexible on a candidate’s ‘story,'” says Jennifer Lenkowsky, managing partner of The Corporate Ladder, a New York City-based boutique recruiting firm that specialises in placing administrative staff. “Ultimately, if you meet someone and think they would be an amazing fit with your company, don’t put so much weight on any one thing. It’s important to look at the big picture and not let an amazing potential employee slip through your hands because they didn’t have everything on your ‘check list.'”

Carina Whitham, CEO of San Francisco-based executive search firm Whitham Group, adds: “It is vital that the human resources team understands how to appeal to the masses by writing different job descriptions for different generations. Taking for instance the Gen Y’ers, they are a techie generation and using Twitter or Facebook to advertise an open position is a great avenue whereas recruiting the Gen X’ers, direct contact is the most effective method. This goes for interviewing strategies for the different generations, as well, for there are varying communication methods that may appeal to one generation, and not to another.”

Become an active community member: “This is so much more useful than posting to a bunch of job sites, though we certainly do that as well. We’ve found our best leads by being active members of forums that our target employees frequent. Spreading the word there works well, because it gets spread to their friends, etc.,” says Sheel Mohnot of FeeFighters, a Chicago-based start-up does comparison shopping for credit card processing.

utilise recruiters: “Many companies say they don’t need recruiters because of the high unemployment figures; however, at the same time, if someone is unemployed, they question why no one has hired them yet,” says Tom Gimbel, president and CEO of LaSalle Network, a Chicago professional staffing and recruiting firm. “Strong recruiters differentiate themselves by sourcing currently employed candidates who aren’t ‘on the market’ and by doing things companies don’t have the time to do — such as interviewing more people — and by taking an analytical approach to the process rather than a resume to job description approach.”

Don’t stick rigidly to your pay scale: “If you come across a unique talent that fits your company, be open to pay for talent,” explains Amar Panchal, CEO of Akraya, Inc., a small Silicon Valley-based IT staffing and consulting firm.

“You get what you pay for,” adds Tina Chen, vice president of operations at Carlisle Staffing, a temporary services firm based in Westmont, Ill. “If you are trying to cut corners and hire a $100k position at $50k, ask yourself why none of your applicants are qualified for what you are looking for.” 

Get referrals: “Reach out to everyone in your network for a trusted referral. Use both online and offline networking to source and close the right candidates,” says Rotem Perelmuter, founder of TopProspect, a San Francisco-based social job site that rewards people who help their (Facebook) friends and (LinkedIn) contacts find jobs.