Ask any CEO what’s keeping them up at night, and one of the answers is probably going to be “finding the right talent.” We’ve all heard about the Great Resignation and the number of people leaving their jobs. But while companies bemoan the tight labor market, there are people who say that companies just aren’t getting back to them.
Until recently, software architect Sean Mare was one of them. Mare, who has more than two decades of experience in his field, was unemployed from May to December 2021. In addition to personal referrals, LinkedIn Premium was his primary tool for searching for leads. And while he got roughly two to three contacts from recruiters per week, many didn’t pan out, even though he’s in a high-demand field.
Mare is a self-made professional. He started in the mailroom at a consultancy and worked his way up, teaching himself the technology and ultimately working with a consulting firm that exposed him to “dozens of technologies and methodologies in industries like pharma, life sciences, healthcare, telecommunications, gemology.” He says this experience, plus his ability to learn quickly, positioned him with “a deep knowledge of enterprise systems and architectures.”
The fact that he didn’t have a degree in the field was only a barrier in three of the many applications he completed, he says. But ultimately, he adds, recruiters would ghost him, or that the lengthy interview process (five sessions, in some cases) would end with the hiring manager saying he seemed “too nervous.”
A look at the labor numbers indicates that Mare isn’t the only one who has had trouble getting hired, despite the droves of people leaving their jobs. The January 2022 Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the number of long-term unemployed—those unemployed for 27 weeks or more—was 1.7 million in January. That’s 4 million less than a year ago, but up 570,000 from February 2020. These individuals accounted for more than a quarter of all unemployed people in January.
In a labor market that has companies scrambling to find workers, why are there still qualified candidates who want jobs but can’t even get a call back from prospective employers? The reasons may be varied, says recruitment strategist Diane Ruff. “Right now, candidates have the upper hand, but you want to be sure you’re connecting with the ones that are interested in working for your company,” she says.
Here are some ways companies can ensure they’re not overlooking interested talent:
Streamline HR functions
“One major factor that’s leading to companies not being as responsive to candidates, and delaying hiring processes—despite the high demand for talent—is that there is also a shortage of recruiting and sourcing talent,” says Samantha Lawrence, senior vice president of people strategy at Hired, a hiring marketplace focusing on tech and sales talent. If your recruitment team is short-staffed, you might be missing opportunities because it takes too long to move the process along.
If you’re dealing with staffing shortages on your HR team, executive recruiter John K. Anderson advises examining your processes to see if there are ways to streamline workflow or prioritize certain high-value positions. Look to see whether there are more efficient ways to identify, interview, and onboard prospective hires to help you be more effective with the staff you have. Also, keep a strategic eye on your pipeline, adds Anderson, managing director of executive search firm Allegis Partners, and prioritize the roles and skills that are going to keep the company moving forward.
Mare also suggests cutting back the number of interviews. “I understand that companies are making a large investment for each new hire and want to be sure they find the best candidate for job description and culture. However, even actors generally only audition three times—line read, a callback with producers, network audition. I interviewed no less than four times per position,” he says.
Do a better job looking for transferrable skills
Ruff says that more attention needs to be paid to transferrable skills. “Recruiters need to do a better job explaining them,” she says. If a prospective candidate has a good track record and has a proven ability to adapt and learn, it’s worth thinking in broader terms about the roles for which that person might be appropriate, she says. Someone who is smart, adaptable, and a good communicator already has valuable qualities that are difficult to teach.
During his job search, Mare was frustrated by recruiters who would see him through three or four interviews and then just go quiet. “I’ve had recruiters tell me I was a lock for a job, so I would wait and not apply for anything else. Inevitably, I never heard from the company hiring manager or the recruiter again,” he says. “Any communication after the interview process is complete would be a huge help.”
Stay in touch with candidates and let them know what to expect, Anderson advises.
Balance HR tech with a human touch
If your company uses applicant-tracking systems, you could be missing opportunities here, too. Lawrence cautions that, if hiring managers are working their own networks for talent and not tracking individuals in your company’s ATS system, you may not have a complete source of data on prospective hires. Anderson adds that knowledge-based jobs may require an added measure of human attention to ensure that your team is not overlooking candidates who didn’t use the right keywords on their résumés.
Mare felt this was an issue with his search. “Recruiters should better understand the skills they are looking for. Right now, it seems they all perform keyword searches on résumés and applications,” he says.” In his case, he included a project on his résumés that used a particular type of technology, and he got a number of calls about that type of expertise simply because ATS systems found it on his résumé, even though it wasn’t one of his primary specialties.
Ruff says that companies should look for fresh ways to reach candidates rather than getting stuck in the same old systems. “Don’t be afraid of social media. Don’t be afraid of linking up with a lot of different organizations to get your name out there with sponsorships. I love seeing companies with their brands in certain virtual events,” she says.
Prioritizing the areas that need the human attention of your HR department, along with some creativity, care, and strategic thinking may help you find candidates who already want to work for your company.