The infographic 2017 State of HR Recruiting in the U.S. paints a picture of a flourishing job market, low unemployment rate, and new recruitment approaches as a whole. The competitive landscape driven by these factors – combined with the impact of an overwhelming number of job boards and hiring platforms – has changed the way HR professionals manage the recruiting process.

But while there is plenty of information available on what recruiters are struggling with, the bigger question remains: how can these issues be resolved? Here’s what some of the top industry leaders in human resources, recruiting, and hiring had to say:

1. Identify Qualified Candidates

Finding qualified candidates in a highly-competitive marketplace is challenging for just about everyone in the industry. According to a survey by WorkConnect by SAP entitled The 2017 Survey of Small Business Hiring Challenges, 91% find maintaining a pool of candidates challenging. We asked successful HR professionals how they overcame this obstacle and found the perfect hires.

Paula Clapon of Hppy thinks the answer lies in “investing in your local community of students, volunteers and people who are passionate about what your company has to offer. Constantly connecting with them through events, learning opportunities and an ongoing online presence will keep you top of mind for these people. The more you develop the community around you, the better chances of having quality candidates.”

But there’s more to recruiting than finding talent. You also need to figure out how to interest them enough to accept your offer and retain them. “Figure out what has the potential to make them unhappy where they are now and offer them a better deal,” says Clapon. “Social selling is a great way to gauge whether someone is at a point in their life when they are bound to make a change or when the company they are currently working for has some widely known issues.”

2. Shorten Lead Time

According to the WorkConnect by SAP survey, 88% of recruiters find shortened lead time to hire new staff to be a challenge.

In response, Sharlyn Lauby of HR Bartender recommends that organizations make their own internal hiring and recruiting processes as efficient as possible. “I know this sounds obvious, but so many organizations rely on job requisitions to drive their recruiting efforts,” she explains. “Organizations should always be looking for talent. And if they find someone who is awesome…hire them. The right person will bring enough value to cover their salary expense.”

But Lauby also points out that the breakdown in communication between HR departments and managers heightens the mounting pressure to fill positions with a shortened lead time.

“Anyone responsible for hiring needs to understand the company’s time to fill and how it impacts recruitment,” she says. “For example, if it takes six weeks to fill a position and employees only have to give two weeks’ notice, then hiring managers need to understand how critical it is to let HR know as soon as the opening occurs – not on an employee’s last day. It also means that hiring managers might want to consider looking at contingent workers to help them in the interim.”

John Zappe of TLNT.com offered his suggestions on managing lead time and expectations to help speed up the hiring process.

  1. Develop a talent acquisition mindset and work on strategic hiring before the need arises.
  2. Spend time regularly with your recruiter so that person understands you, your needs, the specific work and meets with your team, too.
  3. Conduct a detailed intake meeting when a need arises.
  4. Absent an emergency, don’t change the criteria and details you and the recruiter agreed upon.
  5. When resumes arrive, make their review your #1 priority.
  6. Hire the first candidate you interview who meets the criteria and is the right fit. Don’t keep looking, hoping for someone just a notch better.

3. Address Urgency in Recruiting

Despite the fact that management wants to hire immediately, in reality, recruiters are facing shortened lead times and difficulty finding the right candidates. In fact, 95% of recruiters feel that urgency to fill an open role is a factor in the hiring process, and nearly one-third consider it an extreme factor.

The answer may lie in having an HR strategist play a similar role to someone who provides sales revenue forecasts.

Clapon explains, “If we’re discussing a sales revenue forecast, we expect to see market research, competitor analysis, internal benchmarks and KPIs. Why would HR be any different? The talent they’re bringing on board is a precious resource. It demands efficient pipeline management, succession plans, performance indicators and data analysis.”

Zappe also thinks more companies should allocate time on a regular basis to strategically plan for hiring. “Working with their recruiter, and with the most effective talent on their team and elsewhere in the company for referrals, they can build a pipeline of the kind of people they want to hire when the need arises,” Zappe says. “Reaching out personally to the people they really want, before they have an opening, builds a personal relationship that is far more effective in yielding great candidates when a vacancy does occur. Doing this initially will mean more work and a time investment, but it will pay big dividends over time.”

4. Collaborate with Coworkers

Collaborating with peers on a new hire is now the norm, with 94% of WorkConnect by SAP survey respondents saying multiple people are involved in a typical hire. Seventy-five percent say they collaborate with 2 to 5 people.

However, there isn’t a debate over whether or not collaboration is important. The surveyed recruiters and HR professionals agree that collaborating with peers is necessary, and yet 86% wish it was easier to collaborate with peers a during candidate evaluation. In reality, 79% say collaborating with coworkers is a challenge.

Lauby gives insights on collaborative hiring, which, in her opinion, provides tremendous value, both in the hiring process and to new hires. “Knowing more people than HR and the hiring manager is a benefit to employees,” she says. “I recently heard about a process that I think is super interesting. It’s to have recruiting facilitators. These are trained individuals who facilitate the process. They are not necessarily HR people and they’re not decision-makers in the hire. Their role is to facilitate. I like it a lot.”

5. Time Spent on Non-Hiring Activities

Recruiters and hiring professionals are spending more time doing everything but recruiting. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed reported focusing a significant amount of time on employee training and development. Meanwhile, 82% spent time on compensation issues and 47% on benefits management. Actual hiring has become only a small part of a hiring professional’s job. They also spend time on meetings, employee relations, and engagement practices.

Barbara Berger of Career Wellness Partners says, “Hiring managers spend more time than ever on non-hiring activities, such as training and development, performance management, and other admin/maintenance tasks, at the expense of focusing on strategic and hiring tasks. Now more than ever, it is particularly challenging for SMBs to have the internal resources to manage the hiring process skillfully and with confidence. Hire well to put the right people on your team or consider outsourcing certain processes that detract from strategic recruiting initiatives.”

Clapon also feels that recruiting is such a strategic objective for the entire organization that it deserves to have its own dedicated strategist. “Much like marketing, having one person manage strategy and implementation, namely all the processes, is an impossible expectation and it can only lead to frustration and low performance,” she explains. “An HR core team would be the best choice to define strategy and performance KPIs, leaving the administrative and operational tasks to a separate team that they coordinate.”

But should you separate hiring activities from non-hiring activities like learning and performance?

Lauby says the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ “I believe a manager’s number one job is to hire and train their replacement,” she says. “Managers won’t have time to develop their own careers if they don’t hire, train, and delegate work. Managers will not be able to work on cool special assignments if their departments fall apart every time they’re out of the office. So, I wouldn’t separate hiring activities from learning, performance, etc. It all leads to the goal of managers developing their employees. Because when they do, employees become engaged (and they stay).”

6. Manage Multiple Job Boards and Social Media

 

Seventy-eight percent of recruiters and HR professionals use online job boards to find candidates. Of those recruiters, 93% use multiple boards simultaneously.

Tony Restell of Social Hire says that investing in your company’s social media presence can also reduce time-to-hire. “By positively impacting candidates’ perceptions of your employer brand, you increase conversion rates throughout the hiring process and so reduce the average time needed to make a successful hire,” he says.

Restell also sees social media as an opportunity to invest in the relationships companies build with promising candidates in their industry. He says: “Put processes in place to ensure your team is regularly engaging with quality candidates on social media – and then when you need to hire, the likelihood of candidates being receptive to your approach is multiplied as they already know, like and trust your recruitment team.”

Recruiting passive candidates is also part of the equation of identifying qualified candidates on social media. Restell says, “Passive candidates are only passive in the sense that they aren’t actively looking for a new job. But lots of passive candidates could be swayed to consider an opening if the right one were presented to them. Hiring managers therefore need to build a bigger and bigger organic audience on social media, of the exact candidate types that the business is likely to want to hire over the coming quarters. Then when hiring managers want to reach out to passive candidates with an opportunity, they have the means to do so and the relationship with those candidates already well-established.”

Restell feels that worsening time-to-hire statistics demonstrate the growing importance of managing candidate experience and candidate perceptions, which he says can be achieved by harnessing social media. “Small increases in candidates’ propensity to apply for your roles, to react favourably to your approaches, to stay engaged throughout the whole interview process and to ultimately accept a job offer all add up to a significant difference in the respective performance levels of two competing recruiting teams,” he explains.

“Managing how candidates perceive your business through a compelling social media presence, strong Glassdoor reviews and favourable commentary from existing employees all impact these conversion rates in ways that have a material impact on the overall hiring effectiveness of an organisation.”

7. Manage Qualified Candidates

Berger has an interesting take on what happens when you choose how you engage with applicants: “Remember that how you treat applicants is an indication of how you treat employees. If applying is tedious, if there is a lack of engagement from your company during the process or lack of communication after an interview (often because hiring managers are doing other tasks) these issues leave applicants with a negative experience. Either way, an efficient recruiting and hiring process speaks volumes for your organization.”

The problem of why you can’t find qualified candidates and how you’re managing your talent may be part of the same issue.

Todd Raphael of ERE Media has his own opinion on why the industry can’t find and manage qualified candidates: “I find it sad – for lack of a better word – when I read about companies saying they can’t find people. Are they looking for all people, or just young people?”

Raphael wonders if the workforce is overlooking top talent that may not fit neatly into a preconceived mold, and that may simply need some minor modifications or flexibility in their schedule. “There are tons of mothers who’ve left the workforce or who aren’t re-entering it (and, yes, fathers) because they see it as a 24/7 job nowadays, with smartphones and other increasing demands,” he says. “I know people in their 60s who can’t get a call back, but appear to be qualified.”

“I know a guy who’s a wildly successful CEO who’d take a job working for someone else but says he can’t because they’d make him commute, work certain hours, and he couldn’t pick up his daughter from school. I know another person who has had trouble getting through ATSs because he didn’t graduate college. I know a guy with no kids but who has two parents in their 80s, who he visits for five minutes twice a day, and says he couldn’t take a regular W-2 job (and thus works as a contractor) due to the hours and time commuting.”

If we spent more time adjusting the traditional employee model and allowing more flexibility, hiring managers could find a new source of top talent ready to reenter the workforce.

8. Automate the Hiring Process

While companies report increased efficiency when using recruiting software, only 48% of those surveyed said they use specific software like applicant tracking systems (ATS) or automated job postings. In fact, only 55% use basic office tools.

You can also move towards automation by working on your processes and paying attention to critical interactions in the hiring journey. Clapon recommends documenting the entire process and identifying all interaction points. “Figure out which ones are critical and which ones can be automated in a specific step of the process,” she says.

But she notes that it’s important not to let your quest for automation and process to go on for too long. “Once you have the most efficient process possible, for your particular company, I wouldn’t recommend shortcutting it further for fear of ending up with an unsuitable new hire that will leave anyway sooner rather than later,” she says.

Restell is surprised that the average time-to-hire has reached a new all-time high. “In recent years, technological advances have made it much easier for recruiters to identify and approach their ideal candidates – in addition to posting job adverts and reviewing the resulting applications,” he says. “So you would think that time-to-hire results would have improved in the last few years.”

He makes a good point. Technology should empower our HR efforts and potentially reduce lead time, but we’re seeing the opposite effect. Why? Restell concludes: “It seems that talent shortages and heightened competition to hire the best candidates is more than offsetting the technological advances that have helped recruiters in their pursuit of talent.”

How have you tackled big changes in the industry? Let us know by leaving a comment below:

Blog originally published on WorkConnect.