Hiring in the age of anxiety and scarcity

As an industry, we have always been the beneficiary of employers’ hiring anxiety. Why would they bother to use a job board or recruiting service if they weren’t at least a little bit anxious about their own abilities to fill an open position?

About a decade ago, the anxiety shifted to us as the recession dropped down. Suddenly there were plenty of qualified candidates, but not so many jobs. It took a while, but employers (at least, those that survived the recession) lost their anxiety about hiring. They thought, ‘Hey, big surplus of candidates! We got the jobs! We’re in the driver’s seat! How hard can this hiring stuff be?’. And they quit taking calls from job boards and recruiting sites because, as we all heard many times, ‘We just don’t need you. We can find our own candidates’.

For some of them, this was indeed true. The recession had sharpened their survival skills and reshaped their workforce needs. They had a clearer idea of the specific skills they needed. And they certainly had people knocking on their door. These employers were your former clients.

For others, the claim that they could find their own candidates on their own turned out to be ‘wishful thinking’. For them, it turned out that although they were great at their primary business (be it widget-making or financial analysis or whatever), they weren’t quite so good at hiring. They discovered (again) that finding the right candidates is actually kind of hard.

Those employers are your current clients.

Now we’re in a new age of hiring anxiety. Why? First, we’re as close to full employment as I suspect we’ll ever be. There are, in many sectors, more jobs than there are qualified candidates to fill them. If you’re an employer shopping for a data scientist or a skilled welder or even a job board doctor, you may well be out of luck. Then there are a few external factors: in the U.S., tariffs seem to be leading to trade wars with multiple major powers, including China, the EU, Canada, and Mexico. If you’re an employer and you’re affected, well…you’re anxious. Also, restrictions and conflict around immigration are causing labor supply upheavals in the U.S. and the EU. Again, if you’re an employer and you depend on immigrant or seasonal labor, well…you’re anxious.

So what do we as the supplier of sourcing and hiring services do for our anxious employers? As is often the case, there is no one, simple answer. But here are a few suggestions:

  • Look hard at non-traditional candidate populations with the skills or capabilities to fill your employers’ needs – even if those candidates don’t have the formal qualifications. Focus on assessing them and bringing them to your clients.
  • Help your candidates that are trying to ‘upskill’ themselves into a new job or industry by providing them with trainings, assessments, and certifications. Moving low-skill workers into higher-skill jobs is a good way of expanding the candidate population and helping your employers at the same time.
  • Engage with your employers about their hard-to-fill positions. What do they really need – as opposed to what they are asking for? Often, job descriptions include requirements that aren’t germane to the actual job. (Doing this may also tie back into the 1st suggestion about non-traditional candidate populations!)

I know many of you are already tackling your clients’ hiring anxiety with specific services and tools. Keep up the good work! And if you’re not…well, food for thought. Your customers’ hiring anxiety isn’t going away anytime soon.

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