Every company and every recruiter has eventually come across this problem; we just can't find anyone for this role. As much as us recruiters would like to proclaim we are perfect, we're all still human after all and can only ever work with what we're given. Sometimes it doesn't make any sense; it's a good job at a good company, the salary seems fair and in line with the market rate, the benefits are good and the job specifications aren't overly narrow. Yet sometimes, for reasons outside both company and recruiter control, the whole process comes undone.
But that isn't what this article is about, that stuff sometimes just happens because, hey, you can't invent candidates when they just don't actually exist. What this article is about the things that are within both company and recruiter control and what we can do to improve on these self made issues.
Lack of Urgency
This issue seems so basic that it shouldn't need to be mentioned but it is also one of the most common problems. From the recruiter side the issue often stems from having multiple roles all at once that need urgent hiring and are large in scale; often other roles might go down the priority list. Does this mean it isn't high priority or urgent for the company? No of course not, so the way we can improve is by making sure we're measuring our own urgency as being in line with the company's, regardless of our workload. For companies it takes various forms; I've seen companies that ultimately didn't have a real desire to actually hire someone and so simply delayed, put off, procrastinated and were as uncooperative as possible when it came to the process. It seems absurd that a company would go through the motions but not actually want to bring someone in but it can happen for all sorts of reasons such as internal politics, less competent staff or even simple bone idleness. It's an inexcusable one, for both company and recruiter, as ultimately it wastes both our time as well as the time and energy of candidates who may be depending on that application or that role panning out, who might commit to countless interviews only to have it pulled away at the last for no fault of their own. This is the issue that, when identified, needs to be torn out root and stem as this can bring any actual necessary hiring need to its knees.
The second, far more common and less destructive form it takes is simply not understanding that the company is in competition with other companies for talent. You may very well have a 4 stage process, with multiple decision making meetings, interviews and comparative interviews but other companies might not take so long. What takes you a month, could take another company two weeks and there's every chance they are as appealing a company to work for as your own. The process needs to be flexible to ensure strong candidates aren't lost due to procedural dillydallying. There is a simply question to ask to find out if you're guilty of this, admittedly innocent, mistake; are we doing everything possible to streamline our hiring process and bring in the best talent? If the answer is anything other than a resounding yes then changes need to be looked at, even if that change is learning to be more flexible when needed, as it will ensure you are still as competitive as possible in bringing in the best talent.
Again, this one has guilt on both recruiter and company. Whilst recruiters, in general, are more often guilty of being too lax with the hiring requirements, we can still be often too rigid in applying the requirements to candidates and can eliminate perfectly good candidates when the company may have considered them. The solution here is to be more cautious, if you're on the fence about a candidate there's no harm in having a preliminary discussion with the client to find out if there could be interest. It costs nothing and can reap the rewards.
For companies the issue is perhaps more straightforward. They know what they need, they know what budget they've been given. They write out what they need and what they can pay and send it out into the world. The issue is whilst that might be what you need, it might not be what is actually out there. Seeing what the candidate market looks like regarding candidates and their skill profiles is a good first move to actually ascertain what requirements need to be set at in order to be able to successfully hire. For the hiring manager and internal team there are tools to do this (such as this website) however your friendly neighbourhood recruiter should be able to offer the same service without cost as part of the consultative process. It's part of our standard process to make sure that, before we take up a vacancy, we gain a strong understanding of the market and do research into candidates for each instance and any recruiter worth their salt will either already have the knowledge or know how to do it. Pay and budget can be a trickier beast to manage as although you might have only £40,000 per year for a candidate, the average market rate might be £55,000. The solution here is again simple though; either the budget has to go up to attract good talent, or the requirements and seniority have to go down accordingly. The cheap option often never works out as is hoped and bringing someone in is a long term decision so it must be thought about in that way, rather than short term budgetary needs. If you have a role that you've put out to the big wide world and every recruiter and his dog has worked it and come up empty, it's time to consider changing your expectations as, clearly, something about the role is preventing a successful hire.
This is the big one and probably the instance where us recruiters are generally more guilty than the companies are. So many candidates have been burned by poor recruiters giving them a poor experience of the recruitment process and as such they are hesitant to consider any other opportunities, not just with them but with any in general. The only way to fight this is with transparency, honesty and being as communicative as possible. It's not a quick fix but it's the only real way to solve this issue. Too many in our industry are willing to burn candidates, favour one over the other openly to clients for financial gain, fail to give feedback or ever actually let a candidate know it's a no. Treat candidates how you'd want to be treated if you were them, weigh each candidate objectively to the client according to their merits in comparison to the requirements not just who will bring in the biggest check (both clients and candidates will be grateful for this), always give feedback even if negative. If getting feedback is impossible, give your own based on your side of the process; this is a journey for the candidate, and even if they take the wrong path ever so often it's up to you to guide them back to the right one which is what feedback is all about. It's the simplest stuff, it's the hardest stuff, and it's the mark of a good recruiter that this stuff isn't viewed as a chore.
For companies this can also be a big problem. Not showing candidates respect during interviews, taking too long to provide feedback and progress stages, wasting candidates time and not treating the candidates like the guests and valued commodities they are can all lead to candidate disengagement because, ultimately, there is another company that will treat them better and they'll be the ones they favour. The other side of it is dragging a requirement on for far too long without ever changing the requirements. I've seen plenty of companies who'll advertise a role for 6 months plus and not understand that, when a role is out there for that long and every recruiter is approaching every candidate for it repeatedly, it creates a negative image of the company. They assume there must be some good reason that no ones taken that role and the over saturation of the market can push candidates away. The solution for both is to be respectful to all candidates and understand that they are as vital to the process as you are. Approach hiring in batches as well, for say 3 months at a time (other lengths of time are available!) and then if it fails, review and change. This can prevent role saturation and stagnation but also will keep recruiters happy as they know that they are working with a proactive client who is taking their consultations on board.
It's a process that requires pulling in all three directions - candidates, companies and recruiters. When one of us doesn't pull our wait it delays or even derails the process. All of us can do better when it comes to this and at the end of the day the consistent message throughout this article is that there's no replacement for doing all the basics right. Be urgent, do your research, treat everyone with respect and do everything you can to make sure you have the best chance of bringing in the best person possible.