Recruiting Experts Highlight Growth, Challenges

By Toni Vranjes Apr 29, 2014
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SAN DIEGO—Opportunities in the recruiting field are increasing, but the challenges also are growing. While the profession is likely to grow, filling jobs is expected to get more difficult over time.

To be successful, recruiters need to rethink their strategies, according to speakers at the spring 2014 ERE Recruiting Conference & Expo. A priority should be treating job candidates as people, not numbers.

During the opening session April 23, ERE Media CEO Ron Mester discussed the state of in-house recruiting. Based on recent survey findings, ERE projects that in-house recruiting will grow 3 percent to 5 percent between now and the end of 2015. The 1,353 respondents were mainly in recruiting and human resources but also included hiring managers and C-level executives.

But recruiting departments aren’t performing well enough, Mester emphasized. When asked to grade the performance of their company’s recruiting department, recruiting teams gave themselves a B. Meanwhile, human resources and the executives provided a B- grade. And hiring managers gave their recruiting departments a C+ grade.

Recruiting is expected to only get tougher. Most industries forecast that jobs will be harder to fill next year, according to research findings Mester cited.

His message to recruiting departments: improve your performance noticeably—and soon. He suggested reviewing how the recruiting department does each part of its work and making changes if necessary. That might involve a number of steps, including:

  • Taking on a new task.
  • Eliminating a particular function.
  • Assigning a task to another department in the company.
  • Outsourcing work.
  • Using different tools and vendors to get a task done.

Each company will need to decide what path to pursue based on its needs, Mester said. Whatever changes a recruiting team makes, it shouldn’t be complacent, he added.

As companies reconsider their strategies, one focus should be improving the candidate experience. Speakers at several sessions highlighted innovative ways to connect with job candidates, and they urged recruiters to treat applicants with respect.

During a discussion on strengthening recruiting departments’ reputation and influence, panelists emphasized the importance of candidates’ perceptions. Job seekers are discussing both their positive and their negative experiences online, said moderator Elaine Orler, president of Talent Function.

Recruiters need to make sure that the messages they’re selling job applicants are true, said panelist Diana Meisenhelter, managing director of talent acquisition and diversity at FedEx Office.

If a candidate doesn’t receive a job offer, it’s best to notify the person by phone whenever possible, rather than by e-mail or letter, said panelist Martin Burns, director of global talent acquisition at Mobiquity.

Panelist Tracie Montgomery, senior manager of North American recruiting for International Paper, added that her company is diligent about “candidate care” and that the personal touch is vital.

One way the panelists monitor their reputations is through Glassdoor, a career website where applicants and employees can anonymously post information about companies.

Speaker Jeff Batuhan also highlighted the need for sensitivity.

If an applicant doesn’t get the job, “it’s not about what you told that candidate, it’s how you made them feel at the very end,” said Batuhan, senior director of global talent acquisition at Stryker. “Do they walk away feeling like they were treated with respect and dignity?”

As companies try to form better relationships with job candidates, they should consider the idea of “talent communities.”

During a panel discussion on this topic, moderator Jeremy Roberts said an ideal talent community would allow communication between the company and candidates, and also enable candidates to communicate with one another. The panelists are on different stages of their journey toward this ideal, said Roberts, editor of SourceCon.

The models for these communities vary. For instance, CH2M HILL, an engineering and construction firm, allows visitors to its website to join a talent community. A sourcing team then manages the network, said panelist Derina Adamczak, the company’s executive search and sourcing services manager. If the team finds people with the right kind of skills, it communicates with them.

CH2M HILL launched the talent network in July 2012, and it now totals 56,000 people. It has generated a pipeline of more than 850 vetted candidates who have been deemed to be good fits for the company.

About a month ago, Deloitte started a talent community for veterans, according to panelist Michael Bernard. The goal was to strengthen Deloitte’s brand and build a stronger relationship with candidates, said Bernard, who leads the firm’s veteran-recruiting efforts.

There’s been more interest than expected, and the talent community now has about 430 people. “It’s a pleasant surprise,” he said.

Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) has an invitation-only talent community for VIP candidates, according to panelist Harold Mellor, global head of talent attraction at NIBR. In the two years since it was launched, the community has grown to more than 100 candidates, and the company has hired 10 people from there.

One challenge for companies is providing compelling content for these groups. Deloitte doesn’t want to provide the same content that appears on the main company website, Bernard said. Instead, the company tries to provide fresh, new material for members of its talent community.

Toni Vranjes is a freelance business writer in San Pedro, Calif.

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