Employers Changing Interview Strategies as Hiring Market Shifts


By Kathy Gurchiek January 25, 2015

Employers are changing how they interview job candidates as they place as much, or more, emphasis on personality as technical skills, according to a new report.

“They need [the technical skills] to get in the door, but once … [they are] in front of the hiring manager, there is less concern about that technical skill and more about ‘Is this person going to be a long-term fit?’ ” said Jesse Siegal, senior managing director at ExecuSearch, which released its 2015 Regional Hiring Outlook for the northeastern U.S. on Jan. 14, 2015.

Findings are based on surveys with more than 200 employers that are ExecuSearch clients. Respondents included C-suite executives, directors and managers in the New York City tri-state and greater Boston areas.

Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said they use behavioral-based questions, 54 percent use personality-based questions and 34 percent use candidate presentations to gain a better sense of a job seeker’s personality and fit within the organization.

Employers are using such questions, Siegal said, “more as sort of an endcap to the interview process” after they’ve winnowed candidates to a select few. Once they find qualified individuals who mesh with their organization’s culture, employers need to move quickly and make above-market-average offers, the report found.

“The U.S. economy’s continued improvement has produced a dynamic shift in the job market,” said Edward Fleischman, CEO of ExecuSearch Group, in a news release. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from December 2014 found that the U.S. unemployment rate is at its lowest since the recession—5.6 percent.

Candidates are aware they’re in demand and are driving the market—and their salaries, to an extent, Siegal noted. ExecuSearch found that its candidate placements experienced the following in-year salary increases when they took a new job:

  • Accounting/finance—increase of 13.24 percent.
  • Financial services—increase of 15.81 percent.
  • Health care—increase of 12.03 percent.
  • HR—increase of 19.81 percent. These professionals tend to be middle to senior managers at the 10-year mark in their careers with specialized skills, especially in recruiting and in benefits and compensation.
  • Information technology—increase of 11.69 percent.
  • Office support—increase of 22.18 percent.

Nearly two-thirds of employers surveyed said that finding qualified job candidates will be their biggest challenge in 2015 and that they are turning increasingly to a contingent workforce to fill skill gaps. The report found that 41 percent rely on consultants and contractors, and many intend to do more of this in 2015.

It’s a trend that has been increasing exponentially, year after year, since 2009, according to Siegal, who noted that employers are using personality- and behavioral-based questions with these potential hires as well.

Because contingent workers are so much in demand, ExecuSearch has seen clients “losing candidates left and right because employers are waiting two to three weeks to make an offer,” Siegal said.

“It’s a very different hiring landscape than it was two to three years ago. A lot of employers think they have a lot of people to choose from… however, if the employer wants to hire them they need to make that decision quickly. The longer they wait, the less likely it is that the employer will end up” with the full-time or contingent worker they want, Siegal said.

“Our best contract workers are off the market for a week and then they have another assignment. It’s in the employer’s best interest to act as quickly as possible.”

An employer’s current employees also knows their skills are in high demand and are willing to go elsewhere if they don’t think their needs are being met, forcing companies to adopt new retention strategies, the report stated. The top four retention strategies that employers intend to use going forward, according to the report, are professional training/development, midyear/end-of-year reviews, wellness programs and social events. Additionally, 60 percent plan to increase compensation for their staff.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News. Follow her @SHRMwriter.

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