5 Talent Acquisition Trends to Watch

Recently, Simply Hired played host to a series of roundtables sessions with talent acquisition leaders, and I had the privilege of leading the discussion. We interacted with 41 decision makers in seven cities across Canada and the United States and spent more than 21 hours listening to issues, ideas and challenges. Discussions were focused around the following four recruitment topic areas: Quality, Value, Time and Volume.

The series revealed a wide variety of trends as well as issues in modern talent acquisition. It also helped build communities of professionals in different cities. Of the many items discussed, the following are what we consider the five key insights gained during this great tour of knowledge sharing and idea generation.

1. Talent Acquisition is a Rapidly Evolving Profession

Throughout business history, various professions have become areas of immense strategic importance. Accounting, sales, management, strategy, technology and marketing have evolved as professions with important seats at the boardroom table today. “Recruiting” is quickly rising into a new and vital profession across many businesses in the same fashion. Of course it is now referred to as “professional talent acquisition.”

In every city we visited the passion for the development of talent acquisition as a respected profession was immense. Every leader we met was proud of the profession’s accomplishments in raising the status of their work. Whether it’s the delivery of the right candidate to a hiring manager or the implementation of new, more cost-effective and timesaving processes, this is a group whose efforts are raising the profile of professional talent acquisition within individual companies and in business culture.

While there are challenges to be overcome, many leaders stated with conviction that the time is near (if not already here) when talent acquisition will be considered as strategic as sales or marketing. It is a badge of honor each of the 41 decision-makers we spoke with hoped to wear in the not-too-distant future within their own companies.

2. Quality, not Quantity, is the New Professional Benchmark

The work of the professional talent acquisition professional, which once was measured by the number of jobs filled, has changed to be one where quality of candidate is the No. 1 goal.

Yet measuring the quality of a candidate is a major challenge to be overcome. With so many variables defining the “perception of quality,” the ability to develop a standard metric seems impossible. The hiring manager’s biases towards candidates, the overall corporate culture, variable skill requirements and urgency all have an impact on the “perception of quality.” From table to table, and city to city, it was clear that nobody felt they were accurately measuring quality and believed it could not be broken down to an exact science.

However, there was agreement on the first step in addressing this issue: focusing on the relevancy of the candidate to the job. Which brings us to our next revelation…

3. Candidate Relevancy and Time to Present is Paramount

Unanimously, this was one area where our guests believed they demonstrated real value to their organization. The ability to deliver relevant candidates to a hiring manager as quickly as possible is the first step in securing a quality hire. The longer the time to deliver a relevant candidate, the less exceptional the experience with a hiring manager.

Working against these efforts is a never-ending flood of unqualified applicants and the arduous task of filtering out the right group of relevant candidates to present.  The more applicants, the more time it takes to find a cluster of relevant candidates for the position. The more time it takes to find a cluster of relevant candidates, the longer the time to present to the hiring manager. It’s a vicious cycle.

The problem with taking too long to present is two-fold. First, the majority of the leaders felt that the likelihood of the hiring manager to properly evaluate and make a decision on a quality candidate is higher when the time to present is shorter. The shorter the time between agreement on a skill set and the delivery of a candidate to the hiring manager, the more likely the success of hiring a more qualified candidate. The longer the time or more drawn-out the search, the more complex the process becomes.

Many felt that this was because of the “freshness factor” of the agreed-upon skills and quality attributes retained by the hiring manager. Once a set of qualities was agreed upon with the hiring manager, the timer began. The longer the time to present, the greater the risk hiring managers would forget, change their minds or become disengaged with the process. Add to this the risk of having an unqualified or poorly presented candidate first and the whole process quickly unravels into an effort to win back the hiring manager’s trust.

The second problem is quality candidate retention. The more specialized the skills or quality of the candidate, the more in-demand they are. When a large number of candidates need to make their way through the funnel, it takes time to find them.  This increases the risk that the candidate has started interviewing elsewhere, lost interest in the company’s brand or accepted another offer from the competition.

Clearly this was a good thing to hear from the perspective of a marketer with Simply Hired. Our entire platform was built on an algorithm designed to position relevant jobs in front of quality jobseekers. As a result, employers don’t receive a flood of resumes, from candidates who are relevant for the role based on our algorithm’s matching technology. Since our solution can present a relevant job to a qualified jobseeker within a short time of being posted, the applicants are fresh and prepared for a shorter presentation window. This means fewer resumes—from a greater percentage of higher quality candidates—within a very short window of time.

But we weren’t there to sell our story. We were there to listen. We heard some fascinating stories from the field where talent acquisition professionals are getting creative, leading us to the fourth major insight from this event series.

4. Challenging New Roles Are Driving Skills-Based Candidate Sourcing

Some of the challenges being faced by new enterprises that need specific talents are driving new ways to look at skill sets over experience. This was especially true among new technology companies with rapidly evolving products. Take mobile gaming as an example.

A decade ago few imagined how many consumers would engage in a leisurely activity on his or her mobile device and pay to play. Today mobile games are a hot commodity, and the ability to understand the monetization opportunity of the user is an immense skill set. However, the standard candidate mold for the industry does not fit into this new business model. The modern talent acquisition professional has been forced to come up with creative means to find the right individuals.

Sourcing candidates who have a creative flair and an understanding of user experience and who come from traditional financial industries has become an unorthodox approach to finding candidates. This gaming example is not an industry-isolated phenomenon. Each day new jobs are created in the new economy, and one of the biggest roles of the talent acquisition professional over the coming decade will be to identify the skill sets needed to help businesses succeed.

To do this they will need to find distinct, quality candidates whose skill sets from other industries are the right fit. The talent leaders we met are already strategizing how they will source these new candidates. Needless to say, it was inspiring.

5. The Values Placed on Candidates Are Too Narrow

The final insight of significance from this group was the challenge of hiring a quality candidate today with the skills they will need in 5-10 years. Whether it was accommodating this need based on a changing industry, demographics or the nature of their business models, many companies are struggling with this issue.

Take, for example, the accounting or actuarial services industries. A significant amount of investment goes into searching the best schools for quality graduates in these professions. Teams hold fairs on campuses to build their brand awareness with the brightest students. They evaluate each student for their grades and proficiency.

When hired, they are immediately placed into the trenches where they crunch numbers all day long, isolated over long periods of time. Then after a few years and some promotions, someone slaps a salesperson hat on them and tells them to start bringing in clients. Some quit, oftentimes defecting to the client-side where they can focus on their core discipline and not be a salesperson.

This is a phenomenon happening in every industry to varying degrees. While some are inherently part of the business model, like the example above, others are due to a looming baby-boom retirement shortage. Talent acquisition professionals are realizing that greater planning is needed not just for the skill sets a candidate can bring today but what they can deliver tomorrow.

To manage this, several of our panelists said they were working closely with career development teams to integrate post-hire training. Others are expanding the scope of skills required for current roles and recruiting more strategically.

The modern talent acquisition professional is becoming more strategic in their efforts. There is an entrepreneurial spirit taking hold with this new generation of talent acquisition leaders. The passion for their work and understanding of the bigger picture is leading to a new generation of super-recruiter, or should I say Talent Acquisition Professional.

The decade of the Talent Acquisition Professional is very much here. Their efforts are going revolutionize this industry and make the profession the major focus for many global corporations, if they have not already.

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