How the Candidate Market has changed in 2021
Even though unemployment levels are still high in a number of sectors, Hiring Managers and Recruiters are struggling to get the candidate response rate they’ve been used to. The candidate market is thinking, feeling and engaging differently as a result of the last year and we need to catch up with that.
The way we think, feel, and engage with the world changes in the aftermath of a crisis. And that’s what 2020 was. A crisis. On a global scale. And some would say it’s not over yet.
In the recruitment game, the focus for a long while was on the number of recruitment firms that had to lay off staff, knuckle down on budgets to survive, and adapt to a depressed and uncertain economic environment as their clients either put hiring projects on hold or cancelled them altogether. But what about the candidates in our databases? How has life been for them?
Things have started to bounce back. The number of jobs advertised in January 2021 was more than at the same time last year, before the pandemic had struck, and has consistently increased month on month for the past 8 months. You’d be excused for thinking this means that things are pretty much going back to normal, but while recruiters are getting nice job briefs again, there seems to be a dearth of candidates.
So why are Hiring Managers and Recruiters struggling to find candidates?
Unemployment spiked at the peak of the crisis, and remains high in some sectors, the airline and tourism industry for example, so it’s not like there aren’t people out there looking for a job. And yet, we’re still struggling to get the candidate response rate we’ve been used to.
Part of the reason is that the candidate market is thinking, feeling and engaging differently as a result of the last year and we need to catch up with that. During a disaster, people may experience a wide range of emotions – excitement, confusion, anxiety, fear, hopelessness, helplessness, denial – crisis responses are not equally distributed.
Some people have felt traumatised, while others are invigorated and feel renewed. Whatever they feel, it’s a direct response to a period of stress borne out of an event beyond their control. And that changes people.
How has candidate thinking changed?
Even though Australia is coping reasonably well after the initial trauma of the Coronavirus impact, it has changed us. Those who have been most severely affected will continue to have significant emotional needs and physical health symptoms may present. For the rest of us, while things feel like they’re returning to “normal”, the way we process information and make decisions has taken on a less cavalier and ego-centric approach.
For the job market, this means candidates are behaving differently.
1. Loyalty to employers is stronger
One of the things COVID taught us all is to realise what we have and to be grateful for it. That includes employers and jobs. Being able to work from home, being able to pay your rent because your employer has kept you on, being able to renegotiate your work arrangements moving forward – these are just some of the ways in which employer/employee loyalty is fostered. People are feeling a stronger sense of loyalty to their employer and don’t want to repay that loyalty by leaving.
2. More cautiousness around change has crept in
The buoyant pre-pandemic economy gave people confidence that a change of job wouldn’t negatively impact their bank balance or their lifestyles. In most cases, it would improve both! But threats on the horizon of future outbreaks and lockdowns are taking their toll on minds that have become uncertain and sometimes quite anxious about their futures. A common coping mechanism when we are confused, anxious or uncertain is to minimise change and stay with what we know.
3. The work-from-home thing has brought a better life balance
One of the biggest changes to the workplace as a result of the past year has been the shift to people working from home. For most people, that has brought enormous gains in terms of their work-life balance and the ability to spend more time doing the things they love. Changing jobs would most likely mean having to give that up as you get on board with a new company, new culture and new set of work colleagues. A lot of people aren’t willing to do that now that they’ve seen the other side.
4. The concept of success has changed
As a result of the other 3 things, our idea of a successful life has changed. We’ve realised that success is not just about what job we have, how much we earn and how many big toys we’ve accumulated. We’ve learned that exhausting ourselves in the pursuit of a socially imposed set of success markers doesn’t always make us feel more successful and emotionally healthy overall.
5. The tree-change has already happened for many
For many industries, last year has proven that it doesn’t matter where you live to be able to do your job. And people have been leaving the city in droves, creating a new, more balanced, less financially stressful life for themselves. This has taken literally thousands of candidates out of the city-based marketplace.
4 Tips to attract the candidate you want
To get the candidate you want, you may need to start thinking a bit more like them, understand what’s important to them, rather than seeing the opportunity that you’re offering as enough of an incentive to attract them.
How we want people to feel is up to us – our authenticity, generosity of spirit, the language we use and the energy we emit set the tone for a good outcome.
1. Talk about how their contribution will make a difference.
Instead of the usual corporate breast beating about why someone would be lucky to join your firm, once you’ve ascertained their potential suitability for the role, talk to them about how their skills and experience could make a difference, rather than the usual “why should we hire you” line of conversation. You want to create the feeling that they would be as valued in your patch as they feel in their current organisation.
2. Engender a sense of security around your business operations.
We know the past year has created a level of risk averse behaviour in candidates, so any sense that your business may be struggling might be enough to spook them. Talk about how far the business has come, how it survived 2020 and the goals and vision you have for the future, rather than how hard it’s been and how much needs to be done.
3. Be flexible about time and attendance.
I don’t mean you shouldn’t be honest about your preferences when it comes to how many days and hours you expect the person to work, but stay open to coming to an arrangement that involves some work from home time or flexibility around office hours. After all, the evidence is in that productivity hasn’t suffered as a result of people not being in the office every day. Quite the opposite! And it could be the difference between a mediocre candidate and a great one.
4. Appeal to their life goals, not your own!
So often, we get consumed with what is on our own agenda and tend to view candidates through the prism of how they can help us achieve it, rather than allowing them to tell us what they can contribute. If we can “hear” them, they will “see” us.
You can have anything you want by helping others get what they want
I remember a mentor saying this to me over 30 years ago and it has never left me. And it has never been truer than it is in recruitment and leadership.
When you truly take the time to understand the whole candidate, not just their skill set and what they can offer in the office, you are on the way to a great hire that will help you get what you want – because you’re helping them have what they want. Reciprocity in action.
We can’t help others get what they want (and in return, what we want) if we don’t know what that is.
And what “that” is in the post-COVID world could be quite different to what we think.
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