Recruiting Challenges Survey 2008 Preliminary Results

We are currently in the midst of our somewhat annual Hiring and Recruiting Challenges 2008 Survey. You should take the survey. Just the questions will get you jazzed. The answers, on the other hand, will make you shudder.

If you're a regular reader of these articles or have attended a recent ERE Expo, you're well aware of some of the forecasted changes we supposed gurus are predicting. Well based on the preliminary results of our international survey, the predictions are coming true. Unfortunately, most companies are doing little about it.

Over the next few articles I'll highlight some of the results of the survey and some actions recruiters, recruiting managers, and companies need to take now to make sure they are not left behind. (Note: those who take the survey will receive a free detailed whitepaper and be invited to a private webinar to discuss the results and recommendations.)

At this point we have a few hundred people who have taken the survey. Here are some of the more interesting trends and issues:

1. The quality of candidates being sourced. So far 71% of the survey participants indicated that finding strong candidates for critical positions was a growing or now a huge problem. Surprisingly though, as you'll see below, most companies aren’t offsetting this major problem by using a full complement of all available sourcing tools. From my perspective the problem is overrated. You can't use yesterday's sourcing ideas to hire tomorrow's candidates.

2. Problems with the hiring manager. We asked a number of different questions about the relationships recruiters have with their hiring manager clients and what they thought of their client's ability to hire top performers. The results were all pretty negative. Sixty percent indicated managers were unwilling to spend enough time to discuss real job needs and most managers over-relied on skills and qualifications when determining whether to see a person or not. About 60% of the survey participants believed that managers were not strong at accurately assessing competency. An equal number believed that managers were not very good at recruiting top performers. While the survey also indicated that most managers have taken some type of interview training, I suspect few use it and most managers have never been trained on how to recruit top performers.

3. Effectiveness of applicant tracking systems. Only 24% of the respondents had anything good to say about their company's applicant tracking system solution. The bad things that were said ranged from "it's useless" to "blow it up," but I suspect much of the misgivings are related to inadequate training and lack of tech savviness on the part of the users. Most of the systems people are complaining about aren't nearly as bad when you know how to use them. Regardless, we'll dig deeper into this area as more survey results come in. While we won't publicly name vendors, we will be able to better pinpoint the problems.

4. Retention and turnover concerns. On issues related to employee satisfaction, 58% of the survey participants indicated that retention was an important issue, but only 31% believed that turnover was increasing at an alarming rate. While the results are preliminary, my sense of this is that turnover is not increasing for most positions. In fact, it seems that the pendulum is swinging back as the candidates themselves realize that constantly changing jobs is not a good thing. This could be one of the reasons major job boards are seeing a decline in the number of people responding to each ad while the number of ads posted is increasing.

5. Use of major and niche job boards. There seems to be growing dissatisfaction with major boards with movement toward niche boards. Despite this, there is little in the way of using better-written and more compelling advertising to attract people. Nor does there seem to be much being done to position the advertising so it can be more easily found in a sea of like-sounding jobs. The idea of product differentiation, while obvious to consumer-based marketing, seems alien to those responsible for recruitment advertising.

6. Use of new sourcing techniques. There is definitely an upswing in the use of employee referral programs as a primary sourcing tool. About 50% of the respondents indicated it was used regularly and 42% indicated it was an important or extremely important resource. This correlates closely with a major shift to networking with passive candidates to generate names with over 50% of those taking the survey indicating this was an important and effective sourcing channel. What was more interesting was that less than 20% indicated they were using social networks (ZoomInfo, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). Equally interesting was that far less than 20% of the respondents were using basic Internet marketing and Web 2.0 concepts to position and write ads. This is a vastly under-used, low-cost sourcing opportunity.

7. Implementing a hiring and recruiting strategy. Only 25% of the respondents indicated that their companies have a comprehensive hiring and sourcing strategy in place. Even fewer (15%) use a rolling workforce plan to forecast hiring needs six to 12 months out. Is recruiting the only function that doesn't use strategy and planning to drive tactics?

8. Use of metrics. The survey asked respondents to describe their use of metrics to track recruiter performance across 10 standard measures (you should take the survey just to see what these are). Less than 25% had a complete process control metrics program in place. Good metrics allow you to implement process improvements targeting the biggest problems. These could range from the quality of advertising by sourcing channel, manager effectiveness, and recruiter productivity. Without metrics to determine the problem it's hard to tell whether you're getting better.

While the survey results are not yet complete, some interesting macro trends seem to be evident. The most important is that it doesn't seem that companies are reacting fast enough to maintain their competitive position given fundamental labor market changes now taking place.

The lack of using basic Internet marketing concepts and Web 2.0 tools is part of this. This represents both an opportunity and concern. For example, we're finding great passive candidates very easily using well-positioned and more compelling advertising on niche boards, but few companies are implementing these simple ideas. The survey data at this point indicates that few companies are developing proactive, multi-channel sourcing programs. This is worsened by the lack of widespread implementation of a formal hiring and recruiting strategy on the front end and weak process-control metrics on the back-end.

Without a strategy you don't know where you're going and without good metrics you don't know if you're getting there. This situation, while negative overall, is actually very positive for those companies that want to increase their share of top talent since it won't take too much effort to see great results.

By Lou Adler
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
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