Hot Damn, This Hot Market...

I attended the inaugural Recruit Philly event a couple weeks ago @ World Café Live. Big props to the crew for bringing an event for Talent Acquisition pros only to Philly – we typically have to travel for such a conference (though a full day was slightly ambitious, IMO). That said, I’m optimistic it will get stronger and bigger over the years.

It was a unique (and fun) opportunity to be in the same space with so many fellow industry professionals – agency and corporate. I jokingly looked at the agenda and said, “Where’s the panel discussion on how to stop sobbing in the bathroom when your finalist candidate took a counter-offer and the second-place candidate took an offer with a competing company… and you have no back-up to the back-up?” Agency and corporate recruiters gave a knowing head nod and chuckle – and we commiserated.

Unemployment is very low (surprise!) – and here is a graph to illustrate jobs vs. seekers to make me look like I’m more sophisticated than I really am (graphs are impressive):

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For context and shameless self-promotion, our firm offers contract and permanent placement in all core corporate disciplines, as well as project-based staffing solutions. (Call me anytime!) I have to tell you – we’ve had a hell of a Q1 – and the rollercoaster hasn’t stopped much in Q2. Candidates with multiple offers and activity, companies offering outlandish counter-offers to retain talent, contract positions with no available temps to send, project staffing clients experiencing a lower volume of candidates, etc. etc. etc. Nearly every placement has been a thorough search and a tedious negotiation. We’ve never been a “post and pray” firm – but gone are the days of relying on a mediocre job ad to capture the market’s top talent (settle down, I hear the argument – but we all rely on job postings).

So – what do you do when there are .8 people for each open position in the US?

Here’s one suggestion – recruit like hell. If they aren’t coming to you, you’ve got to go to them. No more lazy recruiting. No more posting and spending your morning scouring through the applicants hoping at least a few people read through the description. No more spraying out lackluster messages hoping the right candidate reads it at the right time. It’s time to create thorough sourcing plans, work those plans, get creative, get referrals, rely on networking partners, get social, and get outside of your comfort zone. This, above and beyond anything else, is the time for recruiters to shine. Re-hone your skills.

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And here’s another suggestion – for recruiters and hiring managers, alike. Stop assessing resumes in 6 seconds. We never really should have gotten into that habit anyway. It’s rude and short-sighted. Open your minds – hire for soft skills – train hard skills. Stop putting candidates in a box. Start thinking about transferable skills. Take a chance on folks who can grow into a position. Get creative with your interviewing and hiring. And look to other industries for relatable skills.

Pivoting a career is one of the hardest things to do – I’m sympathetic to it, as I went from running golf tournaments to briefly selling real estate to accepting my first agency recruiting job at 30. There was no good reason to hire me at 30 into that role – outside of the fact that I wrote a compelling cover letter (it’s this thing people used to send with a resume, I’ll explain later) and was charming as hell on my first interview (she wouldn’t disagree). I’d like to think I made the most of that pivot and I’m forever grateful someone took that chance on me (now she might disagree).

Where there’s challenge – there’s real opportunity. As with anything in life, right? Recruiters have a chance to shine. Hiring managers have a chance to get flexible and secure some interesting and unique talent. And candidates have an opportunity to pivot careers – show us why, how, where… we’re listening. You have our full attention.

Mikal Harden