COVID-19 Series: How to Capitalize on an Uncertain Talent Market

It’s been an uncertain year; we’re all facing a lot of uncertainty. If there’s one word everyone would like to retire at the end of 2020, it’s “uncertain.”

Unfortunately, uncertainty burnout creates neither more clarity nor more confidence. Therefore, talent leaders need to think long-term and take action to be ready for whatever lies ahead.

However, despite the challenges of 2020, there is a silver lining for employers. This year has created one of the best hiring markets that employers have seen in a long time. At the end of 2019, employers were facing skills shortages and record low unemployment; it was difficult to find candidates for almost any role. Now, there are a vast number of top-tier candidates who are looking for new jobs.

But, those in-demand candidates won’t stay on the market forever and the employers that start hiring now will have a competitive advantage: They’ll be able to capture those high-caliber workers first.

So, how do you get ahead? We asked PeopleScout Vice President of Global Growth Operations and Solution Design, Krista Sullivan de Torres, to talk about how employers can capitalize on the current talent market.

Why should employers take the risk of bringing on new employees during such an uncertain time?

For the past several years, we have been in a candidates’ market. But, unfortunately, due to the pandemic and its economic repercussions, a lot of organizations have had to let go of strong, high-performing employees. This is the first time in recent history where there has been so much outstanding talent on the market – making now a great time to hire.

This moment is a perfect opportunity for employers to look strategically at their own organizations to identify key roles that contribute to their long-term success and then fill those roles with top performers.

Employers that act quickly will have a competitive advantage because they’ll have the best people to guide their own recoveries. It can take a long time to onboard a new employee and get them up and running, especially in a strategic role. So, the sooner you start hiring, the sooner these new employees can add value to your organization.

Are there any common misconceptions you’re seeing about the current talent market?

I think there are two things. The first is about the quality of candidates on the market. Some leaders make the incorrect assumption that employees who are let go during layoffs are not top-performers. While that may have been the case for some organizations in the past, with this pandemic, we’ve seen organizations have to make the really tough decision to lay off or furlough some of their best performers.

The other misconception is that some talent leaders believe that, because there are so many candidates on the market, they don’t need to focus on candidate experience. Great candidates are always going to have options – no matter what the market looks like. It’s true that there is an abundance of candidates on the market now, but if you want to hire the best people, you still need to provide an exceptional candidate experience.

What should employers keep in mind about the candidates who are on the market right now?

It’s important to be mindful of the fact that candidates are also facing a lot of uncertainty. They want to know if they’re joining an organization where they will have the stability to stay and grow over a long period of time.

There is also a lot of fear of change, and passive candidates are less willing to take on new roles. As a talent leader, you should focus on having open, honest discussions with job candidates where you can address their concerns specifically.

What can employers do to ensure their hiring process is safe for everyone involved?

Job candidates are worried about the health and safety of their families. They don’t want to take a role or go through an interview process that would put anyone at risk. At PeopleScout, we’re seeing a lot of clients move toward a fully virtual model to address these concerns. In fact, between March and September of 2020, we saw a 900% increase in the use of virtual interviews by our clients.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen people adapt quickly and grow more comfortable with video interviewing and other virtual processes. Depending on the role, we’re seeing companies add everything from on-demand audio screenings to live video interviews. I think this will stay with us for a long time.

Not every employer is going to be in the position to start hiring now. Where should they focus their efforts?

If your team isn’t in a position to make hires, focus on internal mobility and making sure your current teams stay engaged. This is especially important if your organization has gone through layoffs or furloughs that have left some employees with an increased workload. To support those workers, make sure that you have a clear communication plan around where the organization is now and what you anticipate for the future. Then, talk to employees about the existing opportunities in your organization that align with their own career goals. Find ways you can make adjustments or provide training now and, when new roles do open up, make sure you consider those internal candidates.

I also want to encourage employers not to lose track of their external candidates. This is a key time to focus on improving your candidate experience and building your talent pipelines. Be honest and clear about where you stand now and what your timeline is, but give them the opportunity to learn about your organization or even engage and build relationships with hiring managers. That way, when the time is right, it will be a quick process to reach out, move the candidate through the process and make an offer.

Are there any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?

There are so many ways that organizations are dealing with this extraordinary time, and we can all learn from each other. This is a great time to reach out and network with other talent acquisition professionals or potentially engage with a partner to learn and share best practices. Because this is all still so new, it’s a great time to be talking to your peers, networking and seeking out best practices.

Post by Nicole Fuqua