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Win the fight for talent in a candidate-driven market

David Morel, CEO and founder of Tiger Recruitment

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of people without a job is at its lowest level for over 40 years, with an unemployment rate of just 4 per cent. Incredibly, the last time the figure was that low was between December 1974 and February 1975.

Furthermore, in the three months to August this year, job vacancies rose by 14,000 to 833,000, a record high. British workers are also enjoying the strongest wage growth for three years, with ONS figures for May to July showing average weekly earnings increased by 2.9%, compared with the same time last year.

Low employment, more vacancies and rising wages: this is what a candidate-driven market looks like. It means challenging times for recruiters, who have to prove their worth in winning over the best talent and advising clients on how to seal the deal, while talented jobseekers are spoilt for choice.

Looking beyond wages

Most of us know that, increasingly, pay rises aren’t enough to motivate job seekers. In fact, a recent survey revealed that more than a quarter of UK employees value additional leave, sabbaticals and flexible working over a pay rise. Add into the mix the expectations and preferences of an increasingly diverse workforce, and recruitment starts to resemble an art as much as a science.  

To successfully attract and place the best candidates, we must first understand who they are and what they want. By 2020, millennials - born between 1981 and 1996 - will make up 35% of the global workforce, while ‘Generation Z’ - born in 1997 or later - will make up 24%. That means that in just 18 months, more than half the entire working population will be Generation Y or younger. So, how does this influence our talent attraction strategy?

Depending on who you believe, millennials are either inspired by corporate purpose, flat structures, and altruistic values, or they’re the narcissistic ‘me generation’, only thinking of number one. Yet, perhaps the most plausible research suggests that millennials are actually no different to anyone else.  As Elspeth Reeve wrote in The Atlantic in 2013, “It’s not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it’s that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older.”

A broader approach

In people management reference book, The Human Capital Edge, Ira Kay and Bruce N. Pfau argue that across generations, races, and genders, employees essentially want four things from work. These are:  

  • Organisations to be proud of: Employees want to work for successful, high-performing companies and for great leaders.
  • A winning situation: A job that maximises their performance, an environment that makes the most of their abilities, providing the resources, information and training necessary to perform.
  • Good treatment - both financial and psychological: People want to work in an inclusive environment where they are respected, valued and treated fairly.
  • Enjoyment: Everyone wants to enjoy their work and the people they work for. They also want to derive a sense of meaning and purpose from what they do.

So, what do these mean for recruitment today?

Helping your clients to succeed

Today’s recruiters might be facing different challenges to when The Human Capital Edge was written in 2002, prior to the explosion of social media, smartphones and other technologies - but these basic human desires all still ring true. And in a candidate-driven market, they hold valuable lessons for recruiters – and their clients – in the fight for the best talent:

  • Differentiation: In a candidate-driven market, employer brand is king. Work with clients to make sure their job specification and advertisements stand out from the crowd, selling the company vision and purpose, along with the development opportunities and lifestyle that come with the job.  Showcase what makes the company and its leaders unique.
  • Consider flat structures, co-operative ethics and flexible working as givens, not perks: Identify what specifically works for both sides, and encourage clients to be flexible and fair with what’s on offer. Flexible and remote working are increasingly popular for candidates so encourage clients to offer these as options. Try to convince employers to design the role around the candidate, prioritising core skills rather than sector experience.  
  • Act fast: Talented candidates want to be treated fairly, transparently and ultimately want to feel wanted. If a client has found the right person, encourage them to offer quickly, or the candidate will get snapped up. Help facilitate negotiations and prepare both sides for a counter-offer situation, just in case.  
  • Building up a pipeline of talent: Delays are inevitable in such a competitive market, so think ahead to what roles you’re likely to recruit for in the coming months and start searching and interviewing now. If you’re hoping to grow your desk in a particular sector, this foresight will be invaluable in ensuring you maintain that all-important momentum.  
  • Networking: Finally, you can’t expect the ideal candidate to fall into your lap, so you and your clients need to be proactive. That means getting back to good old-fashioned networking, PR and headhunting to reach the people you want. Talking at relevant events, searching on industry websites and proactively contacting potential candidates on LinkedIn should all be incorporated into your day-to-day responsibilities.

 candidate-driven job market brings out the best in recruiters, giving them the opportunity to use their skills to the full and deliver top-class service and advice. So whatever the role, and whoever the candidate, remember that brilliant recruitment is about focusing on the ‘human’, and by understanding each person’s needs and motivations. Get that right and the successful hires are bound to follow.

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