Winning In A Candidate Short Market

There are some industries that are absolutely feeling the brunt of the current record-low unemployment rates. What we are hearing is that the major impacts on business are:

  • + Low level of job applicants, and/or
  • + Poor quality of job applicants, and/or
  • + Higher employee attrition/turnover

But that does not mean that they, and other sectors, cannot win in a candidate short market. There is a substantial opportunity out there for all employers!!

However, to take advantage of this opportunity, employers and management teams need to be open to a change in the ways of the past especially with regard to the recruitment process and respect for candidates. For far too long job applicants have been treated with little respect by the majority of recruiters and internal HR teams. I say this because of the continual feedback we receive about recruiters/HR not only not actively communicating with job applicants, they do not seem to display any form of respect or empathy to these applicants. This has resulted in increased applicant anxiety and a breach of the psychological contract between the employer and their future employees. The result is new employees starting their new jobs from a position of mistrust and a lower respect level of the organisation, which means the operational manager is starting from the backfoot when it comes to fostering engagement and discretionary effort.

It is still very evident that many employers have not noticed the tables have turned, they have not accepted that they no longer possess all the power when it comes to recruitment. They have not accepted that the power balance has shifted to the candidates and employees. And the Millennials and Gen X employees are very harsh on employers that display less than adequate values and leadership capability.


Recent studies show that over 60% of employees are actively looking at job boards and are open to a change of employer. So the challenge is twofold:

1. Improve Candidate Attraction Processes

Unfortunately, most internal and external recruiters place the least amount of effort and thought into the design and placement of the job advertisement. In most cases, it is a cut and paste from the position description and older job advertisements, slap it together and post it on a job board. My belief is the opposite, I believe that the job advertisement is the most important part of the recruitment process because you cannot hire the best person for the role if they don’t apply in the first place; you don’t even know they exist.

Working on the above statistic that over 60% of all employees are looking for their next opportunity, the role of the job advertisement should be to catch their eye and make them think “What they have just described is “me”, I relate to what this job offers, I want to know more”

We do this by following these simple steps:

a. Benchmark the Role Critical Success Attributes
Measure the critical success attributes of the role, identify and quantify what abilities, behaviours and interests are required to be a high performer (we achieve this by using JobFit assessments, download a Sample Role Benchmark Report). You need to fully understand what “type” of job applicant you want to attract. What is the heart, mind and soul you require in each role to achieve excellence?

b. Develop a Targeted Job Advertisement
Using the role benchmarking information and articulating the minimum learnable skills, knowledge, qualifications, and experience required, place yourself in the desired candidate persona shoes and focus on answering the one main question top candidates want answered: “What’s in it for me?”. For further information please feel free to review our Targeted Job Advertisement Template

c. Maintain the Psychological Contract
A trap that many hiring managers and HR professionals fall into is making claims and promises to candidates that will rarely materialise when they become an employee. In short, do not sugarcoat the role or the future opportunities. The psychological contract refers to the unwritten and intangible agreement between the individual and the employer, especially with regard to promises, commitments, expectations, and understandings.

2. Improve Employee Retention

Of course, the best way to reduce the impact of a candidate short market is to retain your existing employees, especially your proven high performers.

Sounds simple, and should be simple. After all, all business owners and CEOs would say that their people are their most important asset, but do they actually walk the talk (I would suggest that many don’t)

Management teams that espouse that their people are the most important asset are usually exposed when spending freezes are imposed. Too often these freezes have a greater negative impact on the people capital side versus other departments, such as accounting and technology. It will always be very difficult to retain your best talent if you overload them with work (because there is a hiring freeze and you are not replacing employees that leave) and take away all development programs. When you consider that the cost of replacing a proven high performer is between one and two times their base annual wage, maybe there needs to be a rethink on where management teams cut costs. Because if people are the most important asset, then wouldn’t decimating people capital capability for a short-term gain actually create substantially more short, medium and long-term pain?

Most importantly, Gallup found that it takes a 20% increase in salary offer to lure an employee from a manager who is highly engaging and demonstrates increased leadership capability. Therefore by investing in and increasing the leadership capability and people management skills of your management team, you can make it substantially harder for someone to poach any of your employees.

If the above thoughts have made you reconsider how you attract, select and retain high-performing talent, give us a call or send an email.

Written by Mark Purbrick

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