Candidate-Driven Job Market: What Recruiters Need to Know in 2016

Candidate-Driven Job Market: What Recruiters Need to Know in 2016

Emily Smykal

Much has changed since the Great Recession, including the job market. Compared to 2008, or even just a few years ago, candidates now have far more power during the job search. High demand for specific skills paired with extensive wait times to fill open positions mean applicants can be more selective about the roles they apply for.

For job seekers, this is great news. If you have skills that are in short supply, or work in an industry that has grown post-recession, you may already be feeling the effect of heightened competition among employers. But for employers, the candidate-driven job market means many priorities need to be reevaluated.

Talent acquisition leaders, hiring managers and recruiters all need to step forward now and make changes to stay competitive in the labor market. A robust candidate experience, a meaningful employer brand, attractive salaries and benefits–these are just some of the factors that can appeal to candidates. In this post we’ll discuss how recruiters view the new candidate-driven landscape, and what they’re doing to keep engaging top talent.

Candidate-Driven Definition & The Balance of Power

During the financial crisis from late 2007 through 2009, the job market plummeted as approximately 8.7 million jobs were lost. And the unemployment rate hit 10%. But since 2010, employment in the private sector has increased by 14.5 million jobs, an average of 194,000 jobs per month. And the unemployment rate has fallen as low as 4.7%.

Based on those figures alone, it’s easy to see why we’re now calling the job market candidate-driven. The balance of power has shifted and qualified job seekers have more opportunities now than they did six or seven years ago. And according to the MRINetwork 2016 Recruiter & Employer Sentiment Study, many recruiters agree. The survey found that 86% of respondents would call the labor market candidate-driven, compared to just 56% who said the same in 2012.

A further 62% of employers who responded to MRINetwork feel talent is driving the job market, as opposed to the employers themselves. And the quarterly Manpower Employment Outlook Survey shows the employment outlook–that is, those employers who anticipate an increase in hiring–remains high in the post-recession years:

jobs forecast 2016
Changing the Recruitment Experience

So as candidates and employers alike recognize that the job market is shifting towards the applicant’s favor, it’s time for many companies to review their talent acquisition strategies. It’s not enough to post job openings and wait for applications to roll in. Employers need to prioritize the way they source candidates, the experience those candidates have, and the offers they eventually make.

Take sourcing, or attracting candidates. As the labor market has improved, we’ve also seen changes to the traditional roles of active and passive candidates. The idea of a passive job seeker may be obsolete today, as most candidates have access to job searching tools at their fingertips at all times. A survey from Indeed found that 65% of employed adults look at new opportunities within three months of starting a new job, and 58% of workers look at other opportunities at least once a month.

Job seekers not only have more opportunities today, they also have more ways to find those opportunities. Many candidates are probably more tuned in to the state of hiring in their industry than some employers. So it’s increasingly important for businesses to offer the best candidate experience possible, from discovering and applying to a job to the interview and offer stages. Otherwise they risk turning off candidates before they even begin an application or worse, driving them to a competitor.

What this Means for Recruiters

Staff in HR and recruitment roles are best positioned to help their organization adapt to this candidate-driven job market. If you haven’t already evaluated your talent acquisition strategy in light of new technologies and changes in the labor market, now’s the time. Recruiters can start by providing feedback on their own recruitment methods, perhaps identifying some of the best sources of top talent.

Next up is your candidate experience. We’ve discussed this component of talent acquisition at length, and for good reason. A seamless, easy-to-understand application process that provides candidates with all the information they need, and in a reasonable amount of time, is crucial to attracting top talent. Candidates have come to expect this kind of treatment from serious employers. So offering a sub-par candidate experience will only serve to compound the problems of a candidate-driven job market.

Finally, recruiters can stay ahead of their competitors by reconsidering the role of marketing in talent acquisition. From employer branding to recruitment content and social media connections, the role of marketing within the talent acquisition process has never been more important, or more useful. One of the best ways to attract quality candidates is to engage them, establishing a more personal connection. And recruiters can do so through strong employer brands that reach across social media, blogs and corporate career websites. If the job market is now candidate-driven, recruiters need to find a way into the co-pilot’s seat.

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