Looking for the needle in the haystack

Finding the elusive job candidate.

In today’s ultra-competitive job market, talent acquisition is among the most important functions within a company. Indeed, perhaps the greatest challenge facing HR practitioners is finding the “needle in the haystack” — the hard to find job candidate — as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Hard to find
There are two major categories of hard-to-find candidates. There are those who possess specialized skills and are therefore a rare commodity. There is also a second type that is even more elusive: the passive job seeker. This is the individual with the right skills, experience and attitude but who is happy in their current position and not actively looking and therefore may not be aware of a particular opportunity within another organization.

Using the power of the Internet, these candidates can be identified and their attentions held long enough to convince them to consider a new opportunity.

As more and more Canadian workers go online, the Internet has become an increasingly popular recruiting tool. According to Forrester Research, 100 per cent of companies will be recruiting online by 2003, but up until a year or so ago, the Internet was still a fairly broad-based recruiting tool. Job opportunities were posted as publicly as possible, and HR picked through the many qualified and unqualified responses received. Today, Internet recruiting can be a much more strategic and refined process.

To cite a recent example, a Canadian art gallery used a job board to find an experienced exhibit design specialist. This was a rare and unique search for one of only a few qualified candidates in Canada. The job seeker and the employer found each other by effectively using the Web as a strategic recruitment tool.

A company needs to cast the widest net possible and then efficiently sift through the responses to focus on the best prospects. Without casting a wide net the quality and range of responses is severely limited and the elusive passive job seeker may be missed.

•Post nationally; don’t limit the search to a specific region. This can help when targeting a passive candidate who may be open to relocate for the right job;
•Take advantage of job site features such as career focus avenues where the posting will reach people in a specific industry;
•Draft the job posting to include important key search terms that will be important to the target candidate;
•Post jobs on sites that provide candidates with access to background news and information about the company; and
•Take advantage of the many branding opportunities, and use colour and graphics to make the postings stand out from the competition.

It is also critical to understand what’s most important to the candidate. A recent survey conducted by workopolis.com found that specific criteria, such as increased salary, opportunity for advancement, solid business reputation and strong corporate culture, strongly influence the candidate’s assessment.

Companies must acknowledge that the workplace is changing and so are the priorities of job seekers. Prospective employers need to have a clear understanding of what candidates are looking for in a job and what they are looking for in an organization. Once this knowledge informs the development of job postings, the ability to find the ideal candidate increases significantly.

It’s no surprise that job seekers are looking for positions that offer higher salaries than they are making in their current positions. According to the survey, 93 per cent of job seekers considered salary the most important factor when applying for a new job. By offering a competitive salary, companies communicate that they value the specialized skills a job seeker brings to the table. Knowing that a prospective employer considers them a valuable asset goes a long way in attracting future employees.

Before finalizing the job description, peruse comparable job listings online to see what compensation packages are being offered.

Compensation is just the first step. In today’s marketplace it takes more than a good offer to attract and retain good candidates. Human resource professionals must go beyond that first step and really get to know each candidate and the type of job he’s hoping to find.

The opportunity for advancement is key for candidates when they are considering leaving one company for another. Room for quick advancement based on work performance and skill level is a crucial factor for 91 per cent of job seekers. Organizations must be willing to assure candidates that they’ll be eligible for promotions based on performance. For example, companies can guarantee potential candidates a performance review every six or nine months.

To attract the best employees, companies must set themselves apart from the competition by clearly demonstrating why they are the “employer of choice.”
Indeed, 81 per cent of candidates stressed the importance of a strong corporate culture when investigating prospective employers. The survey also indicated that only 50 per cent of candidates considered the possibility of a bonus or commission to be most important in comparison to the 86 per cent who put the emphasis on the business reputation of a prospective employer.

When creating a company profile, the HR practitioner needs to craft a strong, positive brand image. Articulating a positive business reputation, dedication to professional development and a motivated, flexible corporate culture, gets job seekers excited about the company and their role within it and goes a long way in answering the question on every candidate’s mind, “What’s in it for me?”
what’s in it for me?

For example, make sure job descriptions are succinct and interesting — let candidates know what they will be doing on a daily basis without writing out a daunting list of tasks. A strategic, well-written job description outlining the company and the reasons why a candidate should work there will help attract the strongest candidates — whether they are actively looking for a job or are passive job seekers.

Attaining a clear understanding of what their company can offer to potential candidates enables HR practitioners to attract the best possible person for the job. In the case of a highly specialized job it is more difficult to recruit a candidate with skills that are specific to a particular job sector.

The number of qualified job seekers is significantly less then the number of positions that need to be filled. By using a job site to post positions online, companies will attract current, skilled candidates who offer the needed expertise. Companies can also use job postings to emphasize items such as salary, advancement opportunities and business reputation to gain an edge over the competition. This goes a long way when recruiting people they want and retaining them for long-term employment.

Now more than ever, there is a war for talent taking place and whether potential candidates are currently employed or actively looking for work — the stakes are still high. By marketing a company correctly and positioning available jobs in a way that outlines the obvious benefits to potential employees, human resource professionals will be able to find that needle in the haystack.

Kim Peters is the president of Workopolis, a provider of electronic recruiting and job search solutions. She can be reached at [email protected]

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