Navigating recruitment continues to be an obstacle course for HR professionals and companies alike. As quickly as hiring seasons ramp up, they fade. This is soon accompanied by layoffs, but still, the need for top talent and the quest to retain it exists. Many companies have put a strong focus on acquiring and retaining talent in 2023, which is important, considering 42% of business leaders attribute scarcity as their biggest hurdle, negatively impacting their business. So, just how can you be successful despite continued labour shortages, global competition, and widespread digitalization?

As a hiring manager, your role is no longer ‘just to fill positions’ but to strategize, innovate and adapt to the changing market conditions. In this post, we’ll explore the modern talent acquisition landscape, offering insights and best practices to help business leaders succeed in a hyper-competitive talent market. 


Key Takeaways

  • Staying up-to-date on past, present, and future employment trends can help set your hiring team up for success.
  • Hiring managers must merge company culture and current trends into the hiring process and take a candidate-focused approach.
  • Be considerate of timing. Interview efficiently and communicate with prospective candidates within a specified timeframe.
  • Feedback is important on both sides of the hiring process. Communicate objectively, yet specifically, with rejected applicants and your recruitment team.


Current Employment Trends

Before diving into how to be successful in recruitment, it’s essential to understand employment trends. These key details have been the driving force behind the history of this practice and continue to influence applicants and hiring managers alike.

  • A focus on generalized skills and competencies. In the early 2000s, a report from Spencer Stuart highlighted that less than 10% of CEOs heading the top 500 companies received undergraduate degrees from Ivy League colleges.
  • The divisive rise of remote and hybrid work. Despite public statements from CEOs advocating a return to the office, the situation is nuanced. Many organizations are embracing remote work as a strategic advantage to offer competitive salaries and attract talent from larger, less adaptable firms.
  • Shifting away from lifelong employment. During the 1980s and 90s, we saw a definitive move away from the concept of lifelong employment prevalent in previous decades. According to a 2019 Harvard Business Review report, only 28% of talent acquisition leaders now consider internal candidates as a key source for filling roles, likely due to a decline in internal development programs and clear career progression paths.
  • The relationship dynamic between employees and employers. It’s been a candidate’s market for some time, allowing employees to negotiate better salaries and be more selective with their roles. Add to that the fact that employers aren’t investing in upskilling talent.


Modernization of Recruitment

HR has transformed drastically over the last two decades, mainly due to digital innovations and changes in cultural norms. Looking at the past three years, we see conditions have exacerbated talent competition. This adds to the power dynamic shift towards a candidate’s market, which has been in flux since the early 2000s. 

The rise of candidate autonomy and the candidate market we exist in now has been a decades-long shift over a few generations of talent. It will continue to be the new normal for many years to come. Here are some important milestones that have caused this shift:


2003: LinkedIn

Arguably the single most significant evolutionary jump in recruiting to date, LinkedIn challenged the approach of applicants applying for job postings and allowed candidates to engage with employers proactively. Today, there are 90 candidate applications submitted and over 300 recruiter messages sent every second. This platform began the shift towards candidate autonomy in job selection.


2007: Glassdoor

The next big evolution was when Glassdoor launched in 2007. While it may not seem that impactful, Glassdoor brought transparency to recruitment and hiring in a way that had not previously been seen. It allowed candidates to score or review employers and recruiters directly and is largely considered the first step towards recognizing the importance of the ‘candidate experience’ as being a massive indicator of recruitment success. 


2008: LinkedIn Recruiter

LinkedIn Recruiter, a specialized premium membership program launched in 2008, continued the trend of talent shortages being more readily recognized. From its launch and beyond, talent acquisition trends around proactive recruitment have solidified more. Chief people officers and talent acquisition leadership have become more common. Even global employers began to fully realize the impact that talent shortages caused their businesses.  


2015: McKinsey Report on Digitalization

By 2015, digital transformation was at an all-time high. Almost every sector of global business invested in modernizing storage and business processes and embracing technology, leading to more widespread skilled candidate shortages. Digitalization also signalled the beginning of postsecondary curriculums playing catch up to the market needs, which is still continuing today. 

The disconnect between candidate skills and market requirements is one of the biggest underlying issues facing recruitment today. Competition also becomes more fierce as global employers hunt for new talent markets, bringing talent competition to the global stage. 


2021: Great Resignation

The great resignation is the most recent big shake-up many organizations are still acutely dealing with. During a period when a mass exodus of workers created millions of job openings, the ratio of open jobs to job seekers hit a critical mass. This further cemented the idea that human capital has both the immense power to drive business growth positively and equally the power to do severe damage to the bottom line. 


The Importance of Hiring Managers

Employers face multiple layers of challenges to recruiting great talent. No longer is it as simple as posting a role for recruiters to hire for and then immediately providing a slate of candidates. Hiring has moved beyond asking a few questions in an interview and handing off the rest to HR. Rather, recruiting has become an all-hands-on-deck process that requires everyone from front-line workers to executive leadership’s involvement. 

In this evolved recruitment paradigm, the emphasis is on delivering value throughout the hiring process, respecting all involved parties, and ensuring agility in the face of market uncertainties. More than that, it’s about the candidate’s experience in the recruitment cycle. That means hiring managers, who will largely represent the company, will be tasked with establishing value, outlining corporate culture and providing a positive onboarding experience. For hiring managers to excel in this modern landscape, they should possess:

  • A high level of adaptability in both methodology and mindset.
  • An eagerness to learn and stay updated on best practices.
  • The ability to maintain a supportive and informed approach that ensures candidates feel valued and respected throughout the process.
  • An openness to receptive feedback from recruiters and applicants.
  • A forward-thinking attitude that considers future needs and how current hires fit into that vision.


Playing the Long Game

Hiring managers need to take a long-game approach to hiring. Part of the success of building a team is in identifying candidates that grow into future roles or evolve with the changing business needs. 

Hiring based solely on a specific tool or experience means the candidate is only a static fit for a short period of time until the organization evolves. Hire with a longer perspective in mind, and consider what can be trained easily in the short term. 

  • Generally, industry-specific knowledge or specific business processes are easily transferable. 
  • Soft skills, maturity, and working style are significantly harder to address through traditional training programs. 


Avoiding Pitfalls in Hiring

There’s a big difference between a bad interview and bad hiring practices. Not only will the latter involve losing out on quality candidates, but it can also have serious ripple effects. Just look at the prime example of Virgin Media; an onslaught of bad candidate experiences cost the company millions. Here are some of the key takeaways from the situation:

  • Bad hiring practices are never an accident. At a time when Virgin Media was struggling to hire, they had reduced their recruitment team. It’s clear that one of the underlying issues was an outdated executive perspective that HR isn’t as critical as other divisions or worthy of investment. 
  • Embrace the all-hands-on-deck approach. Much of the turnaround at Virgin involved moving away from the outdated idea that hiring is solely the responsibility of a small, understaffed recruitment team. Instead, they fostered a culture where everyone played a role in the hiring process, and they were able to significantly improve the candidate experience. 

Candidate experience has been a buzzy topic for some time in HR. This example is extreme, but it does highlight the importance of:

  1. Treating candidates with utmost respect,
  2. Crafting an interview process that is streamlined and relevant,
  3. Adopting a human-centric approach throughout the hiring journey.


Understanding the Candidate Experience 

In today’s competitive talent market, the balance of power has decidedly tipped in favour of candidates. This is especially important to keep in mind as open job postings still outnumber the unemployed in most sectors. Further, at a time when the data is suggesting candidate experience has never been more important, Talent Board reported in a 2022 poll that job seekers are reporting all-time low candidate experiences. This is a result of:

  • Overburdened recruitment teams,
  • Sustained high-volume recruitment initiatives,
  • The realization that AI tools are not translating to human-centric candidate journeys.


Common Reasons Offers are Rejected

The cost of rejected offers is real. Not only did it require burning through hours of interviews, but it also wasted resources writing and releasing the offer. An even more significant trickle-down effect: the team continues to be overburdened while you start the process again. 

The numbers differ depending on the source, but a rejected offer can cost anywhere from $10-30k depending on specifics. It can lead to more resignations and even more serious business disruptions. 

According to LinkedIn’s 2022 white pages report, there are four common reasons offers are rejected:

  1. The salary offered didn’t match expectations. 
  2. Had a negative experience in the interview. 
  3. Slow recruitment process. 
  4. The corporate culture didn’t align with their values or aspirations.


A New Approach

As a hiring manager, it’s essential to step back from personal biases and past experiences, ensuring you remain attuned to the dynamic demands of the present hiring environment. The best way to do this is to create a process that is candidate-focused. Consider these concepts when refocusing your recruitment approach:

  1. Research indicates candidates now anticipate proactive engagement, especially through platforms like LinkedIn. Meeting them where they are enhances engagement.
  2. Every organization has its own culture and strengths. Clearly communicating the unique benefits a candidate would gain from joining your team can set you apart.
  3. While data-driven insights are invaluable in crafting a robust recruitment strategy, it’s equally important to uphold the personal touch. Remember, behind every application is a human with aspirations, emotions, and concerns.


Timing is Critical

If you identify a great candidate, move quickly. Take a ‘be brave, not perfect’ approach to recruiting new talent. Meeting with several candidates just as a comparison will only create negative candidate experiences and lengthen the process, and ultimately, the data collected has yet to show positive impacts on retention. 

It’s no longer feasible or advisable to wait until all candidates have moved through the first round to schedule second interviews. Instead, advance your top prospects swiftly through the stages to keep their interest and stay competitive.


Consider the Interview Process

Ensure that every step in the interview process serves a necessary purpose. 65% of candidates say a bad interview experience makes them lose interest in the job.

Be thoughtful about including many interviewers in your process and what role they play. It can be helpful to get a few different perspectives from the colleagues who will work closest to the candidate, but be aware of the risks of including too many stakeholders with differing priorities. Aim for a balanced approach that incorporates valuable feedback without becoming cumbersome.


Make an Interview Plan

At its core, the interview process should facilitate genuine human interactions and trust-building between the candidate and the hiring manager. In reality, even for a candidate, a good interview is less about being the most accomplished option and more about the amount of trust they were able to build during the conversation. It is the same for a hiring manager. Creating engagement and building trust with candidates is just as important as offering the highest salary, if not more. 

  1. Accommodate interviews as much as possible. Not making time for interviews is one of the most common mistakes hiring managers make. It can be interpreted as a lack of respect and also runs the serious risk of losing candidates to other competitors. 
  2. Plot your availability. Gauge the number of candidates you aim to interview and the time you can commit. If your schedule is too tight to accommodate interviews effectively, consider postponing the search or delegating some of the interviewing responsibilities to trusted colleagues.
  3. Set a timeline for an update.  After the interview, clearly communicate when the candidate can expect feedback. Aim to follow up within 48 hours post-interview, even if it’s just a brief acknowledgment of their time and participation.
  4. Keep the candidate in the loop. If there are unforeseen delays in the decision-making process, promptly update the candidate. It’s always advisable to set conservative expectations and then exceed them. For instance, if you think feedback will be ready by the end of the week, inform the candidate they’ll hear back by mid-next week. This gives you a buffer and demonstrates reliability.


Embracing Interview Feedback and Processes

Interviews go both ways and as much as hiring managers will provide feedback about candidates, candidates will also give feedback to their interviewer. While it can be daunting to receive feedback as a hiring manager, it’s the only way to create a positive candidate experience, which is critical to your success. 

Asking for feedback regularly from recruiters and candidates is the quickest and most effective way to level up interviewing skills. Here are some things to consider:

  • Be prepared in interviews to discuss the value of your management style, the career future opportunities and the corporate culture. Those are table stakes today. 
  • Get comfortable being vetted by candidates, and move past outdated concepts that candidates should be lucky to have a job or that the right candidate will not balk at your process. 
  • Focusing on the candidate’s perspective first could be a huge way to gain a competitive advantage and lure a higher-quality candidate to your team.


A Big Picture Look at Feedback

Being honest about how a candidate can improve is one of the best ways to show respect for their time and engagement in the interview process. It is also one of the most effective ways for candidates to improve.  

Feedback should be:

  • Objective
  • Job-Related
  • Non-Discriminatory
  • Constructive

Keep in mind that feedback should only be given if you believe that the candidate could conceivably improve on it in the future. If you’re concerned about coming across as too harsh, use the “sandwich” method: offer a positive remark, followed by the area for improvement, and then conclude with another positive comment. While direct calls are the preferred method for this communication, a thoughtful email can also effectively convey appreciation for the candidate’s time and efforts.


Avoid Back-and-Forth

If you are giving feedback directly to the candidate, it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t invite further conversation. Clearly communicate that the candidate is no longer in consideration before diving into your points. This approach prevents any potential confusion or misplaced hopes of addressing feedback and continuing in the recruitment process.


How Feedback Can Distinguish Your Brand

Only 7% of candidates reported receiving a phone call from a recruiter or hiring manager about a rejection. Consider a more white-glove approach, like a call for anyone who has participated in over four hours of interviews, to show you respect for the investment they have made in the process. 


Your Recruitment Partners

You will also need to provide feedback regularly to your recruitment partners. More importantly than just getting feedback to your recruiter quickly, it must be effective. A great example of ineffectual feedback is “not the right fit” or “didn’t have the right skills.”

  • In both cases, this feedback is entirely subjective and open to extreme interpretation. It will likely not help the recruitment team avoid a similar profile in the future. 

An example of effective feedback is “Their experience and focus were more on the backend software development side, and we are looking for someone with a DevOps focus in their most recent role,” or “The candidate has a good PM background for the role, but their answers were too concise, and we had to ask the same question repeatedly.” 

  • In both examples, the feedback is specific, and the recruitment team can recalibrate their coursing efforts and listen more carefully during early screening conversations for the type of communicator you need. 

Keep your feedback tight, specific, and constructive enough that your recruitment partner can use it to improve the next round of candidates. 


Final Thoughts

There is no one way to win at modern recruitment. Instead, it requires a multi-faceted approach with evolving methodologies. As important as it is to identify the right talent, it’s equally as crucial to lead a recruitment lifecycle that motivates top talent to want to work at your organization.

At Talentlab, we help tech companies find talent that suits their unique and diversified needs. Our techniques are adaptive and reactive, creating a process that ensures every hire is the right one. Get in touch with us today to learn more. 

Sarah Doughty

Sarah is a seasoned recruitment advisor, with a background in hard-to-find technical talent searches. Over the course of her career she has worked with hundreds of clients building high-tech employment brands, leading recruitment teams, marketing candidates, executing passive search strategies, and developing expansive passive candidate pools in key markets across North America. Sarah excels in tough situations that require creativity and tenacity to overcome challenges.