With Hiring in Full Swing, Job Seekers Remain in Control

Job seekers are now in the driver's seat and their expectations are high. A new report is just out. Let’s examine the latest power shift as leading search consultants weigh in.

November 13, 2018 – Low unemployment and high demand for talent is feeding a recruiting environment where job seekers and new employees are more and more in control. CareerBuilder and SilkRoad have released the results of a new joint survey identifying job seekers’ and new employees’ expectations for hiring and onboarding. It is eye opening to say the least.

Candidates today have higher expectations for communication, logistics and new hire onboarding during their job search process 68 percent of employees said they believe their experience as a job candidate reflects how the company treats its people. Prospects today are evaluating a future employer from the first page of the job application. These findings suggest that job seekers are accustomed to the environment they experience as consumers online, where everything is at their fingertips with a digital, mobile-friendly and engaging process.

“The survey results confirm a significant shift of power from employers to candidates – largely fueled by sustained low unemployment and widening skills gaps that are making it more and more difficult for employers to find and keep the talent they need to compete,” said Irina Novoselsky, CEO of CareerBuilder. “Nearly one-half of employers said it’s taking them longer to fill jobs today than in any other period in the post-industrial era – which not only costs money, but has an impact on productivity and speed to market.”

War for Talent

The fight for talent is only going to become more intense for U.S. companies, and employers must deliver on job seekers’ continuously-evolving expectations to attract the best candidates, said Ms. Novoselsky. “This starts with streamlining the entire hiring process, from the first candidate engagement to new hire onboarding, which can be achieved through the technological innovation and more intuitive, mobile-friendly experiences we’re creating at CareerBuilder,” she said. “Seventy percent of our audience is searching for opportunities on mobile, and employers have to meet these in-demand candidates where they are.”


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“This is one of the reasons that we’ve been investing in new technologies and AI to create the next generation of hiring experiences – including our new mobile app that makes it easy for candidates to discover who’s hiring near them, build a mobile resume with a few simple clicks and soon, acquire new skills right in the app,” Ms. Novoselsky said.

The survey was commissioned by CareerBuilder and SilkRoad and conducted by the Harris Poll. The national online survey included a representative sample of 1,114 full-time employees and 1,138 employers across industries and company sizes who were asked about expectations in the hiring process, frequency of communication, online application preferences and importance of the onboarding process once hired.

Not only has power shifted to the job seeker but the current employee as well, be they newly hired or tenured. When job seekers test the waters simultaneously — 51 percent said they’ve looked for other jobs even when an offer has been extended and the background check is in process a tech-enabled offer and signature process that can happen fast is pivotal. About 67 percent of employers reported that almost a quarter of new hires fail to show up after accepting a position. Convenience and speed of the organization in confirming a new hire could impact how many report for work on the first day.

Related: RiseSmart Launches New Career Transition Service

Technology is playing an increasingly critical role in enabling touchpoints along the recruitment and new hire journey to facilitate human interactions. Keeping prospects and new hires engaged over what can often be a multi-week or multi-month process is paramount.

“We see strategic onboarding as a vehicle for continuous engagement, retention and talent transitions over an employee’s entire career,” said Robert Dvorak, CEO of SilkRoad, global leader in strategic enterprise onboarding and talent activation. “We realize the customer’s journey doesn’t end with a purchase, nor does the employee’s end with an offer. By using technology throughout the entire employment journey, employers can intentionally onboard candidates and employees, keeping them engaged at key points over time.”

Additional Findings

  • Employers are feeling the impact of the tight labor market. Sixty percent of employers across industries said they see positions becoming longer to fill in the last year due directly to a tough hiring environment.
  • Nearly a fourth of employers (23 percent) said they have seen delays in filled positions up to three weeks or more.

Companies Adjust to Candidate-Driven Job Market
Businesses are bolstering efforts to improve the workplace experience, fueled in part by record-low unemployment and a spike in business confidence. The “2018 Talent Trends Report” found that 51 percent of employers planned to increase their investments in on-site benefits and innovative technologies this year to improve productivity and retain top talent.


  • Candidates expect proactive, transparent and frequent communications from employers.Given the current hiring environment, 43 percent of employees said they have higher expectations for how employers will treat them as a candidate.
  • 36 percent of employees said they expect to speak to a recruiter at a company they are interested in before they even apply to a job.
  • The candidate experience speaks volumes about the employee experience. Sixty-eight percent of employees said they believe their experience as a candidate reflects how the company treats its people.

Related: Increasing Demand for Talent Spurs Steady Wage Growth

  • Successful onboarding for a new hire is critical for their long-term vision of culture and career potential at the new companyNinety-three percent of employers agreed that a good onboarding experience is critical to influence a new hire’s decision in staying with the organization, yet 29 percent of employees said they don’t think their organization did the right things in onboarding to help them prepare and begin their new role.
  • Onboarding can help or hurt: Nearly one in ten employees (nine percent) reported that they have left a company because of a poor onboarding experience, and 37 percent of employees said they didn’t think their manager played a critical role in supporting their onboarding experience.
  • On a scale of one to 10, 27 percent rated their most recent onboarding experience a five or worse. The same percentage said the same for picking out benefits.

Search Consultants Weigh In

 “Our real world experience in recent years supports the findings of this new survey,” said Shelli Herman, president and founder of Shelli Herman and Associates. “Our clients are industry leaders and best in class enterprises but, with so much competition for top talent, relying on the strength of your organization’s reputation alone will see you lose out when it comes to hiring the best candidates.”

The professionals whom you really want to attract and retain are looking for an application, interview and onboarding process that is “transparent, efficient and responsive,” she said. “Consequently, it has never been more important to ensure your organization has people actively recruiting as ambassadors with the goal of accurately representing the opportunity and your values, culture and priorities.”

For external service providers in this highly competitive environment for talent, maintaining continuous, consistent alignment with client organizations is critical to the success of hiring top candidates, said Mark HuYoung, managing partner of NorthWind Partners.

“Clients want a significantly increased level of communication and insight into the diligence and progress of external recruiters on their behalf,” he said. “Gone are the days of multi-week gaps of contact between executive search project milestones or even single weekly conversations regarding the status of a candidate or candidates.”

Exchanges occur fluidly and often transpire multiple times weekly as competitive companies recognize high-performing executives are frequently approached by other organizations regarding opportunities, Mr. HuYoung said. “They want first, reassurance that recruiters not only understand their needs but are representing them well in the market, and two, to be proactive and timely in the courting process to demonstrate a reflection of how the business functions.”

Whether candidates are employed or not, when they interview for other/new opportunities, they naturally are forced into additional emotional stress, said Matthew A. Metro, founder of Bethesda, MD-based search firm The Maison Group. “Think about it,” he said. “For the most part, it’s usually done confidentially, and often the interviewing/communication process conflicts with other responsibilities and requires a lot of time management to make it work. Think about the employer now. A company has its goals, objectives and challenges to meet every day. Whether or not there’s someone effective in charge of a hiring process, this company needs to balance their time, energy and focus on an activity that within a certain timeframe is non-revenue generating.”

So what’s the common denominator? “Both parties are trying to juggle more than they can typically handle, and as a result, communication, accountability and in some cases, sound decision making, is impacted,” Mr. Metro said. “There seems to be a mutual desire for a faster, more efficient and communicative experience. New software/technology can certainly help, as well as a great HR executive who knows how to drive accountability and streamline a process. But what’s truly missing in this transaction is good intermediary, facilitator – or, the right search firm.”

The candidate experience has always been important in terms of how an individual feels about a prospective employer. “In this market, it’s critical,” said Jim Zaniello, founder and CEO of Vetted Solutions. “Organizations that don’t appear to care about the candidate will not be able to land top talent. These individuals will accept offers from the employers that truly have welcoming work environments.”

Success has never stopped with recruiting the right talent to the team, Mr. Zaniello added. “A thorough approach to onboarding has always made a difference and today candidates evaluate an organization in part based upon how they will be brought into the organization. Top-tier employers have been investing in onboarding for years and have seen the results.”

It’s vitally important that candidates sense alignment in culture, expectations and compensation. “In a tight executive labor market where a top candidate is often fielding multiple offers simultaneously, employers need to be firing on all three cylinders,” said Leslie Loveless, CEO of Slone Partners.

“Leading an in-demand candidate to the altar and sealing the deal is one of the many reasons we as an executive search firm get hired – to manage or co-manage that very delicate courtship,” she added.

The vast majority of candidates have always wanted effective communication throughout a job application process, said Bill Vlaad, president of Vlaad and Company. “The telling commentary is whether the numbers have increased material in say the last five years: which I believe they have,” he said.

“Candidates expect effective communication because they are more accustomed to quick, unencumbered access to information given our smart technology and social media platforms which in theory should make communication easier,” Mr. Vlaad said. “The downside to companies not communicating effectively could result in bad reviews and ratings on sites like Glassdoor which might complicate future hiring given the readership of these websites.”

“Given the growth we are experiencing in this country, the demand supply for C-suite executives and small to mid-cap companies is clearly candidate-centric,” said Bob Damon, a partner at Ventura Partners. “In the age of technology and internet, the golden rule of treating people the way you would like to be treated is often times forgotten.”

One problem is that email and the internet have taken some of the humanity out of the recruiting process. “Therefore, the way for employers to distinguish themselves is to build a little humanity back into the recruiting process,” Mr. Damon said. “Sending a hand-written note makes a statement you took the time to communicate in a more personal manner and that you care.”

“Clearly the supply-demand curve makes it a candidate market, therefore speed and timeliness in the recruitment process become more critical,’ he said. “A well thought out onboarding and professional development plan is a big attraction in that the younger leaders are more driven by mission and making a difference.”

“We’re moving into the Fourth Industrial Revolution at breakneck speed and qualified and experienced job candidates know their value in this job market,” said Jay Rosenzweig, founder and managing partner of Rosenzweig & Company. “With automation and artificial intelligence unfolding, companies are relying on these emerging technologies to improve efficiencies and expand into new markets. But with so much change occurring so rapidly – the World Economic Forum reported recently that a whopping 54 percent of employees will require significant re-training and upskilling by 2022 – if you’re a job candidate who can already mesh into this new work environment you’re going to expect more from prospective employers.”

It’s human nature, he said. “Corporations must be aware of this dichotomy: As they cut human jobs to make way for automation, they are also creating a perfect storm where trained and qualified job candidates will demand more of them. It will be more difficult to attract and retain the best, most qualified employees. The most successful companies in this age will never forget the human side of things.”

There is no question that we are experiencing a significant shift in the executive search process, said Tomilee Tilley Gill, founder and president of search firm Executives Unlimited. “Companies seeking to recruit qualified executives must put their best foot forward,” she said. “This translates to all constituents who are involved in the recruitment process to be committed to performing their best in the interviews and presenting their organization as organized, tech-savvy and competitive with their peer companies.”

With unemployment for executive talent under four percent nationally, she added, “the challenge to recruit the most qualified individuals is a race for the company that offers the most interesting positions with the most competitive compensation and benefit structure,” she said. “Further, executive candidates require full transparency, specifically in what they are expected to achieve in performance and whether it is realistic based on the company’s historical performance.”

“First impressions are critical and a company needs to put its best effort each time it brings a candidate on-site for interviews,” said Jonathan Sarn, partner and president – executive search at Kinsley|Sarn. “It starts with a detailed schedule, that includes a greeting/orientation meeting with either HR or the hiring manager and then smooth transitions between interviewers. The interviewers need to be prepared and their questions should be focused and varied from the others. A wrap-up session with HR or the hiring manager should occur to answer any final questions, gather final information and then provide clarity around next steps,” he said. “Feedback to a candidate should happen within 1-2 days.”

Planning is critical in order to recruit the best candidate. “This includes having a clearly defined interview process agreed before the search starts: The number of on-site interviews, the critical interviewers for each on site and their agreement to make the process a priority, the questions for each interviewer to focus on, what and whose approval is needed for approval,” said Mr. Sarn.

“Onboarding is critical to not only ensure commitment from the new hire but to help the new hire understand what is expected of him/her in the first 60/90/180 timeframe and to provide feedback to the employee on their progress in assimilating to their position and organizational culture,” he said. “These additional services are included in each retained search we conduct.”

Top candidates have more leverage and their expectations reflect it, said Deborah Page, senior client partner and technology practice lead at The McCormick Group. “To recruit someone with lots of great options you have to demonstrate an understanding of the space they work in, their background, the prospective employer’s opportunity and how everything fits together,” she said. “Otherwise you get ignored with the rest of the pitches they get every week.”

Specifically in technology, where in-demand skills and experience transform so fast, she said, “if employers want a chance at the best, they have to consider more than just compensation. The entire work experience, including the hiring process, has to meet a higher standard.”

“Most candidates have more than one job prospect on the go and do hold employers (and us by extension) to a high standard,” said Don Alexander, president and managing director of GeneCoda. “We have to be well versed in terms of opportunity positioning, client understanding, the overall markets served and offer timely follow up to candidates and clients.”

Time to fill many specialty jobs is now 50 to 100 percent longer than it was a year ago, he noted, “and the number of contacts one has to make to fill a job has gone up by two to four times, in our experience,” he said. “Job postings are an almost complete waste of time when trying to recruit seasoned people. It’s all about direct outreach and/or word of mouth in this type of market.”

“The most talented candidates have options and our recruitment team at SearchWide Global must be nimble, proactive and engaged when it comes to recruiting top talent,” said Mark Gnatovic, executive vice president at SearchWide Global. “Not only are we proactively communicating with candidates throughout the search process, we are constantly coaching our clients to do the same at appropriate times.”

Top candidates are evaluating us as much as we are them, he said, “and our recruitment team communicates to candidates as a direct extension of our clients,” he noted. “Additionally, staying connected with our placements for the first year or two to offer advice and direction outside of typical onboarding has helped retain and strengthen relationships between our placements and our clients.”

“As an executive recruiter, I’m extremely aware of today’s competitive job market,” said Peter Polachi, partner at Polachi. “A streamlined and transparent hiring process is critical to ensuring the best candidates remain engaged in opportunities from initial conversation to offer acceptance; when managed correctly, that process can differentiate an opportunity.”

Related: Companies Adjust to Candidate-Driven Job Market

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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