The perfect candidate doesn’t exist – assessing talent in a skills short market.
Nicole Gorton, Director of Robert Half Australia.
You probably have the dream candidate in mind, but in a skills short market holding out for Mr or Mrs Right is a sure-fire way to delay the recruitment process and potentially miss out on the best person for the job.
Across the developed world employers are grappling with a serious skills shortage driven by a combination of low unemployment rates, digital disruption and demographic change. Both Australia and New Zealand are enjoying falling unemployment rates and continuing GDP growth, and this is creating healthy demand for qualified professionals as companies expand and increase headcount.
Elsewhere, other factors are at work. In the UK for instance, the skills shortage is starting to bite as uncertainty over Brexit has seen declining appetites for EU citizens to live and work in Great Britain.
All this is occurring against a backdrop of changing workplace dynamics as increasing digitisation reshapes the roles and skills required for companies to successfully compete in the future.
The upshot is that employers globally are actively competing against one another for talent. Robert Half research confirms that 78 per cent of Australian employers find it more challenging to source skilled professionals compared to five years ago. The situation is even more problematic in many parts of Asia including Singapore, where 84 per cent of business leaders believe it will be more difficult to find qualified professionals over the coming five years.
The ‘War for Talent’ is not expected to weaken any time soon. But there are strategies that hiring managers can leverage, and a key starting point is to rethink the way candidates are assessed.
Don’t hold out for the ‘perfect’ candidate
It’s understandable that employers want to hire the very best talent. A study by McKinsey found high performers can be 800 per cent more productive than their more ‘average’ peers. But in a skills short market, having unrealistic expectations can mean missing out on quality professionals.
The perfect candidate with a combination of excellent technical knowledge, industry experience, and cultural fit is hard to find – and even harder to recruit. They may not even exist at all. The flipside of course is that the cost of hiring the wrong person can be high. The solution can involve an element of compromise.
To begin with, be sure that you are not creating a role that very few, if any, people would consider themselves qualified for otherwise you could eliminate candidates who may be very close to your ideal recruit.
It is also worth drawing a distinction between must-have and nice-to-have skills. Importantly, look for the candidate with the right cultural fit plus aptitude for the role. Skill gaps can be filled later by an investment in training and professional development. If you’re unsure, a useful litmus test is to ask yourself: Does this person have most of the necessary skills for the role and, short one or two – can they be taught?
Keep the hiring process tight
Top candidates know their skills are in demand, and those who possess hard-to-find skills are likely to receive multiple job offers, and be less willing to wait around for an offer. This is underpinning the need for companies to develop an efficient and streamlined hiring process, resulting in shorter decision times.
Hiring managers often waste time requesting additional interviews to conduct side-by-side talent comparisons of two strong candidates. In many cases this time and energy would be better invested in moving top candidates through the process quickly. It’s not a matter of settling for second best, but the reality is that delaying hiring in the hope of finding the perfect candidate could yield you no candidate at all.
To highlight the damage a protracted hiring process can bring, Robert Half found that one-third of jobseekers in Australia have waited six weeks or more to hear back from a potential employer after an interview. Three out of five (63 per cent) have accepted a second-choice job offer because their preferred employer took too long to make a hiring decision.
As a guide to what is reasonable, the same study found the overall majority (93 per cent) of candidates believe it is fair to wait up to one month – from initial application to getting a final offer.
By adapting to the skills shortage, employers can secure the candidates who are right for their company. It may call for a greater investment in training coupled with a tightening of hiring processes, but the pay-off is having an effective and productive team in place today.