PSG President Aaron Green sees some interesting trends emerging around hiring job candidates in the Boston area this year.
“Hiring has become a painful experience,” Green says. “It’s painful for employers because there’s a shortage of qualified candidates for most open positions and because HR departments are stretched pretty thin.”
Green is referring to the low average unemployment rate in Massachusetts that has been below 5 percent since last April. As hiring picks up in certain sectors – such as technology and healthcare – organizations like hospitals and universities are looking for candidates with specific talents and skill sets, like workers who can support new initiatives in online courses.
At the same time, organizations are more mindful of having their HR department be the “right” size. That means ensuring there are enough resources to handle all the functions expected of HR, while staying flexible to adapt to changes in the economy – a lesson many learned the hard way during the last recession.
For many mid- and large-size companies this means considering outsourcing some parts of the recruiting process. PSG is seeing an uptick in clients using its Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) services. In some cases, clients outsource some aspects of the recruiting process, such as sourcing and screening candidates, so their internal HR team can focus on more strategic functions, like interviewing and onboarding new hires.
Green says the hiring process is also painful for job seekers. “It’s almost like hazing,” he says. He believes this will change, starting in 2016.
“Economics, combined with the availability of information online, is forcing businesses to look at the candidate experience in new ways,” says Green.
Ratings systems that leverage digital data – such as the star system on Glassdoor and use of the short survey that quantifies a Net Promoter Score (NPS) – are driving change and helping the recruiting process evolve.
“PSG will be rolling out a new NPS for candidates applying for internal staff positions,” explains Green. “For many years we’ve conducted NPS surveys with candidates we meet and consider for placement with clients; and the data from those surveys has informed our recruiting and interviewing processes. Now we’re applying that experience, along with research we’re currently conducting – including feedback from candidates we hired as well as those we didn’t – to help us build a stronger candidate experience all-around.”
Retailers have long lived under the adage that “the customer is always right,” which comes from a desire to make sure customers have a positive experience with their brand. Now many employers are applying that methodology to the hiring experience. They’re treating candidates like customers and using new tactics to ensure that even candidates who don’t get hired come away with a positive experience of the process and, subsequently, the brand.
Another local hiring trend is how quickly compensation is changing. Green says that aggressive recruiting by private equity and venture funded companies is partly to blame. Unlike traditional businesses that are run for long-term profitability, PE and VC funded firms can offer outrageous compensation packages for short-term employment periods. This practice forces wages across the local economy to rise and compensation plans that were created even one year ago are now out of date. On the other end of the spectrum, increases in Massachusetts’ minimum wage are also helping to accelerate the changes in compensation.
Another big trend in recruiting and hiring is matching candidates with an organization’s culture to increase the odds of making a successful hire. When it comes to culture fit, Google is championing the idea. In his book Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead, Google’s Head of People Operations Laszlo Bock explains that “culture underpins everything we do at Google.” Bock offers several tips for interviewing for culture fit, including knowing where to find the type of workers you’re looking for, using “work tests” in which candidates are gauged for their reactions in typical work situations, and testing candidates against the traits that are most highly valued at your organization.
In the future, Green foresees a hiring process that’s built around a candidate’s needs, rather than a company’s. While this likely won’t come to fruition in 2016, our use of digital data and the examples of hiring practices at companies like Google are showing that it’s possible.
In 2016, companies are better than ever at hiring, but it’s still a painful experience. Fortunately, a focus on improving the candidate experience and hiring for culture fit can help Boston organizations improve the process.