Candidates gain power in hiring process

Stronger economy means competition for talent

During and after the Great Recession, the hiring process was largely employer-driven and job seekers had fewer options.

But over the last couple of years, as the unemployment rate has dropped steadily, the economy has strengthened and companies have become more confident in making investments, there has been a subtle shift. Employees have more options and are applying for new roles from a position of safety – while already employed.

shutterstock_370947476That means employers are competing to attract the best talent, and must find ways to set themselves apart.

“With the unemployment rate lowering and the market continuing to get more and more competitive, it is important for employers to make that positive first impression with candidates and making sure that they’re having a good candidate experience,” said Liz Dotson, vice president at recently rolled out a “Short Application” form to give candidates a quicker, streamlined application experience and help employers increase their applicant flow, she said.

“More people are working and if they’re looking at making a move, they’re already employed and it’s going to have to be appealing enough to make somebody want to make that switch,” said Beth Mathison, director of employment services at Waukesha-based human resources association MRA-The Management Association.

Seeing the shift in power, MRA has developed a new Candidate Experience Survey for its employer members to help them assess their hiring practices from
the candidate point of view.

“We’ll hear a lot from candidates where they’ll say, ‘I feel like every time I apply, it’s this black hole,’” Mathison said. “We know that candidates want to share their feedback, we know candidates are frustrated with the process, and so we anticipate there will be strong response rates to the survey.”

Employers should treat job applicants like customers—because they could be one day, and they will tell their friends about their experience with the company, Mathison said.

Work environment, corporate responsibility, flexibility and career development are the top characteristics candidates cite when evaluating whether to accept employment at a company, said Anne Nimke, CEO of The Good Jobs, a Milwaukee company that markets employer cultures.

Nimke has seen a minor leaning toward candidates in the hiring process, but not a full shift.

“I would not say that candidates overall have the upper hand in an interview, but I think that the conversation is becoming more equal,” Nimke said.

A May ManpowerGroup white paper titled “Brand Detectives: The New Generation of Global Candidates” said employers can improve talent attraction and retention by demonstrating their company’s culture to candidates firsthand, involving strong employee leaders in recruitment or using outside staffing agencies to market the company to potential hires.

“If you look at the Internet and how much information is there…it’s very, very transparent, and employers are not keeping up with being as transparent about how it is to work for them, what kind of promotion opportunities they have, what their culture is,” Nimke said.

Internet research certainly played into Lindsay Bartelme’s decision to apply to New Berlin insurance brokerage HNI Risk Services. Bartelme, an intern at HNI, looked at LinkedIn and company review site GlassDoor to determine if the firm was a good fit for her.

“I didn’t read one negative view of HNI online from anybody who’s ever worked here,” she said.

Mike Natalizio, chief executive officer of HNI, said the company writes its job postings in a way that markets the position to the applicant and showcases the firm’s unique culture.

“Rather than posting and hoping for candidates to apply, we’re trying to be more proactive and seeking the type of candidates we’d like to apply,” Natalizio said. “We’re trying to hire based on the individual and their ability and passion for performing and less about their experiences.”

“If you are not doing a good job of recruitment marketing, you are limiting your pool to people who are not necessarily your top talent,” Nimke said.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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