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Skilled workers are hard to find in today's job market, and organizations offer everything from greater learning opportunities to free smoothie day to attract the right talent to fill their vacancies.

But most of the time, dangling free food at candidates won't solve the problem. Companies' recruiting challenges stem from many factors—though some are out of their control, others need to be tackled head on within their organization.

We sat down with Elaine Orler, CEO and founder of talent acquisition consulting firm Talent Function, to explore how organizations should begin to adapt their recruiting efforts for the state of the job market. Orler discussed what companies are doing wrong, what's out of their control and the techniques and tools that can strengthen their talent acquisition practices.

What are the biggest mistakes companies make today in their recruiting efforts?

There are two directions organizations go with their mistakes. One problem is the "wait and see" approach. Some organizations are so risk-averse and cautious in everything they do that it hinders their ability to deliver, and their company performance is suffering for it, whether they associate that with talent acquisition or not.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are organizations that experiment for experimentation's sake. At some point, there's a threshold for the number of new things you can try before you say, "I'm done." Organizations that don't hold an experiment long enough to get to adoption are constantly disrupting their ability to perform.

These are two extremes, but most organizations are making these mistakes to some degree—they've changed their business processes without changing their technology, they've changed their technology but didn't change their processes, or they've changed both without effectively conveying these changes to employees. If these factors don't align, there will be negative disruption in the business.

Are there outside factors inhibiting companies' recruiting efforts as well?

My best definition of what's happening in recruiting is choreographed chaos. We have the lowest unemployment numbers we've seen in our generation and the least amount of available talent and technically skilled people, coupled with the most job openings. The perfect storm is brewing as organizations need to get the right talent for their business.

The jobs themselves are also changing every six months, and jobs are being created that didn't exist six months ago. All of this rapid change is underpinning that an organization's talent acquisition needs to make a broader, stronger play.

How can organizations look within to strengthen their recruiting efforts?

Organizations must leverage what they know about people and their abilities and putting that into succession planning. They can tell people, "We know you've been in your current role for two years and you're likely to go past role A to role B or C. We want you to know we have B and C available. Are you open to talking in two months?" With this proactive way of moving people, they can control the direction of these positions.

If the economy shifts, they can proactively model out the differences in resources and roles versus taking the reactive approach—downsizing, then rushing to backfill the positions they budgeted out.

How can companies differentiate themselves to attract the right talent in today's job market?

For candidates, the differentiation is in the experience. It's not just how flashy and cool companies come across—it's how they treat people. I ask a proverbial question of every talent acquisition leader I meet: If it takes 30 minutes to apply on your website and that's a candidate's investment in an organization, where's your 30-minute investment back into them?

On average, 250 people apply to a [corporate] job opening. There's no way for recruiters to give all 250 candidates their 30 minutes back, but there are ways to communicate and set expectations that create a more valuable experience for candidates.

Organizations are also stuck in a cycle where one candidate is hired, and the rest are basically flushed out. Next time, they start over from scratch, but they should be able to reengage those candidates, especially the ones they've already interviewed and strongly considered. Why do we put them back at the starting line and make them race with a whole new team?

Can technology improve the talent acquisition process and help organizations overcome the challenges we've discussed?

There are some great opportunities for automation on two fronts. One is communicating with candidates effectively. Recruiters have to consider what kind of communication people expect. I'm in the generation that prefers email, but my kids prefer text, and soon they'll probably prefer something else. Once they know candidates' preferences, organizations have to be able to bring that forward through their systems—it's just a matter of settings, permissions and requests. Then they can respond accordingly in an automated way. It's an opportunity for us to meet people where they are.

The other important opportunity for automation is keeping track of candidates. Recruiters process volumes of information every day, from reading emails and scheduling meetings, to reviewing resumes. When you're hiring for a new role, your brain is often fried, but automated systems can add value through with useful reminders.

Say you open a new job requisition and it's similar to jobs you filled six months ago, but you forgot. The system can remind you and say: "This is a similar job to the three jobs you filled six months ago, and here are all of the silver-medal candidates." This kind of prompt gives you the ability to get that position filled quicker and demonstrates to candidates that you're paying attention to them.

Photo: Creative Commons