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U.S. unemployment is now below 5%, and over the last 12 months the average hourly earnings have risen 2.5%.  That is good news!  The labor market seems to be on a good trajectory.  So if you are a recruiter, or a company who is actively hiring, what does this mean for you?   

Just a few short years ago, unemployment was at a 10-year high, and the job market was considered “loose.”   We would hear, “Well it must be easy to find people in this market!”, but that was far from true, because you are looking for the “right” person, and having more applicants to sort through, many completely unqualified, was a drain on recruiters.  The recruiting machine had to be in full gear and use all resources at our disposal to sift thru thousands of applicants to find that shiny, gold candidate that was the best one for the job.

In that type of job market, to be successful, a talent acquisition team needed three things –

  1. Best-in-class applicant tracking software to help manage the overwhelming applicant flow;
  2. Screening and assessment tools which provided objective information to the process to identify which applicants were qualified for the job; and
  3. Skilled recruiters who, despite the throngs of applications coming in, were actively sourcing for new candidates.

Are you surprised at #3?  Some hiring managers think that great candidates just show up at your doorstep, especially when millions are looking for jobs, right?  Not so.  Whether the market is loose or tight, sourcing is the differentiator.

Not Just Lots of Candidates – But Qualified Ones

Now let’s fast forward to today, and in the last five years there has been positive growth in the job market.  Job openings have increased, hiring has increased, and unemployment has dropped.    Interestingly, given the number of job openings, history tells us that the unemployment rate should actually be lower. As a result, some labor economists believe the U.S. may be experiencing a skills gap that is resulting in a mismatch of people to jobs.   If you are a recruiter, that means you have more positions to fill, but you may be finding it more difficult to find the right person.  Successful hiring in this market is, therefore, still contingent upon having the right tools in place, and optimizing your recruiters’ sourcing strategies/skills.

Think of it this way: those really cool screening tools, realistic job previews, assessments, simulations, and even video interviews that you are using today, will only be effective if you are filling the pipeline with qualified candidates, not just lots of candidates.  If you are attracting people who are a mismatch for your jobs or your company from the beginning, those sophisticated tools cannot fix it or work miracles.  You will have more people drop out of the process or not get thru the assessment hurdle, and then you are left with a rather shallow pool of candidates to take to the hiring manager. 

Sourcing practices have advanced significantly in a few short years: utilization of social networks, social media, talent communities, the importance of branding, and other cutting edge methods have been embraced by talent acquisition professionals.  Filling your pipeline with qualified, interested, and ‘great fit’ candidates fuels the rest of your hiring process.

Sorting Out the Gold Nuggets

Your recruiters are like gold miners.   Gold miners use a machine called a slew that sorts the precious gold from the ordinary dirt and rocks.  If miners are digging in generally the right place, they may get lucky and find some gold. But to get the big payout, the miners have to choose the right ground to dig first.  When quality “pay-dirt” goes in, the more likely it is you will find those precious gold nuggets.

Investing in innovative technology and tools that seamlessly link with your sourcing strategies is key, but the big pay out will be when your recruiters have the skills, tools, knowledge and creativity to know exactly where to look for those solid gold candidates.