We don't know what's next for business - but what we do know is how to help you be ready. This blog is all about anticipating the future and positioning you for success.

Monday, December 12, 2011

What’s Driving the Disconnect Between Job Seekers and Recruiters?

I’ve been hearing a lot of recruiters say for the past few months that they have openings they are trying to fill, but they can’t find the right talent. "How can this be?" we’re all asking when there are a lot of people out of work and actively looking for jobs. There’s also a large population of employed workers, 74% according to a recent survey by Harris, known as the "silent majority," who have acknowledged they would consider changing jobs if they were approached. And together with the voices of recruiters who say they can’t find qualified talent, I hear from job seekers who are just as frustrated about responding to openings they are qualified for, only to hear nothing back. So what’s the problem? What’s causing the disconnect?

May Not Be One Factor
Over the last six months, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a few firms pulling teams of consultants together to work on change and human resource (HR) projects. One common problem recruiters involved with organization development (OD) projects experience is rooted in the fact that there isn’t one clear definition of what OD is. As HR is becoming more strategic rather than transactional, I’m wondering if this transition in describing competencies is also becoming a problem when recruiting for HR positions. Is the disconnect we’re experiencing in the job market a reflection of non-qualified candidates, or is the root problem something else, or possibly a combination of factors?

Consider the problems caused by non-standard jargon, especially in professions such as OD and HR. Some companies refer to their learning and professional development programs as OD, while others look beyond training and consider all people and organizational changes experienced by a transitioning business unit to be OD. It’s the same with change management expertise. One recruiter might be searching for a candidate with experience managing one specific aspect of a merger and refer to that as change management, while another may only consider it sufficient change management experience if the expertise includes all aspects of the holistic merger project. HR recruiters not familiar with the experience and expertise required for strategic HR positions might easily overlook someone with the right qualifications and label them as "overqualified" for a position requiring OD, change management or skills supporting conflict resolution and influencing change.

Linking my personal consulting experiences with the frustrations I’m hearing from recruiters, as well as job seekers, I’m wondering what the impact is when the recruiter’s role expands to areas where he/she doesn’t have specialized expertise. So often I find individuals in recruiter roles who have backgrounds in a certain area of HR, such as benefits or training, being asked to source and identify talent in HR and OD - areas they have never worked in. In situations like this, without specific detailed profiles and examples of qualifications, how can they adequately decipher the experiences and knowledge being shared by interested job seekers to determine transferable skills and backgrounds for the position?

We’re living in a world of instantaneous expectations and I wonder what impact this perception is having on the recruiting process? Have we shortened the cycle too far, so that it now appears to resemble "speed dating" rather than sourcing and recruitment? How much can we really get to know an individual’s work/life experiences and how they transfer to the "new" normal of work in 15 or 20 minutes?

So What's Next?
The profession of sourcing and recruitment is changing. Although the world is speeding up as it gets smaller and smaller, perhaps it’s time to slow down the process of matching required talent needs with available talent. Maybe the process of evaluating fit should include more than a 20 second review of a resume or a successful number of matches of keywords. Perhaps until we get more sophisticated with language and our abilities to understand how skills transfer, we need to encourage slowing down the recruiting process and taking the time to really understand how past experiences translate to meet the current day needs of the organization. There’s no doubt that some percentage of job seekers don’t have the up-to-date skills required to address marketplace needs, but the rest of the population is an available resource that we need to learn how to connect with. This situation provides organizations and the HR profession with an opportunity to establish training courses or university-style programs to develop the skills they are looking for and to structure some type of interview feedback or job opening profile that indicates specific trainings and experiences that are lacking in order to raise the job seekers’ awareness that his/her skills are no longer up-to-date.

I recently attended a SHRM-Atlanta Chapter meeting. Sitting with me at my table of eight were four recruiters. All four confirmed they had a staggering number of job openings for HR talent, more than they’ve had in the past few years. And in a room of over 300 HR professionals they were declaring they couldn’t find the right talent. We’ve got a disconnection and we need to fix it, as 2012 sounds like it might just be the year for getting people back to work.

I’m curious about your observations. Do you think we have some disconnections in our recruiting processes? Please share your comments below. I’d also encourage you to share this email with a friend so we can expand the conversation.