Thursday, March 31, 2011

In the Battle for Top Talent, Delay Is Fatal

In February, 192,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy, according to the Labor Department. It was the largest single monthly gain—excluding census workers—since early 2006. While not a windfall of jobs, considering the nearly 800,000 jobs lost in March of 2009 alone, it is a stark improvement.

While the figure may have improved because of delayed hiring during a stormy January, some economists suggest it is still being underreported. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics adjusts for the birth and death of companies, it often underestimates the number of new companies in times of recovery. While its survey of employers reported that 192,000 jobs were created in February, its survey of households showed a gain of 250,000 jobs.  Payroll provider, ADP, which puts out an estimate of total employment based on the millions of employees in their system, has been reporting an average gain of more than 200,000 private-sector jobs for the last three months.

None of these statistics are comparing apples to apples. Each is surveying overlapping populations and each through different means. What they all show, however, is that jobs are being added—and at an increasingly meaningful rate. They indicate educational achievement is as important as ever. They also show that service-providing industries, as well as small and medium-sized companies, seem to be creating the most new jobs. What they don’t reveal is the pain that many, especially larger employers, are feeling in the crunch for top talent.

“Today, we are seeing a position that once may have taken six to eight weeks to go from first interview to job offer, now taking two or three times as long,” says Rob Romaine, president of MRINetwork. “Once a passive candidate is considering a position, they’re no longer passive and with each week they are more likely to be considering additional opportunities.”

A delay in extending an offer risks a candidate losing the enthusiasm to take the position and if they find other opportunities, it can create a bidding situation, driving up the cost. This doesn’t make the candidate less desirable; in fact, the opposite may very well be true.

“Every employer wants a candidate who is passionate about working for them, but they also want people who are aggressive, strategic, and who will go out and create opportunities. If a sales manager candidate waits through a three-month vetting process without considering what other options are available, that on its own should raise a flag,” notes Romaine.

At larger firms, there are often vetting procedures that can’t be skipped. Background checks, reference checks, internal postings, and multi-level interviews all take time.

“Hiring managers need to work with HR to streamline the hiring process and overcome as many obstacles as possible before the interview process begins,” says Romaine. “When delays arise, the candidate needs to be kept informed of the process. Frequent updates, even just to let them know things are still on track, will help keep them primed and ready for an offer.”

In many industries and job functions, the pendulum has swung from being an employers’ market back to one favoring candidates. It doesn’t mean that getting great talent is impossible. If anything, it means that the top-performing passive candidates are going to be more willing to explore what else the market has to offer. 

MRI Network, First Friday Preview, April, 2011. Provided by ETS Dental. Find out more at