Shifting Talent Acquisition’s Priorities in the New Normal

August 30, 2021 | Shannon Shoemaker

Work isn’t just about the paycheck anymore. Purpose has always been an essential part of what candidates look for in a job. But according to a recent McKinsey survey, since COVID-19, nearly half of respondents are reconsidering the type of work they do to find more purpose from their jobs.

This shift affects talent acquisition in a big way. Logistically, the talent acquisition function hasn’t changed a lot, although more companies are relying on virtual-interviewing software and automation to drive their processes. The most significant shift in talent acquisition is the need to be more empathetic to what candidates are looking for in their next job.

“We were not leading with the candidates — the way we should have been — before the pandemic,” says Anthony Hayes, National Director of Talent Management at The Mice Groups Inc. The pandemic offers talent acquisition leaders an opportunity to reprioritize and restrategize the recruiting function to put the candidate first.

Here are three ways your organization can strengthen your talent acquisition strategy for success in the changing landscape.

Assess Candidate Needs

It’s a candidate market, and talent acquisition professionals can’t afford to make assumptions about what candidates want. “Talent acquisition has always been about assessing a candidate’s motivators for change,” says Krista Whiting, Director of Nursing Recruitment at Parkwood International. “But with the pandemic, transparency and effective communication are more vital than ever.”

Candidates aren’t just looking for a paycheck. They might be looking for opportunities for internal mobility or for a company to invest in their professional development. In healthcare, Whiting says, candidates are looking for who can advocate for their well-being as they fight COVID-19 on the front lines.

Train recruiters to reach out to candidates and determine their needs on the front end. Recruiters need to build relationships with candidates if they want to learn what they want from an employer.

Focus on Providing a Good Experience

Candidate experience is a crucial differentiating factor. Aim to help candidates feel like they matter. To foster a better experience, develop channels for more effective communication, provide frequent updates, and move quickly to fill roles.

“We are continuing to really spend time thinking about candidate experience and, longer term, the employee experience,” says E. Blair Johnson, Deputy Head and Director of Global HR Shared Services at MUFG. Think about the recruiting ecosystem more holistically. Prioritize internal mobility to keep your existing workforce engaged and to open up lower-level positions to fill externally.

Internal mobility is an integral part of the employee experience and a vital component, along with candidate experience, of employer branding and recruitment marketing. Traditionally risk-averse industries, like financial services, might be slower to adapt to fostering a positive candidate experience, Johnson suggests. But in a tight labor market, companies must adapt their employer brand to what candidates want.

Lean Into Empathy and Human Touches

Technology and automation play an important role in modern talent acquisition. But make sure you use tools to optimize your processes rather than drive them. Automation can be impersonal, Hayes says, so take responsibility for maintaining a people-driven approach to talent acquisition.

Candidates want to see and hear from real people, not bots. For example, good integration between your applicant tracking system and automated communication technology can help keep candidates updated on their application status. But they should still hear from recruiters via a personal phone call at key points during the recruiting process.

Only human recruiters can have effective conversations with candidates to determine what they’re looking for and to convey the company’s culture. Highlight human touch points so that candidates experience your compassion for and investment in them.

In our new normal, talent acquisition is all about people. Shift your recruitment strategy to prioritize candidates first. In industries where competition for talent is hottest, like healthcare and financial services, talent acquisition leaders need to demonstrate their investment in people.

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