On Our Minds
by Sarah Grayson (she/her) and Robert Mayer (he/him)
The ongoing pandemic, remote work, and a shifting economy have made many people reconsider their priorities when it comes to work. As a result, employees across sectors are increasingly leaving their jobs and considering new opportunities—creating a dynamic, almost volatile, job market. Here are eight actions employers can take to successfully navigate the current market.
1. Create a values-driven job description
Whether a candidate finds it on a job board or is pointed towards it by a recruiter, for most candidates the job description will be one of the first points of contact with your organization. The description, therefore, needs to have enough information to turn a potential applicant into a candidate by providing information that goes beyond the surface and gives the applicant a deeper sense of your organization’s value proposition.
Include a comprehensive description of employee benefits, including vacation time, remote or hybrid work opportunities, insurance coverage, and any other benefits that make your organization a better place to work. For example, On-Ramps recently had a client who offers a 35-hour work week—a fact that attracted many applicants to apply. And, as we discussed in a previous article, including a salary range is not only crucial to attracting applicants, but also to ensuring that your hiring process is equitable.
Speaking of equity, working at an organization that prioritizes equity internally and externally is a priority for most job seekers. Make sure demonstrations of your organization’s equity practices, culture, and values are embedded throughout the description in a meaningful way.
2. Prioritize the candidate experience
Enticing a candidate to apply with an engaging job description isn’t enough; organizations need to keep applicants engaged throughout the hiring process. Being intentional about cultivating candidates as they move through the hiring process has become increasingly crucial in the past few years because it’s a candidate’s market. We’ve even seen an increase in candidates shifting gears and exploring other options not only at the beginning of the hiring process, but at the end as well.
Prioritizing the candidate’s experience throughout the process will look different depending on your organization, but there are some best practices to consider. For example, we’ve heard from many of our candidates that they aren’t given sufficient time to ask questions at the end of an interview. Candidates have a range of questions, and the typical five minutes at the end just isn’t enough time for employers to provide thoughtful answers.
It can also be beneficial to bring in multiple voices and perspectives throughout the hiring process. Recently, we had a client who was interviewing candidates who would serve as her direct report. In the first round of interviews, she brought in a senior level peer so that she could benefit from an additional perspective and so the candidate could get a better sense of the organization. Multiple candidates told us that they found that setup refreshing because it showed that collaboration was really valued at the organization.
3. Be prepared to move quickly
We’re seeing strong candidates receive outreach from multiple employers at the same time. As a result, it creates a competitive advantage when organizations move candidates through the search process with efficiency and purpose to avoid losing out on great candidates.
This doesn’t mean that you should eliminate steps or rush the process. Rather, before you start the hiring process, you should have everything in place to fully vet candidates, have a really clear sense of the role for which you’re hiring, and ensure that your organization’s final decision makers are on board. Some of these things, such as the pay band, benefit structure, and role responsibilities, should already be clear because they are delineated in the job description. Other aspects will require additional planning, like ensuring that everyone involved in the hiring process has blocked out time for candidates to interview. And, if you do have one or two candidates who score very well against the core competencies for the position, be prepared to prioritize those candidates.
4. Develop an (even more) robust pipeline
Because strong candidates are commonly being approached by and interviewing with multiple employers at once, it is increasingly common for an organization’s top choice candidate to withdraw or decline an offer well into the interview process. Previously, we advised organizations to have two candidates move through the final interview stages in case the first choice candidate didn’t work out. But today, we’ve increased that number to four to account for the level of competition between employers in the current market.
That means going deeper with those four candidates. Although this will mean investing more time in the search process up front, it will save you time in the event that your top one (or two) candidates drop out of the process or accept another offer.
5. Make competitive compensation a priority
Given that we are in a period of inflation, attracting strong candidates requires competitive compensation. If they want to win top talent, employers need to make sure they’re relying on up-to-date data when they’re defining salary benchmarks.
There also needs to be a willingness to negotiate compensation—always within the confines of your organization’s equity commitments. It is very common now for a candidate’s current employer to offer a salary increase when they hear a top-performing employee plans on leaving.
If you don’t have flexibility when it comes to monetary compensation, either due to your own budget constraints or out of regard for pay equity within your organization, consider leveraging other forms of compensation. Can you offer flexible hours, a shorter work week, more paid time off, or remote work options? Are you able to provide a signing bonus while you work to bring every employee’s compensation up to an equitable level?
6. Develop a geographic strategy
If your organization is now set up as a remote work environment and is no longer (or never has been) confined to a single geographic area, you have the opportunity to expand your prospective talent pool significantly.
But, remote hiring does carry some challenges that we recommend considering in advance. Consider how employment laws from another state might affect your organization’s current policies. Think about how you’ll want to handle cost of living adjustments when you have employees spread throughout different local economies. When you address these questions in advance, you can broaden the prospective talent pool and, continue to move quickly once the process is underway.
7. Prepare to talk about equity
In the past few years, organizations across sectors have announced equity commitments—and candidates are increasingly looking to see what steps potential employers have taken to follow through on them. A section on your organization’s website about equity won’t be enough for many candidates. Candidates are going to ask in-depth questions and they want to know how you’re putting those equity-focused commitments into practice.
At On-Ramps, we help our clients articulate what they’ve done to advance their equity goals—and where they are still facing challenges—so that they’re prepared to talk about it during every step of the process. This includes talking about the history of equity work at the organization: How long has this work been a stated commitment? What progress has been made? What substantive initiatives are you currently undertaking to advance these goals? Candidates want to see measurable, quantifiable progress and they want and need transparency.
8. Be open about potential challenges
Honesty and authenticity are key to a successful hiring process. You don't want to go through the whole process, hire a candidate, and then have them leave your organization because they feel blind-sided by the actual day-to-day challenges. Be up-front about the challenges in your organization, big changes that are taking place, and how the employees' role may shift in the future. For example, if your workplace is newly remote, talk about how office policies are changing and where you are still developing new policies. Or, you may need to talk about where the challenges have been in your organization’s equity journey. And, if your organization is planning to restructure or undergo a change in leadership, you should definitely mention that up front.
It can seem counterintuitive to share the internal challenges of your organization with a candidate you are trying to attract. Ultimately they will appreciate your honesty and be better prepared to succeed in the role.
There is a big question mark over the future state of the job market. However, recognizing the power strong candidates with proven track records have in the hiring processes, and treating candidates with kindness and integrity, provides a basic framework for employers to successfully navigate the job market regardless of every changing economic conditions.