April 11, 2023

Navigating the Unknown: Managing uncertainty in the World of Recruitment

Courtney Nelson

Courtney Nelson

Senior Manager TA, 09 Solutions
Courtney Nelson

Courtney Nelson, the People Connector and Data Driven Report Guru, has over a decade of HR experience. She previously worked for Crossmark and Informa Markets before joining o9 Solutions as Senior Manager TA. She is also a member of NextUp Texas' Board of Directors.

When asked about the current uncertainty in the talent market, Courtney stated that while there is undoubtedly some degree of uncertainty, historically, the market has typically favored candidates over employers.

Courtney emphasizes that recruitment teams can only hire the right candidates with the appropriate qualities and skill sets if they focus on asking the right questions during the interview process.

I didn't choose recruiting, it chose me.

I didn’t start off with hopes to get into recruiting field, however, I got the right opportunity and I knew it was for me right that instant. I started off with a high-volume hiring project where I led a team that was responsible for hiring 15,000 of 25,000 hires with a retail, merchandising, CPG, sales, and marketing type of company. I then, later on, moved into another journey with trade shows and exhibitions.

I also ventured into tech and Martech platforms and lastly ended up at o9 solutions as a recruiter which is a SaaS-based company. Currently, I am leading teams that are recruiting for North America and Latin America.

So it’s been a great journey so far with encounters in various markets.

There is a false belief that the market currently is an employer market. In fact, it is more of a candidate market depending on the type of role or industry you are recruiting in.

Organizations really need to be concerned about the strategies that are present and what new strategies are to be created in order to retain employees because other sectors are actively hiring. This means that there’s always a chance of people looking at other opportunities. It is also quite essential to maintain a good employer brand now more than ever because candidates will be looking at the brands and will be checking if they are aligned with their values or not.

There are also a lot of massive layoffs that are happening currently which is also creating a lot of uncertainty. But unemployment as of February was just at 3.6% in the United States. So what that essentially is telling me, just from my perspective, is that people are finding work outside of the typical corporate nine-to-five. They’re having a lot of other options to sustain their income than what we did back in 2008.

So people can take the time to really think through what their next step is going to be and make the right decision for them on how they want to proceed forward. While it is still very much of a candidate’s market there will be a mix of expectations being placed by both candidates and the organizations.

Even with a lot of layoffs happening, technology has a role to play in the low unemployment levels.

While there are layoffs, there are people who use TikTok to create videos and use that as a side income. There are also people opting for freelance work apart from their 9 to 5 jobs which indicates that a lot of people have multiple job options now. A few decades back people mostly had just one source of income, however, now the opportunities are quite high. So that is why I think the unemployment rate is quite low now.

One of the greatest impacts is finding good quality candidates at a fast pace.

As far as the impacts of the uncertainty in the market are considered, one of the major challenges is to find qualified candidates. While there are a lot of people who are facing layoffs they are still very focused on which organizations they want to work with. This again attributes to the fact that candidates have multiple sources of income which enables them to pick the right choices.

It also becomes hard for recruiters to hire good talent especially if they’re looking at a role that is not currently facing layoffs. For example, if I am looking for a financial analyst I might not find the right person, since that sector is not facing a lot of layoffs.

Another impact on the recruitment teams is that there are hiring freezes happening due to the uncertainty in the market which then leads to massive layoffs within the recruitment teams. This also means double the work for the roles they are trying to staff with no support behind them. In fact, these are periods, where organizations need to reenergize the teams and pass on some L&Ds for development.

Even if there are hiring freezes occurring right now, these organizations will eventually pick up on the hiring pace. So it is now essential to focus on the brand, the job postings, and other variables that show your brand qualities.

While there are hiring freezes in the organization, it is a great time to check up on the job posting where you can check on how to use gender-neutral language within these postings. It is also essential to check on how to make these posting more attractive so that candidates can catch them in this competitive market. You can also check on the information that you are putting in the job description whether it is telling the candidates the facts they want to see or not.

You can also conduct market analysis to check for trends in the marketplace and what are candidates looking at while choosing employers. So it is a great time to really take that backstep and do some market research to understand various aspects of the market. Another thing that most recruiters might want to touch upon is starting to interact with candidates and understanding their viewpoints and how during an opportunity you can reach out to them for suitable job positions.

The candidates also need to focus on reviewing company pages through LinkedIn and nurturing relationships with recruiters instead of applying to around 200 places.

Candidates can also use the opportunity to check what’s right for them and connect with various recruiting team members and check whether their values are aligned with the organizations. Make sure you’re going to networking events.

Right now, there are a lot of events happening, and the companies that you’re looking at and that are still actively hiring may be at those events. Because at the end of the day, networking is a really easy way to get into a company, especially if you’re looking at switching industries as a candidate or you’re looking at switching to a different type of role. Get as much visibility as you can do during this period.

Changing industries can be quite difficult especially if they’re talking about SaaS, but I think it’s more about the culture and values of the organization.

Yeah, candidates might be a bit hesitant to be moved at least into a SaaS-based industry where there are major layoffs happening and there’s still uncertainty about the future. However, one thing that is quite important is to stay transparent. Let the candidates know where you are in the process.

Talk them through what the process looks like, give them an honest view into the culture of the organization, what’s been ongoing, and the type of things you guys are doing to be proactive versus reactive in a time like today. And then understand more about their aspirations, their wants, and their next corporate role.

So you can make sure it aligns up well and you can really talk to them about what your company has to offer. So yeah transparency is the key.

Data is king, but then just data doesn’t really help. Analyzing and checking what the data has to say is the key.

There more to understand than just data, there are trends, there’s the cost to hire, the turnover rate, and all of those metrics that you need to be mindful about. Because you always want to make sure that your cost to hire is low and also the quality of candidates you hire stays high. Because if it’s taking you longer to fill a role, which your quality of hires is essentially reducing your turnover, then it’s a win. But if you’re taking longer to hire, your cost per hire is up and you have a higher turnover rate, then you have to revisit that story. But if you have a really good attrition rate, your cost per hire is where it needs to be, but your time to fill is high.

What can you do to reduce that to still get the quality of hire, still get the right cost based on your budget especially when you’re looking at cost-effectiveness as an organization right now and making decisions based on that? And then the candidate experience is crucial to understanding what the candidates are saying about your hiring process. Is that causing you to lose top talent? Is it causing you to gain top talent? And how can you continue to tweak that to win great talent into your organization?

Finding the right qualities in a candidate starts by asking the right questions which are again based on the recruitment team.

If you are trying to check the right qualities in a candidate you might start off by checking what the team truly needs. You have to also really immerse yourselves into the role to understand what value add is this candidate going to bring if we hire them.

What’s the importance to the team? How are they going to be a culture add? What can we essentially let them know is going to provide them value if they come into the organization in this role? And then when you’re looking at candidates, after you have that information, really diving again into their aspirations and looking at what they’ve done in their career to find the type of transferable skills that will fit.

This is because soft skills are just as important as technical skills. Because if you hire someone who has zero grit zero communication skills and motivation then they’re probably not going to be successful even if they have good knowledge about the domain and great technical skills overall. So finding a candidate who is both good technical and soft skills is important.

One thing that I like to do is immerse myself and get to know what’s happening in the business.

When interviewing it is more important to ask specific questions regarding your business than just some generic interview questions. This is because it allows you to check whether your candidate has something in common with the business you’re hiring them for. One of the options is to immerse yourself in the day-to-day activities that are conducted by the business even though you do not have that day-to-day contact. The second method is to use ChatGPT to get some specific questions by mentioning the skills you are looking for and then reframing these questions according to your requirements.

So you need to connect well with the candidate and then show them where they can train on the domain knowledge or the technical skill. Because this candidate brings so much more to the table than just that. And to be honest, you’re the expert of the company in your field, so you should be able to build training that can get anyone up to speed if they have some of the core skills that they need on top of the soft skills that’s going to make them successful.

One thing that people starting off with HR needs to know is that it’s going to consistently be uncharted territory.

With the speed of technology and the way things are evolving, the market is going to be ever-changing. You have to consistently be learning and you have to be consistently willing to take risks and be willing to really dive in and learn everything there is to know about the business you’re supporting and the candidates that you’re interacting with.

So, essentially, for me, it’s one of those where my biggest piece of advice would be that if you’re not feeling uncomfortable or unsure about the uncertainty in a situation, then you’re not growing anymore.

So the moment you feel that you’re probably too comfortable, you need to reevaluate and see what you’re missing, so that way you can continue to grow.