“Writing a check,” Warren Buffett famously quipped, “separates a commitment from a conversation.” This used to be true of submitting a job application as well, but not in today’s increasingly competitive, digitally enhanced recruiting environment, Gartner Principal Executive Advisor Dion Love explained at Gartner’s ReimagineHR summit in London on Wednesday. The path most candidates take through the recruiting process has fundamentally changed, which means organizations must also change their approach to recruiting in order to remain competitive.
Prior to the digital era, the typical candidate’s journey looked something like this: They researched companies to find out whether they wanted to work there, narrowed down their choices to a shortlist of preferred employers, applied for jobs, and finally spoke with recruiters. This candidate usually only made it to the interview stage with organizations they had already researched and were certainly interested in joining. Recruiters could assume that a candidate who sent in a résumé was committed to seeing the process through to the end.
Yet whereas the job application used to come toward the end of the candidate journey, it now often comes at the very beginning. Here’s what the journey normally looks like now: A candidate casually applies to a number of jobs they may or may not want, speaks with recruiters, then researches the employers that are interested in hiring them and narrows their choices down to one.
This shift in candidate behavior creates a whole new set of challenges for recruiters.
In today’s labor market (which in the US, UK, and other advanced economies is historically tight), demand for talent is high, especially in critical roles. Candidates know they have lots of options, so their job searches are often more casual and their commitment to a specific potential employer may be much lower. Digital technology has also made it easier than ever to search and apply for available jobs; when a candidate can submit their application with one click on LinkedIn, the fact that they have applied is no longer any indicator of their level of commitment. Once, organizations worried about having too few applicants for an available role; now, many find themselves overwhelmed by too many candidates.
The new, less committed, more casual candidate would seem to hold all the cards, and indeed they are more empowered in the recruiting process than they were before. That doesn’t mean they’re happy, though. In fact, the lower cost of applying for a job has resulted in more applications falling into a black hole, which means even qualified candidates often never hear back from prospective employers. High demand for talent, meanwhile, has resulted in more candidates making choices they regret, hurting retention and pushing up employers’ acquisition costs.
In this environment, the challenge for the recruiting function is no longer in attracting more candidates, but rather in driving good decisions by the candidates they have. That means crafting recruitment messages that resonate with candidates’ values, digging deeper to find signals of candidate commitment, and managing elements of the candidate experience that lead to higher-quality decisions.
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