You suspect you have a problem with your talent acquisition (TA), but you can't quite pinpoint it. Let's get beyond that sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach and find out what's really going on so you can assess how big of a problem it actually is and what actions (if any!) are required.
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I meet with many great companies experiencing talent acquisition "challenges." Sometimes, identifying the difference between comparatively normal challenges and outright failure is hard. These companies know something is not right and they are experiencing negative consequences in their business – but they aren't sure if there's a systemic problem or if they're simply expecting way too much.
Talent acquisition is a tough business. It's competitive, operationally demanding, and fast-paced. So, feeling stressed and under pressure is absolutely normal on any given day in TA. That's just part of the game. Simply feeling stressed doesn't necessarily mean you have a problem!
But how do you know when the stress signals that you actually have a problem that requires action?
In my experience, there are three major warning signs that signal you're experiencing a systemic problem:
1. You Can't Speak About TA in a Data-Driven Context
Someone asks you what's happening with those engineering jobs, and your answer is something like "We're gaining traction" or "We have good leads." That's not a good enough answer. You should have data that is easily accessible and clearly shows you exactly where things stand at any given time. You should be able to take one look at the data (or share it with someone because it's all nicely displayed on a dashboard) and rattle off how many requisitions are open, how many are on target, which ones are aging, and why they are aging, etc. All the details, right there.
If you can't do this, you have a problem. Why? Because either your team's ability to report and define what they do and how they are doing it is inadequate or your data tools are inadequate. In today's competitive environment, you need the full power of data behind every decision – not only to make better decisions, but also to course-correct throughout the day and apply resources where they are most needed. There are tools that can help you capture the data, interpret it, and use it to make powerful decisions every day. You should consider investing in one.
2. You Are Losing a Lot
While the exact numbers may vary based on your req profile, competitive landscape, and candidate demographics, you can and should benchmark conversion targets and win rates. If +30 percent of qualified candidates aren't interested in interviewing; or if +30 percent of those you interview aren't interested in the job; or +10 percent of those you make offers to don't accept them; or +5 percent of hires don't start, then you have a big, systemic problem.
It could be the interview process and the people who interact with candidates. How well are they trained? Are they selling your company effectively? Do they understand that the candidates have the power now in a competitive market?
It could also be procedural. Is your process too long? Too cumbersome? Is it so thorough that it drives people nuts? If you're too slow, you may be losing people to competitors who are simply faster at hiring than you are.
You could also have an infrastructure problem. Maybe it's the job itself, the hours, a lack of flexibility, benefits, the compensation plan, etc. It's critical to understand your win rates and act on substandard performance to improve your overall ability to compete for and win top talent. Examining and fine-tuning candidate attraction and employment branding strategies, as well as your overall ability to sell the company and your employment value proposition (EVP), will help.
3. You're Getting a lot of the Same Negative Feedback
It needs to be said that all companies get some negative feedback about talent acquisition. The work is too personal. The process itself is stressful, urgent, and competitive. It's normal to break a few eggs.
Typically, the negative feedback from candidates and hiring managers is varied. When you start getting negative feedback on the same issues and/or pointed at the same people or parts of the process, you need to pay attention. A couple of complaints about responsiveness to candidates may be isolated, whereas several dozen complaints indicates that you have a much bigger problem going on.
It may be a problem with your recruiters or their training. Perhaps it's a problem with the quality of screening, consistency, or timeliness of response. It's also possible you could have a procedural or workflow problem. Are you asking candidates to invest too much time and effort before they are even interviewed (e.g., coding tests)? It's possible that you have great recruiters, but the process is designed in such a way that it creates a negative candidate or hiring manager experience. Looking at how you train recruiters and ensuring the growth of their skills and capabilities is critical, as is optimizing your recruitment process workflow to make it easy and attractive for candidates to engage with your company.
If you are doing things well, celebrate, but do remember that it's critical to stay vigilant as the context changes. If you have any of these things going on, take action. All of these challenges can be addressed, and you can build a healthy, responsive, high-performing TA program.
Gregg Karr is executive vice president of Seven Step RPO.