Companies Up The Ante as Tech-Savvy Talent Shop for Jobs

Whether it’s pining for a casual work environment, robust employee benefits like free gourmet food or career-advancing opportunities, expectations are high among young job seekers, and it is challenging companies to sweeten their perks.

Mobile job searching is up 95% over the last 12 months, according to new data from Snagajob, giving skilled workers the ability to scour open positions at the tip of a finger and putting companies on the hot seat as they risk being passed up by their competition for a more enticing gig.

“Skilled labor is increasingly in demand, but there isn’t enough supply of skilled, experienced people,” said Dan Finnigan, Silicon Valley recruitment expert and Jobvite CEO.

While hiring hasn’t been robust since the recession, it did pick up in April. The economy added 165,000 jobs last month, up from 138,000 in the prior month, according to the latest jobs report.

Jobs have been returning to the U.S., particularly in the energy and tech sectors, and transaction advisory executives at Ernst & Young on Tuesday predicted hiring improving over the next 12 months as risk-averse companies grow more confident and investors continue to see the U.S. as a more cost-efficient option.

Meanwhile, data from recruitment software maker Jobvite determined that 75% of the American workforce was comprised of job seekers in 2012, compared with 69% in 2011, while more people in 2012 indicated that they were "employed but open" to new jobs compared with the prior year.

Constantly aware of the marketplace, tech-savvy skilled job seekers are “shopping for jobs the way they shop for other things online,” Finnigan said.

It is triggering even the most traditional brands to flirt with more relaxed corporate environments and robust employee benefit plans in an effort to attract a new generation of job seekers that have come to drool over the likes of Google (NASDASQ:GOOG).

But getting too aggressive and setting expectations well above reality can backfire, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of this worker generation that relies heavily on online reviews.

“If you don’t deliver what you promised someone’s going to get there and be disappointed and immediately start looking for a job somewhere else."

- Libby Sartain, former chief HR officer at Yahoo

It can put companies who fail to deliver on promises at risk of a tarnished reputation, hurting their ability to recruit top talent and leading to higher personnel costs.

Some 61% of employees found aspects of a new job different than expectations set during an interview, according to a new study by Glassdoor of more than 2,000 U.S. adults. The biggest disappointments were deceptions about employee morale, job responsibility, hours expected to work and the boss’ personality.

“Recruiters are often more of a sales person – sometimes they sell an experience that probably is not reality,” said Libby Sartain, former chief human resource officer at Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) who currently advises startups. “My recommendation has always been: create an employer brand inside an organization,” meaning employer goals are set long before recruits are brought in.

Human resource departments need to think of their companies as a product, selling an experience to a shopper base of skilled workers who are going to consume the offer, says Finnigan. Presenting a façade that doesn’t exist will only serve to lower morale and bring down corporate culture.

“Employers need to be a little more honest and transparent about the job and culture and have a career site that is a little clearer about what’s out there and not oversell,” Finnigan said. “You can recruit anyone once, but what’s the point of that?”

Jobs review site Glassdoor in a recent report offered advice on how to be sure to avoid the old adage that the grass is always greener. Among its tips are encouraging companies to leverage current employees during the recruiting process who can give greater insight into the worker community and being honest about all the great reasons to work for a company while not shying away from highlighting the areas that need improvement.

“Candidates will appreciate your honesty, plus should they accept a job offer, the excitement that comes with the honeymoon period of a new job will quickly give way to the realities and normalcy that comes with a day-to-day job,” said Amanda Lachapelle, Glassdoor HR Director.

Relaxing traditional mentalities such as “pay your dues” might also help, as new talent might not be planning to stick around for the long haul or might not be willing to jump through hoops.

“People who go into the job market today are always wondering if the job they have is the right job to have at that point in their career,” Finnigan said. “The belief among skilled people is ‘I have to keep moving forward -- I can and I should.’”

Sartain agrees, noting the biggest challenge is a disconnect triggered when the “new generation of workers work for an old generation of managers.”

What managers and HR departments can do, she notes, is keep an open dialogue with employees, encouraging them to bring their concerns forward before immediately jumping ship so they can work together toward a solution.

“If you don’t deliver what you promised someone’s going to get there and be disappointed and immediately start looking for a job somewhere else,” Sartain said. “It’s thinking about how you can keep that person from thinking the grass is always greener.”