Talent Shortage or Just Short-Sighted Recruiting? How a more contemporary experience can fuel your candidate pipeline

By J. James O’Malley, Former Andersen National Director of Experience Recruiting,

Jim is a Managing Director at Stanton Chase focused on helping professional service and financial service organizations with critical talent needs. For over 30 years, Jim has leveraged his passions for executive search, talent acquisition, workforce planning and analytics, and executive coaching to solve a variety of talent acquisition challenges. For more information and to contact Jim Click Here.

Articles about today’s talent shortage seem to be popping up everywhere, which is not surprising when unemployment in the U.S. is at its lowest since 1969[1]. And with over 6 million jobs remaining vacant each month, the looming retirement of baby boomers will undoubtedly escalate the war for talent and cause employers to rethink their hiring tactics.[2] Obviously the talent shortage is real, but an outdated approach to acquiring talent may be a root cause behind the large discrepancy between available jobs and employees to fill them.

A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted the lengths some employers will go to fill their open positions. One major retailer offered a full-time sales job on the spot after a single 25-minute interview, a large caterer extended a seasonal position to a candidate after just a phone interview, and a healthcare company filled several entry-level positions using the results of an online assessment and “virtual job tryout.” While these companies have adopted practices to create a more “contemporary candidate experience,” filling an open position in record time is not the only weapon needed to win the talent war.

Develop a talent supply chain

“Recruitment” and “talent acquisition” are often believed to mean the same thing, but their true meanings are quite different. Recruitment is an employer’s reactive response to an open position that originates from a linear process as illustrated by the Wall Street Journal scenarios. Talent acquisition is a proactive approach to addressing future hiring needs. It creates a candidate pipeline through planning and strategy, relationship building, employer branding, and metrics. While recruitment is a part of talent acquisition, it should not be the be-all, end-all to hiring. Building a talent supply chain can help employers hire more top talent and yield much better results.

Candidate pipelines start with the identification of strong candidates (e.g., employee referrals, finalists for filled positions, individuals from networks, etc.) and a plan for making and maintaining contact (e.g., company newsletters, blog posts, personal emails, etc.). The goal is to grow relationships that will speed up the selection and hiring process when relevant opportunities open.

I would argue that building a talent pipeline in response to today’s tight market requires companies to create a more comtemporary candidate experience. But contemporary does not mean simply developing a faster hiring process or using automated tools to assess applicants. Instead, I would encourage hiring managers to closely focus on the candidate throughout the hiring process and develop methods that will help identify the best candidates and lead to smarter hiring decisions.

Components of a contemporary candidate experience

Traditional interviewing methods, such as in-person one-on-ones, phone screening, and panels, still have value in today’s environment, but they have been shown to be ineffective in certain areas. According to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report, 63 percent of surveyed recruiters and hiring managers felt they did not successfully assess a candidate’s soft skills and 57 percent thought they did not help them understand a candidate’s weaknesses.[3]

How do you create a contemporary candidate experience? Well, you don’t need to recreate the wheel! The key is to return to some basics while keeping a few success factors in mind:

1. Make the hiring process easy.

Evaluate whether time-consuming steps like completing a lengthy application or taking online aptitude tests are essential before a candidate talks to someone about a job. The goal is to limit the number of barriers applicants may encounter:

  • Can a candidate apply with a mobile app?
  • How flexible are interviews? Are they scheduled after hours or on weekends?
  • Are you using video to interview remote candidates?

Easy isn’t achieved by skipping important steps to speed up the process. Executive positions and customer-centric roles will still require face-to-face interviews and most likely several of them with various people in the company.

2. Be responsive.

Leaving candidates in the dark is a sure-fire way to lose the war for talent. There is nothing more frustrating than losing a great candidate because deciding whether he/she was the best fit for the role took too much time. Employers should not wait longer than four business days (two business days is optimal) after interviewing to respond to a candidate with your next-step decision. Keep in mind that candidates can become customers in the not so distant future, so being courteous with a timely response is just good business.

Time to fill has long been a means of measuring recruiting effectiveness, but too often it gets overshadowed by cost per hire. Measuring time to fill means nothing unless your organization is acting upon the data. Responsiveness should not stop once an offer is accepted but continue through the onboarding period.

3. Carefully select your interview team.

Most have probably heard or experienced the scenario where a great candidate drops out from consideration towards the end of the hiring process after being interviewed by a senior leader. For younger candidates, meeting with an interviewer who has 20+ years of experience may present a dated or distorted portrait of the company and make it more challenging to visualize working there.

Be sure those involved in the interview process know how to sell the company and assess candidates for the position. Interviewers should be briefed on what questions are illegal or inappropriate and be discouraged from talking too much about themselves and their career path.

Interviewers should also be familiar with an applicant’s resume before the meeting and not keep a candidate waiting. With the current talent shortage, employers are selling themselves to candidates as much as candidates are selling themselves to employers.

4. Focus on essential job requirements.

Job postings have turned into extended documents with countless “essential” requirements that few candidates, if any, actually have. While recruiters use job descriptions to plan their search strategy and assess applicants, candidates use the same job descriptions to evaluate whether they want (or can do) the job. Lengthy job postings can discourage good candidates from applying if they feel they do not have all the skills and experience listed.

Be careful about relying too heavily on resume tracking systems that automatically screen resumes. Great resumes are comprised of more than just a few keywords, so it is prudent to take the time to read resumes and obtain a complete snapshot of a candidate’s experience.

5. Train good candidates for open positions.

Some would argue that the talent shortage is exacerbated by a reluctance within companies to devote the necessary resources to training new employees. Hiring smart people and helping them develop needed skills certainly seems like a more viable solution than conducting an endless search for a few select candidates who possess the perfect mix of skills and experience.

Yes, training takes time and costs money; however, so does recruiting. A strong candidate who lacks specific technical abilities or industry experience may have transferable skills that will shorten their learning curve.

6. Use innovative interviewing methods.

Interviewing innovations, such as soft skills assessments, job auditions, and meeting in casual environments are growing in popularity and providing critical insights into a candidate’s qualifications.

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed for the Global Recruiting Trends report said soft skills assessment tools were one of the most useful interviewing innovations by evaluating areas such as teamwork and flexibility that directly relate to overall job performance. Insights can be obtained quickly, scaled easily, and are less biased than traditional formats.3

Fifty-four percent of respondents thought seeing a candidate in action by letting them perform the role for a trial period was one of the most useful interviewing innovations and leads to a more satisfying candidate experience. Job “auditions” not only help the employer evaluate a candidate’s potential success in the role, but also provide a better sense of the ins and outs of a job, which can lead to lower attrition and higher candidate satisfaction.3


A contemporary candidate experience will not lead to a growing talent pipeline without first evaluating what motivates your candidates. Below are the typical categories along with insights into how to approach each group:


[1] Cutter, Chip, Yes, You’re Hired. No, We Don’t Need to Meet You First (2018, November 15), Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://wsj.com

[2] McCann, David, Think There’s a Talent Shortage Now? Just Wait (2018, May 7), CFO. Retrieved from http://cfo.com

[3] Lewis, Gregory. 5 New Interviewing Techniques That You Should Start Using (2018, January 29), Talent Solutions, Retrieved from http://linkedin.com

[4] Cutter, Chip, Yes, You’re Hired. No, We Don’t Need to Meet You First (2018, November 15), Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://wsj.com

[5] McCann, David, Think There’s a Talent Shortage Now? Just Wait (2018, May 7), CFO. Retrieved from http://cfo.com

[6] Lewis, Gregory. 5 New Interviewing Techniques That You Should Start Using (2018, January 29), Talent Solutions, Retrieved from http://linkedin.com