Finding right people for the job is a big challenge

Corporate recruiters now have to work harder to find the right resources.

For many small and mid-sized Indian companies finding the best possible people who can fit into culture of the organisation and contribute to it meaningfully is a challenge at the best of times. What makes it even more demanding today is the curious paradox that the employment market presents: an abundance of labour but scarcity of “employable talent”.

True millions of graduates and post-graduates pass out of Indian universities each year but the actual number of employable talent is severely limited. A recent McKinsey report suggests that multinationals for one consider only 10%-25% of India’s graduates employable.  Quality not quantity is the issue.  And a big one.
The gulf between demand and supply is, if anything, expected to widen in the coming years putting firms looking to hire the right talent in a tight spot.

  A survey by staffing services company Manpower (Talent Shortage Survey, May 2011) found 67% of employers struggling to meet their critical hiring targets, compared to about 16% in the previous year.  Virtually every industry – from IT, Retail, Finance to Manufacturing, Telecom and Biotech – is hard put to find skilled workers and managers as they expand. 

Equally worrisome is rising employee mobility, a polite name for job hopping. With a score of 141, India ranks right at the top in terms of the Global Mobility Index as revealed last year by a survey by a top recruiting firm. The intent to change jobs was found to be the highest  among employees in the 23-34 age group.

Research by Corporate Leadership Council, too, affirms that Indian employees have significantly lower levels of intent to stay on in their current jobs than their global peers: employee engagement data showed that across the first quarter of 2011,  only 28.5% of Indian employees exhibited high levels of intent to stay, compared to 60.2% globally. 

Which means that is even if organisations manage to find and hire high-quality talent, they may struggle to hold on to that talent.

The high employee churn puts recruitment departments under considerable pressure. It’s not unusual to find recruiters in some organisations preoccupied almost throughout the year filling the same positions again and again, positions vacated by previous employees who left in a hurry.

Adding to their burden are certain disturbing trends that have picked up momentum in recent times:  Candidates simply not turning up for interviews after clearing the initial screening process, accepting job offers but failing to join, putting forth unrealistic expectations in terms of compensation, designation/grade, faking job experience/qualifications, and so on.  Then there is the menace of poaching of talent by rival firms.

Traits of successful recruiters

The position of the corporate recruiter is no longer as enviable as it was say a decade ago when availability of a steady pool of talent combined with low turnover made the job far less demanding.  And that means, apart from a strong, flexible and adaptive recruitment process and a clear recruitment strategy, an organisation needs to build a team of recruiters with certain core competencies. Here is a short list:      

Sales skills:  In the corporate recruiting business, there simply is no substitute for sales skills.  Corporate recruiters should be able to market/sell the position – and the company - to candidates, skillfully communicating what the candidate will be working on if hired and the benefits of taking the job.

This means that recruiters should have intimate knowledge of the company’s products/services as well as its work culture – and be able to articulate it persuasively while taking care not to “oversell’.  Equally important, they really need to know what the hiring managers are looking for.  Potential candidates are more likely to be positively disposed towards a company whose recruiters are able to carry on an intelligent and informed conversation with them. 

 A great recruiter understands the real job needs,  merely go by the job description that just lists the skills, qualification, experience requirements and maybe an overview of responsibilities. Recruiters need to discuss with the hiring manager to understand what the real job needs are with respective to a specific position or positions.  They should also do some research themselves.

Armed with a firm grasp of the requirements, a recruiter will come across as more credible when discussing the position with candidates.  They might also pick up something unique or exciting about the job that could be presented as a compelling selling point. When a recruiter and the hiring manager work in collaboration, even the job descriptions and the job postings turn our better – that is, more informative and inviting to candidates rather than coming across as too generic, ridden with jargon and clichés.
  
For all this to happen, it is imperative that hiring managers be  receptive to spending time discussing the real job needs with recruiters.  Equally important, hiring managers need to be trained on interviewing skills and should know how to get the new employee started on the right foot by properly managing expectations.  

Multi-tasking:  Once considered a rare talent, multitasking is now seen an essential skill for recruiters whose typical workday is jam packed with various tasks and responsibilities: from creating job posting, searching databases, responding to applicants to sifting through CVs to pre-qualifying candidates and setting up interviews.   What sets successful recruiters apart is their ability to handle with ease more than one thing at a time rather than moving serially through tasks and getting flustered.  They are also well organised, able to prioritise, and are strong in time management skills. 

Listening & communication skills:   The ability to listen to candidates, understand their specific needs and equally to communicate with clarity, asking the right questions at the right time, directing a conversation and keeping it focused, sets apart successful recruiters from the also-rans.  Top recruiters, in fact, spend more time asking questions and listening than they do talking.  Also, recruiters who tend to be rather passive in their dialog with potential candidates run the risk of  letting the candidates walk all over them. Striking the right balance is critical.

Not a 9-5 job:  You cannot be a ‘clock watcher’ in this profession. Many a time, candidates cannot freely at their current jobs and that means a recruiter needs to be available when candidates are ready to speak, and this might even mean foregoing weekends. 

Building a network of candidates:  Going beyond job boards and resume banks, successful recruiters work overtime to build their own network of top-notch potential  candidates – and keep adding to it as they go along. They tap into the network whenever they have open positions to fill, or use the contacts established as referrals to other candidates.  Building such networks takes time, of course, but the payback can be huge. The best recruiters have great relationship building skills, and as they cultivate their  contacts they establish a reputation for themselves for finding outstanding prospects for open positions in their organisation.
        
Savvy recruiters increasingly need to use social media tools to source and recruit talent. With their millions of users, social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin (including blogs) are rich sources of potential candidates. Targeted recruiting apart, these forums are great for brand building. Recruitment today is a specialised role in HR.

But it can often be a thankless job. Few recruiters are  known to receive bouquets for finding the right employees though the brickbats may come their way thick and fast. But then there are “occupational hazards” in any profession and recruitment is no exception.  If you are a recruiter by choice and able to measure up to challenges that come your way, the rewards can be huge.

The writer is Director – Staffing, Arctern, A Subsidiary of Volt Information Sciences, Inc.

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