October 20, 2022

3 Ways for Talent Professionals to Stay Active in a Hiring Slowdown

The past couple of years have been challenging for talent acquisition professionals. Whether it was keeping up with staffing demands during the pandemic, attracting high-quality candidates during a labor shortage, or the latest hiring freezes, one thing is certain — the world of talent acquisition today looks very different. And that change is only accelerating. 

In an interview with Eightfold AI, recruiting strategy industry veteran Josh Rock shared three core pieces of advice for those impacted by these shifts — and looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve. 

Currently, the Talent Acquisition Manager with Nuss Truck & Equipment, Rock has over 20 years of experience consulting with businesses including H&R Block, Mayo Clinic, WWE, and BNS, helping them recruit and retain talent. He also shares career advice as the lead moderator of @JobHuntChat, the oldest weekly job advice chat on Twitter.

Rock cited findings from the Eightfold AI 2022 Talent Survey, which revealed a daunting statistic: 74 percent of respondents said they’d considered applying for a job in the past 12 to 18 months but stopped short due to confusion over whether they were the right fit for the role. Either they felt that their experience didn’t fit the job description, or the job description itself was unclear.

Rock has seen this kind of reluctance firsthand in his work. “Blue-collar workers, like warehouse and truck drivers, don’t have five-page LinkedIn resumes or profiles,” he said. “They don’t want to put in everything that they’ve done. They want to know, ‘How can I get the job tomorrow versus three weeks from now?’”

Rock said that solutions for this and other recruiting challenges — like what to do in times of hiring slowdowns — might already be within reach. Here are his three takeaways on “future-proofing” the role of talent acquisition professionals to get ahead of whatever challenges the market may bring.

Future-ready talent strategies are good to have under your belt in the current environment — learn the latest thinking from Activision Blizzard’s Director of Talent Sourcing.

Identify Broken Processes

A slowdown period is an ideal time for recruitment professionals to “streamline processes,” Rock said, not just for himself and his interior managers, but for candidates, too.

“I’m in a blue-collar industry, hiring diesel technicians and parts people to keep America moving in trucking,” Rock said. “We find that candidates don’t want to fill out a long, lengthy application unnecessarily. We needed to find ways to shorten the process and [remove] the hoops and hurdles they go through to get to me. When I have downtime, I step back, look through their lens, and find ways to [simplify] that process so I can get better candidates coming through.”

According to a Greenhouse study, most job seekers (70 percent) are unwilling to endure a job application process lasting more than 15 minutes. So to get more candidates through the door at Nuss, Rock created a “short-apply” process allowing candidates to text him directly and start a conversation about the open job.

A slowdown is a great opportunity to improve relationships with hiring managers. Rock recommends asking the right questions to understand pain points and talent needs better. “I ask, ‘What’s new in your world?’” he said. “It gets them to tell me a story, what’s going on today. Now you know what the issues have been [and] how we can move forward.”

Next, take a look at your job descriptions. Are you transparent about work hours, compensation, and key performance indicators? A good list of first-year KPIs can inspire candidates to focus less on past experiences and more on their potential to succeed in the role. 

“It’s a great way to get past biases in your hiring, people not having so many years of experience, but they can fulfill the KPI,” Rock said.

Finally, take advantage of the current environment to clear your desk, literally and metaphorically. Perhaps you need to simplify your reporting processes, move from pen-and-paper to digital note-taking, and do some value stream or process mapping to determine if you’re working as effectively as possible. 

Look to What Help Vendors Can Offer

In the Eightfold Talent Survey, 37 percent of HR leaders reported that the lack of integration with traditional HR systems prevented them from adopting AI for recruiting. On the contrary, according to Josh Bersin, AI-powered talent intelligence is meant to be a “system of record” that layers with existing data sources to paint a complete picture of the workforce.

Rock said that finding the right vendor can be tricky, but it’s necessary. 

“I still see a number of HR tech vendors who try to become the jack of all trades, master of none,” he said. “I see a lot of HCMs with added [applicant tracking systems] that suck, or payroll systems that have ATS, but they suck. I say that because I’ve been in that space and sold an ATS. I understand it.”

He recommends evaluating how your HCM, HRIS, or ATS systems are working — or not — and asking your vendors if your system has new capabilities. Rock encourages talent leaders to push their vendors to help solve emerging issues, like how to sort through a large volume of resumes or support internal mobility at scale. 

Get other people involved if your system is not suited to your needs. For example, a system that easily integrates with AI can make things easier for recruiters, employees, and candidates, helping to fill the right roles with the right people.

Find champions across your organization by starting conversations with IT to understand system upgrades and HR leaders for the big-picture talent strategy.  “Look for your trusted advisers, people there to help you through the hoops,” Rock said. “They’re going to help you with all those elements [toward] one holistic approach.”

3 Ways for Talent Professionals to Stay Active in a Hiring Slowdown

Grow Your Skills

While a hiring slowdown is a great time to improve recruiting processes and your tech stack, it’s also a great time to up your recruiting game. Expanding your skill sets can make you more valuable as a recruiter and a team member.

According to Global Workforce Intelligence research from The Josh Bersin Company, larger companies cannot rely on recruiting as the sole revenue growth tactic. Instead, talent acquisition professionals should add future-ready skills to their repertoire, including working with senior leadership, career growth, leadership coaching, and developing leaders to prepare for significant shifts in their roles.

Rock said there are several ways to build those skills.

Identify your skill gaps and growth areas, and then work to fill them through certifications, classes, podcasts, and webinars. Be a continuous learner and challenge yourself to take in new information daily. Get involved in cross-functional projects, and join employee groups and activities.

Finally, find a mentor or group of advisers. Rock suggests looking for mentors both within and outside your organization is essential.

“I have my own board of personal advisers I can go to and say, ‘Hey, I’m struggling with this.  What do I do?’ Or ‘I want to get to this next level. How do I get there?’ These trusted people help me be better. Hopefully, I can return the favor.”

Ready to learn more about how AI can help with talent acquisition? Read “3 Myths About Recruiting, Exposed by AI.