Hiring Trends Take a Page Out of the Dating Playbook | Deloitte US has been saved
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By Denise Moulton, Human Capital Insights Leader, Insights2ActionTM
Ask anyone in the dating market right now, and they’ll tell you it’s a desperate, high-tech, fast-paced emotional roller coaster with an ever-changing set of rules. You know, the same could be said of today’s hiring trends and the future of recruiting. The rules of engagement have changed entirely. What was once a bidirectional, respectful interaction between two parties with a mutual goal has morphed into a frantic journey and waiting game, laden with confusion, frustration, and brazen unprofessionalism. In this career-courtship environment, the job seekers have all the leverage.
On January 3, 2022, Deloitte launched Insights2Action™, a platform that helps organizations improve work, workplace, and workforce outcomes through data-driven decision making. Not just a content platform, this is a method business leaders can use every day to ask the right questions and solve key problems through a process of sense, analyze, act. Let’s use that method to tackle this problem.
Thanks to the Great Resignation1, we are facing an all-time-high global talent shortage2. In a world where accessing and engaging talent was already complex, workers today suddenly find themselves in a position of command-and-control of their job search, which feels like a complete role reversal from traditional hiring dynamics where organizations offered up good jobs and applicants appeared in droves.
Hiring managers today are undoubtedly feeling the sting of rejection as they wait by the phone and wonder what they did wrong. Though much has changed of late in this field, some things haven’t. Like the dating market, both candidate and organization are simply looking for the illusive spark that, if lucky enough, leads to a favorable match. In that case, perhaps hiring managers should take a page out the dating playbook? If you’ve ever heard the terms ghosting, benching, and breadcrumbing, this is where it gets interesting.
Ghosting: Where did all the candidates go?
One unfortunate dating phenomenon that has made its way into the realms of hiring is candidate ghosting, or disappearing suddenly. In dating, this is when one party stops responding to texts, calls, and direct messages on social media. Poof, they’re gone, and the other party is left wondering why. Given the overwhelming imbalance of talent supply and demand, job seekers seem to have adopted the ghosting technique, with some reports indicating an astounding 76 percent of employers had been ghosted over the past year3. The candidate, once interested in learning more about the position, just stopped responding to emails and calls or even stood-up a scheduled in-person or virtual interview. What’s even worse is a growing trend of candidates simply disappearing after receiving a job offer. This is left-at-the-altar-level ghosting and a clear indication that something is just not right with the process.
Benching: How many other hiring managers are you talking to?
Another dating term/phenomenon is “benching,” which is when someone is not actually interested in dating a particular person but stays in contact with them to keep their options open. They keep one person (or several) on the bench, like in baseball, while they date their leading hitter. In hiring, this translates to a situation in which your prime candidate—who is only mildly available for interviews, follow-up calls, second interviews, etc.—is most likely relegating your job opening to their bench while breaking out the wine and roses for another.
Breadcrumbing: This candidate is interested in the job … I think.
Just when you thought dating wasn’t challenging enough, you learn about “breadcrumbing,” or the act of leading someone on with occasional texts and inquiries while secretly being not interested or (at worst) manipulative. Hiring managers might find themselves engaging with candidates that express interest at somewhat regular intervals and say all the right things but with the sole intention of stringing you along without any intention of working for your firm. Then, one day, just like that, they’re gone.
Is this payback time for hiring managers and the Talent Acquisition (TA) function?
For hiring managers, these dating scenario nightmares might seem like bad karma or déjà vu, as it’s usually the candidates that have experienced both a lack of response and transparency in the hiring process. Whether or not it’s payback time, this is the situation at hand.
Candidate ghosting, benching, and breadcrumbing are more than subtle acts of rejection, they represent a fundamental imbalance of realities—prospects move on coldly and without remorse while hiring managers are left feeling like a wallflower at a middle-school social. However, if these tactics are here to stay, how can hiring managers and recruiting teams rise, recover, and bounce back?
Get back to basics
At a time when talent shortages are crippling the TA function—and ghosting is wreaking havoc on hiring—it’s time to double-down on the basics that are often forgotten in disruptive business contexts.
Hallmarks of high performance in TA are fostering engaging candidate experiences, tailoring communications, and treating all talent prospects with care4. Hiring managers and their leaders find themselves at a defining moment trying to figure out how to leverage emerging technology, how to test alternative work models, and how to keep humans at the center of work. The dating world faces similar mandates: adopt technology (e.g., dating apps) first, weigh options second, and (finally, hopefully?) foster meaningful connections.
Consider candidate sourcing and engagement akin to the “courting period,” which should be pretty simple for hiring managers to understand. Here’s some dating advice for hiring managers.
1) “Date around” using real-time talent solutions.
Regardless of the negative impact of ghosting on candidate pools, hiring managers need real-time talent solutions. A strategy deployed by modern organizations is tapping into alternative or gig workers to enhance talent models5. This means hiring managers may find themselves at a true inflection point as they look beyond “acquiring talent” with a keen eye toward “accessing capabilities.” The outcome is the same regardless of who completes the work. This “try before you buy” first-date approach is a solid way to gauge if a worker is right for a role and additive to organizational culture.
2) “Date yourself for a while” through strategic internal mobility.
Nobody knows the potential of existing employees better than the employer. An often overlooked but effective way to source talent is to look proactively within the organization. Partnering together, hiring managers and recruiters can actively shape the internal prospect pool and cultivate the talent from within6. A word of caution for hiring managers—kindly avoid “benching” internal talent while waiting to see if an external prospect seems a little sweeter. In the dating world, de-prioritization could squash a budding relationship, and the same fate could occur in the office.
3) Set the tone and cement the experience.
Hiring managers generally accustomed to evaluating good-sized candidate pools now have fewer options and likely several open requisitions. Thankfully, hiring managers needn’t play the role of scorned paramour for long, thanks to augmented TA functions focused on human interactions and relationship-building7. Hiring managers (and the entire TA function, for that matter) need to flip the narrative and recognize that recruiting—like dating—is a two-way street.
To ensure you make meaningful connections in the hiring process, remember to:
a) Open your calendar and schedule more interviews than you originally intended; think of it as the next generation of strategic speed dating.
b) Be upfront with candidates about where you are in the hiring process and what to expect as next steps. If you do not see a future with the candidate, say so.
c) Be mindful, authentic, and create space for candidates to ask questions and talk about what they want.
d) Finally, set aside the templated list of standard questions and have a real conversation.
Accessing talent is essential for business growth and operational health, as every organizational leader knows. Hiring managers can’t afford to stand still while premium talent has almost limitless options and is not afraid to play the field. Dating and hiring are intricate sports that require patience, communication, and meaningful interactions. For hiring managers, these subtle, low-cost nuances could lead to a small spark and, eventually, a mutually beneficial relationship.
Denise Moulton, Human Capital Insights Leader, Insights2ActionTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP
1The ‘Great Resignation’: A Challenge and an Opportunity for Organizations, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2021 https://humancapitalresearch.deloitte.com/article/the-great-resignation-a-challenge-and-an-opportunity-for-organizations-14017/
2ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey Q3 2021, https://go.manpowergroup.com/talent-shortage
3Employer Ghosting: A Troubling Workplace Trend, https://www.indeed.com/lead/impact-of-covid-19-on-job-seeker-employer-ghosting
4Six Key Insights to Put Talent Acquisition at the Center of Business Strategy and Execution, Deloitte Consulting, LLP, 2021
5Creating Value and Impact through the Alternative Workforce, Deloitte Consulting, 2020 Implementing New Strategies to Acquire and Engage Alternative Talent (1).pdf (deloitte.com)
6Six Key Insights to Put Talent Acquisition at the Center of Business Strategy and Execution, Deloitte Consulting, LLP, 2018
7Is Agility the Answer for Talent Acquisition? Deloitte Consulting, LLP, 2019 https://humancapitalresearch.deloitte.com/article/is-agility-the-answer-for-talent-acquisition-7801/