More Competitive Hiring Market Demands More Proactive Measures by Employers

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

May 29 — Today's hiring market is much tougher for employers than it was a few years ago, with only 1.7 unemployed people per open job, the lowest since 2007, “and it's not going to get any easier,” Jessica Miller-Merrell, chief blogger at Blogging4Jobs, said in a May 28 webinar.

At present, positions are going unfilled for 26 business days or more in the non-farm economy, Miller-Merrell said, adding that the most intense competition in non-tech industries is found, in decreasing order, in information, warehouse, wholesale and retail trade, government and other services.

In addition, she said 2014 was the best year for job creation since 1999. In September, for instance, 2.8 million people voluntarily left their jobs. These factors are making it take longer to fill open jobs and resulting in “multiple offer scenarios and high turnover,” she said.

Many candidates are juggling up to four competing offers, Will Thomson, chief executive officer of Bulls Eye Recruiting, said during the webinar. Therefore, employers should “be careful” when job candidates give them “a dollar figure,” because they may use it as leverage to get more money from the competition. “There are things going on now we haven't seen since the dot-com boom,” he added.

Moreover, the competition may not be over even when a promising candidate has been brought on board, Miller-Merrell said. “The first 90-180 days are critical” because new hires are still getting “job alerts” for other positions, she said.

Five-Pronged Approach Recommended

To improve hiring, Miller-Merrell and Thomson recommend a five-pronged approach: have an established process, do market research into what the competition is doing, engage in candidate marketing through multiple employment branding channels, develop relationships and make efficient use of technology.

Miller-Merrell and Thomson presented a slide with examples of employment branding channels, including employee referrals, social media, visual effects (video), print, websites, brand ambassadors, job boards and aggregators, career events and career sites.

“We have to source people before” they're ready to leave their previous position, “or if we're lucky, right as” they leave, and develop a relationship with them, Miller-Merrell said.

One way to research the competition is by “mystery shopping” for the same kinds of jobs your organization is trying to fill. “I will go to competitors and apply for jobs, or my team will,” Miller-Merrell said. She related an experience she had hiring for Home Depot in the Kansas City area. When the retailer was hiring for many positions at once, “I would seek out the friendliest sales associate at Lowe's, hand them my card and say I want to hire you and all your friends. That meant I often got kicked out, but that's a good thing because then everyone on the [competitor's] store's grapevine hears about it.”

One new-age tech tip for hiring is to create videos “to attract people who are tired of reading job postings,” Thomson said.

Miller-Merrell noted that the average U.S. adult spends five and a half hours a day watching videos. “Video helps you stand out from competitors,” she said.

Not that technology substitutes for personal contacts. “I try to meet three to five people a week for coffee; even if they're not looking for work right now, they may refer someone else,” Thomson said. “Half the people I've placed have been friends of referrals.”

The webinar was sponsored by TalentObjects, a U.S. subsidiary of the U.K. firm Lumesse that develops talent management software.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at