The Internet Is Moving Faster Than Hiring

Although the past few weeks have been rough for the economy, both performance and outlooks have been generally positive for years. Companies are hiring again, which is resulting in a shift of power into the hands of job seekers. Throw in the fact that skilled labor is in short supply, and it’s arguable that lots of candidates have more power than ever before. But there’s another factor in play.

The internet, of course, does many, many amazing things. One that stands out is how it decentralizes information — and as a consequence, power.

Not all that long ago, it was the company doing the hiring that had most of the information — and power. But consider sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Google. They’ve completely transformed the way candidates discover new opportunities, in addition to how they base their decisions upon where to apply.

Most people today could make a pretty good assumption about whether or not to pursue a particular opportunity with just a few minutes of surfing the internet. Give them an hour and they may know the entire company history, how difficult the interview process is, what it’s like to work there, typical salaries, and the degrees of social media separation between them and the hiring manager.

As opposed to in the past, this could now all happen without ever talking to a recruiter. The Talent Board, an organization that researches the experiences candidates have, put this into perspective by reporting that in 2014 78.6% of job seekers became aware of a career opportunity from their own job search.

What’s interesting is the impact of decentralized information on the job search process closely parallels that of the buying process.

Think, for example, about how purchasing a car has changed. At the turn of the millennium, after showing up at a car lot, the everyday buyer was virtually powerless, left mostly to the mercy of the salesperson. Information was available but less accessible in the early 2000s — nothing compared to what’s at our fingertips and in our pockets today.

Since then, just like in the employment arena, entire business models — often driven by user-generated content — have emerged around the distribution of niche categories of information (power), providing visibility into, for instance, the value and quality of cars. The same can be said for just about any process that involves both a transaction and some form of intermediary to complete that transaction.

Recruiters, like salespeople, are being cut out of the early phases of these processes — a variance from tradition initiated by the internet and accelerated by mobile. Access to information, however, has not made these roles obsolete. Companies still have recruiters, just as they still have salespeople. Their roles as well as what’s expected from them are just evolving, albeit much slower in the hiring space.

A rapidly growing area of business strategy is in trying to influence the early phases of transactions. The fact that people prefer to go to review sites, search engines, and social media before making a decision, and then base their decisions upon what’s learned there, means there’s a major opportunity to meet them on that turf, hence the enormous amounts of money being poured into online and mobile marketing — the digital battlefield.

The sales and marketing side of business have been much quicker than talent acquisition departments to adapt to the impacts of the internet. For sales and marketing purposes, some of your favorite companies probably have amazing social media accounts, blogging content, and websites, but it’s not out of the ordinary for those same companies’ career sites and online application experiences to look and operate like they’re from 1999.

Sales and marketing are capitalizing on buyers’ needs for information in the early phases of a transaction, sometimes building their competitive advantage with their ability to meet those needs, while — for the most part — those responsible for hiring haven’t felt the same impetus to perform beyond the internet status quo.

Taking a step back, this makes sense on many levels, because as they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Ignorance to changing buyer expectations and preferences can directly impact the bottom line, whereas not meeting the needs of candidates, and therefore, hiring goals, has much more of an indirect impact.

While indirect, though, the impact hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2014, PwC showed that 63% of CEOs said finding skilled workers was a threat to their business. And then in 2015, we saw the highest number of job openings in fifteen years, and record-level times required to fill positions. Perhaps the CEOs were right.

Although difficulty with hiring skilled individuals may not be directly attributable to the P&L, it’s much more than a trend worth watching. Digital citizens are taking over the workforce, and not before long everyone in the office will have lived most of their life expecting all the information in the world is just a few swipes of the finger away. Companies can’t continue to operate with hiring strategies devoid of internet-centricity.

Given that job seekers have proven to prefer the self-service model for identifying opportunities, it’s time that more employers start considering what that means exactly, as well as what’s within and out of their control. It may not be possible to change your employer rating on Glassdoor, but the leading indicators of that rating like employee satisfaction could definitely be addressed internally. Steps can be taken to provide the best possible web experience when candidates find your career site. Recruiters can be equipped with social media skills. The list goes on.

In 2016, talent acquisition needs to be thinking more like digital marketers, because candidates are thinking more like consumers.