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Written by Alex Andrews

While Alberta has less jobs to offer, it is critical to fill those open roles with the best available talent.

As organizations and applicants jockey for the upper hand in a constantly shifting market, there is an intense, but subtle battle waging around us for acquiring the best talent, or procuring that next role.

Looking back over the last six months, the labour market pendulum has swung drastically. With the advent of layoffs due to economic uncertainly, the labour market, as we currently know it, is changing. It is replete with eager job seekers, but drained of new opportunities and doesn’t seem to be lightening up. In Statistics Canada’s July 2015 Labour Force Survey, they stated there were upwards of 11,400 fewer jobs in Alberta in June than compared to January 20151. That is one of the largest declines in employment over the last few years. Unemployment rates rose from 4.5 per cent in January to 5.7 per cent in June, marking the single highest jump since June 2009. However, Statistics Canada states there are still jobs in Alberta, but that number is dwindling2.

The reality we live in is that recruiting has changed, and so should we. Certainly, some of it comes down to economic influences out of our control, drought conditions, failing oil prices, and the continuing adjustments from the recession. However, technological advances are drastically impacting the status quo and it is vital for those in the battle of recruiting and being recruited to understand how the market is evolving to situate themselves for success. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Therefore, to be successful in this declining labour market, our war tactics must change.

Employers

HR practices involving recruitment and selection are still archaic – someone voluntarily or involuntarily leaves their role; HR writes a job profile and fills it with the required skills and competencies; the job is advertised; and, applicants apply. HR then waits a week or two until there is a good sample; screens and shortlists applicants; five candidates are invited for interviews. After a couple of standard interviews, and possibly some personality or competency assessments or tests, the best candidate is extended an offer; he or she gives notice at their current place of employment and starts a few months or so after the vacancy was first created.

Attracting and selecting the best talent is becoming more challenging as systems and recruiters are flooded with applications. So here are a few recruitment tips to pay attention to:

Be Proactive
Frankly, the best talent is probably already employed, so one of the biggest shifts in recruitment is not waiting for the vacancy and then the right candidate, but planning and then going out and finding that candidate. This requires thorough workforce planning. HR analytics has increased the quality of workforce planning by putting good data in the hands of the recruiter. Knowing this data, truly understanding it and interpreting it, will enable you to guide the business to know what kind of talent they need. Do not just recruit for vacancies, but recruit to increase your bench strength that you can draw on for the capabilities you will need in the future.

Assess Values and Personality, Not just Skills
As recruiters are inundated with applications, especially in this market, it is easy to simply shortlist applicants based on skills. Although, these skills get the candidate noticed on paper, look for values and a personality that fits with the organizational culture. Skills and capabilities can be taught, but some behaviours can be detrimental if overlooked because someone had the “right” experience.

Improve Employer Branding and Community Management
With social media and other online platforms being the initial go-to touch point for applicants, making your presence known and culture felt has never been more important. Create a compelling employer brand by developing a career site, outlining the organization’s values, culture, accomplishments, and benefits. Creating a strong brand image to generate a greater following is essential to strengthening your bench and attracting the right individuals who want to be a part of what you are building. Advertising a good sense of what it is like to be a part of your organization will generate buy-in and commitment long before they join your organization.

Allow for Assignments and Flexible Work Arrangements

With the increase of an accessible workforce due to technology, allowing for and promoting flexible work models is a key factor for the modern day employee. Whether that’s allowing for part-time, temporary and remote work, giving options is a great way to increase attention to your organization.

Take it Mobile

In 2013, mobile device traffic grew by 81%3. Employers need to focus on mobile recruiting more than ever before. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, career sites need to be mobile friendly, therefore, create a careers site that lets job seekers apply for jobs directly from their devices.

Applicants

The days of sending out a hard copy resume are over. To find that next opportunity, and take your career to the next level, you will need to change how you look for work. Here are a few job search trends to leverage:

Know your Stuff

A thorough and complete understanding of the job market, what is transpiring and intimate details of the organization you want to join are critical. Do not blindly apply and come unprepared – know your customer, know their business and pains points, and show how you can add value.

Be Proactive, Network and Get Referred

Simply hitting refresh on your browser to reload the list of jobs online won’t cut it. You must find different ways to get yourself in front of an employer, and this requires a specific strategy. Be proactive in developing a strong network of professionals in the field you want to be in; build a relationship with them, and let them get to know you; then, ask for that referral. As employers continue to use applicant-tracking systems to mine applicants, a referral is a surefire way to get in front of an employer and is the best source to land that job.

Jump on Social Media

Employers are becoming ever more dependent on social media for recruiting. They are using various platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, personal blogs, Twitter, etc.) to find and vet applicants to fill positions. According to the 2014 Jobvite survey3, LinkedIn remains the number one social network employers utilize for finding candidates, with 94% of employers identifying LinkedIn as a principal source. 66% use Facebook and 52% use Twitter. 95% of employers stated they use Linkedin and other social media sites to search for, and to contact candidates. Arguably, job seekers who have no online presence – or a poor presence – will be overlooked.

Get Mobile

With the sharp increase in mobile device traffic, being in touch and accessible at all times is essential, and having your cover letters and resumes readily available, will increase your ability to respond. These documents should be designed in a mobile-friendly format. Ensure all content is suitable for mobile consumption.

Although the above is not an exhaustive list of everything an employer or job seeker can do on the battlefield, at the end of the day, doing your due diligence to get to know your customer, having a strong strategy of being proactive, having an online presence, and allowing for flexibility will ensure the best possible outcome.

Sources:

1 – Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, June 2015 - http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/150710/dq150710a-eng.htm

2 – Source: Statistics Canada, The Daily, July 10, 2015 and CANSIM table 282-0087

3 – Jobvite Survey 2014 - http://www.jobvite.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Jobvite_SocialRecruiting_Survey2014.pdf