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Thought Leadership

What to Do When Everyone is a Candidate

It's a candidate-driven market, and what may have worked in the past is now irrelevant.

Friday, July 21, 2017
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Both employees and companies alike have grown used to the fact that the days of 40-year stints with one employer are long past. But are we ready for the reverse to be true -- a world in which everyone is a candidate?

LinkedIn's 2016 Talent Trends survey (based on a 2016 survey of 26,000 professionals who shared their job-seeking habits and 7,000 people who recently changed jobs) revealed that 90 percent of professionals are interested in hearing about a new role, even if they're not fully committed to entering the job market. We're witnessing the dawn of an age of "open talent" that presents new challenges -- and opportunities.

It makes sense. Buoyed by a more-optimistic job outlook and supported by easier access to jobs, many employees are more inclined either to look for new roles or to accept a recruiter's advances. Gallup confirmed a dramatic uptick in career optimism in recent years:
"Americans have increasingly positive perceptions of the job market and what it offers. In 2012, an average of 19 percent said it was a good time to find a quality job. For the first three quarters of 2016, an average of 42 percent said the same."

What's more, the number of workers who voluntarily leave their jobs has returned to near pre-recession levels, from 2.1 million in August 2012 to 3 million in August 2016, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In summary, the workforce has gotten its swagger back.

Here at LinkedIn, we see this play out in a number of ways. I was particularly struck by the story of Derrick Espinoza, a field engineer who was experiencing the "what if" syndrome, which spurred him to the very action which made his childhood dream job a reality. And in the digital age, dreams can become reality at a click of the mouse.

After yet another long commute home, Derrick did a quick search on LinkedIn for electrical engineering jobs and started to apply for a position at Equinix. He wasn't serious about looking, though, and didn't finish the application. He selected the option to share his profile with the hiring manager and left it at that. However, the hiring manager went ahead and contacted Derrick and, within two weeks, hired him.

Employers, be prepared; there's real opportunity here. While it's true that employees like Derrick may be more easily lured away to new roles, companies can do a number of things to retain star players and entice new folks to join.

Bury your old notions of career growth. In a world where skills acquired in college have a shelf life of 5 years, your employees may not be able to "put in their time" in a role. They need opportunities to expand or diversify their skill set. Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, recently agreed to help 20 percent of his employees find a new job by the end of the year, in hopes that the opportunity to build new skills and experiences at Hootsuite will encourage them to stay. They facilitate interdepartmental connections with happy hours, random coffee meetings and a stretch program, which provides a formal path to explore new roles internally. Holmes sees this "people movement" as a vital part of a healthy company that allows its people to learn, grow and, in some cases, move on.

Embrace "boomerangs." If you're one of the more than half of employers that've admitted to having a policy at one time against bringing back any former employees, it's time for a fresh outlook. When folks do leave, they'll likely be back if the relationship is strong, either as an employee or a customer. I still remember the story of Josh Walker, now a director of search and discovery infrastructure at LinkedIn. Josh left to launch a startup, but when a former colleague shared an opportunity for a new role on the team, he returned. To leave the door open for your own former stars, consider developing an alumni network.

Candidates = Customers. Folks who don't take the job or aren't initially offered a position may return with new skills and experience that makes them more relevant. You want these people to stay in your pipeline, so don't burn that bridge with a cumbersome or even insulting interview process. Virgin Media learned this the hard way, costing the company around $5 million a year in lost business. When Graeme Johnston, former head of resourcing at Virgin Media, looked at candidate feedback, he found stories of dismissive hiring managers and unfriendly receptionists, experiences that ultimately soured candidates on doing business with the company. You can bet they also made up their minds about never applying again.

Give potential new hires what they want most: the highlights and the lowlights. The biggest roadblocks to taking a new job are not knowing what it's really like to work at the company, and not understanding what's expected of you in the role. If you aren't sure you're getting this information across, then gut-check your job descriptions. Are they vague laundry lists of desired skills, or do they show prospects the work they'd be doing and how that might look day-to-day? It also helps to understand why professionals leave their jobs. Most often it's due to a lack of career opportunities and advancement, or a desire for more challenging work. Showcase internal opportunities like Hootsuite's stretch program to let candidates know they won't be typecast into one role.

The age of open talent doesn't have to turn your company into a revolving door. When you give your best employees a reason to stay, and potential new hires a reason to come, you'll build a workforce ready to take on any challenge.

Brendan Browne is the vice president of talent acquisition at Mountain View, Calif.-based LinkedIn.



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