how do I find the people I need in a challenging marketplace?

The power has shifted. Individual candidates are well-equipped to search for new roles less labour-intensively than in the past, with a range of up-to-date online tools at their disposal. Employers, recruiting from a relatively scarce talent pool, are having to focus on updating their brand, their values, and compliance obligations, such as encouraging diversity in the workplace.

It has never been easy to find the right candidates. Skill shortages, scarcity of talent, rapid technological developments and cost pressures are only some of the factors that make this a particularly complicated exercise for recruiters. In addition, unemployment is expected to drop from 5.6% (2017) to 5% in 2020, while total employment rates will reach close to 12.9 million.

Research published by the Department of Employment projects employment will rise in 16 of the 19 main Australian industries between 2016 and 2020. The industries with the highest growth are, health care and social assistance (more than 250,000 jobs or 16%), professional, scientific and technical services (rising by 15%), and education and training (rising by 13%).

Job losses are predicted in manufacturing (losing 45,700 jobs or 5%, including 29,300 in vehicle manufacturing), mining (down by 14%) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (down 3%). Click here for the full research report.

These changes demonstrate levels of diversity in the workforce. Two out of the three strongest growing industries – health and education – have more than 70% female representation. Young people are expected to see growth in relevant industries as well, with more jobs in retail, food services and accommodation (the main industries for young workers). However, mature workers who make up more than 50% of the agricultural and transport industries may face challenges as lower growth, and even declines, are predicted.

Social media is the method that 34% of Australians use to find their next job (although employers’ use of social media to find candidates is still very low), with Facebook and LinkedIn being the most popular sites. The ways in which people find work, and the methods that organisations use to attract increasingly scarce skills, are also changing. Around three-quarters of job seekers go online to search for work. Smaller businesses are more likely to use online professional networks, social media and word-of-mouth to promote their ‘talent brand’ than larger organisations. 

Randstad’s Employer Brand Research, conducted in 2017, reports that 62% of Australian candidates use recruitment agencies or headhunters, while 42% of job seekers use referrals and approach employers directly, underlining the importance of a strong employer brand. The research also found that Australian firms continue to address skill shortages and talent scarcity by hiring more people on a temporary or contract basis (29%) or on flexible working arrangements (35%). Australian workers consider temporary work as the best path to securing a permanent role. 

It also reports that Australian businesses don’t plan long-term. Just 19% plan for more than two years ahead, 36% for up to one year, and 45% plan for less than 12 months. A strong resourcing strategy should form the basis of all recruitment plans and initiatives. 

Recruiters are constantly under pressure to reduce costs and increase effectiveness. However, the seemingly low cost of online job advertising is often balanced by the costs of aggressive promotion campaigns, which are required to stand out in a ‘noisy’ environment (e.g. company website, social and professional networking sites and job boards).

Other ways of seeking new sources of applicants, as traditional pools become drained or over-used, include upskilling existing employees, engaging a headhunting service or actively connecting with people who are returning to work. Putting resources (not just financial) behind fresh recruitment strategies is key to their success, and can capitalise on sources such as word of mouth (a strong employer brand and EVP will help); and newly qualified candidates (who may need a structured development programme in place). In a bid to reduce the impact of unconscious bias, employers should also consider ‘blind CVs’, in which the name, age and gender of applicants is obscured, encouraging wider diversity within the workforce.

Ironically, although overall recruitment costs and costs-per-hire may have reduced, a significant proportion of employers – particularly smaller organisations – still do not calculate employment costs.

There are two other areas where Australian employers and recruiters ‘could do better’. LinkedIn research shows that only 64% of Australian firms recruit newly-qualified staff (up to three years after leaving school or college), while the global average is 80%. Australia’s record on ‘passive’ recruiting is also 12 points below the global average, and well below the US and China.

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