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  • Writer's pictureBen Jackson

Economic headwinds, conflict and political chaos – does candidate experience really matter?

Given the post-pandemic shake-up of the labour market, most companies have limited capacity to adapt to more labour market shifts. But here we are, with the cost of living going up, a set of… challenging political circumstances and of course the war against Ukraine ongoing. So, what does this all mean for talent acquisition as we look towards 2023?

Since the initial Covid lockdowns ended, the labour market has rebalanced in favour of the job seeker. The economic rebound took most people by surprise, and we’ve watched as salaries have increased for hard-to-fill roles and candidates have been able to – at least to a certain extent – sit back and wait for offers to roll in. And of course, in a market like this, candidates’ tolerance for subpar and inefficient recruitment processes, ghosting and poor feedback has decreased. As a result, employers have had to make every effort to attract and engage candidates at every stage of the recruitment journey. For now, the UK still appears to be in the grips of a hiring boom, with seven in ten employers expecting to recruit in the next three months, according to CIPD data. However, with a bitter recession forecast by the Bank of England, and political chaos creating huge uncertainty, the labour market has most likely already hit its peak.

As the job market shifts (theoretically, at least) in their favour, employers may be tempted to discount candidate and employer experience. After all, employers are likely to be getting many more applications for their vacancies, assuming they are recruiting at all during these tough times.

So, what’s the problem with this approach? Well, quite a lot actually. Firstly, many employers, despite the need to resolve issues in their recruitment processes, have struggled throughout to balance high-quality operational delivery with long-term strategic development of their candidate experience. So while candidate experience has been at the top of everyone’s minds, in reality a very large proportion of employers have been focussed 100% on sourcing strategies, not on what happens once someone has been sourced. In short, there is still a LOT of work to do.

Secondly, those candidates who are in high demand will continue to be in demand. We saw it post-2008 and post-Covid. Good people, especially those with niche and / or technical skills, are always a desirable commodity. And those people have a right to expect a great experience – it is, let’s face it, one of the absolute key differentiators that you can offer. It’s easy to match a financial package, but culture – so often expressed through the experience you provide during the recruitment process – is king. So if you want to lay the foundations for building out of the recession by attracting the best people, you’ll need to make sure that you’re providing a real white-glove service to top talent.

And finally, history tells us that these moments are fleeting. It’s maybe a bit glib to say it, but the economy emerged from the banking crisis and grew. Our emergence from the staggeringly sharp, but mercifully short, post-Covid recession was unexpectedly fast and steep. As an industry, a profession, recruitment and HR need to be ready for this, because however bad it looks now (and our prospects right now don’t look exactly stellar…) it will get better.

In our view, this is a good time to be thinking about the future. Recruitment activity may slow for a bit, so don’t waste that time. Here’s a few things you might want to chuck onto the to-do list for Autumn 2022:

  • Evaluate your processes: map them, understand them, identify opportunities for efficiency

  • Embrace technology: consider what can be automated, especially if your already squeezed budgets get tightened even further (find out how we can help here)

  • Think about how to create engaging moments throughout the candidate journey and how to build long-term relationships with talent)

  • Refocus your employer brand – think security, think support, think development, at a time when many employers will offer none of these things

  • Help your team. Recruiters have been under immense pressure for years now. Spend time with them, support them and cherish them, because you’re really going to need them when all this madness is over

One more point. Consult with your employees – understand what they need at this time. It could be financial support, more flexible working to help with issues at home, outplacement support for those displaced, a decent EAP or any other intervention that will achieve the dual goals of genuinely helping people and building loyalty, and giving you a very strong story to tell talent about your culture and decency in challenging times.

Don’t make the mistake of neglecting candidate and employee experience during a recession. We’ve been here many times before and the fact is that if you do, you’ll lose out in the long run.

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