The Australian recruitment industry is facing a critical crossroad as it reinvents itself to tackle The Great Resignation.

Unless you’ve been offline over the past three months, you’ll have seen the term “The Great Resignation” appear repeatedly in the headlines. The phrase was coined following a McKinsey report that found a record number of employees are quitting their jobs or thinking about doing so as a result of the pandemic.

It’s a huge turnaround from less than two years ago, when companies were cutting working hours,standing staff down and forcing redundancies. According to McKinsey, companies are struggling to address the new problem of wooing and retaining workers, and many will continue to struggle for one simple reason: they don’t really understand why their employees are leaving in the first place.

I would argue that recruiters are also struggling to understand how to attract candidates to the tidal wave of positions that have become available for candidates with the right skills. Higher pay packets, flexible work arrangements, extra recreational leave, career development programs, reward schemes and lucrative sign-on cash bonuses are all very well, but they’re no longer the magic ingredient.

In the current landscape, it’s about establishing respectful work environments where employees – and potential employees feel valued and are offered flexible work options. As McKinsey notes: “[Employees] want to feel a sense of shared identity. Yes, they want pay, benefits, and perks, but more than that they want to feel valued by their organisations and managers. They want meaningful, though not necessarily in-person interactions, not just transactions.”

That feeling of value starts with the recruitment process. After 30 years in recruitment, it’s clear to me that candidate care is just as important as client care. Too often client requirements take precedence over candidate needs. If companies and recruiters are to ensure the surge of career movement is a “great attraction” rather than a “great attrition” they need to focus on these four key areas.

Reinvent job advertisements

Job specs and job ads have become increasingly disconnected from reality in recent years. They are filled with long, highly specific “must-have” skills, which lead recruiters and employers to struggle to find suitable candidates.

Unless you are looking to hire an AI robot, you risk severely restricting the number of people who will respond to your ad and consider themselves capable of performing the complex, 24/7 job you’ve described.

A better approach is to succinctly outline what the job entails and the type of skill set you are seeking. Let job seekers tell you why they think they are right for the job without discouraging them from applying by having too many qualifiers. Value skills, not just degrees

In a recent report, the World Economic Forum noted that the nature of work and careers is changing fast – in the future the right skills will be prized over academic qualifications alone.

“If we shift our focus from degrees to skills, we’ll enable a bigger workforce that represents the diversity of our populations, and this will help close the all too familiar opportunity and employment gap,” WEF said. “This will mean transitioning to a skills-based education and employment infrastructure that embraces not just credentials and certification but fitness-for-job and employment as outcomes.”

In recent years, companies including Google and IBM have embraced this kind of thinking and have increased hiring from alternate talent pools.

The World Economic Forum concludes: “Every business leader will agree that finding not only the right people, but people with the right skills and mindset, is a serious challenge for enterprises. Using a four-year degree as a proxy for employability means relying on talent with potentially redundant skills rather than lifelong learners with ever-relevant skills.”

A new approach to salary expectations

It would simplify the recruitment process if there was more transparency around salary expectations. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard candidates complain about the stress created by secrecy in this space.

However, only 12.6% of global companies published the pay range for roles in their job ads last year, according to a 2021 report from Seattle-based compensation data company Payscale. Many employers fear being open about salaries will put them at a competitive disadvantage or cause resentment among existing staff. But there are growing calls around the world to make salary transparency a legal requirement.

In the US, Colorado has also moved to require employers to disclose hourly wages or pay ranges in all employment listings.

Pabel Martinez, Global Account Director at TikTok, recently noted on LinkedIn: “We are often encouraged to not share our job level as well as our compensation packages. Sharing this information would likely force companies to pay equal wages (across the same roles & levels). This behaviour doesn’t help individuals though. Employees are often lowballed [by potential employers on salary] and accept offers well below what their counterparts were offered.”

I think a first step for Australia would be for job platforms to require employers to tick a salary guide box visible to candidates. For example, $50-75,000; $75,000-$100,000; $100,000-$150,000; $150,000-$200,000; $200,000+.

Simplify the interview process

Data collected by the Boston Consulting Group shows that the number of white-collar and blue-collar candidates in the US asked to complete four-stage interviews rose by 126% year-on-year; while those tasked with five-stage interviews, meanwhile, surged by 94%.

One US job seeker called the process out in August, in a post that went viral on LinkedIn. He confessed that he’d decided to pull his name out of consideration for a company he liked because he’d already had three interviews and they were lining him up for six more. That’s right, nine interviews all up.

He wrote: “For the types of jobs I’ve been looking for, the number of interviews has been getting higher and higher. Companies think they are building processes that ensure picking the right candidate. I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s due to fear of picking the wrong candidate. I think it’s  fear they will not find the next unicorn. I think it’s fear of wasting time that ends up wasting more time.

“It should not take nine interviews for any role. You have trial periods. If you are still fearful, use contract-to-hire. Increasingly making interviews more and more lengthy and difficult can lose you the talent you are making the process more difficult for.”

Among the commenters on the post were numerous Australians who said the process was becoming equally complicated here.

“I recently took a month to get through a five-stage interview for an entry-level mining position,” one Australian said. “Prior to COVID, they’d check references and call you in to work a few days’ trial.”

I believe this is about the hirer lacking confidence in recruiting and being risk averse, it’s not about finding the best candidate.

That’s a lot of valuable time being wasted for both the client and the candidate. A good recruiter is skilled at getting to know candidates and whether they will be a good fit for the role. If a recruiter has built strong, trusting relationships with both clients and candidates they can streamline this process and save both parties time.

Give feedback

It’s becoming increasingly common for companies and recruiters to “ghost” candidates during the interview process.

A campaign called end-ghosting.com was launched by the UK recruitment software company Tribepad recently, with the aim of raising awareness about the issue. Ghosting – which takes its name from the practice in dating – usually involves an employer or recruiter going silent on an applicant during the interview process. The company may have interviewed the applicant, or asked them to complete a test, then fails to give feedback or even inform the candidate about the outcome of their application.

Tribepad surveyed 2,000 UK adults who had previously searched for a new job and found 65% of them had been ghosted during the recruitment process. Almost all of them (94%) said it left them with a negative perception of the company they applied to.

While it can be time consuming to contact everyone who has applied for a role, it is important for a company’s reputation that they email applicants to let them know they have been unsuccessful. If an applicant has progressed to interview stage, they should be contacted by phone and given feedback on why they were unsuccessful.

Taking the time to make that personal connection is worth the effort – people who have a negative experience with a company during the recruitment process will tell many others about it. According to HR Executive, 72% of job seekers say they have shared a poor experience on sites like Glassdoor, on social media or directly with a colleague or friend; while a LinkedIn survey found 27% of candidates would “actively discourage” others from applying for a job with a company that ghosted them.

As McKinsey notes, this unique period as Australia reopens and recalibrates represents a big opportunity. To seize it, take a step back, listen, learn, and make the changes employees – and potential employees want. By acting thoughtfully, you may just be able to turn the Great Attrition into the Great Attraction.

To find out more about how Cameron Recruitment can help you, call us on 02 9955 0805.