Organizations in the United States are having a difficult time hiring right now. After a tumultuous year, job openings rose to a record high in July 2021. But application rates are at historic lows, with online searches for employment down, according to Appcast. There are fewer Americans actively seeking work across all industries – and experts say this trend will continue as demand outpaces the supply of candidates.

COVID-19 vaccinations and the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package is helping boost the demand for labor in the United States. The more businesses reopen, the more the available talent pool will constrict.

The pandemic forced many companies to flex and adapt, including moving to a remote work model, implementing hiring freezes, and furloughing or terminating employees. More than a year later, those same companies have welcomed their employees back and then some, hiring more – and faster – than ever before. Amid this remarkable demand, talent acquisition leaders are experiencing a decrease in overall applicant volume and an increase in candidates failing to show up for their interview or first day of work.

Hourly roles such as customer service agents, warehouse workers, and delivery drivers are typically considered “moderate” to “easy” in terms of hiring difficulty, with an average time to fill of 25-30 days, according to historical data from Gartner TalentNeuron. Today's data shows that hiring for these roles is ranked in the "difficult" to "very difficult" in nearly every market, with many having average job posting durations above 50 days.

The lack of available talent has cascading economic effects. Dockworker shortages have resulted in unforeseen bottlenecks in the shipping industry and a dramatic increase in overseas freight rates. Combined with downstream supply chain concerns and the political & tax ramifications of offshoring, many companies are now reconsidering their overall manufacturing strategy and moving more jobs back to the U.S. – exacerbating the labor shortage even further.

There is no single reason for this candidate conundrum. It is due to a myriad of factors, including repercussions from the coronavirus pandemic, availability of much-needed assistance from the U.S. government, faster economic recovery than initially anticipated, employee fatigue, and employable people staying home to help educate and care for children or parents. But there is some good news: There are changes you can make, both small and big, to help you land the talent vital to business success.

1. Evaluate your employer branding & employee value proposition

With the application process easier than ever at many organizations, candidates are now applying first and then researching the company afterward. To maintain a candidates’ interest and advance them along in the talent journey, it is important to effectively articulate why someone should choose to work at your company over your competition. A strong employer brand makes it easier to recruit better talent and faster. According to a LinkedIn study, companies with a great employer brand see a 50% increase in qualified applicants and can hire twice as fast. Successful organizations are improving relationships and strengthening the sense of belonging with their employees through flexible working, DE&I efforts, and professional development.

You can no longer rely on active channels alone to drive the candidate pipeline. Candidate attraction and engagement, specifically for hourly talent, has shifted to an “always-on” multi-channel approach. This increases the number of interactions you can have with a job seeker, boosting the opportunity to communicate your company’s employee value proposition and the critical “what’s in it for me” differentiators.

A strong value proposition will also help retain your newly hired talent. Studies show​ that employees who feel directly aligned with their company’s purpose are three times less likely to look for a new job.

2. Ensure your total compensation benefits reflect the new environment

Beyond your employee proposition, you also need to consider adjusting your total compensation package based on new candidate expectations. The flexibility to work from home was once unique but is now expected by many. For example, remote call center roles used to be able to pay less because it was a valuable perk to work from anywhere, but now virtual work is table stakes. Take a fresh look at your current approach and explore new ways to attract talent and reinforce your core values. Unique offerings will also help you stand out from your competition. Perks to consider include:

  • On-site child-care support
  • Meal delivery services
  • Ride-sharing for on-site workers
  • Continuing education programs or stipends
  • Improved paid vacation
  • Schedule flexibility
  • Daily pay for hours worked
  • Sign-on or retention bonus

3. Update job requirements or minimum qualifications

Every aspect of how we do business has changed. To maintain forward momentum in your hiring funnel, you may need to be more flexible with job requirements and minimum qualifications, if the position allows. A few ways to do this are by:

  • Adjusting the background check component of the hiring process to speed up the application, screening only for must-have items.
  • Training people who are not traditionally qualified to attract a wider candidate pool.
  • Removing assessments or moving them later in the process to when candidates are highly engaged with the opportunity.

Example: A large consumer brand company eliminated their drug screen panel and reduced their background check to only include employment and criminal history over the last two years. Because of these changes, they were able to cast a wider net and find additional candidates to fill vacancies.

4. Carefully craft your job listing

Job seekers only read about 17 seconds into a job description before deciding whether to apply. So, step back and think about how your job listing is written – language, formatting, and complete application process. To land the talent you desire, ensure you are communicating the role and your organization effectively. Here are some nuanced things to consider:

  • Keep the posting concise
  • Avoid technical jargon or acronyms
  • Accurately describe the role and benefits
  • Use bullet points for easier reading
  • Highlight benefits & perks toward the beginning
  • Include compensation information

In addition to a candidate-friendly job posting, it is equally important to have a quick and easy application process. Consider whether you really need a resume – you can often get a good sense of someone’s skills and history from LinkedIn or for some roles, like hourly, resumes may not be necessary.

5. Only advertise readily available positions

Familiar concepts such as talent pipelining will not necessarily work in today’s market. When you cast a wide net to expand your talent pool, you may leave your organization open to criticism by candidates who think they are applying for a specific position. By allowing people to apply & interview for high-demand roles that are not readily available, you are wasting the candidate’s time. It is unlikely they will respond to your company postings in the future or worse, not recommend your organization to others.

Ideally, candidates applying for advanced manufacturing roles should start within two weeks of receipt of their job offer to reduce the likelihood of candidate loss. If you have advance notice on a vacancy, you can still pipeline by identifying candidates to target and work on your recruitment marketing plans. But the outreach itself needs to be closer to the actual need.

6. Prioritize candidate engagement

Make candidate engagement a priority across your talent acquisition team to incorporate it into your workflow. To ensure candidates get what they need when they need it, become more accurate in how and when you are engaging candidates. Think about the methods they use to communicate with others, like texting or social media, and adopt those. To increase the likelihood of engagement, consider asking candidates their preferred communication method. Automation and technology can also help personalize the experience by sending relevant messages throughout the recruitment process.

Ninety percent of text messages are opened and read within three minutes, so stop relying on emails that leave you hoping candidates will read them.

Example: A leading environmental services provider improved their speed to hire by texting candidates. After moving from emailing candidates to texting a self-schedule interview link, the organization saw a 50% increase in same-day scheduling.

Today’s job market requires talent acquisition leaders to be creative, compassionate and adaptable. Think about what differentiates you from your competitors. Consider those seeking employment when creating a job post and process. Start small. Tweak a little part of your talent acquisition strategy and see what happens to ensure you are reaching and engaging the talent you need. You may even consider seeking out a partner. While this tough hiring market is likely around for the foreseeable future in the U.S., and likely other global markets, you can act to ensure you recruit the necessary talent your organization needs to be successful.