Recruitment is changing. The industry is moving from a reactive, responsive sourcing mix to proactive candidate engagement. As a result, companies need to know what they can do to nurture their databases and keep potential candidates engaged. Recruiters and HR managers in tech startups can’t rely solely on job boards, Boolean searches and Linkedin anymore.
Having buzzed around the Berlin recruitment scene for over 8 years at companies including Booking.com, Rocket Internet and Door2Door, we were keen to see how Leslie thinks recruitment is changing, and what startups can do to keep up.
Leslie, how do you think the recruitment industry has changed over the last few years?
I believe many organisations are stuck in the classic way of doing recruitment. What I mean is that they recruit as a response to a resignation or a newly created role with a particular set of skills and competencies to meet.
You post your job online, you activate your sourcing mix (LinkedIn, StackOverflow, GitHub, Boolean), you might do some direct sourcing and for your critical roles you might call in the headhunters.
It’s likely that your hiring manager is looking for talent right now, and you need to respond with good candidates almost immediately. Job boards are outdated and finding the right talent on platforms like LinkedIn takes longer than necessary, as you need to build relationships first. All this leads to an increase in the time-to-hire and inconsistencies in the quality of hires.
It puts teams a step behind, constantly having to react to changes in the company with no time or opportunity to plan ahead and schedule resources. As a result, we’re now seeing a shift towards talent acquisition: ongoing recruitment based on forward-looking hiring plans and proactive candidate engagement
What practical steps can HR teams take to be more proactive?
Create a hiring plan. Ideally, startups should already know who they need to hire – and when – based on a hiring plan that includes growth strategies and salary ranges.
Rather than restarting every time they need a new developer, companies should focus on maintaining their existing pipeline so they have a warm database of candidates. It’s about maintaining relationships with people who might not have been a good fit six months ago, but could now be the perfect candidate. We’re not using our existing databases properly, and it’s kind of a shame.
Hiring plans should also include talent maps, so companies know where to look for talent based on data from previous hires and where an organisation’s best performers come from. During my time at Rocket Internet and GetYourGuide, we hired lots of incredible non-EU developers (particularly from Egypt and Brazil) using the EU Blue Card – pretty easily and painlessly!
If they have the budget, they could purchase a CRM tool to manage their candidate engagement. There are lots out there that integrate with ATS systems. There are also some ATSs that provide CRM solutions, but they’re limited. Of course, Excel works too, but it gets messy when you scale!
Want to hire non-EU developers? Download our guide to the Blue Card in Germany.
I guess there must be some reactive hiring too – if employees leave or there’s sudden growth, for example?
Yeah, definitely. If you can plan 70% of your headcount, or perhaps Q1 and Q2 of the following year, that’s still a huge step for a lot of companies. It takes so much time to find the right person that companies often end up compromising on quality. Making false hires is one of the biggest mistakes a startup can make.
But passive channels are important too. For example, a great careers website and targeted regional marketing campaigns. It’s an end-to-end solution, so you’ll never be able to be 100% proactive.
I guess the dream for everyone is that the direct applicants who apply on the website end up being the perfect candidates. The Facebooks and Googles of the world are getting these, but it would be cool if small startups could get the same attention.
Do you think forward planning is especially important for the tech industry, bearing in mind the shortage of tech talent?
I’m not sure it is any more important. It’s hard to find great developers, but here in Germany it’s also hard to find a great accountant. All companies would benefit from being more prepared in recruitment – as in normal life!
Big companies have an advantage because if they’re already looking for 20 developers, then adding one more doesn’t change the sourcing strategy. But if you weren’t looking for a developer and one decides to leave, then you’d need to hit the ground running again.
And how do you feel about referral programs? Do they fit into a more proactive approach?
As part of your sourcing mix, definitely. It’s a great way to engage with candidates.
Research has shown that you’re most likely to refer someone within the first two years of working for a company. The ideal time to encourage new hires to bring in referrals is about a month after starting – when they’re still enthusiastic about the work environment!
Which KPIs are most important for recruiters and HR teams?
Time to hire, source of hire and quality of hire are useful data points that can give great insight into how your recruitment funnel is looking. What I find more interesting is net promoter score, which focuses on candidate experience. It’s important that rejected candidates also have a great experience. This is especially true for e-commerce companies, as candidates can also be customers.
Any other trends you think we’ll see in the next few years?
The first is a rise in the gig economy. Young workers want an exciting and dynamic project to get stuck into, rather than a cool office or company culture. They want to work on a project with a huge impact and then move on when the challenge is finished or the problem solved.
Many companies still hold on to the idea that employees need to work for five years until their investment is returned. But I believe employees can add a lot of value in a shorter time period. More and more, employees are leaving a company and returning a year or two later to work on a different project.
The second is the on-demand culture. Algorithms already affect what we see on Facebook and what we watch on Netflix. Soon candidates will only see the jobs they’re interested in based on their digital interactions and social media profiles.
What about remote work?
It’s increasing, but I personally see more value in on-site teams. For quick interactions, it’s easier to discuss issues face-to-face, and this also minimises mis-interpretations (which often happen over Slack, especially when different cultures and languages are involved).
Being in the same room as your colleagues is a completely different experience. There’s a reason why lots of companies aren’t encouraging remote work.
Do you think VR/AR could alleviate these issues and help employees to interact while working remotely?
I’m 100% sure VR will improve the experience for everyone. Imagine if you’re applying to a company and can already walk around the office, or don’t have to fly across the world for a final interview.
Talent is scarce, so we need to offer potential candidates as many options and opportunities for personalisation as possible. Perhaps they need to be able to choose how they apply – whether to use VR glasses or by come in to the office in person.
VR is the future of everything. But we’re not used talking to bots, or even real people sometimes! So its development and adoption will take a long time.
Wondering how to incorporate VR into your candidate engagement strategy? We have the answers.