January 17, 2013

Job Seekers Are Getting Smarter, Employers should Follow Suit

Extreme Computer NerdJob seekers are becoming more informed about the task of job seeking. Sure, there are still plenty of job seekers out there with bad habits, but we cannot ignore the fact that the average diligent job seeker has access to unprecedented levels of high quality, online advice in the following areas: resume preparation, interviewing, assessment centers and salary negotiation. The average job seeker’s job search technique is improving by the year, which means that the average job seeker is likely to be far more job search savvy than they were a decade or so ago.

Job seekers are also changing jobs far more frequently than they were 10 years ago. Recent surveys suggest that the average job seeker today might hold up to 11 jobs during his/her lifetime. There is also a growing movement toward the use of contingent labor, meaning candidates may be interviewing more often and effectively becoming professional interviewers.

So, what does all this mean for employers? In short, it means that the average candidate’s ability to present their skills effectively in a resume and during an interview may be improving at a faster rate than the underlying skills being talked about. Yes, while the packaging has improved, the product in the tin has not necessarily improved, and employers should be aware of this. So, what areas am I talking about in particular? Which areas are candidates increasing their job acquisition competence? In most areas, as I have shown below:

Resume preparation

Candidates now have access to vast realms of free, good quality online resume preparation advice. There are increasing numbers of resume preparation specialists online who can develop high-quality resumes for candidates, elevating these resumes to a standard that may not reflect their own ability to present information. So, yes, candidates are getting much better at presenting their resume data for maximum effect.

Structured Interviewing and Behavioral Questioning

Job seekers have online access to an almost encyclopaedic level of content relating to behavioral interview questioning. While once the internal workings of the interview process were one of life’s great mysteries, it is now easy for candidates to research the most likely interview questions AND model answers for their interview. They can also go on forums and get intelligence from other former employees and interviewees as to how the interview process works at X, Y or Z company.

Practicing aptitude tests

There are now plenty of resources online that allow candidates to practice and improve their performance at the subsequent aptitude tests. But, the question is, have they improved their intelligence above its natural level or have they just improved their ability to do aptitude tests? Are employers actually getting a better candidate?

Salary negotiation

Candidates are far more financially astute, pushy and informed post financial crisis. Also, there are large amounts of excellent advice online, which is coaching and mentoring candidates to negotiate harder and better for higher salaries and better terms.

So, how should employer’s respond? Well, as a general point, I think employers should begin to reduce the emphasis on resumes as a sign of competence. “How?” I hear you say. Where possible, try and bring real work samples into the process as soon as possible, which includes asking candidates to submit their examples of online code, online articles, online designs, etc. This is not easy for every discipline, but the principle is sound.

Also, interviews have already been proved to be woefully unreliable as predictor of future performance, and only predict 14 percent of the variability in employee performance. So, during the interview process, employers should be minded to combine interviews with additional selection methods such as practical exercises, skill tests, in-tray exercises and job trials, which can raise the reliability of the assessment process.

Also, because candidates are beginning to get advanced knowledge of the kind of assessments you are using, be sure to rotate your assessments and change your assessment processes regularly.

Finally, candidates will be more willing and able to negotiate higher starting salaries and better terms and conditions. So, train your managers to negotiate, which may mean initially presenting broader salary ranges, and pitching lower to give yourself negotiating room and knowing the full value of your company’s financial and non-financial benefits so they can be used as leverage at the appropriate moments.

In sum, I think that candidates are getting more job savvy and are getting better at negotiating the selection process and therefore employers must be subtly adapting the hiring process in response, to ensure they can get truly penetrative insight into the candidates’ ability.

Read more in Interview Process

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.