It’s no secret that candidates for a number of roles with specific skill requirements are pretty scarce at present. For the majority of such positions, gone are the days of posting an advert and receiving a plethora of applications.

As SEEK reported in its February 2022 dashboard (released 04 March), national job ads increased by more than 40% in the year to February, but the number of candidate applications per job ad fell 36% from January 2019 to January 2022.

Canterbury and Northland had the biggest increases in job ads in the February year – 54% and 56% respectively – and retail and consumer products were the sectors with the largest rises – 63%.
Couple all that with Statistics New Zealand reporting that the country’s unemployment rate fell to an all-time low of 3.2% in the fourth quarter of last year and you can understand why organisations are struggling to find talent.

But what does that really mean for businesses?

The market for specific vs general skill sets in the $60,000–$120,000 salary range is tight

If that is where your role sits, you’ll need to take time to actively recruit candidates and provide competitive remuneration with considered benefits.

Candidates are looking for more

Just because you secured great talent for a similar role one or two years ago doesn’t mean the same offer will work for the candidates you are interested in today.

You need to stop overlooking great for perfect

If you take too long trying to secure the exact perfect fit for a role, the additional workload for your current team could lead to burnout, and, worst case, lead to the great resignation on your doorstep.

Five initiatives that could help to secure the staff you need

Speak “best in role” language

Just as a cover letter and CV are your candidates’ business case to you, your role advert, website, and initial response are your business case to applicants. Use terminology that shows you understand what is important for your intended audience, and at an appropriate role level. The language you use to attract a digital marketer will not be the same to recruit a data analyst. If you need a sales manager but you make the role sound like an operations-manager position, you won’t hit the mark. Make sure the language aligns to your culture and values to highlight your brand as attractive, and always be professional, prompt, and kind in response.

If you don’t know where to start, take a look at current adverts in the market. Importantly, review the skills in your business and prioritise which ones you really need given your current team, projects, and where your business is heading.

Ditch your industry-only viewpoint

I wish I could convince hiring managers and business leaders otherwise, but so many are STILL adamant all candidates must have industry experience. I call total BS. If you already have not only a department but a whole business filled with industry specialists, where is the diversity of thought for customers who aren’t as industry savvy going to come from? 

Of course, hiring someone without industry experience may require you to put in a little bit more time and training to help them in their new role, but if the candidate has a great attitude, a track record of performance and a hunger to succeed, and actively seeks out development opportunities in their own time, they have the foundations to be your next superstar.

Run a considered and person-centred process

Given the current shortage of skilled candidates, now is a great time to accept the truth of the adage, “Interviewing is a two-way street”. While some enterprises are still doing the same old ticking of boxes, recording how many job interviews they’ve done, others are reviewing how they interact with candidates to make the recruitment process as seamless as possible. To overcome possible bottlenecks, the main areas to concentrate on are: 

  • Resumé review: What are the minimum skills required, and what transferrable skills are attractive? (Don’t let initial gatekeepers prevent hiring managers from seeing the best alternative candidates.)
  • Confirming interview times: Prebook times with managers and peers to prevent frustrating back-and-forth issues. 
  • Number of interviews: For most roles this would be a maximum of three – an initial introduction for culture fit and clarifying both parties’ role expectations, followed by a skill-based interview/presentation/challenge, and finally a meeting involving peers and/or senior leaders, including an expectation of offer.
  • Offer: Make a verbal offer promptly, ensure the agreement/contract paperwork is in motion, and send this even if verbal acceptance has yet to be received. This shows your commitment to your preferred candidate, and such speed could secure their services if other opportunities they are considering are slow to materialise.

Mentor from within

A number of employees may be looking for an opportunity to gain experience in leadership. While not everyone can be a manager, creating mentoring frameworks with 360° feedback – allowing those in your business with “knowledge in their head” to share in meaningful ways to move projects forward – is a great way to ensure knowledge depth, with greater communication and culture development. 

If you’re a smaller business, think about how you can build these types of mentee/mentor opportunities with key suppliers/clients. Having this framework can develop your staff for elevation into new positions, allowing for less-experienced talent to join in roles while promoting internally, and shows candidates they will benefit from more experience than just their manager, with clear opportunities for them to then step into mentor/leadership roles as they grow.

Review your benefits

If you can’t move on remuneration, what other benefits can you offer to be competitive. These could include:
 • Six weeks’ leave a year.

• Increasing sick leave (perhaps by adding 10 mental-health days, for a total of 20 days’ sick leave a year.
 • An annual learning and development budget for role or career progression courses.

• Bonus schemes.

• Share options.
 • Well-being funds (for team bonding and for individuals) to cover, for example, yoga sessions, massages and gym memberships. Ask your current team what would appeal to them; this would also support retention.

Rose-Marie (Rosey) Nathan is a partner and senior sourcing specialist at Customise Talent Group.