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The War for Talent is Over: What Happens Now?

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“The war for talent is over. The talent won” - Josh Bersin, Founder of Bersin by Deloitte

The war for talent is over and, whether we like it or not, we’re now operating in a candidate-led hiring market.

How has this happened?

Well, for a start, the increased demand for certain skills (largely STEM) gives the top candidates a far greater level of choice when evaluating employers.

There is also unfettered information out there on every single brand. 30 seconds with an iPhone will tell most candidates exactly what they need to know about your company.

Why does this information have such a big effect?

Let’s look at it through a different lens:

Think about the last time you bought something from Amazon. How many reviews did you read before you hit ‘Add to Basket’?

The opinions of people that we will never meet have a huge effect on the decisions that we make.

Candidates are influenced in exactly the same way as online customers.

The things that they hear about your company have a profound impact on their likelihood to hit that ‘Apply’ button.

Their decisions are based on anonymous employee reviews of your company left on Glassdoor, conversations with friends, rumours on social media.

How does this affect recruitment?

It takes the control away from recruiters.

To stand out to the best candidates, companies need to be careful about the way their employer brand is perceived.

Crucial to this is the way they treat anyone who interacts with their company.

Think about the last time you had a bad experience at a restaurant. Poor service, bad food, uncomfortable seating, the whole 9 yards.

You probably left with a pretty sour taste in your mouth, told all your friends about it and maybe even wrote a bad review.

How many of your friends do you think went to that restaurant afterwards?

I’m guessing none.

They might have even passed on your bad review to their friends creating a network ripple effect that seriously damaged that restaurants turnover.

Companies that get the candidate experience wrong can suffer a similar fate.

The 2014 Candidate Experience Report shows that 64.3% of applicants would share negative application experiences with friends and family, while 27% would go as far as actively discouraging others from applying.

Can you afford to have this many people saying bad things about you?

Dangers of a poor candidate experience

The solution? Treat candidates like customers

Companies that get the candidate experience right in today's market understand the need to be different.

They're beginning to mirror tactics that are typically used to approach and engage customers to get the best results.

They’re aware of the need to showcase themselves effectively and test different methods of engagement to attract the best candidates.

Marketing tactics are helping companies accomplish this in a number of different ways:

1. Brand building

Branding has long been part of successful marketing, but it’s only recently that it’s become a big deal in recruitment.

Building a strong employer brand, and creating a reputation as a great place to work is essential to stand out to the best talent.

Let’s look at a quick example.

Google gets thousands of applications every year from the world’s top engineers, purely because it’s perceived as a great place for technical talent to flourish.

This does NOT mean that Google is the best place to work, in fact there are numerous stories from employees that indicate that opportunities for advancement are limited and many seem to have a poor experience at the company.

Google is fantastic at marketing itself though, and this drowns out any naysayers and guarantees high quality applicants.

Note that it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to build a brand like Google (one of the world’s strongest).

What can you do:

Promote your own authentic message to potential employees.

Employer brand is your unique scent

Think of the ideas and cultural values that set your company apart.

Do you offer remote work? Are you a company that gives new recruits a lot of responsibility from day 1?

These are the things that need to shine through in your employer brand. If you do this right, then you should have no problem attracting the right kind of applicants.

2. Guiding the candidate experience

Successful companies go above and beyond to create a great purchasing experience for customers.

Amazon’s popularity among consumers is largely due to it’s easy of use. They’ve made the fact that it’s incredibly easy to buy something their competitive advantage.

Companies don’t typically give candidate experience the same level of attention - as we’ve discussed, it’s a major problem within recruitment.

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways that we can provide a better experience by borrowing marketing ideas.

i) Writing better job adverts

“What really decides consumers to buy or not is the content of your advertising, not its form” - David Ogilvy

A candidate’s ‘experience’ with your company starts the very first time they encounter your brand.

In many cases, a candidate’s first touchpoint is a job advert. Job ads rarely jump off the page. Most use generic wording and feature a list of requirements that a candidate needs to qualify for the role.

A marketing mindset can help us improve this: It’s easy to forget that job adverts and job descriptions are still adverts. Instead of selling a product or a service though, they’re selling an opportunity.

A new job is a big decision for anyone. Your job descriptions need to make your opportunities sound like a great career and life move. 

Eye-tracking research suggests that candidates are far more interested in the description of the role and your company than the actual job requirements.

Make sure that you take this into account - don't just string together a list of the qualifications you're looking for!

Candidates spend up little time reading job requirements Interested in seeing a company that gets this right? Take a look at the Onefinestay job descriptions.

They relay the benefits of working at onefinestay – the perks, the great company culture and why it’s a great place to work. This encourages candidates who are a good cultural fit to apply.  

ii) Improving the application process

Would you want to go through your company’s application process?

It’s an essential question, and one that few recruiters ask themselves. Most application forms are unnecessarily cumbersome. 43% of candidates spend 30 minutes or more on the average online application.

Compare this to the ‘1-click buy’ service that retailers like Amazon offer.

Which do you think provides a better experience? Companies need great applicants almost as much as they need customers, so it makes no sense to make the point of entry (the application) such a sticking point - 60% of candidates have quit an application process because it took too long!

The Secret Damage your job application causes

It helps to think of job applicants as volunteers. The work that they’re doing to apply to your company is unpaid, (and most likely will go unrewarded), so it’s best to keep their workload to a minimum.

Making small changes to simplify your application process goes a long way to improving the candidate experience.  

iii) Communicating (much) better

Communication. The most touted problem with candidate experience.

We can all agree that it’s pretty much impossible to send individual, personalised emails to every candidate, but there simply isn’t enough time in the day.

Candidate’s understand this too, and they don’t expect it. What they do expect though, is to be kept in the loop regarding their application. 

The most damaging thing that companies can do is to never get back to a candidate after they apply.

This is the equivalent of purchasing something from eBay and it never showing up. You’d be annoyed right?

Treating everyone with professional respect and letting the unsuccessful know that they weren’t right for the role isn’t time consuming (it can be automated) and makes a big difference to applicants (otherwise they’re left in the lurch, waiting for you to get back to them.)  


The way companies showcase themselves to candidates is the single most important factor in increasing their flow of high quality applications.

To create a strong brand and ensure every candidate touchpoint is successful, recruiters should look at how marketing departments treat customers.

Testing tactics from the marketing department can make a real difference to the way that candidates see your company.

When in doubt, just put yourself in a candidate’s shoes. If you researched your company, would you apply?