Gone are the days of posting job ads on a job board and having your ideal candidate apply. Times have changed dramatically in staffing over the past 15 years and the technology that talent acquisition professionals use has become increasingly sophisticated. Big data and social media have replaced the Excel spreadsheets and manila folders of the past.

However, the way we work hasn’t only been transformed by fancy analytics and mobile-friendly applications. The biggest challenge is that there is a critical global talent shortage in many skilled professions. The national unemployment rate (as of February 13, 2017) is 4.9 percent and in cities like Denver, Colorado, it is only 2.6 percent. There are simply not enough skilled people to fill the jobs we need to grow our businesses. People are shuffled like decks of cards from one company to another and often back again.

“Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are now mainstream mediums for learning about opportunities”

It is a candidate’s world now. Our strategies have transformed in response to this savvy pool of professionals. We need an edge, an advantage over our competition. We need to be transparent about our business’s attractive and not so pretty sides. We need to anticipate where the elusive candidates reside and when they are likely to make a career move. Thus begins a long process of building awareness, engagement and finally interest in our opportunities. Welcome to Candidate Nurturing. 

Transparency is extremely important in this wooing cycle. The increasing popularity of Peer Review sites like Glassdoor and Vaultare trusted resources for anyone to read the good, bad and ugly of most companies. Information is posted by current employees, alumni and people who have gone through the interview process. Granted, some are disgruntled, but when you read several reviews it gives you an opportunity to form an opinion about an organization’s culture, leadership, benefits and interview process. Candidates have a higher degree of trust in the information provided by current or past employees vs. company propaganda. It is now an actual job to manage a company’s employer reputation.

Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are now mainstream mediums for learning about opportunities. You must be savvy about how you leverage them as a recruiter though. There are professionals dedicated to employer branding and digital strategy for recruiting. Think interesting people stories and cool projects vs. a string of job listings. Employee ambassadors are a critical part of the attraction strategy. Brand messages see 571 percent more reach when shared by employees. 90 percent of people trust recommendations for people they know compared to only 33 percent trust in brand messages distributed by the company. There are even dedicated products to help employees share information easily like LinkedIn Elevate.

Competitive Intelligence is no longer for sales departments and R&D espionage. Now the most sophisticated recruiters have morphed into Talent Advisors who arm themselves with information when they meet with a hiring manager. They leverage information from vendors like Talent Neuron to bring a strategy to the table for the search. Talent Advisors can tell the hiring manager that they are more likely to find a larger pool transportation engineers in Iran vs. Malaysia. They know how many grads are turned out from universities in target geographies, what motivates people who live there, average income and other demographic data. They can even estimate how many applicants will be needed to fill a job and how long that search may take. We use data to drive decisions on which projects to bid on, where to build new offices, even what products to manufacture. Talent Advisors are also Business Development’s secret weapon.

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are now the regulator of the recruiter’s day. Every action taken with a candidate is tracked. Every ad is tracked and analyzed for ROI. These systems have become very sophisticated and the business intelligence of the data directs many business decisions. Agility is essential and if a campaign isn’t performing we can now change direction swiftly.

If used properly, an ATS can also identify silver medalists- those who were either close runners up for a role, or who may have declined an offer. When a similar role opens, guess where the recruiter will go first? These systems are configured to process the key words in a job description and serve up candidates who may be a fit. You can even say “I want to find someone like John” and a list of candidate profiles will be served that have similar backgrounds to John.

The sophistication and competi­tion in the recruiting world is mind boggling. A few technology compa­nies have emerged to offer full “Re­cruiting Stack” which provide ev­erything from texting capability, job distribution and analytics to profile refreshing so all of your candidate data is always current. Like mobile phones, new recruiting technology is almost obsolete before you com­plete its implementation.

Sure, the “shiny objects” are impressive. But although staffing innovations continue to evolve, nothing has replaced the power of picking up a telephone and speak­ing to a person. Relationships may start online but they are solidified with a real human connection. I like to believe that body language and tone of voice still trump a text message.

CH2M specializes in consulting, construction management, operations management, energy management and planning, strategic consulting and procurement.