Prevailing HR view: Top candidates too busy working

It has been estimated that 67 percent of workers are passive job candidates — candidates likely to snatch the right opportunity but only if it is set in front of them.
It has been estimated that 67 percent of workers are passive job candidates — candidates likely to snatch the right opportunity but only if it is set in front of them.

By Kathy Canavan

When Sue Cordie lost her job in the third round of cuts at Kraft Foods this summer, the senior financial analyst met a recruiter for the first time.

As a former MBNAer who also has experience in the manufacturing and hotel industries, the senior financial analyst is an attractive candidate in a tight labor market. Robert Half, the staffing agency, has already begun its matchmaking.

“They have provided at least three potential opportunities that I have not provided on my own,” the Dover resident said.

Hiring managers say they get an occasional uber candidate who was caught in a downsizing or left a dream job to follow a spouse, but that most top candidates are too busy working to go job hunting.

Scott Shorr
Scott Shorr, vice president and director of permanent services at Robert Half, said many job applicants whose resumes seem to go into black holes on the internet need advocates to promote them.

“If you’re putting an ad out and waiting for the best candidates to apply, that’s just not going to happen. They’re not actively looking,” said Scott Shorr, director of permanent services at Robert Half. He estimated that 67 percent of workers are passive job candidates — candidates likely to snatch the right opportunity but only if it is set in front of them.

Top candidates, especially, don’t usually troll hiring sites. Despite this, a Robert Half survey showed 30 percent of employers simply post jobs and wait for applications to roll in.

With the unemployment rate for accountants at less than 2 percent in Delaware and the market for administrative professionals even tighter, the better candidates probably won’t be trolling the web, but they may show interest if a recruiter or HR rep offers them better hours, more responsibility or just a company that’s a better fit, Shorr said.

Heather Shupe, president of the Delaware chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, said low unemployment has many companies using a mix of active recruiting and web postings to find qualified employees.

About 22 percent of workers surveyed said they would be highly likely to consider a job offer from a recruiter even if they are not actively looking for work, according to a Robert Half survey. About 45 percent said they’d be somewhat likely to consider it.

“The best people are somewhat happy in their roles. They’re not actively looking. These people are happy, but they could be happier with the right role — maybe more responsibility, a change of pace, something closer to home,” Shorr said. “If we contact them and say, ‘Would you be interested?’ they often will listen.”   

Chris Burkhard, president of CBI Group, a Newark employment company, said well-qualified prospects are tough to find. “You can be certain right now, with the tightening of the labor market in the mid-Atlantic and finally in Delaware, that those who want to work are working. There probably is not enough unemployed and underemployed to fill the need in this market.”

Companies with sales between $10 million and $750,000 million that are too small to support a full recruitment and HR team often turn to recruitment companies to build a pipeline of qualified candidates. Shorr said companies typically pay Robert Half a percentage of the hire’s first-year salary. The number depends on the difficulty level of the search. The standard fee is 35 percent, but he said the current fees actually average about 25 percent.

The company’s recruiters query other job applicants about co-workers who have similar skill sets, and they search Linked In for qualified candidates who may not be currently searching. Then, they match-make.

Often, he says, a hiring manager wouldn’t view a job applicant as a recruiter does. because managers spend only 6 to 7 seconds perusing each resume.

“Often their resume doesn’t speak to who they are and the CFO or hiring manager only has so much time to look. We find out all the points that they do fit and focus on those,” he said. “A recruiter adds color.  We meet with the candidates and interview them. We find out what they’re currently doing in their role, why they made the switches they did, what their soft skills are. We get to know them inside and out.”

Companies on the hunt for specialized employees tend to hire specialized staffing services. There are recruiters not just for corner office types, but for boilermakers, welders and estimators and administrative personnel too.  

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