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Attracting Top Talent is Much Different Now

Check out a conversation between three of our best staffing specialists and Partners at Southwest Search as they talk about what is working when it comes to hiring.

Mark Stevenson | Partner, IT Solutions Manager
Ashley Johnson | Partner, Project Solutions – Accounting/Finance/Admin
Donna Grooms | Senior Partner, Direct Hire – Accounting & Finance

What are people looking for in 2021 that was possibly different than in 2019/2020?

Mark: IT Candidates have gotten used to working remotely.  They can often be much more productive, especially if you are a software developer that gets on a creative groove.  It can take around 20 minutes to get back into that groove when interrupted in an office.  Most want to have at least partial remote in a new opportunity.  

Ashley: The Covid era forced many companies to cut back on contract labor for many reasons…putting projects on hold, not having the ability to allow contractors to work from home, budgetary reasons, etc. Because of this, we’ve seen a couple of different scenarios: In many situations where a client may have gone temp to hire before Covid, they are now hiring directly permanent , in part because they are better equipped to have permanent employees work from home. Also, companies have reduced headcount so much that they now are in a position to increase their permanent headcount.  We are also finding that because of major cutbacks or simply the unknown during Covid, the temp needs that were put on the back-burner are now starting to emerge, so the sense of urgency is very high. In regard to what clients are looking for that may be different now, I think that clients have always looked for contract employees that are quick learners, independent workers, and possess good technical skills, but it’s more important than ever in this remote environment.  

What are some unique ideas companies are using to attract top talent?

Mark: Remote work ability again is a big perk…almost a must for some.  Many companies that are open to fully remote have access to a whole new realm of candidates who are not living in the same city, but can do the same work from a different location. 

Donna: No major changes other than the flexibility to work from home.  It will be interesting to see how this holds up once most companies are back in full swing working from the office.  I think we all feel as though most companies will be forced to offer some kind of hybrid work from home/office schedule.

What are some of the challenges we are facing today with hiring that we weren’t two years ago?

Ashley: Virtual interviews are now becoming the norm, which is both a blessing and a curse. Though virtual is better than over the phone, nothing beats the actual face to face meeting when it comes to really getting a feel for a person. Also, because the nature of temporary jobs typically requires someone to come in and learn quickly, candidates that would have been able to do the temporary job well in person, may struggle a bit in the remote environment and often this can only be seen after they are brought on, so it makes hiring more challenging.   

Mark: Video interviewing is the latest greatest. The difficulty is getting passive candidates who are relatively happy in their current job to leave for a new opportunity when they haven’t seen the office and experienced the new company environment in-person. Companies typically need to be open to additional meetings/interviews to make those candidates feel more comfortable in the decision-making process. They need to transition from interviewing to more of a get-to-know-you meeting. 

What are some of the challenges small scale companies are faced with hiring?

Donna: The cost of benefits for employees usually far exceeds that of larger scale companies.

Ashley: As it applies to temporary workers, the smaller companies don’t have the comparable work from home resources as the larger companies.  They also tend to pay less, which makes it more difficult to attract and keep contractors who will leave for another opportunity far quicker than a permanent employee might. 

Mark: Smaller company’s hiring decisions can be (relatively) more costly, so they are less likely to hire remote workers. IT candidates have options all around the country now, so there is even more competition for talent.  Smaller companies need to embrace remote workers and speed up their hiring process to land top talent. 

What are some of the challenges large scale companies are faced with hiring?

Ashley: The larger companies tend to have a bit longer hiring process and if they don’t move quick enough, temporary candidates have found another opportunity.   

Donna: Being able to get through the interview process timely enough to compete with smaller companies that are less bureaucratic. Also, it may become harder to promote from within when employees are working from home and aren’t as visible in the workplace.

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