hkp.com spoke to hkp/// group experts Dr. Stephan Schmid and Frank Gierschmann about the necessary transformation of recruiting practices and how professionals in the field need to adapt.
 
Companies increasingly complain about difficult-to-fill vacancies, painfully long hiring processes, a lack of suitable candidates and high turnover levels among new hires. Has the shortage of qualified applicants become a tangible problem?
Dr. Stephan Schmid: The labor market is certainly getting noticeably tougher in some professions. Unsurprisingly in an era of digitization, IT specialists are particularly in demand. The labor market is difficult for companies to influence, so having a competitive approach to recruiting is all the more important.
 
What does a modern approach to recruiting look like? What are the levers for success?
Frank Gierschmann: More and more companies understand that they can't achieve a real breakthrough just by making small adjustments to their recruiting processes. They realize that they need to critically evaluate recruiting in all its aspects. In many cases a radical rethink is required.
Dr. Stephan Schmid: Traditional recruiting has relied on a healthy supply of labor, with enough candidates with the right qualifications in the right locations. In many professions this situation has long since ceased to exist. The market power is shifting towards candidates. Candidates want to be sought out and won over – this calls for a departure from conventional staff recruitment and a move toward effective talent acquisition.
 
Is giving it a new name enough?
Dr. Stephan Schmid: By no means. Modern talent acquisition requires a new strategic approach and a more sales-like perspective on recruiting. Recruiters need to be passionate about identifying and attracting the right candidates for the firm, and focused on getting them to sign on the dotted line.
Frank Gierschmann: This requires that companies provide a high-quality candidate experience. Processes must be seamless and the technology must be easy to use. Candidates expect a one-click application process, continuous transparency on the status of their application, and quick feedback – via their mobile devices, of course.
 
If it's all about the "candidate experience", isn't there a risk that the quality of applicants will suffer and the wrong people will get hired?
Frank Gierschmann: A first-class candidate experience and strict selection processes are by no means mutually exclusive. Candidates who are successful in a selection process that they perceive to be very tough develop a stronger bond with the company than those who think they were offered the job on a plate.
Dr. Stephan Schmid: Of course, candidates must also have the chance to get to know the company and their future colleagues well enough to be able to make a decision for the long-term. Regardless of the actual outcome of the process, companies need a service-oriented, respectful approach to candidates throughout all phases of the recruitment process. The recruiter needs to act as a "relationship manager".
 
That sounds great – but it also sounds like a lot of work. Can companies really afford it?
Dr. Stephan Schmid: Our analysis shows that the biggest cost drivers arise from the fact that companies spend too much time dealing with too many candidates and not enough time dealing with the most promising candidates. The former ties up a lot of capacity and is expensive, while the latter results in both companies and candidates making avoidable mistakes – with very expensive consequences.
 
How can companies avoid these cost drivers?
Dr. Stephan Schmid: By putting their energy into ensuring a high-quality recruitment pipeline right from the start, and by being highly selective from early on. In our consulting projects, we scrutinize some of the typical approaches – should the company really be trying to generate as many applications as possible, or should it be trying to discourage unsuitable candidates from applying? Should all candidates who generally meet the criteria really be invited for an interview, or just the top two or three?
 
How can these processes be managed?
Dr. Stephan Schmid: For example, by explicitly talking about the high standards that are expected or, for certain target groups, carrying out online tests in advance. Steps like these not only reduce overall costs but also improve the quality of the recruitment decisions.
Frank Gierschmann: Candidates also really appreciate getting a realistic picture of what will be expected from them in the job. A simple tool like the Recruitomatis an example of how companies can help candidates reflect on this themselves.
 
But what if the problem is that there are not enough suitable candidates – or none at all? 
Frank Gierschmann: Recruiters need to be networking experts. They have to seek out the candidates in relevant circles and make effective use of employee and alumni networks. The aim is to create a valuable candidate pipeline. In particular active sourcing, where companies themselves go out and source potential talent, can lead to successful hires.
Dr. Stephan Schmid: It’s a good idea not to be too restrictive when drawing up the requirements for the job. The desire to find the "best person for the job" is widespread, but these days it's not clear whether the job in question will really be the same in a few years' time. Companies should therefore give greater weight to candidates' potential and their capacity to adapt.
Frank Gierschmann: Rather than asking the typical question "Is he or she a good match for us?", companies should maybe be asking "Would he or she add something to the firm?" That in itself will increase the number of suitable candidates for the job.
 
So recruiters need to be networking experts, relationship managers, salespeople, talent assessors… Isn't that placing somewhat unrealistic expectations on them?
Frank Gierschmann: Yes, but only if you expect one person to be all those things. More and more companies are establishing specialized recruitment roles. They’re saying goodbye to the "business partner" model in which generalists handle all the HR functions, including recruitment.
Dr. Stephan Schmid: Organizations are also increasingly looking at the option of setting up dedicated recruiting centers that are responsible for all relevant activities from start to finish. This organizational bundling is particularly suitable for large volumes. It allows different roles to be delineated – researchers, active sourcers, traditional recruiters, and so on. This will not be right for every company, of course. But there is no way for companies to achieve lasting success without highly professionalized recruiting.

Mr. Gierschman, Mr. Schmid, thank you very much.