Recruiting Today Is Like Night and Day

Examining the latest CandE Pulse survey results.

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Feb 7, 2024

The vibe at the first recruiting conference of the year was definitely different than all of last year. Maybe it was the fact that many talent acquisition leaders and their teams truly felt they had left 2023 behind and it was time for a fresh start. That U.S. employers added 353,000 jobs in January according to the Labor Department, way more than most analysts were expecting. That, in fact, nearly every industry added jobs last month. That job growth was even stronger in November and December than originally reported, and the unemployment rate held steady at a historically low 3.7%. That inflation is down and consumer spending rocketed the economy through the holidays.

Maybe that’s why the record turnout of attendees of TA Week felt so engaged and ready to go, and why so many recruiting and sourcing leaders and their teams are excited about learning and networking at SourceCon in April and the ERE Recruiting Conference in May, along with many other events this spring.

Maybe. It does feel like night and day from last year, and we’re all excited but cautiously optimistic about what’s coming this year. Our latest CandE Benchmark Research reveals the fallout of a rough year in recruiting and how the candidate experience took a bit hit with the exception of the highest rated companies in our research. And even they struggled with timely dispositions.

The Struggle (Was) Is Real

Our comprehensive 2023 benchmark research will be out very soon, and one of the key takeaways is the fact that timely dispositions have definitely taken a slide. For the past few years, the highest rated employers have been more consistent and timely with their dispositions. In fact, most had told us they were required to review applications within three to five days to reject or move forward. While this is still a differentiator for CandE Winners around the world, the overall percentage of top-rated employers doing this within three to five days has decreased.

For example, over 80% of the top-rated North America employers said they disposition within three to five days in 2022, but this year, that’s dropped to 50% or lower. Only 56% of all 2023 North America CandE Winners said they disposition within three to five days, but last year it was 63%, an 11% decrease.

The mix of participating employers does change each year, but the reality for many employers in 2023 was that their applications increased while their recruiting teams decreased. Even if their rejection timeliness deteriorated somewhat, the top-rated employers are still more consistent about rejecting candidates than all other employers in our research. This was true in EMEA, APAC, and Latin America, as well.

Latest CandE Pulse: January 2024

But again, we all hope things are looking up in recruiting and hiring, and so far as highlighted in the beginning of this article, they just might be. Thankfully there are TA teams working on improving their recruiting process and optimizing their technologies to meet the demands of constant change ahead. Many of such companies participate in our annual CandE Benchmark Research Program and win our CandE Awards.

For the past year, we’ve been been asking these employers and many others in our CandE Community about what their priorities are month to month in our CandE Pulse surveys, and one of the constants that we’ve seen in the top five priorities is that “candidate experience” has been No. 1 and No. 2 for nearly the entire past 13 months, except in January, where it fell to #5 (and it’s at #5 only because Recruitment Marketing and Employee Referrals tied for #4).

Priorities fluctuate, and we’ve seen plenty of variation over the past year. Screening & Interviewing (51%), Preboarding / Onboarding (49%), and the Application Process (43%) were the top 3 in January.

Top 5 Recruiting and Hiring Priorities

We don’t believe this means the end of prioritizing candidate experience, because 36% still said it was important, but it does make us wonder what’s going on in those team meetings of late. As always, this is only the partial list of what we ask, and it’s clear that priorities can change. A lot. Every single month. Granted, it’s a different mix of employers responding to these surveys each month, but still a sample set of what the focuses currently are.

Our January CandE Pulse survey respondents represented over 100 employers. 74% were from employers 500-100,000+ in employee size, and across many industries including education, healthcare, technology, construction, finance and insurance, services, and many others.

In addition to asking what employers’ priorities are month after month, we also ask them how they are going to get all the work done. Out of the top five each month, the most regularly recurring one is “Improving Processes.” This makes sense since it is where companies should tackle priority improvement and implementation first and foremost.

The next regularly recurring activity is “Current Staffing,” which also resonates with us and what we’ve heard from many in our CandE Community — that they are working hard to maximize they’re already thinner teams. New and current technologies were also key to getting recruiting done for employers in January, and we hope they’re continuously optimizing their tech stacks as well because they impact a big part of the candidate experience (and recruiting and hiring manager experiences).

Top 5 Ways to Get It All Done

January CandE Pulse respondents said they’ve been hiring, and it’s up 24%. The percentages have been consistently in the 70s to low 80s for the past year, and now it’s hit 93%. This aligns with the Labor Department data and contributes to the narrative of economic improvement.

Hiring Status

Contract, entry-level, hourly, and professional hiring were all up in January, but management hiring was down slightly. It’s important to note that the mix of employers responding to our CandE Pulse surveys do vary each month, and it’s not all net new hiring, but seeing stable hiring month after month is promising. However, freezing hiring, laying off, and redeploying were all down in January.

We also ask employers each month whether they’ve increased or decreased the size of their recruiting team this month. While the number decreased significantly during the summer months last year, increasing the recruiting team size is now up 74% since the end of last year.

Increased or Decreased Recruiting Team Size

We’ve also started asking about whether or not recruiting budgets have increased or decreased, and in January, 42% of respondents said it had increased. This will be something we’ll continue to monitor month after month as it impacts the ability for TA and their teams to get their recruiting and hiring work done.

Increased or Decreased Recruiting Budget

We also ask each month about the job requisition load, and the monthly average was 77% stating they manage up to 30 reqs each per recruiter in January 2023, to the same 77% managing up to 30 reqs each per recruiter in January 2024. It’s possible this indicates requisition load stability and/or reqs being spread out because recruiting teams have increased in size per our monthly CandE Pulse surveys.

And as we do each year in our benchmark research, and now monthly in our CandE Pulse surveys, we again highlight how employers self-rate their own recruiting and candidate experience and whether or not their leading, competing, improving, or lagging. Those who said they were lagging increased slightly, while those who said they were improving continued to decrease and decreased by 39% in January — not the trends we want to see, but definitely a continuing road sign of their recruiting delivery struggle.

Otherwise, those who said they were competing increased 26% and those who said they were leading increased by 50%. Yes, these are self-ratings and are subjective, but we do hope those that said they’re competing and leading participate in the 2024 CandE Benchmark Research Program. And those that need to improve too!

Self-Rating Recruiting and Candidate Experience

The employers that respond to our CandE Pulse surveys each month vary, but we do know that no matter the mix, consistent recruiting and hiring while sustaining a quality candidate experience is difficult for most companies. But as we mention each month, there are those multi-year CandE Award winners that do it year after year (those employers that have above average ratings in our benchmark research, which ultimately is still a much smaller subset overall).

(You can see some of those CandE Winner differentiators in our initial 2023 CandE Benchmark Research Report that’s out now, and the entire global benchmark report coming out soon, complete with stage-based takeaways and CandE Winner case studies.)

According to one of our 2023 CandE Winners, Schneider Electric, (excerpt from an upcoming case study): “This year at Schneider Electric we have focused our new strategy and talent acquisition transformation to take a candidate centric approach. Our people, processes, technology, and employer branding efforts are all customer (candidate) focused. Our new customer is the candidate: every action we take is focused on ensuring the best candidate experience.”

At the moment, it feels like night and day from last year. Hopefully the light sustains for the long run. And while recruiting priorities will come and go, keeping your recruiting and hiring optimized, and your candidate experience in the light, are key for your business and your brand.

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