Educate Hiring Managers on Their Competitive Landscape — Recruit When Competition Is Low

Everyone should already know that the best time to recruit is when the competition is low. However, it’s difficult to find corporate recruiters who routinely report to their hiring managers the current level of competition faced in relation to their newly opened job.

The technical term for this external analysis is the “competitive landscape” for the job. A typical competitive-landscape report might begin by revealing the total number of currently posted competitor openings for that job, as well as the names of the top firms that have current job postings for them. Having this information would allow an individual hiring manager to use the powerful strategy known as “recruiting when the competition is low” to dramatically increase their quality of hire.

It’s important to realize upfront that recruiting competition does vary dramatically throughout the year. One study revealed that across all jobs, the highest job-posting competition occurs in January and the lowest competition occurs in April. For example, hiring managers could take advantage of this variation in competition if they knew historically that during January, all of the top ten strongest industry employers recruit for a given job and that the total number of current openings for it was 96. With this information to guide them, hiring managers might choose to postpone their recruiting until the low competition month of April, when on average there might be 50% fewer openings and only 10% of the top firms would historically be recruiting for this position.

And finally, for hiring managers that work at lesser-known and small farms, this competitive-landscape report may result in a rare opportunity to land an exceptional hire — as a result of using data that reveals when recruiting competition for this job is especially low. 

The Benefits of Reporting the Competitive Landscape to a Hiring Manager

When recruiters analyze the competitive landscape and report it to their hiring managers, many positive things can occur. They include:

  • You can better time your hiring. As mentioned, the recruiting competition for any particular job varies significantly throughout the year, and it’s easy for recruiters to show statistically how the quality of hire for a position improves when the competition is low. By alerting hiring managers when they will be competing head-to-head with major firms, you give them the option of postponing hiring to avoid much of that often un-winnable competition. Even though most managers want to fill a position immediately after it becomes open, you can show them the high ROI associated with hiring a short-term fill-in worker. Then they can painlessly postpone hiring for a few months until the competition is much lower. 
  • You can take advantage of hiring patterns. By gathering and analyzing data, recruiters can determine hiring patterns and tendencies for this job family. Knowing these patterns can help managers better plan their future expansion hiring. You can help managers by alerting them when top competitors often have hiring freezes (Google recently had its first). And when the headcount budgets at their major talent competitors are at their highest and lowest, recruiters can also alert hiring managers about unexpected talent availability as a result of budget freezes, mergers, restructuring, and layoffs at top firms that are known for their talent. Several large job families also have predictable patterns of turnover (i.e., salespeople in December and teachers in June).
  • Competitive landscape reporting can lead the way in a data-driven approach. If your recruiting function is moving towards a data-driven approach, it’s critical to begin to use both internal and external data for decision-making. Conducting a competitive analysis can be the first step in a proactive strategy for understanding and directly countering the sourcing, branding, and job posting strategies of your top talent competitors.
  • Hiring managers will have more respect for recruiters. Most hiring managers operate in a highly competitive environment. They understand and appreciate the value of knowing everything they can about their recruiting competition. Reporting the competitive environment therefore makes recruiters seem more knowledgeable, data-driven, and businesslike. 

Possible Competitive Landscape Factors to Report

When you study and analyze the competitive recruiting environment for a particular job family, here are some of the data points that you should consider gathering and reporting to your hiring manager. They are listed in descending order of importance.

  • The number of open job postings this month. Literally, count the number of current openings for this targeted job. Let your hiring manager know whether the current number of openings is significantly above or below the monthly average. If possible, show the correlation between a low number of competitor openings and a higher quality of hire for this job. 
  • The number of top companies recruiting this month. Often the most damaging recruiting competition comes from firms with powerful employer brands. Start by identifying the well-branded firms in your industry that traditionally beat you in head-to-head recruiting competitions within this job family. Then reveal to the hiring manager the names of the top firms that are currently actively recruiting for their job. Also, let them know immediately whenever top firms stop hiring in this job family, as well as advise the hiring manager as to whether the competition from top firms is likely to decrease or increase during the next few months. If possible, show the correlation between months when a low number of top firms are recruiting and a higher quality of hire for this job. 
  • The upcoming optimal recruiting times during this quarter. Before hiring managers can decide to postpone hiring for a job, they need to know the likely optimal months for hiring during this current quarter. When managers have a lot of flexibility, recruiters should also educate them as to which future time periods over the remainder of the year are likely to provide a competitive advantage.
  • Is your job posting superior? Smart recruiters make sure that their job posting for a position attracts better than competitor job postings. They can assure this by blind testing every one of the current job postings with potential applicants. That will ensure that their posting attracts the best talent.
  • Are you facing an exceptional recruiter? Great recruiters also know when they are competing directly against other great recruiters, It’s therefore important to let a hiring manager know when a current opening is being handled by a top recruiter from a top firm that has routinely beaten your firm in the past.
  • Alert managers on factors that impact quality of hire. If the goal of the hiring manager is to land top-performing hires or innovators, you must show the hiring manager that you have data revealing the factors that have the most impact on new-hire performance (i.e., quality of hire). Start by showing them which months have traditionally been best or worst specifically for hiring top performers. Also show them the months where offer acceptance rates are higher and the number and quality of candidates are higher. And finally, work with the CFO’s office to calculate the dollar value of the increased new-hire performance by following the “hire when the competition is low strategy.” Use that dollar amount to convince hiring managers to change their hiring patterns to avoid severe recruiting competition.

Unfortunately, it’s standard practice for most hiring managers to post an open job immediately after it becomes open. During my research on “timing is everything” in recruiting, I found that they post immediately primarily because they have not been made aware of the advantages of waiting until the recruiting competition for their job is low. And even if they are aware, in most organizations hiring managers have no way to judge current and future levels of recruiting competition because their recruiters don’t analyze recruiting’s competitive landscape.

Competitive landscape analysis at the job level is rare in recruiting, despite the fact that it is a routine part of product development and project management. Obviously, this article is targeted towards the many advantages of timing your hiring for when the recruiting competition is low. Adding a broader competitive analysis can help recruiting create a competitive advantage in many additional areas including sourcing, employer branding, recruitment marketing, and creating competitive offers. In my view, it’s time for recruiting leaders to devote more time and resources to looking externally for data covering the recruiting competition to build and maintain a competitive advantage in the critical area of recruiting.

If this article stimulated your thinking and provided you with actionable tips, please take a minute to follow and/or connect with Dr. Sullivan on LinkedIn and subscribe to ERE Daily.

As seen on ERE Media on 1/6/2020.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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