7 talent acquisition strategies for better hiring in 2021

The war for talent could resume if the effects of the pandemic recede as expected in 2021. Be prepared with an engaging candidate experience and top-notch career site and ATS.

2020 has been a challenging year, but as economies look to rebound in 2021 and companies look to hire, there are a number of strategies they should consider to win what could become a fierce battle for talent once the economic recovery is in full swing. The candidate experience is crucial to how you attract talent and is a key theme of human resources and talent acquisition in the following strategies for better hiring in 2021.

1.     Optimize your career site

Your career site is likely the first place a potential candidate interacts with your company. With hiring likely to increase in 2021, it is critical to optimize your career site so candidates can find it easily and it is both appealing and easy to use.

The site should be slick and enable candidates to quickly and easily set up a profile, search for jobs, and apply. Candidates who are potentially applying for multiple jobs and can't perform these activities quickly will look elsewhere. Who wants to lose the best and brightest applicants because they can't easily apply for a job at the company?

You can make things easier by using career site or recruitment marketing software. (Some recruitment marketing software includes a career site capability.) Your career site should use Search engine optimization (SEO) to maximize the likelihood of search engines directing people to the site. It should also be attractive and representative of your company culture, set up to work inside and outside the organization, and configured to place surveys throughout the site so candidates can provide feedback on their experience. Using a chatbot to provide real-time responses and information to candidates also adds real value to your career site.

Content such as videos and infographics makes the site more attractive to qualified candidates. Videos showing aspects of working at the company can appeal to candidates who place a high value on the work environment. Interviews with real employees can also tell candidates a lot about the culture and people that they will work with if their application is successful.

It's important to make sure your career site and the job search and application processes are mobile-ready. The changing demographic of the workforce means that for many people, their smartphone is their computer and may be their only method for accessing your career site and applying for jobs. The key features and content of the site need to work well on mobile devices and be optimized for the platform to give the same experience as through a desktop web browser.

Remember to freshen up your career site periodically so returning candidates see new content and not just the same old site.

2.     Implement an applicant tracking system (ATS)

Alongside your career site or recruitment marketing software, you should be using an applicant tracking system (ATS) throughout the hiring process. An ATS is more than about tracking candidates and applicants, though: It is also about the end-to-end management of candidates, job postings, applications and job offers, as well as creating a searchable database of candidates, resumes and job descriptions. An ATS also helps recruiters schedule interviews, send automated emails and notifications to recruiters and candidates, and keeps recruiters and hiring managers notified about the status of each hiring process.

An ATS is a wonderful tool to manage the entire recruiting process. Even if you are using an ATS today, you might want to see if it is the best system available. Once candidates filter through to the talent and applicant pools in your ATS (whether from the career site or external job posting or social media channel), you will able to view, identify, compare and rank candidates against job openings. This might be a job a candidate has applied for already, or your recruiters are proactively reaching out to a potential candidate who has been identified as possibly a good fit for a vacancy.

A good ATS will be able to post jobs to external job sites and social media sites, such as LinkedIn and Twitter. This capability can improve your reach and target a wider range of candidates. The ATS can reuse content from other jobs -- such as the company overview, employee benefits or skill sets -- to streamline creation of the job postings before they are pushed out by the ATS.

Using an ATS is a good way to manage the hiring process so candidates receive an impressive experience and therefore a great first impression of the company they may soon work for. Having a professionally managed process with regular communication that sets out expectations and next steps will entice candidates to accept an offer. This can make the difference in hiring top talent before your competition does.

Functions of an applicant tracking system (ATS)
An ATS handles most of the data and communications of talent acquisition.

3.     Identify your best source of talent

To optimize your sourcing of candidates, it's important to identify where the best candidates are coming from. You should track and regularly review the source of hire (SoH) for successful candidates who became high-performing, value-adding employees. SoH will tell you which sources -- for example, your career site, job boards, social media postings and employee referrals -- candidates and current employees come from. You can track this metric for different types of candidates -- such as unsuccessful candidates, successful hires and passive candidates -- and for different geographies and jobs.

By using SoH, you will get a good idea of where to focus your talent acquisition resources and attention. SoH will help you understand why those sources work well for you and how you can improve your approach on sites where the sourcing return is low. You might also decide to drop some of the low-performing sources from future postings and look for new sources to add.

You can use an ATS to measure SoH based on records of where candidates were sourced. You can also use analytics from recruiting websites. A recruitment marketing platform will provide analytics to show which recruiting sites provided candidates. Google Analytics is an alternative or complementary option.

4.     Ramp up remote hiring capabilities

With the pandemic potentially keeping remote work a necessity for a while, being able to hire remotely will be important. Having an entirely digital hiring process is critical for remote hiring. You must be able to have your jobs available online, interview on video conferencing software, and send, receive and sign documents digitally.

A career site, recruitment marketing application, and ATS that can post and track jobs -- all of them mobile-enabled -- form the backbone of a digital hiring process. Coupling them with video conferencing software, such as Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams and Zoom that is integrated with interview-scheduling and analytics software gives you a complete, end-to-end set of capabilities to not just recruit candidates remotely, but also to automate many parts of the process and track metrics about sourcing and hiring to continuously improve your hiring processes.

Remote interviewing is a fairly new part of the hiring process for many recruiters. While a lot of hiring has been done remotely for a while, interviews have always tended to be in person. That's not the case now, and interviewing via video conferencing software has become the norm. Remote interviewing is likely to stick around to some extent once the pandemic is over.

When remote interviewing, there are a few things to consider. Numerous video conferencing apps and video interviewing platforms are available, but it's worth picking one of the more reputable platforms. This will show candidates you're serious and will improve the reliability of video calls. Candidates don't want to download yet another app for a video conferencing service they haven't heard of. Technical problems can hinder an interview and prevent you from understanding enough about the candidate. Candidates should be given a certain amount of empathy for having to do interviews this way. Their personal situation -- especially the parts impacted by the pandemic -- might mean that they can't be in the most quiet or professional-looking location. In some cases, candidates might not be fully comfortable because of the surroundings or noise. Doing what you can to make them feel comfortable will ensure a better interview.

Onboarding new hires smoothly and effectively is an important step that you should start immediately after a candidate accepts an offer.

5.     Use artificial intelligence and machine learning

AI and especially machine learning (ML) are hot areas in recruitment and talent acquisition technology. AI and ML are being applied to improve and automate a wide variety of recruiting processes, such as:

  • screening and sorting large volumes of candidates;
  • scanning resumes;
  • matching candidates with job openings;
  • scanning job descriptions, offer letters and other communications for unsuitable or biased language;
  • chatbots; and
  • analytics, metrics and trends about the recruiting process.

Many of these tasks -- particularly tasks involving reviewing and sorting candidate profiles and resumes -- are time-consuming and cumbersome when using traditional methods, but with AI-powered software they are done automatically in a fraction of the time. Chatbots provide a communication channel for candidates to quickly ask questions and find out information. Natural language processing powers chatbots, but it also enables scanning of text for certain words or language patterns that are unsuitable, biased or potentially offensive.

Some ATS platforms have these AI capabilities, but sometimes you need other specialized recruiting software or add-ons. When investigating an ATS, check if these types of capabilities are available and, if not, whether the ATS vendor has partners that provide them.

6.     Skills-based hiring

Skilled-based hiring is becoming more prevalent again, largely due to AI-based technology that is improving the accuracy of skills identification and matching. Many employers are moving away from using academic degrees as a way of measuring the skills of candidates and instead using skills-based methods.

Using skills to identify the job requirements for a position can help attract suitable candidates who may be put off by educational requirements they don't meet even though they have the skill set to do the job well. Soft skills like communication, problem solving and critical thinking are crucially important to many roles and not easily demonstrated through holding a degree.

A skills-based hiring process can improve sourcing, screening and matching of candidates.

A skills-based hiring process can improve sourcing, screening and matching of candidates. The technique has been used in some talent management processes for quite some time, particularly in succession planning and career development planning. However, you need to make sure your candidate profile section is set up to allow candidates to select skills that match your jobs and can be verified during the recruiting process. To identify soft skills, you can use behavioral and situational questions through a questionnaire or an interview to understand the candidate's soft skills.

7.     Request candidate feedback

Despite your best intentions for talent acquisition planning, there are often areas that still need improvement. The best way to understand what they are is to gather feedback from candidates about their experience throughout the process. You can use an employee listening platform or survey tool -- such as Qualtrics, Medallia or SurveyMonkey -- to request feedback from candidates at various parts of the recruiting process. When aggregated, this feedback can point to issues that need attention to improve the candidate experience.

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