Dealing with Crazy Hiring-Manager Psychology after a Pandemic

Kris Dunn Candidate Pool, COVID-19, Hiring Managers, Passive Candidates

“You know, KD, there are a lot of people looking for work out there now”

<KD stares into the abyss.>

“I’d like to see some more candidates.”

<KD ponders whether anger management therapy is a thing.>

“I think we’ll keep looking; I didn’t like the way she came back with a counteroffer. Doesn’t she know there are a lot of people looking for jobs?”

<KD understands why day drinking has its own merits.>

Yes . . . this is your life. Hiring managers who think there’s a never ending well of candidates and all you have to do as a recruiter is log in and make the call.

Of course, that’s hiring managers during normal times. But these times aren’t normal, my TA/Recruiting/HR friends. This is postrecession, soon to be postpandemic, and if history tells us anything, hiring managers are only going to get more funky related to their world views.

First, some macroeconomic thoughts about recessions and how hiring managers react to candidates during and after recessions:

1–Hiring managers love to look at the national unemployment numbers and subjective stories (what happened to friends and families) as reasons to be picky with candidates coming off recessions.

2–The pickiness generally turns into a bias against candidates who have been out of work for more than a month or two, even if the soup kitchen was serving half of the country.

3–The aforementioned picky behavior by hiring managers generally extends well past the time the economy has recovered. Coming off the great recession in 2009, I’d say many hiring managers thought that they were in the driver’s seat of employment until late 2011 or early 2012, which was 12-18 months longer than the reality.

Which—hey!—brings us to the employment scene in 2021. ARE YOU READY TO ROCK, TA/RECRUITING/HR PROFESSIONS? It’s a doozy!

2021 facts to consider:

A–The unemployment rate during COVID-19—at one time as high as 14% nationally—now sits at national rate of 6% (Jan 2021). For comparison’s sake, it was at 4% pre-COVID, which means it’s already almost fully recovered. Wait, what? I thought Congress was coming with another round of enhanced unemployment. <narrator shrugs>

B–In normal times, the best candidates are hesitant to move postrecession because you never have perfect information about the stability of the company you’re walking into. That’s the case this time around x100, as top candidates are leery of trading in the situation they know versus the concern that a company they might make a move towards is critically wounded due to COVID. <Cue the scary music.>

Yet, here we are. Hiring managers getting picky post-recession again, when we could use supply and demand fear as a form of recruiting leverage as recently as 13 months ago and it would work? I miss those old days!

So how do you deal with the unreasonable hiring manager who thinks the world (and every potential candidate, including those without active resumes) is their oyster? Give the following 4 thoughts a try as a TA/Recruiting/HR Leader:

1–Educate on the unemployment aspect. If you have an ops review, it’s worth your while to show the unemployment chart is almost back to normal. Many don’t know the reality, and it’s up to you to show them.

2–Find some research that shows that in addition to low unemployment, candidates are hunkering down because they don’t trust your company to make it through COVID. While you and your peers know that your company is the “shining city on the hill” (stop giggling), candidates just don’t have enough info. Top candidates aren’t naturally on the move right now.

3–Ramp open req reporting by hiring managers and roll up the departmental level. Many of us stopped open req reporting during the depths of COVID. If that was you, it’s OK! But now’s the time to scoreboard it up again and put natural organizational pressure on the candidate tire kickers.

4–Skip level updates still matter for TA/Recruiting/HR leaders. If you have a couple of problem children who aren’t getting the message that thousands of upwardly mobile people don’t want their job, it’s 100% appropriate—no! REQUIRED—that you stop by their boss’s office and give them an update on all their direct reports. Five are killing it, two aren’t when it comes to hiring. Use some leverage, my friends!

All these thoughts assume that you and your recruiting team are doing quality work on the open reqs in question that are being slow-rolled. If not, be better before proceeding. But if you’re doing the work and getting stalled by an unreasonably-picky hiring manager, start by using the four thoughts above.

TL;DR (provided at the end, which is a pro move) – Educate on the hiring climate, report on results, and then seek to influence the outliers.

And when all else fails, meditation apps might help.

KD out.