Q&A: A Modern Approach to Recruiting and Talent Acquisition

Talent Acquisition

Recruiting and talent acquisition have been top of mind during this era that has been dubbed the Great Resignation. Whlie the labor shortage is hitting some industries more than others, it is influencing the job application process and onboarding. 

It’s a new world that HR leaders have no choice but to step into, says Ky Cunningham, the director of Corporate Recruiting at US Express. Cunningham will present at the HR Exchange Live Recruiting and Talent Acquisition online event, which will take place February 1 to 2, 2022.

Recently, she spoke to HR Exchange Network about how to navigate the HR transformation to invigorate and strengthen your recruiting and talent acquisition strategy. 

HREN: What new and innovative ways will organizations try to attract top talent in 2022?

KC: I think they’re going to have to pull out the whole arsenal. I can see on social media that branding is going to be very important in 2022. You have to figure out how to get in front of the candidates. Candidates are going to want to know about your managers, what is your team like, what is your culture, what kind of work-life balance do you offer. Companies are going to have to offer remote work to those who can do their job from home.

Candidates are going to dive into your benefits. What other compensation do you have? Companies are throwing a lot of money into sign-on bonuses and stock to remain competitive. You are definitely going to have to up your game. We’re going to see pay increases for more entry-level roles. To compete, companies are finding they have to offer a little more to candidates to entice them. 

You will use all the job boards. We’re just using them a little differently than we have in the past. One thing we did was show what the culture was like for our team members. We tried asking team members to tell us what it’s like working in that particular position. Before a person applies, they can contact our employees and say, “Tell me about the job. What is the work like on an everyday basis? What kind of systems do you use?”  You’re going to have to be open and engaging a lot sooner in the process. Candidates don’t want to come in and then find out what the job is like. They want to know before they even apply what they’re signing up for.

Offer internships, even to students in high school. You’re going to see more sign-on bonuses and retention bonuses. You’ll also see some interesting, exciting referral programs. Your top talent is being poached from every angle. Competitors are definitely looking at top talent in your organization If they are not happy, you could lose that top talent.

One Step Ahead in Recruiting and Talent Acquisition

HREN: What is top of mind when it comes to employee engagement?

KC: Some of the biggest challenges with retention is burnout. You’re going to have to find a way to keep those employees engaged and find ways to help them advance in the organization.

One of the things we found with our employees is that they needed better work-life balance, of course. So, we started finding interesting ways to give them time off to unwind and unplug. Don’t log in. Don’t answer me on IM. Don’t answer emails. When you’re off, you’re off. Those are your off hours. We respect that time. Not all employers do this. Because we’re trying to meet business needs, we don’t always give employees that time. Because you’re always going, that burnout happens.

Another thing we implemented internally through our recruitment team is passion projects. It allows our recruiters to focus on things outside their day-to-day work. One team is working on D and I initiatives. That is their passion. That is what they love to do. They are building out a whole program for that. We also have a military spouse who works for us. She’s passionate about recruiting streams within military and veterans and partnering with our internal team to expand that. Another group is focused on outreach. They love community and activism. It gives them a passion to get all of us involved. They get to do something they really love and make it part of their work.

HREN: What are some big mistakes employers make when building their employer brand?

KC: The biggest mistake -  a lesson I had to learn myself – is how to build consistency behind the brand. We’re so passionate in the beginning of building the brand and have all these great ideas. We think that we can do this and launch that. But how often are you posting? It’s not just about putting information out. Are you engaging with the people responding? Are you talking to them? Are you sharing information? Or are you just posting jobs, jobs, jobs. I would hone in on the consistency and engagement part. If you can hone in on those two areas, you can build something amazing. Also, you have to spread the word, connect with people, and have meaningful conversations.

Refreshing Approach

HREN: What are some bullet points of the fantastic candidate experience that you plan to share in your session at the event?

KC: The number one issue I heard candidates responding to us about is not hearing back from us. And the other issue was that they didn’t know what was coming next in the process. Those were the first two things we wanted to tackle. We started making little changes that we could make immediately and would have a huge impact. We let the candidates know the steps in the process, the turnaround time, and how to get in touch with questions.

The team came together and shared what they were seeing. I wanted feedback from everybody, so it would work for all the different groups. The blanketed email at the end that says we’re going with other candidates was a big issue. We wanted to give candidates closure at the end of the process.

Now, we will call you and tell you that we’re passing on you, but tell you why and what you can work on. If it comes down to two people and we have to choose one, we explain that to the candidates ahead of time. Some of our recruiters found placement at other companies for top candidates who didn’t get the job with us. We even gave letters of recommendation. Most companies don’t think to do that.

We recognize, at the end of the day, these are other humans. They’re trying to feed their families. They’re trying to pay their bills. They’re trying to get their careers going. They’re trying to continue their livelihood. When you hang up the phone, you feel like you were treated differently. ‘Even if Ky rejected me, I still have something great to say about Ky, and I will send more people to Ky.’ If you can still get somebody to refer you after you’ve rejected him or her, you have done a great job.  

On the Horizon

HREN: How are you approaching campus recruiting?

KC: We had a small program. We are still trying to figure out which campuses we’re going to. We have several different companies under our umbrella. We had to determine what worked for each group because it couldn’t be one size fits all. What we didn’t want to do was be that company that shows up on career fair day and that was the one and only time students would hear from us.

We stepped in to do lunch and learns, doing tables, meeting with students, helping with resume writing, building our internships. We had to delegate who would be responsible for different parts of the campus recruiting process because everyone has other recruiting responsibilities, too. This is just a part of what we’re doing. We built partnerships with the career office and the professors. We want to make sure communication works both ways. You don’t want to meet with students their junior or senior year. You can start from when they’re freshmen.

HREN: What is your best advice for the next year? 

KC: I would say go into next year with a plan of how you’re going to attract talent. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure this out. You should already have your plan and start implementing it right away. Also, understand that candidates are going to want that collaboration, even in the interview process. As long as you’re doing your part, you’ll do a phenomenal job of not only building a candidate pipeline but also building retention and collaboration as you continue to grow your company. It’s not going to be business as usual. You’re going to have to break out of the mold.

Register to see Ky Cunningham and others discuss empathy and more at the HR Exchange Live Recruiting and Talent Acquisition online event. 

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