Ask any business about its top challenges for 2016 — the odds are good that recruiting and retaining talent are somewhere on that list. Smart companies know that they're only as good as their best workers, and will prioritize seeking out the best of the best for their organizations.
As technology continues to evolve, it plays an increasingly important role in the way companies approach the talent search and the hiring process. Hiring managers and HR experts shared their thoughts on the future of recruiting and what's on the horizon for this important area of business operations.
It's all about digital
When LinkedIn and online job applications first began to gain traction, they were seen as supplements to the traditional paper résumé and in-person interview. Today, the world of recruiting has gone nearly 100-percent digital.
"From the résumé to the search to the interview, we're moving toward a digital hiring model," said Bob Myhal, director of digital marketing at CBC Advertising and former CEO of NextHire. "Résumés will be displaced by constantly evolving representations of individual experiences, skills and aptitudes that exist purely in the digital realm. Innovative tools that use social media, big data and other technologies to give tremendous insight into individual job seekers will [be] the primary screening method."
Jon Bischke, CEO of Entelo, noted that digital profiles can provide far more insight into a candidate than a traditional résumé can, and many recruiters have realized that.
"Twenty years ago, the résumé was a piece of paper," Bischke said. "Now, it's a collection of all [candidate] data that can be found online, like participation in online communities, conferences and meet-ups. Recruiters can assess whether a person will fit, and learn if he or she has the right skills for a job."
For out-of-area candidates and first-round interviews, the phone call is quickly being replaced by the more-high-tech video interview, too.
"More and more employers are leveraging webcam and video interviews to streamline the hiring process," Myhal said. "We are already seeing a steep uptick in one-way videos where applicants record their interviews for later on-demand viewing. Live, two-way webcam interviews will also experience tremendous growth over the next three to five years."
Candidates expect a fast, easy application process
Today's job seekers know their worth and are aware of the competitive landscape. They see opportunities everywhere, and if one employer takes too long to respond or makes it difficult to apply, they'll quickly pass it up for another job opening.
"Talent acquisition has become a seller's market," said Laura Kerekes, chief knowledge officer of ThinkHR, a provider of human resources solutions. "For employers, it's all about maximizing the candidate experience through the job application process."
Kerekes said the "cardinal sin" of modern recruiting is not making that process fast or easy enough for candidates. One way to address this is by using recruitment marketing technologies. Amber Hyatt, SPHR and director of product marketing at HR software company SilkRoad, said these can include candidate job portals, employee onboarding and offboarding portals, and specialty tools that foster sourcing via job boards and employee referral networks. These integrated platforms are more cost-effective and enable the collaborative hiring of top talent employees, he said.
"Some small employers can't afford sophisticated technology, but they can make it easy," Kerekes added. "They've got a website — make the process engaging and simple."
Your "employment brand" is a key selling point
Savvy candidates will evaluate company brands before applying to or accepting a job, much in the same way they evaluate consumer brands when shopping, Hyatt said. They'll be researching you as much as you're researching them, so make your website a strong tool for engaging talent.
"Company websites [are a top] job hunting source for candidates," Hyatt told Business News Daily. "These company storefronts serve as a one-stop shop where job hunting begins, so it's imperative [to have] a well-designed career site to deliver a cohesive brand image that reflects the company mission, vision and values. The company brand experience, in combination with detailed job descriptions and an online application, engages job seekers and helps them determine proactively if they are a cultural fit to the organization, and whether to apply."
Kerekes noted that companies should also take the time to look at how they're being reviewed on sites like Glassdoor and, if possible, incorporate that into their employment brand.
Employers need to focus on passive candidates
As the number of Generation Y — and soon, Gen Z — workers continues to increase, recruiters have learned that these employees' expectations about the hiring process differ from those of older generations.
"Raised on technology, [millennials] do not accept many legacy concepts of recruiting and work," said Marley Dominguez, CEO of Haystack Job Search, Inc. "To be effective, recruiters are going to need to engage Gen Y candidates in new ways."
This is especially true of "passive candidates" — individuals who aren't necessarily seeking a job, but are open to new opportunities, Myhal said. While some employers have no shortage of applicants who reach out as soon as an opportunity is posted, this is no longer the norm for most companies.
"Today, it's far more important for a recruiter to be proactive when finding candidates," Myhal said.
If you aren't doing this already, Bischke advised looking for candidates through their social media profiles and anywhere else they have a Web presence, since today's professionals expect employers to search for them and take their online branding and positioning very seriously.
Data analytics are getting more sophisticated
The use of social networks and other digital profiles as candidate search tools has opened up a much wider talent pool for recruiters to draw from, but the time it takes to do that research could end up taking hiring managers away from their most important task: actually hiring.
"It is not efficient to manually sort through profiles and social network data," Dominguez said. "We expect that the next trend will be not just sourcing social and mobile recruiting data, but actually applying intelligence to summarizing the important information."
High-quality analytics programs already have been applied to customer data to help businesses make better strategic decisions. Candidate information will increasingly get the "big data treatment" so recruiters can quickly and easily locate the best people for the job, experts say.
"Cloud-based hiring tools will allow recruiters and hiring managers to easily and affordably find, evaluate and organize top job candidates, while innovative assessment and filtering techniques will help provide a 360-degree holistic view of top applicants," Myhal said. "Through biometric data, companies like NextHire will better predict which candidates are most likely to be a good fit for a position, and which are not."
Data analytics may even help recruiters discover which passive candidates are better to approach.
"One of the ways big data is impacting recruiting is around using social data to identify people who are more likely to be open to new opportunities," Bischke said. "[Tools can use] people's online public footprint to help predict when they might be ready to leave an employer and seek a new job."
While digital tools will never fully replace the human instinct necessary for identifying the right candidates, an ability to stay on top of technological trends could be a recruiter's biggest advantage going forward.
"You need to take advantage of the new tools and resources that allow you to move beyond the résumé," Myhal said. "This will help ensure you're finding the righthire and ultimately saving your business time, headaches and cold, hard cash."
This article was originally published in 2014 and was updated Jan. 11, 2016.