In the current skills market, companies seeking staff need to to their homework

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    In the current skills market, companies seeking staff need to to their homework

With skills shortages across many industries, top candidates are being snapped up at a rate of knots according to a recent study by recruitment firm Robert Half. This is great news for job seekers looking to change roles, but it's fast becoming an issue for companies who are slow with their recruitment process.

The research has found around 60 per cent of human resource (HR) managers consulted admitted to losing top candidates due to lengthy hiring processes. Larger companies tend to have longer processes and are more likely to lose top talent due to the length of time needed to consult with all the key stakeholders.

Other issues that increase the time taken to make a placement include increased demands by the candidate (necessitating more internal negotiation) and the large number of CVs that need to be waded through for popular roles.

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Megan Alexander is the general manager of Robert Half in New Zealand. She says having very high standards in the recruitment process is understandable, but there is a need to speed up processes to avoid disenfranchising prospective talent.

"Organisations need to tighten the interview process by getting immediate feedback from the candidates to determine their level of interest and salary expectations," she says.

"Streamlining the hiring process from the top down, keeping communication lines open and informing candidates when they can expect to get an answer will help ensure the company doesn't lose candidates."

Communication can be lacking, with candidates often waiting weeks for the hiring decisions to be made. Alexander says this is a common reason for top talent being lost and recommends employers are transparent about their progress.

"If you are in the early stages you can tell a candidate you are interested in them, but haven't seen enough people for the role yet. Let them know you will be in touch within a few weeks and keep them in the loop."

Employers wanting to land top talent need to be mindful they are selling their brand and that stories about negative interview experiences may travel. "In our age of social media its important that candidates leave the process with a good impression of the company," she says.

The recruitment process is more important than some may think, as the company will be presenting its brand to a wide range of key people.

"Some employers don't really know what they want from a candidate and have the attitude that they will work out what is important as they go along. This can make the process long and confusing."

She says best practice is to work out your company brand and your exact requirements before the process begins.

The skill shortage in key areas like IT, accounting and finance provides an opportunity for individuals to shine in the interview situation. Alexander says there are relatively simple ways to get yourself noticed. and first impressions count.

"What you wear, your handshake, and how you present yourself will all contribute to the impact you make when you arrive at an interview."

If several people have the same skill sets from past employment, this first impression can give you a leading edge.

Another key factor is preparedness. Alexander says few people do proper research around the company they hope to work for. "This is very important," she says. "The company representatives need to know you are enthusiastic about the possibility of working for them and will be a good fit with the culture."

Though interviews are often one-sided, candidates who show initiative and ask questions about the role can also stand out.

"New Zealanders don't like to sell themselves, it's not one of our strong points," she says.

"By asking questions you can have the opportunity to bring up your own skills and show that you are engaged and have initiative."

Technical skills are often a requirement for jobs in areas such as IT, but with constant evolution in this field it can be hard to find people with all the key skills. Though technological skills are important, Alexander says that "soft skills" are becoming even more valuable.

"It's becoming more difficult to tick all the technical boxes," she says.

"But in times such as now where there are skills shortages, more people are being hired on their attitude and capability."

The hard skills can be learned, but soft skills are more to do with personality.

"Candidates need to be themselves," she says.

"Having the ability to fit into the culture of the organisation is extremely important."