Companies may be putting more effort into recruitment practices, but they are going about it the wrong way with disappointing results, says Roman Rogers, Hudson New Zealand's executive general manager.
The company's latest report, Employment Trends, says while seven out of 10 employers are feeling optimistic about the economy, most are keeping staffing levels steady until the economy takes a real upswing.
Just three out of ten employers intended to increase permanent staff in the next quarter, which was consistent with the previous quarter.
The report looked at how perceptions about the economy were affecting employers' hiring decisions. A quarter of employers believed they had more stringent assessment processes in place to ensure they got the right candidate.
Rogers says, however, that the findings revealed employers weren't investing enough in the hiring process - and weren't looking for changes to ensure they got the best get the best hires for the company.
"What seems to be happening is there are more interviews that potential staff members are being put through, and senior people in the company are getting more involved in these interviews. However, this doesn't increase the chances of good hires when the processes are still lacking."
Quite simply, Rogers says, companies aren't asking the right questions. His advice to smart candidates is to take advantage of this by doing their homework on the company, identifying questions that should be asked, and answering them even if they are not asked.
"Smart candidates will ... identify what role they are looking for and what their careers plans involve in the future - and how that fits into the job they are applying for now."
The key is to tell the company what it needs, and how they will fill that need, because companies aren't clear on what they want. It's about giving the employer more confidence in the hire.
Rogers says the big gap is at the mid to senior employee area. "A salary of $70,000 to $80,000 per year is a big investment, and companies need to recognise [that] by taking as much risk out of their employment processes as possible."
Rogers says employers are still focused on technical skills and aren't putting enough emphasis on behaviour fit and career intentions. "Many are trying to guess what they'll need in a few years ... Companies need to decide on who's the right person right now."
Hudson's last research had showed that because of the rate of change businesses faced these days, companies were looking for people who were open to change, could manage stress well and be resilient. "In that case, those are the things they need to recruit around."
Introducing psychometric testing had tended to reduce the risk of employing the wrong person. "Most organisations aren't doing psychometric testing - they're looking at technical skills, background and gut feel. Decisions are being made on the basis of 'the person looks right and sounds right and therefore must be right'. That's a very big risk to take."
Rogers says nearly half of companies aren't happy with the quality of their hires. "The key point is a lot of companies don't have a real understanding of the people they need."
A number of psychometric tools were available. "They are good behavioural tools, a way of understanding a person's traits - they also can include general cognitive skills, such as ability with numbers and the written word." It was important to know an individual would fit the culture of the company.
The Hudson report shows differences in hiring intentions between New Zealand's three main regions. More than half (52.2 per cent) of South Island intend to take on new staff. This is down 6.2 per cent compared to the previous quarter which reflects greater clarity around skills required for key projects and the pace of the Canterbury rebuild - employers are clearer about the resources needed rather than just thinking they need more people.
Auckland is influenced by consumers and how much they are or are not buying; Wellington is dealing with the continual change of job shedding and cost management in the public sector.
One interesting finding was that while confidence in the economy had grown, hiring intentions had not. Rogers suggests we're on a cusp and the employment market will catch up, saying the ageing population, baby boomers retiring and Kiwis exiting the workforce to go overseas will put pressure on hiring.
Rogers says as the economy grows, skills shortages will again become more apparent. As New Zealand's economy is so small, skills shortages can come about very quickly.
Now is the time for companies to invest in the right people with the right fit, so when the market sparks, they'll be ready.