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Unlocking the Secrets of Attracting and Retaining Hesitant Candidates

4 min read

Our leadership, executive search and candidate care experts from global sectors explain how organizations can attract and retain talent in an increasingly ‘candidate hesitant’ market.

Despite reports of a cooling job market, unemployment levels are low and job vacancies remain steady. In many sectors however, the buyer’s market isn’t translating into candidate confidence. Indeed, a growing candidate hesitancy trend is emerging in a number of sectors as we near the end of 2023. Despite healthy job opportunities, the mood of the candidate population is increasingly one of reluctance and an unwillingness to commit. Particularly for geographically ‘unattractive’ roles, organizations are struggling to attract the most talented leaders.

Below, we explain the specific drivers behind the candidate hesitancy trend, what organizations can do to overcome them and our unique role in engaging the very best leadership candidates.

What is driving candidate hesitancy?

The rising cost of living, changing work-life priorities, uncompetitive salaries and being increasingly time-poor, are all contributing to a hesitant candidate market in a number of sectors. In certain regions, the fallout from global conflict also impacts candidate confidence.

This also means leadership candidates are reluctant to pursue roles requiring relocation. Someone who might have previously partially relocated for a role, working three to five nights a week away from home, is faced with untenable costs. In many cases, organizations can’t pay candidates enough to meet the rising prices of hotel rooms or rented accommodation, even when negotiating extra days working from home.

At the same time, senior leaders - and candidates in general - want a greater work-life balance. The pandemic gave people time to reflect on priorities, and for many, spending time with family or committing to caring responsibilities came above work. As a result, fewer leaders want to live away from home, relocate their entire family or even simply take on a longer commute. This is compounded by salary hikes during the pandemic.

In many cases, a leader might already be paid what the organization is willing to pay and so there’s no financial incentive in moving job. Even when factoring in higher salaries, there’s a level of risk aversion among many candidates. Moving from a large established organization to a smaller, younger organization is increasingly perceived as too risky, given the uncertain economic environment.

Finally, we’re seeing very time-poor candidates. They are often both too busy to spot job ads and to pursue a role if they don’t feel like they have a good chance of winning it. In the past, leadership candidates would ‘put their hat in the ring’ even if it was just to test themselves in the process. Now, leadership candidates are reluctant to commit time to interviewing, pre-panel preparation and talking to stakeholders if they don’t think they’re an obvious fit. It means many organisations are appointing the sort of leader they’ve had before, rather than considering the ‘wild cards’ who can bring creativity and fresh perspectives.

How can organizations attract talented leaders?

A highly efficient and engaging appointment process is vital in attracting hesitant leaders and keeping them in the process. Every step of the process - from the candidate briefing document, to the initial online interview, through to the final interview panel - needs to feel bespoke to the candidate and move forward at pace. Too often leadership candidates drop out of lengthy interview processes due to a lack of regular contact, feedback and momentum from the hiring organization - all of which are now essential. Setting up the perfect recruiting process requires preparation and commitment from key stakeholders; you can find out how to do this here.

At Odgers Berndtson, we enhance the recruiting process with flexibility, while adding structure and engagement. We call candidates in the morning or evening, outside of work hours to flex around a time-poor candidate population. Likewise, we work with clients to ensure the process is accessible without lowering the bar on caliber and evaluation. We also ensure the process is demanding but not so onerous the candidate no longer thinks it’s worthwhile.

Importantly, we stay close to candidates, understanding them and their situation to identify those who are serious and those who are likely to ‘flake’, particularly where relocation is concerned. This helps mitigate much of the drop-out rate organizations are currently experiencing in hiring leaders. Much of this is a combination of due diligence, setting up stakeholder calls and providing candidate support. Structure and engagement are now critical aspects of keeping candidates in the process - we help develop a process bespoke to individual leadership candidates and keep them engaged through regular contact, acting as a guide and bridge to the client.

While the market remains tight for the most talented leaders, they can be attracted and appointed with the right recruiting process.

Follow the links below to discover more about our expertise, contact our authors or contact your local Odgers Berndtson office. 

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