One of the biggest workplace changes that will take place in the next few years is the way people are hired. So how do you get ready for the changes? Be a good candidate for one thing. But also, be conscious of how employers will start shifting to meet the good candidates, because you want to be right there with them.

Here are four ways hiring practices will change:

1. Companies will make recruiting young employees the top priority.
There is a massive shortage of workers beyond what anyone predicted. Companies were ready for baby boomers to retire. Companies knew they would rely on Generation X and Generation Y to replace those boomers.

What companies could have never predicted is that there are other factors exacerbating this shortage. Gen X is downshifting to spend more time with their kids. So they are working fewer hours. And Gen Y is flocking to entrepreneurship and self-employment. Even those interviewing at companies are finding that travel and moving in with parents is more appealing than the jobs being offered.

This means that the workers replacing baby boomers come from a much smaller pool than anticipated. And one of the most popular topics on the management consulting circuit is recruiting and retaining Gen Y workers. Companies have little idea how to do it, but they know if they don’t figure it out, they will not be able to maintain their growth. (Note: Some companies do get it – Business Week lists some big ones.)

2. Candidates will drive the hiring process rather than employers.
The conundrum of the new workforce is that they are always looking for a job, but furtively. Like, at a party for their girlfriend’s start-up, or while commenting on their father’s best friend’s blog.

There is a growing trend among young people who have honed their skills, and are good at marketing themselves, and have a clear sense of what makes a good job: They don’t need more job offers.

Street Attack is a company that attracts this type of candidate. The company is cool – it markets cool brands in innovative ways to young hipsters. And the opportunities for employees encourage personal growth. So someone like Jennifer Coe, a Street Attack account manager, is part of a large class of employees who is always looking for a job, but always performing very well in her current job and does not need someone to bring opportunities to her. She knows how to make them come her way. This is the kind of candidate everyone wants but cannot recruit.

3. Companies will stop writing stupid ads.
The custom of writing insanely uninformative job descriptions to attract applicants is not working because decent applicants don’t apply.

Companies routinely write vague offers like “salary dependent on experience” when the salary actually does not go above entry level. Or the company asks for impossible skill sets like “five years of design experience and good knowledge of accounting practices.” Companies also say things like “great opportunity” when it is actually a dead end, and “fun office environment” when the office is actually full of people biding time until they can get the hell out and retire to North Carolina.

JobFox is an employment matching site that presents a model for creating better job descriptions. An extensive set of questions – based on industry-specific research – helps companies write the kind of job descriptions that actually inform people about what is being offered. JobFox knows the pitfalls of the job specifications, and the transparency and honesty of the JobFox-generated description could become an industry standard.

4. The quality match will take center stage.
Companies are forced to invest so much in hiring candidates they can’t afford to make mistakes. And candidates have so many choices that they can afford to demand a great match. This means the matching process between company and employee is going to become personalized.

One form this might take is hiring people via their blogs. Blogging lets candidates show their ideas and their personality, and their work habits, which are all the things that matter to an employer. A blog is like a living, breathing resume and network rolled into one, which makes it a very practical job hunting tool for candidates and employers.

Young people are loyal to brands, so another form of personalized job matching could come with companies interacting with people in ways that allow the candidate to know the company. This is a way that a company like Street Attack can attract candidates. But larger companies do this as well, for example Pepsi has edgy videos on MySpace.

And companies like JobFox will continue to develop tools that help employers and employees hone their presentation skills to the point that they can tell each other exactly what matters so that they can create a genuine match.

5. The workplace will get great.
That’s right. The current gulf between what employees want and what employers are offering will have to close, out of financial necessity for both parties. And we’ll see a super-motivated workforce raising productivity levels to record highs while moving from job to job, to gather skills, contacts, and growth opportunities.

21 replies
  1. Willy
    Willy says:

    Penelope, I think you're having some issues with the links in this post. Many of them are pointing to JobFox.

    This is a great post that really applies to my interests and the business I've been building (especially my dream of helping companies write job postings that don't suck). I think we will see these changes eventually, but we need something big to push them forward. A recession might just be the thing that gets companies to reorganize and realize that they need to change their approach to talent. Or they might just backtrack and ruin all the progress that has been made.

    In fact, I think the FIRST step is creating a great place to work, because companies will not allow the recruiting process to be transparent unless the company looks good under scrutiny. Look at the companies that are succeeding at recruiting generation-y (like Google), allowing candidates to drive the process, and not writing stupid job ads – they tend to be great places to work.

    * * * * * * *

    Thanks, Willy, for the heads-up about the links. What a mess. I fixed them.

    –Penelope

  2. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:

    Thanks for this Penelope. I hope these changes will happen sooner than later. Hopefully even people like myself (28 years old) will be able to take advantage of these when job hunting. I never thought of blogging as a tool for recruitment – are people putting their blog addresses on resumes these days? Interesting thought.

    Matt

  3. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    I find it amazing that the largest of companies can still be so nimble as to acknowledge these changes and address them promptly. The stories of the accounting firms in the BusinessWeek article is great – I just wish more companies would see the gulf that lies between them and the average young candidate. The “one size fits all” approach won’t work anymore.

  4. Jenflex
    Jenflex says:

    I'm probably the lone voice of dissent here – I love the vision of a better future, but I don't see it happening to the extent described.

    (Maybe that's because I am a cynical Gen Xer – )

    While I think companies are in for a hard slog over the next decade or so, and I also believe that the ideal of the "company" man/woman will begin to erode, I don't think we're headed towards some utopian ideal. Remember, the Baby Boomers were optimistic/idealistic in the extreme, and as they aged into more "adult" roles, these ideals coalesced into the current values P. is speaking against.

    While I don't agree with those values, and think the alternative described in the post would be wonderful, I don't see it happening. Workaholism and materialism is a cultural phenomenon/value that has roots deeper than any one generation.

    Maybe I'm wrong (I hope I am), but seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    * * * * *
    Jen. I think the work world is ripe for big changes because Gen-X has already divorced themelves from baby boomer materialism and workaholism. Here are posts about that:

    materialism:
    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2007/05/31/new-financial-data-highlights-generational-rifts/

    workaholism
    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2006/12/12/harvard-business-review-hides-behind-data-about-extreme-jobs/

    –Penelope

  5. Jenflex
    Jenflex says:

    Penelope:

    Don’t get me wrong…I agree that Gen X has walked away from those values. What I’m not certain of is that the Millennials/Gen Y will sustain that mindset as they move past the emerging adulthood stage, or that it will result in meaningful long-term workplace change. The workplace, whether large or small, is all about the money, and that’s a pretty powerful force of acculturation for anyone to experience on the way to becoming a policymaker.

    All I’m saying, is just because some firms have adopted better policies and practices to woo young workers today, doesn’t mean those changes are more than skin-deep, or are sustainable. A lot depends on whether this idealistic young cohort remains idealistic and is willing to apply that clout in a coherent way.

    (God, I sound old…I would like nothing better than to be wrong….) :-)

  6. Jenflex
    Jenflex says:

    One other comment: I’m only directing my notes at Conclusion 5: the workplace will get great. I like all the others, and think they are realistic.

  7. finance girl
    finance girl says:

    I suspect that things won’t change all that much, although for very qualified, in demand workers they will.

    For the vast majority of folks, though, working at the vast majority of companies, the work environment likely will not change so much.

    Companies likely will continue to value high performance from people who place their job as their #1 priority.

    Sure hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see changes at the macro level for the company or the employee.

  8. Scot Herrick
    Scot Herrick says:

    I would offer some alternative views.

    1. Hiring younger workers. As an aside, I think that is more about not having to pay the dollars associated with someone with more experience, not necessarily because of the "shortage" of workers.

    If there really was a shortage of workers, pay would be going up a lot faster than it has been. Instead of a shortage of workers, outsourcing provides a large pool of workers paid for at the lowest bid amount for the contract.

    In addition, there is a large assumption that baby boomers will, in fact, retire. Given the amount of money needed for retirement now and pensions blowing up all over the place, that is a big assumption. I hope the "new 65 is 59 – €³ is wrong (average retirement age today is 59 because of layoffs and health reasons) because there are a ton of baby boomers who cannot afford to retire.

    2. Candidates driving the hiring process. Perhaps. But, at the end of the day, the hiring manager is the one that says yes or no. There is no control for the candidate, merely influence.

    3. Stupid ads: praise the Lord and pass the resume.

    4. Quality match: I certainly hope so. Most HR systems suck in terms of providing good matches. I've never been an accountant in my entire life, but I get accounting job requisitions all the time because once in my career I said "process up to financial interfaces" and that's what triggered the financial positions. It's bad.

    5. The workplace being great: it all depends upon the culture. Given the outsourcing, corporate reorganizations, and focus on cost savings, this will be a tough one.

    A good article. Thanks for writing it and your continued thought leadership on this whole topic, whether I agree with everything or not!

    * * * * * *
    Scott, thanks for the comment. To your first point – here is the article, from today’s Wall St Journal, that says starting salaries are going up fast because there’s such a high demand for young workers:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118960965927825185.html?mod=rss_Today's_Most_Popular

    -Penelope

  9. Dan
    Dan says:

    Interestingly, external forces will likely drive the employment and hiring processes more than applicant – employer “dynamics”.

    Real work to manufacture and sell real products that provide customers with what they need and want still needs to get done. There is a lot of uncritical forecasting and wishful trending kind of statements. Readers need to filter out quite a bit.

    What are the hiring practices of Google, HP, GE,
    Microsoft, P&G? This is where people might get a reliable bit of information. They are aware of the external forces that are influencing and appropriately responding. Think– inflationary spiral, think higher taxes and more controls, think bigger industry trends…

  10. Ken Forester
    Ken Forester says:

    I agree with Dan above that “external forces” impact job markets than ’employer’ or other dynamics. These external forces are none other than ‘economy’. Economy creates jobs or poor economy warrants that companies cut jobs. Look what economy did to the auto industry jobs and construction industry! Your best option is to keep track of your Job Security Score, a tool from Scorelogix, and if you are planning changing jobs, then compare jobs by their Job Security Scores (www.jobsecurityscore.com) and find the one that offers most job security. I check my score at least a month and I would recommend it to everyone.

    While on their site (www.scorelogix.com) check out the national Job Security Index to see how your region may be doing in terms of job security (its free and doesn’t require signup).

    There is a lot of useful information about jobs on bls.gov site.

    –Ken–

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