Episode #177 – What the COVID-19 Pandemic Has NOT Changed About the Marketplace, Part 2

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #177 - What the COVID-19 Pandemic Has NOT Changed About the Marketplace, Part 2
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Julea: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health thought leader and executive recruiter, Stacy Pursell provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary companies hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast episode, we’ll be continuing our series about what the COVID-19 pandemic has NOT changed about the employment marketplace. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Julea. As always, I am glad to be here with you and to be back in the recording studio again.

Julea: Stacy, it is good to see you. So, Stacy, during our previous podcast, we discussed the value that a professional provides to their current employer, especially regarding time management and how they use the time that their employer gives them. That hasn’t changed with COVID-19. What else hasn’t changed that we’ll be talking about today?

Stacy: Well, since we talked about professionals and job candidates on our last podcast episode, today we’re going to address the employer side of the equation. Specifically, we’re going to discuss how employers should be treating candidates during this current market and what they should be doing to try to hire them.

Julea: So are you saying that Animal Health and Veterinary employers should be treating and engaging candidates the same way that they were before the pandemic started?

Stacy: That’s exactly what I’m saying.

Julea: But wasn’t it a candidate-driven market six months ago, and now it’s not? Doesn’t that change things at all?

Stacy: While it is true that it is no longer a candidates’ market and the National Unemployment Rate is higher than it’s been in quite some time, the unemployment rate in the Veterinary profession is not as high as in other industries. Before the pandemic hit, the unemployment rate in the Veterinary profession was anywhere from 0.5% to 1.5%. Right now, the National Unemployment Rate is a little less than 14%. I don’t know the current unemployment rate in the Veterinary profession, but if I had to guess, I would say that it’s much lower than that.

Julea: So the same rules that applied before still apply now?

Stacy: Yes, they do. That’s because there is still a lack of highly qualified candidates in the marketplace, and many of those candidates are still not actively looking for new positions. In fact, because of the pandemic, there are probably fewer of them actively looking than before. So if anything, COVID-19 has made it even more important for employers to engage job candidates effectively during the hiring process.

Julea: So even if a hiring manager likes a candidate and might even make a job offer to them, if they do not engage the candidate effectively, then the candidate could just disappear?

Stacy: That’s right. I’ve seen it happen. Many times, in fact.

Julea: So what have you seen? What are the ways that employers fail to engage candidates properly during the hiring process?

Stacy: First of all, there are many ways that an employer can fail to engage top Animal Health and Veterinary job candidates. This is one of the reasons why it happens so frequently. The first way deals with the job description or job post.

Julea: You mean if an employer writes a non-compelling job description or job post, then it can drive away candidates?

Stacy: Absolutely. The job description represents an employer’s first chance to “grab” a candidate. And trust me when I say that a great job description is not just a laundry list of duties and responsibilities. That is not going to be enough to attract the best candidates in the marketplace. Instead, the best candidates want to hear about the challenges and opportunities that are involved with the position. They want to know how they can advance through the organization and how they can grow their career. The job description is not just about the job. It’s also about the candidate’s career. If you just make it about the job, then candidates are not going to be interested.

Julea: And I imagine they’re not going to be engaged, either. Stacy, what’s another way that employers do not effectively engage candidates during the hiring process?

Stacy: Another way is with a lengthy or confusing application process. We’ve mentioned this before, but according to a study conducted by CareerBuilder a couple of years ago, 60% of job seekers quit in the middle of filling out online job applications. Specifically, they quit for two main reasons.

The first reason is the length of the online application process. The second reason is the complexity of the process.

I have to frequently remind hiring managers that top passive candidates are not looking for a new job. They’re not filling out job applications. Because of that, they must be really motivated to fill out an online application. Even job seekers who are really interested and motivated won’t finish the application if it’s too long or cumbersome.

The next item on our list happens during the middle of the hiring process.

Julea: Which item is that?

Stacy: Not being responsive. Animal Health and Veterinary job candidates want to know where they stand in the hiring process, and they want to know which steps are next in the process. If they’ve been part of a phone screen and/or a face-to-face interview and they simply don’t hear from the organization for weeks, then they’re going to assume that they’re no longer being considered for the position.

Julea: Even if they ARE still being considered?

Stacy: Yes, the hiring manager owner could still be considering them as a candidate, but because they did not communicate that information to the candidate, the candidate dropped out of the process and is now unavailable.

And the final item on our list also deals with the middle of the hiring process.

Julea: What would that be?

Stacy: It’s more of a category, really, but it’s a lack of respect.

Julea: A lack of respect? What do you mean by that?

Stacy: I mean a couple of different things. There are two main things that candidates— especially top candidates—want employers to respect during the hiring process. Those two things are their time and their confidentiality. I’ll start with their time first.

What I mean is that top passive candidates are almost always employed. Even in the middle of a pandemic, the top passive candidates in the Veterinary profession are most likely employed. As a result, they have their current job to focus on.

This is why employers can’t schedule marathon interview sessions that last all day long. This includes video interviews or Zoom interviews. Well, they can, but it’s not a good idea. An employer should not schedule multiple interviews that last all day with the same candidate.

Now, don’t get me wrong. A top candidate will definitely take a personal day or half a day if they’re genuinely interested in an opportunity. However, they are less likely to endure marathon interview sessions and/or multiple rounds of interviews, especially if they think there is no end in sight.

Julea: That certainly makes sense, but Stacy, what do you mean by respecting the candidates’ confidentiality?

Stacy: As I mentioned a few minutes ago, top candidates already have a job. As a result, they’re conducting a covert or confidential job search. In other words, they don’t want their current employer to find out what they’re doing.

If a candidate has to keep requesting days off work, their boss or employer will eventually figure out what’s happening. They’ll know that this employee is more than likely interviewing with other organizations and exploring other opportunities. If that happens, then it can become a dicey situation for a professional.

Another way that an employer can breach the confidentiality of a candidate is when they conduct reference checks of the candidate by contacting people who are not on the candidates’ list of references.

Julea: Stacy, can you elaborate on that?

Stacy: Yes. There are cases where a candidate submits a list of references to an employer, but a member of the organization knows someone who also knows the candidate. Despite the fact that the person is not on the candidate’s approved list of references, the hiring manager calls this other mutual acquaintance, anyway. When an employer does something like this, it increases the chances that it will breach the confidentiality of the candidate’s job search. And if the employer does that, then it also increases the chances that the candidate will drop out of the hiring process and remove their name from consideration.

One of the biggest problems occurs, though, when employers do not engage Animal Health and Veterinary job candidates enough because they’re holding out for what they consider to be the “perfect candidate.”

Julea: Why is that a problem?

Stacy: First, and foremost, hiring the perfect candidate is a myth. The perfect candidate doesn’t exist because perfection is a myth, and we’ll talk more about that in a moment.

Julea: Why do employers make the mistake of trying to hire the perfect candidate? How does it happen?

Stacy: There are a couple of reasons. The first reason is that the hiring manager or practice owner is afraid of making a bad hire, and that fear is even greater in the midst of conditions like the ones we’re experiencing right now. Their fear of a bad hire causes them to be hesitant to make an offer of employment to a good candidate or even a great candidate. Specifically, they’re afraid that if it turns out they hired the wrong person, then it will reflect poorly upon them. So what they try to do is find what they consider to be the perfect candidate. They think if they can find the perfect candidate for the position, then it will eliminate the possibility that they will hire the wrong person, and by extension, the possibility that it will reflect poorly upon them.

Second, as we have discussed before, unless an Animal Health company or a veterinary practice uses a comprehensive hiring approach, it will only be able to hire the best candidate looking for a new job. It won’t be able to hire the best candidate that exists in the marketplace or the best candidate available in the marketplace. Once again, that’s because top candidates are passive candidates. They’re already happily employed and not looking for a new job.

Julea: And Stacy, when you say “comprehensive hiring approach,” do you mean using an Animal Health recruiter or Veterinary recruiter?

Stacy: Yes, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. An Animal Health recruiter or Veterinary recruiter works with the top candidates in the marketplace and builds relationships with them. A recruiter knows who these candidates are and they know what it would take for these candidates to make a move to better their employment situation. An important first step in hiring the best candidates is knowing who those candidates are.

Julea: It seems to me that if a hiring manager keeps trying to find the perfect candidate, then they could always find at least one thing wrong with a candidate they are considering.

Stacy: That’s correct. And that is where they can run into another problem.

Julea: How’s that?

Stacy: Another problem occurs when an Animal Health company or Veterinary practice or any employer, really, keeps a position open for too long. When an employer does that, it exposes itself to a handful of dangers. First, it doesn’t realize that leaving a position open for too long can be costly in terms of productivity and profitability.

I’ve used this case study before, but once upon a time, I was speaking with the president of one of our clients. During the conversation, this president mentioned that for each veterinarian he hires, that veterinarian typically brings in around $400K per year for the organization. Not only that, but he also mentioned that he needed to find and hire eight veterinarians. He added that if could do so as quickly as possible, he would save or create about $3.2 million in revenue.

Julea: So on the flip side of that, if he could not hire those veterinarians as quickly as he could or as quickly as he wanted, then he would lose that much money? Is that what he was inferring?

Stacy: Yes, I believe he was. That was a case where a company official knew exactly what it would cost to keep an important position open for too long. In fact, it was multiple positions.

Another danger is that candidates in the marketplace are often aware of the fact that a position has been open for too long. I have another story that illustrates this. An organization reached out to me to ask for help filling a position that had been open for six months. Up until that point, officials had been trying to fill the position on their own.

As an Animal Health recruiter and Veterinary recruiter, this is what I do. So I said that I would be glad to help them. The trouble began when I reached out to a potential candidate about the role. When I spoke with the candidate, he asked, “Hasn’t that position been open for six months? Why can’t they fill it?”

Julea: So the candidate knew the organization had been trying to fill the position?

Stacy: He did, and now it’s an issue of employer branding. Because the position had remained open for so long, the organization had branded itself poorly in the mind of the candidate, who now believed there must be something wrong with the position, the employer, or both.

Julea: So Stacy, it seems like there are all sorts of problems associated with trying to hire the perfect candidate. What should employers do instead?

Stacy: That is a great question, and the answer is a rather simple one. That’s because the key to hiring the perfect candidate is hiring one who’s NOT perfect and knows they’re not perfect.

Julea: What do you mean by that?

Stacy: No matter how good a candidate is, if they know they’re not perfect, then they’re always trying to become better. And that’s what you want as an employer: you want to hire a candidate who is always trying to become better and evolve as a professional. This is a mentality and a mindset that’s valuable.

Julea: Stacy, what about skills and experience?

Stacy: Yes, of course the candidate should have the requisite skills and experience. However, there are certain things that are just as important as a candidate’s skill set. These things include the right attitude and an excellent work ethic.

After all, technical skills can be acquired. However, the right attitude and work ethic are usually ingrained in a person. So is the desire to always become better and evolve. These are intangible attributes that make a candidate much more valuable than someone who simply has all the technical skills and experience necessary for the position.

And there’s a bonus aspect to this kind of person.

Julea: What’s that?

Stacy: A candidate who has the right attitude and the right work ethic and who is always trying to improve is usually a good fit in terms of company culture. That’s because they typically don’t cause problems. Instead, they tend to solve problems because of their approach to situations and their overall desire to make things better wherever they are.

Julea: And the ability to solve problems is a huge form of value in the employment marketplace, isn’t that right?

Stacy: That’s absolutely correct. But it goes beyond even that.

Julea: It does? How’s that?

Stacy: Change is inevitable. It’s going to happen whether you want it to or not, and the COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example. This applies to both people and also to employers. This is why organizations must continue to adapt and innovate to survive and thrive in the marketplace. An organization should never think that it has all of the answers or that it doesn’t have to continue improving. If its employees think that, then it’s going to be in big trouble.

But employees who are always trying to get better are innovators by nature. They know the importance of adapting to situations and circumstances for the purpose of constant improvement.

Julea: Stacy, I’ve heard the phrase “Progress, not perfection” before. Does that apply to this discussion?

Stacy: It certainly does. In order for an Animal Health company or Veterinary practice to be able to achieve the type of progress that it wants to achieve, it must hire candidates who possess the desire to achieve that progress, both individually and as part of a group. As we’ve discussed, perfection and the perfect candidate are myths. Progress is not a myth. It is a necessity in the marketplace, and it is why the key to hiring the perfect candidate is to hire one who is NOT perfect. Again, there is no perfect candidate, just like there is no perfect job.

Julea: Thank you, Stacy, and thank you so much for all of this great information. Even though economic and market conditions have changed during the last few months, there are certain things that the pandemic has not changed about hiring success for employers in the marketplace.

Stacy: You’re very welcome, Julea, and thank you. It has been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode of the Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider!

Julea: That’s all for today’s show. For Stacy Pursell and everyone at The VET Recruiter, thank for your listening and we invite you to join us next time when we address more employment issues in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. We hope that you’ll join us then!