Episode #60 – How Consumer Culture Has Shaped Candidate Behavior

Sharita: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, search consultant and recruiter Stacy Pursell, CEO and founder of The VET Recruiter, provides practical advice and insight 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 organizations acquire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary Professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about how consumer culture has shaped candidate behavior and what that means for employers in today’s marketplace. Welcome, Stacy. Thank you for joining us.

Stacy: Hello, Sharita. I’m glad to be here today.

Sharita: Stacy, this is a new topic for us on the podcast, that of consumer culture. Why did you choose it?

Stacy: Well, first of all, I think it’s something that’s been having an effect on the marketplace during the last few years. Second, I believe it’s something that many employers have not recognized, and since they haven’t recognized it, they also haven’t done much to address it when they attempt to hire new employees.

Sharita: Okay, where would you like to begin?

Stacy: I’d like to begin with the fact that we live in a consumer culture. I think that’s something everyone can agree on, and this has been the case for quite a while. In fact, it’s been the case ever since World War II and perhaps even before then. However, during the last several years, our consumer-based culture has accelerated in certain ways.

Sharita: What ways are those?

Stacy: Well, the Internet was the first way. Now people don’t have to go to the store to shop. The store comes to them, so to speak, in the form of the Internet. There’s a reason that Amazon is one of the biggest companies in the world. Then there are smartphones. Basically, people carry mini-computers around with them all day, and once again, people are used to products and services coming to them instead of the other way around. All they have to do is unlock their phone and start shopping for options.

Sharita: I see what you mean.

Stacy: So on the one hand, we have our consumer culture. And on the other hand, we have the fact that we’re in a candidates’ job market right now. Not only are there similarities between the two, but they’re also feeding off each other. Basically, they’re reinforcing each other, continuing to shape candidates’ mindset and behavior.

Sharita: So you’re saying that candidates in today’s market are used to having choices and they’re used to having those choices come to them, regardless of whether it’s a merchant or it’s a potential new employer.

Stacy: That’s absolutely right. And this is especially the case for younger professionals, those who are part of the Millennial Generation.

Sharita: Why is that?

Stacy: Millennials have grown up in the timeframe during which all of this has taken place. Think about it for a minute. The Great Recession started in 2008. That was 10 years ago. Sure, it was not a candidates’ job market at that time, for sure, but a 22-year old Millennial was only 12 years old back then.

During the past 10 years, these Millennials have been growing up, going to high school, going to college, and graduating during a recovering economy that eventually turned into the red-hot candidates’ job market we have now. Also during the past 10 years, social media and smartphones have basically invaded our society and culture, contributing to the evolving consumer mindset. So Millennials’ mindsets have been shaped by different forces, but those forces have been working together, pretty much side-by-side.

Sharita: What does all of this mean for employers who are trying to hire these Millennials in today’s market?

Stacy: It means a lot of things, starting with the most important thing. The bottom line is that candidates, especially top candidates, are accustomed to being wooed, either by merchants that are attempting to make them customers or by employers that are attempting to make them employees. Employers must recognize this reality.

It also means organizations that are using some of the same hiring tactics they used 10 years ago are making a big mistake. A LOT has changed during the past 10 years, as we’ve just discussed. Unfortunately, some employers have not made the proper adjustments to this shift in the market. As a result, they’ve handled and approached candidates incorrectly, and it’s cost them. They’ve missed out on top talent.

Sharita: What are some of the things that employers do incorrectly?

Stacy: Employers have done some of these things we’ve talked about before on our podcast. First of all, employers should not expect that candidates are going to flock to them just because they have an open position. This is even the case with companies who view themselves as the best employers in the marketplace.

Sharita: But Stacy, you talked about smartphones earlier in the episode and how they make it easier for people to bring the world to them. Don’t they also make it easier for people to look for jobs? It’s almost like they’re “shopping” for jobs, isn’t it?

Stacy: That’s right, but the same rule applies to passive candidates that applied before. If they’re passive and not looking for a new job, then they’re not looking for a new job in any fashion, not with their personal computer, their tablet, their laptop, or their smartphone. Yes, smartphones make it easier to look for jobs, but that’s only if you’re actively looking. They don’t help people who aren’t looking at all.

Sharita: That makes sense. What other mistakes do employers make?

Stacy: Leaving candidates “high and dry” during the interviewing and hiring process, without communicating clearly about where the candidates stand in the process and what the next steps are. That’s a mistake.

So is acting as though candidates must sell themselves to you without you also having to sell yourself to candidates. Remember, they’re used to being wooed. Employers should also not disrespect either candidates’ confidentiality or their time. Candidates put a high premium on both.

Sharita: It sounds as though employers have to be careful in how they handle today’s candidates. How should they shift their thinking?

Stacy: Their hiring team should think less like a hiring team and more like a marketing team. This is key so I will say it again. Their hiring team should think less like a hiring team and more like a marketing team.

If candidates are used to being courted as consumers, then employers should think of job seekers and candidates as their customers, so to speak. Employers aren’t trying to sell goods or services to candidates, but they ARE trying to sell them on the opportunity to work for their organization.

Sharita: So if a hiring team is supposed to think more like a marketing team, how specifically should they change their approach?

Stacy: They should follow the consumer-based model. There are two things that the marketing teams of companies try to do. They try to foster trust and cultivate loyalty with their customer base. After all, if a person does not trust a company or corporation, then that person is not going to buy anything from the company. So if you transfer that over to the employment marketplace, if a candidate does not trust a potential employer, then that candidate is not going to “buy” from the employer. And when I say “buy,” I mean they won’t want to work for the employer.

Then, let’s say that a person has bought something from a company. Once that happens, the marketing team of the company wants to retain the loyalty of their new customer. In other words, they want the person to buy from them again and again. So let’s transfer that over to the employment marketplace, too. Once an organization successfully hires a candidate, the organization should strive to maintain that candidate’s loyalty as an employee. That’s what successful retention is all about.

Sharita: So I imagine that this requires a more intensive effort on the part of employers?

Stacy: It certainly does, but if employers hope to hire the candidates they want to hire, then they have to put forth the effort. And there are two main ways they should do it. Remember, the goal is to foster trust and loyalty with not just candidates, but also with employees.

Sharita: What’s the first way?

Stacy: The first way is with employer branding. In a nutshell, this is an organization’s efforts to promote itself and its mission within the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. As an employer, it’s very important that top candidates know who are and the things that you stand for. Basically, you want to intrigue them. You want them to be interested in your organization.

The second way is something that we’ve just been discussing, which is recruiting and hiring. Actually, there are three main components involved. They are identifying the right candidates, recruiting those candidates, and then hiring them as employees.

This should be very intentional and proactive. Employers must engage candidates all the way through the hiring process. They should continually sell the benefits of both the opportunity and the organization. This is how you foster and cultivate trust with top candidates, with the ultimate goal of hiring them.

Sharita: Stacy, we’re almost out of time for today. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Stacy: Yes, one last thing. This all boils down to motivation. Employers need to know what motivates top candidates. They shouldn’t be guessing at what top candidates want. They should know for sure what top candidates want. It’s only when they know for sure what top candidates want, that they can effectively engage those candidates and convince them to consider their opportunity.

Sharita: Stacy, thanks so much for all of this great information today.

Stacy: Thank you, Sharita. I look forward to our next podcast!