Recruiting in a hot market: Q&A with Applied’s recruiting expert

  • Sync NI sat down for a Q&A with Josh Oliver, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Applied Systems Europe, to get his professional insight on recruiting in a competitive market.

    Since 2020, there have been many changes, specifically in the recruiting world. As the world of work continues to shift towards new ways of working, people are re-evaluating their current roles and considering how it fits with their needs and expectations. 

    Across industry sectors, we see that significant numbers are leaving their jobs to pursue other, more fulfilling careers. A study from HR software company Personio of workers in the UK and Ireland showed 38% of those surveyed planned to quit in the next six months to a year. In the UK, developers tend to explore new opportunities after 2-3 years in a role, so whilst this move to switch roles is not new, it is the pace that has changed. 

    We are currently in the era of The Great Resignation. Along with the title brings forth a hot market for talent. Companies are re-evaluating how they attract and retain top talent and asking how to navigate a tightening labour market to hire the right people. To give his professional insight on recruiting in this competitive market, Applied Communications sat down with Josh Oliver, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Applied Systems Europe. 

    How has this competitive market affected talent acquisition?

    The current recruitment landscape has made the competition for talent intense, especially in Belfast where there’s a finite amount of people who work in technology, challenging companies to rethink their traditional ways of recruiting. We re-evaluated our original hiring process and saw that there were many duplicated steps and redundant questions that inhibited our hiring functionality. To compete, we introduced a more streamlined interview process, combining multiple-step processes together into a simpler recruitment experience. Simplifying the steps allows for a more engaging process for both parties, allows us to be more deliberate on what kind of questions we ask, helps us focus on a “value fit” for our company, and improve the candidate experience. 

    How has the transformation to virtual affected the recruitment process?

    I joined Applied Systems on the first day of lock-down in the UK. I was used to meeting candidates in person and going for coffee. A virtual environment is more about being as engaged as possible with the candidate. Before I start talking about Applied, I like to build rapport with the candidate and dive into their professional life. This opens the door to having a conversation and building that personal connection, instead of grilling candidates on their work experience. At Applied, it is this personal connection that we really value and strive to identify in all our candidate interactions. 

    Due to the shift to a virtual environment, we must adapt how we interact in an interview since it is now mostly online. We’ve had to evolve our hiring training to include skills that develop body language, processes to avoid accidental prejudices, and active listening. To help our hiring managers understand interview bias, they work closely with our Diversity and Inclusion team.

    What are we doing to stand out from other tech companies?

    The beauty with Applied is that so many people stay with our company for a long time. In fact, we had a 33% increase in staff numbers during the pandemic and I believe we have one of the highest retention levels in our industry. On top of which there have been hundreds of promotions across the business, in Belfast and worldwide. I’ve seen people moving up, moving left and right to further their careers in different ways. We encourage growth in a multitude of ways, not only for potential candidates, but also for our current colleagues. Our teams are encouraged to challenge what is possible and take bold steps to looking at new ways to approach everything we do, supporting new personal and professional learning. 

    We strive to build a team that reflects a diverse community of individuals, encouraging different thinking, backgrounds, experiences, and individual qualities and Applied has done extremely well at creating an environment of inclusivity and support. We have a strong Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging initiative that has created Community of Interests (COIs), formed by employees with commonalities in areas such as ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Our COIs are supportive, inclusive networks of employees who share knowledge, celebrate culture and backgrounds, build meaningful relationships across our company and contribute to a strong business.  

    Adapting to a virtual environment encouraged us to help our employees continue to make those personal connections. We’ve had virtual events, like our global Holiday-palooza where we connected through games, magic shows, and much more. In addition to that, we didn’t lose sight of learning and development. We introduced new online opportunities such Linkedin Learning and provided Pulse Surveys, encouraging all employees to give feedback and ask questions through open channels direct to our leadership. Supporting our employees as they learn and grow, in a dynamic and global environment, has helped us build a strong team and supports retention.   

    What should businesses prioritise when recruiting and retaining in a hot market?

    Over the last several years, we have seen a shift in what employees are looking for from companies. We find that whilst financial benefits are still critically important, employees are taking into consideration many other factors such as company values, work life balance and career opportunities. It is critical that we as talent partners embrace and champion our company values, enabling candidates to get a very real insight into what it is like to work at Applied. 

    Additionally, training is critical for managers to manage their own teams efficiently. If managers are not equipped with the skills necessary to properly lead their team, talent will quickly walk out the door. Proper education and training should be a priority for companies to succeed in this market.

    In conclusion, this is a candidate-driven market, and companies must be prepared to adapt. There are so many aspects to consider in this market, and frankly, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. However, there is one most important aspect companies should prioritise: your current employees. Candidates are people. They are so much more than what is on their CV or resume. Your current colleagues are people who provide the talent necessary to fuel your company’s goals. Build those relationships, encourage growth, hone in on your company’s values, and provide an inclusive space. People will spend one-third of their life working, so make that portion of their life worthwhile.

    This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 edition of the Sync NI magazine. You can download your FREE copy and sign up to receive future digital editions here.

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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