Candidates need early ties to their employer
Christoph Hartmann in an interview with Immobilienzeitung: With an eye to the past few boom years in the real estate and construction industry, there are at least two reasons for the shortage of people,” says Christoph Hartmann, Managing Partner of Deininger Consulting, who has worked as a personnel consultant placing candidates with companies from the real estate, construction, infrastructure, and private equity sectors for the past 17 years.
For some time now, he has been consistently running into two core issues in looking for suitable candidates for vacant positions in the real estate industry. “First, there just weren’t enough people in the education pipeline in certain areas. Demand for project developers is huge, for example.” He doesn’t think the issue is a lack of students, but rather that some study programs simply take too long for employers to be able to fill all their vacant positions at once.
Candidates want job security
“The second point is that there are potential candidates for many of the vacant positions, but companies have to win them over first and then retain them. That’s a generational challenge. Employers used to be able to select their own candidates, and now it’s often the other way around.” One major reason for this is that since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and with the economic uncertainty surrounding the war in Ukraine, many people are unwilling to take professional risks. “A lot of people aren’t very motivated to make a change right now because they are happy with their current job and hesitant about the uncertainties that moving positions would bring,” Hartmann says.
To convince suitable candidates to make a change anyway, the personnel consultant has adjusted his recruiting strategies. First, he had to persuade the companies that come to him to find personnel. Like the candidates themselves, they require more convincing these days. “If employers want to bring an interesting candidate on board, they have to be fast and show their appreciation,” Hartmann says, summing up the new approach. Leaving a candidate hanging for several weeks between two steps of the application process, he says, is an absolute no for him. “There’s too big a risk that that person will get another offer during that time.” Going through the entire process swiftly has become especially important, Hartmann says, because for most positions it involves more steps than was the case a few years ago.
He plays the role of moderator during the process, acting as a go-between for the parties. On the one hand, he passes along the expectations for a particular position to his clients, while on the other, he gets candidates ready for case study tasks or assessment center scenarios, which are an increasingly common part of the application process. “I always advise companies to attract candidates with a few bullet points about their strategies. Things like their idea of teamwork and whether the company might have won an award in the past can also be good arguments.” At the same time, he helps businesses select case study tasks that, when solved, really say a lot about the candidate.
But because these case studies also give the candidate a closer look at what it is like to work for a particular company, Hartmann notes that this is also the point in the application process when it is most likely for a candidate to jump ship. He has seen an increasing tendency to do that among candidates in their late 20s to mid-30s in particular. “The dropout rate has risen in general in recent years,” he says.
“That means that for an employer, it’s important to forge ties with the candidate as early as possible during the process. Deciding to make a change is no longer as final as it was in previous generations – far from it,” he says. For example, he has even seen cases where an employment contract is signed, but the new hire simply does not show up. “If the person’s current employer takes action and convinces the candidate to stay after all, the new employer can insist that they start work, but the candidate can always just give notice after a few days and go back to their old job,” he says, illustrating some of these isolated instances.
To prevent that, employers should bond with candidates even before they start, Hartmann advises. What he means by that is staying in close contact, for example during the period when a candidate might still be bound to their old job by a long notice period. “Employers need to offer candidates guidance through the application and change process. They can do that by taking steps like inviting new people to initial meetings, for example to get to know the team.”
Willingness to relocate is also on the wane. “Specifically, positions that can’t be done remotely are harder to staff than they were a few years back.” That is true of both young candidates and experienced ones who are settled in a particular location, with children and family. “If you’re happy with your job, it takes a lot to get you to entertain the stress of moving and the costs associated with it,” Hartmann says. He explains that depending on family structure, the person’s partner might also have to find a new job and the kids might have to change schools and leave sports teams behind. “Relocation packages” that companies offer as individual benefits can help with this. “Support with moving expenses and contact with schools or employees in the new location can be part of this kind of package,” Hartmann says. A large work-from-home component and flexible working hours can also help candidates avoid having to move the entire family. “That’s why working from anywhere, anytime, is a benefit that more and more candidates are insisting on – even in positions where that would have been inconceivable before the pandemic,” Hartmann says.