Orion Talent's Jake Ebenhoch Talks RPOs Attracting & Retaining Talent

by Staff Writer

Jake Ebenhoch Part 2

In the first part of our interview with Jake Ebenhoch, Vice President, Veteran-Based Hiring Programs and RPO at Orion Talent, we discussed frequently asked questions about recruitment process outsourcing (RPO). In the second part of this edited, two-part interview for the RPO Expert Series, we talk about the current shifts in the labor market and how RPO can help talent acquisition leaders attract and retain talent.

RPOA: What's the scope of the shift in the demand for recruiters? What's driving the demand for recruiters?

Ebenhoch: There's more demand for recruiters than there ever has been. There are more job postings for recruiters than software engineers for the first time in modern history, and I don't necessarily see that changing. Part of the reason for the high demand is that nobody really ever goes to school to become a recruiter. It seems like we've all got different stories, and we end up in this somehow. But it's usually not the focus when we start school. And so the inflow of recruiters probably isn't meeting the demand.

When times are difficult in recruiting, as it has been over the course of the COVID-19 epidemic, the first people to be let go were the recruiters. There’s a huge need for new recruiters now and organizations need to identify the personalities and experience levels that can transfer into a recruitment position in order to meet demand. Because going out and finding a recruiter three years ago, who would come in and work nine to five, is not the case anymore. There's just too much hiring demand for it. The demand for recruiters right now is not something that I see being fulfilled over the next two years or so, because the inflow is not there.

What are some tips for attracting and retaining talent during a tight labor market?

The main one is process efficiency. If you don't have efficiency built into your process, you're going to have candidates getting more offers than you want and ghosting your interviews. You’ve got to ensure you’re expediting the process. A good example is one of our clients we were working with within manufacturing: We gave four interview options to candidates after the initial pre-screening. There were tight timeframes, but we were seeing a significant amount of ghosting because they were getting so many offers themselves each and every day. So we made a change to offering only two interview options, which happened within the next two days. The goal of that is to strike while the iron is hot and get candidates into an interview while they're still interested and before there's an opportunity for something else to take priority in their lives.

The second tip is setting the right expectations during the interview process, both with the hiring manager and the candidate. As a recruiter, you're there to really learn what a candidate is looking for. And if you have the right expectations set, you can set those expectations with the hiring managers, so those are the points that he or she can touch on in the interview that will maintain the interest of the candidate while they're interviewing.

Learn more about RPO and how it can benefit your TA program

Setting the expectation is huge from the retention aspect, as well. As a recruiter, part of our responsibility is to make sure that we are letting the candidate have a real clear depiction of what they're going to be doing on a daily basis. If you don't do that, your 60-day retention rate is not going to be very strong. The big ask from our clients right now is to help them prevent new employees from leaving within the first 60 days. The best way to retain talent is to focus on setting the right expectations of what the day-to-day job looks like so that if they're not interested right off the bat, they're removed from the process before they get hired, so it's not a waste of their time either. By setting those expectations, they know what they're walking into on day one.

The last point is looking at candidate pools that are a little bit less saturated than those used by every other company out there. And so that really speaks to both military and diverse sourcing efforts. At Orion, we're fortunate to have the foundation that we do in the military world, with the relationships we have on base, and with the talent community that our marketing team nurtures on a daily basis of over 1 million military professionals; that's huge for us. When you look at 200,000 separating military professionals every year, it's really important that you're able to harness the power of that workforce. Military sourcing is huge, and so is diversity, as well. It’s vital that we're able to accommodate the priorities of the extremely underrepresented individuals in our overall workforce here in the United States and consider what they need to succeed. 

There's no better way to build innovation into a workforce than a diverse channel of candidates. That's another avenue that is a little bit less saturated on your typical job boards. Being able to apply diversity strategies to both your sourcing and your interview capabilities is huge. 

Recommended eBook: Eight Red Flags to Avoid with RPO

What recruitment practices and workforce practices do you see sticking around post-COVID?

I never really thought that a hybrid workforce would be a way of the future. But now, if you don't have a hybrid workforce strategy in place, you're going to have a real difficult time retaining individuals. So a hybrid workforce is incredibly important. 

The time of bringing in people for interviews is over. We used to talk about one of the most efficient ways we could help from an RPO perspective was making sure travel expenses were being taken care of for people flying in for interviews, right? Those days are kind of gone, because of the Zoom and virtual interviews that you can do now. Virtual interviews will help from a profitability standpoint, because flying interviewees in wasn't cheap, especially when you tie in all the cancellations that companies were experiencing.

What are some examples of recruitment automation or innovation that is improving your customer's performance?

With the market the way it is, it's an important time to have updated and real-time market intelligence. We're working with a client who is recruiting manufacturing talent in Louisville, and we found through the market intelligence tools we're using that Louisville specifically has seen a 48% year-over-year increase in hourly wages. Not having that data and using strategies that you thought worked back in 2019, versus trying to go into a market now with real-time, up-to-date market intelligence, you're not going to compete with those strategies that worked in 2019. And it doesn't necessarily mean that you just have to increase pay rates. Obviously, in a situation where there's a 48% increase in hourly wages, you're probably going to have to consider your company’s wages. But having that intelligence really allows you to set expectations with hiring managers even if you're a little bit below market average on compensation. Also, consider what you can talk about that's going to engage the candidate and bring them into the interview and how that hiring manager can help create the picture that meets the needs of the candidate interviewed. 

From an automation standpoint, with the market as tight as it is, a lot of these candidates are getting three offers a day. And if you are not necessarily working on the efficiency of your overall process and expediting the time it takes to get somebody through that process, you're going to lose candidates left and right. Some of the automation software that we use right now is focused on mundane tasks that can be automated without losing the personal touch that a recruiter needs to use with a candidate. That can be as simple as a job distributor posting it to different positions instead of a recruiter having to go and post to 17 different job boards.

But even more importantly, some of the more innovative stuff that we're seeing right now are ways we can automate workflows, from applicant tracking systems to getting candidates to provide debrief feedback for hiring managers. With a push of a button, a hiring manager can send the interview-debrief notes immediately instead of having to wait over 24 hours to get them.

There are also onboarding tools right now that have an automated workflow. You can push a button to order assets for that candidate who's coming onboard instead of having to call your IT department, the people who put the badges together, and all that type of stuff.

On the front end, we use Paradox quite a bit. This real-time chatbot answers questions for candidates who might be up at 11 o'clock at night. They might have a question about where to go the next day for their interview. Paradox has the capability of artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide those answers almost immediately, regardless of whether anyone's in the office or not.

Another helpful tool is the virtual interviewing capability. That's been around for a while with tools like HireVue and others that are out there, but now more than ever, the impact of making sure that you can do virtual interviews versus waiting for somebody to come into the office is really paramount.

What's your scope of virtual career fairs since COVID? Is that sticking as well?

Orion was founded as a military-based staffing firm. We used to have on-base recruitment fairs for military professionals, where our clients would come on base and have 8 or 10 different interviews already pre-screened and ready for them when they got on base. Clearly, with COVID, that's shifted to more of a virtual environment and there are efficiency gains of not having to travel to a career fair or anything like that anymore. It's definitely a notion that's beginning to stick with our specific military events. But overall, these virtual job fairs are becoming more of a way of the future. Now, it does depend on the type of position that you're recruiting. You're probably not going to find many machine operators or maintenance technicians that are necessarily going to go to a virtual career fair. So being smart about the type of position that you're recruiting for is important. But there can be some real value in virtual career fairs for sure.

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