Insight Blog

Executive Search Viewpoint: Top Recruitment Challenges

Executive Search Viewpoint: Top Recruitment Challenges

Most organizations are experiencing recruitment challenges of some sort in this competitive market for talent. While limited candidate pools and tight time constraints are what we hear about most from our clients, there are other factors impacting their ability to hire the right professionals. The good news is that proper planning and implementing simple changes can help to mitigate some of the challenges and improve the recruitment process.     

Before we dig into six tips for improving the hiring process, let’s first cover the common recruitment challenges we hear from our clients so you can be sure you’re not alone in what’s keeping you up at night. This insight was gleaned from Managing Director Jim Lord and Managing Consultant Wendy Zang. Each consultant works in all of Helbling’s core sectors of facilities management, architecture, engineering, and construction, and real estate development. While these sectors are inter-related, they are surely different from one another. Furthermore, each individual entity has its own cultural dynamics and internal environment. Despite these variances, they do share common recruitment challenges: 

Job postings aren’t attracting the right candidates.

Zang: “Most organizations rely upon job boards and association websites, which only result in identifying candidates who are actively looking. It’s not to say that these candidates aren’t talented high-performers. It’s the fact that there are many more candidates out there who are passive to new opportunities. Sometimes, the best candidates are not looking for opportunities, but rather they have their heads down, buried in their current work.”

Talent is extremely limited, and they don’t know how to expand their candidate source pool.

Zang: “While all clients are aware of the tight talent pool, they don’t necessarily know how to expand it and where to look for candidates who may be considered non-traditional or ‘out of the box’. They are often unaware of the types of professionals who may be able to help them solve their short- and long-term problems.”

Lord: “To elaborate on Wendy’s point, employers are familiar with recruiting active candidates. However, they seldom have the bandwidth or skills to approach and attract passive candidates. It’s a different type of recruitment, and it demands patience, knowledge, and understanding of a role; the right hiring manager/recruiter leading the effort; and persuasion techniques. Furthermore, employers fail to realize the issue of confidentiality. To reiterate, job boards attract those professionals who are actively looking. Those job-seekers typically don’t have the same confidentiality concerns as passive candidates, who tend to be deeply concerned about confidentiality, making them apprehensive to explore an opportunity.”

Position descriptions don’t tell the whole story, which affects the talent pool and the ability to accurately assess candidates.

Zang: “When it comes to finding and securing new talent, there can be many stumbling blocks along with way. Issues can start with a poorly worded job description that doesn’t accurately convey a position’s responsibilities, or be worded in a way that isn’t appealing to prospective talent. A description that simply lists a ‘menu of requirements' can discourage capable candidates from applying. When a poorly coded online algorithm is used or a human resources professional doesn’t understand a role, qualified candidates can easily slip through the cracks. A position description should include the role’s objectives and how it impacts the organization. It should include the ‘must have’ qualifications, as well as ‘would like to haves’.”  

Lord: “On the construction and real estate development side, when creating new positions, firms often have so many items on their wish lists that the odds of one candidate meeting all of the requirements are very low. This is what is sometimes referred to as the ‘purple unicorn'. Managing those expectations, separating the ‘must haves’ from ‘nice to haves’, and developing descriptions that are more applicable to the actual talent pool are things that recruiters and hiring managers have to do.”

Time constraints affect the initiation, quality, and results of the process. 

Zang: “Finding and interviewing people for a new position can be a full-time responsibility in and of itself. Our clients have many demands they are juggling, and if they are looking to fill an open position, they are short-staffed, making it even harder to find the time necessary to vet candidates. Most of the HR departments we work with are equally taxed. Many times, they are searching for candidates for dozens of positions and having time to really dig in to a candidate’s strengths and motivations is a challenge. But, hearing from a prospective employer and then radio silence for weeks does not leave the best impression.”

Lord: “Appropriate vetting of candidates definitely suffers when a need is critical. It’s important to realize that time is actually saved when thorough evaluation is performed. Once an organization does initiate a process, it’s important to maintain the momentum. You can’t have a slow-moving recruitment process because the more motivated candidates may be entertaining other offers, and they may end up removing themselves from the search process.”

Not all interviewers have the skills, ability, or knowledge to “sell” their organization and an opportunity appropriately. 

Zang: “It’s challenging to keep candidates engaged throughout the process and get them excited about the prospect of a new position. Some employers forget that an interview is a two-way street. The candidate is evaluating the position and organization as much as they are being evaluated themselves. They are asking themselves if the entity is truly a place they want to work. Unorganized interviews, meetings with grumpy or disgruntled potential co-workers, not giving candidates your full attention, and/or expecting candidates to jump through hoops on extremely short notice just to have an interview do not provide a positive experience.”


Are you having other recruitment challenges that aren’t mentioned? To identify where your recruitment process is lagging, work backwards through your recruitment process to see where the issues begin. In the meantime, don't miss our six easy tips for improving recruitment.