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Talent Discovery: navigating candidate markets and finding unicorns

In 2024, talent discovery is evolving significantly with the further adoption of AI. This is what to take into account.

September 29, 2020
Yuma Heymans
December 13, 2023

As the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2023, the world of work finds itself on the cusp of a new era. A period marked by rapid changes, where societal dynamics, technological advancements, and the lingering effects of a global pandemic converge to reshape the very fabric of recruitment and talent discovery.

This transformation is not merely a shift but a full metamorphosis, compelling organizations to reevaluate their strategies and approaches towards attracting and retaining top talent.

An introduction to talent discovery

Talent discovery refers to the process of identifying, attracting, and engaging candidates who possess the specific skills, expertise, and potential that align with an organization's current and future needs.

It's a strategic approach that goes beyond traditional recruitment methods, focusing on uncovering the best-fit talent for a company, often in a proactive manner.

1. The Revolution in Talent Discovery

In the year 2023, the 'year of the worker', businesses grappled with an unprecedented set of challenges.

Faced with a competitive market and new regulations, employers found themselves in a race to secure the best talent. Despite the emergence of trends like "The Big Stay", the difficulties in talent acquisition persisted, as employers struggled with talent shortages and the complexities of recruiting diverse candidates​.

This scenario underscored a vital truth: the methods that brought us here are insufficient for the journey ahead. In 2023, the promise of new technologies, especially the integration of human and machine intelligence, opened doors to a more intuitive, customized work experience.

However, this blend of human-machine teaming, if not managed correctly, poses significant risks to business stability​​.

2. The Crucial Trends Shaping Talent Discovery

As we peer into 2024, the Mercer Global Talent Trends study, incorporating insights from over 12,000 voices including C-suite executives, HR leaders, and employees, highlights several key areas:

  • Artificial Intelligence: Organizations are rapidly embracing AI, yet there's a divergence in views between executives and employees on its promises and risks.
  • Employee Experience: Post-pandemic priorities have shifted, focusing more on what employees value.
  • Equity: A lack of perceived fairness in opportunities and pay is driving employee turnover.
  • Financial Wellness: Addressing financial strain is crucial to prevent burnout.
  • Flexible Working: The demand for flexibility in work arrangements continues to be a key factor.
  • Skills Development: Reskilling and redeploying talent is vital to combat talent shortages and adapt to AI advancements.
  • Sustainability and Well-being: Employee well-being and sustainable business practices are intertwined and essential for success.
  • Work Design: Enhancing productivity and employee experience through skill-based task allocation​.

These trends are leading how candidates move through the market and at the same time how you find them and how you should engage with them. Without paying attention to these trends you risk stranding without well matched candidates who understand what you as the hiring organisation stand for.

3. Innovative Strategies in Talent Acquisition

Facing these trends and challenges, organizations are increasingly adopting several new practices in their talent acquisition strategies:

  • Optimizing Career Sites: Ensuring the career site is user-friendly and efficient, as it's often the first point of interaction with potential candidates.
  • Implementing Applicant Tracking Systems: Utilizing ATS for comprehensive management of the recruitment process​.
  • Identifying Best Talent Sources: Continuously reviewing and optimizing the sources of high-performing hires​​.
  • Ramping Up Remote Hiring: Creating a fully digital hiring process to accommodate remote work preferences​​.
  • Leveraging AI and Machine Learning: Using AI for tasks like screening candidates, scanning resumes, and improving recruitment processes​​.
  • Skills-Based Hiring: Moving away from degree-centric hiring to a focus on verifiable skills​​.
  • Requesting Candidate Feedback: Using feedback to continuously improve the recruitment experience​

As we advance into 2024, it's evident that talent discovery is undergoing a revolution, influenced by technological advancements, shifting societal values, and the evolving needs of the workforce.

Organizations must adapt to these changes, leveraging innovative strategies and tools to navigate this new landscape effectively. By embracing these shifts, companies can unlock their full potential, attracting and nurturing the talent that will drive their success in the years to come.

A practical guide to talent discovery

As we embark on the journey through the evolving landscape of talent acquisition, it's essential to acknowledge that the way we discover and engage talent today is starkly different from the past.

The shifts in societal dynamics, technological advancements, and the changing nature of work have compelled organizations to reevaluate and reinvent their recruitment strategies.

Let's dive into the practical steps and phases of navigating this new era of recruitment, blending anecdotes, up-to-date statistics, and industry trends to provide a comprehensive guide.

1. Adapting to workforce dynamics

The first step in this journey is understanding the changing dynamics of the workforce.

Today's workforce is not a monolith; it's a vibrant mosaic of diverse individuals, each with unique aspirations, skills, and life experiences.

Steps to follow:

  • Analyze demographic trends: The workforce today spans multiple generations, each with distinct characteristics. Baby Boomers, for instance, might value stability and long-term rewards, while Millennials and Gen Z could prioritize work-life balance and corporate ethics. Tailoring your recruitment strategies to these varied preferences is key. For example, LinkedIn's Global Talent Trends 2023 report highlights that while Millennials might be attracted to innovative work cultures, Gen Z is more likely to be drawn to companies with strong stances on social issues.
  • Embrace diversity and inclusion: Diversity is not just a buzzword; it's a business imperative. A diverse workforce brings in varied perspectives, fostering innovation and creativity. But it's not just about hiring a diverse team; it's also about nurturing an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued. Take, for example, Google's approach to diversity and inclusion, which includes comprehensive strategies to hire, progress, and retain underrepresented talent.
  • Acknowledge technology proficiency: In a digital-first world, the workforce is increasingly tech-savvy. This calls for recruitment processes that are not just technology-friendly but also intuitive and engaging. For instance, companies like Deloitte are using gamified assessments to attract tech-savvy candidates, providing an engaging experience while assessing their skills.

2. Leveraging technology in talent acquisition

The role of technology in revolutionizing recruitment cannot be overstated. From AI-powered candidate screening to sophisticated applicant tracking systems, technology is reshaping how we find and attract talent.

Steps to follow:

  • Implement Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS): An ATS can streamline the recruitment process significantly. It's not just about tracking applications; it's about creating a seamless, efficient candidate experience. For instance, Starbucks uses an ATS that integrates with their career site, providing a smooth transition from job exploration to application.
  • Explore AI and Machine Learning: AI in recruitment is about more than just efficiency; it's about enhancing the quality of hires. However, it's crucial to use AI responsibly to avoid biases. Companies like IBM have been pioneers in using AI for talent acquisition, ensuring that their AI systems are transparent and fair.
  • Enhance candidate engagement with technology: In the digital age, the candidate experience is paramount. Leveraging technology to engage candidates can make a huge difference. Tools like chatbots for initial queries and video interviewing software for remote interviews can significantly enhance the candidate experience.

3. Fostering a candidate-centric recruitment process

In today's competitive job market, a candidate-centric approach is not just desirable; it's essential. This phase is about putting candidates at the heart of your recruitment process.

Steps to follow:

  • Develop a strong employer brand: Your employer brand is what sets you apart in the job market. It's the narrative that captures your company's culture, values, and mission. For instance, Airbnb's employer brand focuses on its unique culture and the opportunity to impact the world of travel, which resonates with candidates seeking purpose-driven work.
  • Create an intuitive and informative career site: Your career site is often the first interaction potential candidates have with your company. It should be intuitive, informative, and reflective of your brand. Take cues from companies like Shopify, whose career site is not only user-friendly but also gives a comprehensive view of the company culture, benefits, and open roles.
  • Personalize the recruitment experience: Personalization can significantly enhance the candidate experience. This could be as simple as personalized email communications or as sophisticated as using AI to recommend job openings based on the candidate's profile and preferences. Personalized experiences show candidates that they are valued and not just another application in the system.

4. Embracing flexibility and work-life balance

The concept of work has undergone a transformation, with flexibility and work-life balance becoming key factors for candidates.

Steps to follow:

  • Offer flexible working options: The post-pandemic world has seen a surge in the demand for flexible working arrangements. Offering options like remote work, flexible hours, and part-time roles can make your organization more attractive to a wider pool of candidates.
  • Promote work-life balance: Companies that actively promote work-life balance are more likely to attract and retain top talent. This includes practices like offering mental health days, encouraging regular breaks, and respecting non-working hours.

5. Focusing on continuous learning and development

The final phase in this guide is about recognizing the importance of continuous learning and development in attracting and retaining talent.

Steps to follow:

  • Provide opportunities for skill development: The rapid pace of technological advancements means that continuous learning is crucial. Providing opportunities for upskilling and reskilling can be a significant attraction for candidates who value personal and professional growth.
  • Create a culture of learning: A culture that encourages and supports learning is incredibly attractive to potential candidates. This could involve mentorship programs, access to online courses, or regular learning and development workshops.

As we navigate through these phases of talent discovery and recruitment, it's clear that the landscape is complex and ever-evolving. By understanding and adapting to these changes, organizations can not only attract the right talent but also build a workforce that is engaged, diverse, and aligned with their values and goals.

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