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Rising withdrawals giving employers the shakes

Published on Friday, 15 Mar 2013
Tony Pownall

Have you ever got halfway through the interview process for a new job and, for whatever reason, suddenly decided that you don’t want to continue? According to Hudson’s Salary and Employment Insights 2013 report, which surveyed 707 employers and employees, the prevalence of candidate withdrawal during the recruitment process is increasing, pointing to a need for Hong Kong employers to refine their hiring procedures.

A total of 67.9 per cent of employers said they expected candidates to pull out at some stage during the recruitment process. Two-thirds of employees, meanwhile, said their recruitment process was only average in helping them learn about their new employer, while less than a quarter believed the process to be highly informative. Almost 75 per cent of employees who found the recruitment process uninformative ended up withdrawing their applications.

Although the early exodus of candidates can easily be attributed to remuneration, Tony Pownall, general manager of Hudson Hong Kong, says many other factors are involved.

“It is not because of the money, but because of the process,” he says. “It is getting in the way of making these candidates feel like they are buying into something or getting engaged in the process.”

The results seem to confirm this, with respondents citing better career opportunities (22.1 per cent) and a role they are more interested in (20.6 per cent) above pay (16.8 per cent) as the main criteria they look for when searching for a new role.

Pownall says employers need to offer roles that match candidates’ motivations and stretch and challenge them, while also providing good career opportunities, a friendly work culture, tailor-made benefits and job security – something which has become extremely sought-after in the past few years, especially in the finance sector.

Pallavi Anand, director of Robert Half Hong Kong, has also noticed that it now takes more than enticing salaries to engage candidates, with employees more closely examining their job roles, the training offered and the possibility of a good work-life balance.

“I have seen the transition from more of a salary perspective to non-compensation, non-monetary-based retention and engagement strategies,” Anand says. “People are looking more at corporate citizenship and what their company is doing to make them feel part of a brand. There is a lot of focus on these aspects as well as the monetary side, as candidates want to be part of something that gives back to society.”

Pownall agrees and compares the recruitment process to a first date, complete with courtship, desires and emotional connections.

“It is about building a relationship, trust and understanding between two parties,” he says. “We forget that throughout this courting process, there is an emotional buy-in with the candidate. As time goes on, they enjoy learning about the company and the role, and start to get engaged in the company, so that when an offer is made, they want to make it work.”

Pownall says employers should be clear on the expectations of each role and take time to get to know candidates better. He suggests employers treat candidates more like company clients, while treating the recruitment process as less of a transaction and more as an interactive partnership.

He also believes that rising candidate withdrawal is caused by the heavier workloads of those involved in recruiting – which slows the whole process down – and a greater fear of hiring the wrong person, which leads to cautious dithering.

Hong Kong is also a market short of candidates, which increases the likelihood of individuals withdrawing from the recruitment process.

“At 3.3 per cent unemployment, there is no doubt that Hong Kong is candidate-short, and is therefore a candidate-driven market,” Pownall says. “The demand for candidates continues to stretch supply, which leaves candidates in control.”

Employers, though, are starting to cotton on to the fact that candidates are starting to shop around more and have become more cautious in their recruitment, says Marc Burrage, regional director at Hays.

“Employers who recognise candidates may be moving between companies to increase their salary offers are now being very careful with the ones they select, and are not giving in to unrealistic salary expectations,” he says. “They would rather spend more time looking for someone stable, regardless of how urgently they need to fill a position.”

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