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Your Hiring Pulse report for March 2022

Last month, in February’s Hiring Pulse, we went into depth on the lack of candidates for open roles in our employer network. If you think you’re alone here – the reality is that it’s actually happening across the board. Our data verifies this.

Hiring Pulse

We then talked about ways in which you can overcome that challenge, including this important insight: the candidates are out there, but they’re just not applying to your jobs. It’s not like the world’s available talent magically shrunk overnight – potential hires are still out there, but their priorities have changed during these times of the Big Quit.

So, we emphasized the importance of recruitment marketing, and a shift in your mindset that you have to show the value of yourself as an employer – in other words, your employee value proposition. Instead of asking candidates why they want to work for you, show them why they should want to work for you.

This trend will continue, but we’re also viscerally aware of the recent developments in Ukraine and watching how this impacts the job and talent markets. We don’t have data on this just yet, but we do have tips on what you might do as an employer to withstand any impact this might have on your organization.

Ultimately, we’re talking about managing and hiring through uncertainty (especially if you have a portion of your workforce in Ukraine or Russia – watch for an article on that soon). And more so, with the conflict happening at the tail end of an already debilitating pandemic, it’s as if the only certainty we have is that we live in uncertain times. As we shared from Ira Wolfe in January’s Hiring Pulse – it’s not the ‘New Normal’, but rather, the ‘Never Normal’.

Keep that in mind as we look at the hiring data. Then we’ll share some tips on managing through uncertainty.

How we’re looking at data

First – and we explain this every month to be sure that it’s understood – looking at data gives us a measuring stick so we can see what’s going on in the hiring landscape. But when that measuring stick regularly changes during this ‘Never Normal’ time, it becomes an unreliable gauge.

It’s no longer helpful to look at the data YoY or even MoM. Rolling trends make more sense because then you’re comparing data with what’s happening in recent months. So we’re looking at percentage increase or decrease when compared with the rolling average of the three trailing months. Want a more detailed methodology? Jump to the end and check it out.

As always, we look at the worldwide trends for three common SMB hiring metrics:

  1. Time to Fill (TTF)
  2. Total Job Openings
  3. Candidates per Hire (CPH)

In this Pulse, we take a look at these three core metrics, and then we’ll share some ideas on how to run your business so it somehow stays calm and carries on through pandemics, wars, and all of the rest of it.

Let’s start analyzing!

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This is part of a series of monthly hiring trend reports for SMBs that go out on the first Tuesday of every month. Sign up for our newsletter for regular updates!

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Table of Contents:

Main highlights

The three main highlights for this month’s Hiring Pulse are:

  • Average Time to Fill is continuing to drop
  • Candidates per Hire stabilized at end of 2021 – but talent pool became saturated again as job openings skyrocketed in January
  • Hard to say what to expect in the next couple of months as a new crisis begins to ripple the world economy – so plan accordingly

1. Time to Fill

For this report, Workable defines “Time to Fill” as the number of days from when a new job is opened to when that job opening is filled. It’s important to understand that definition: if a job is opened in October or even as early as March last year, but isn’t filled until February, it won’t count in this graph. If another job is opened on the same day in July or September but is filled on January 31, it does count in this graph.

We’ve pointed out previously that this does explain the recent downward trend in recent months to a degree at least – but it does not explain it fully. Let’s look:

 

The first big takeaway here is that the number of consecutive negative-trending months is now at six straight months.

And that last month – January 2022 – is at -32%. Not only is that different from the latest month in the last Hiring Pulse (-21.2%), it’s also a much starker negative drop from the previous month. Last month’s report showed a 7.3-point drop from November to December in the TTF trend – but this month, the drop is from -12.2% to -32%, a staggering 19.8-point drop.

Our take is that a lot of jobs were opened in January – and were filled in January – which drives the TTF down, way down. January (and Q1 in general) is traditionally a very busy period for the recruitment process as businesses kick their respective strategies into action, and that shows here.

Shorter TTFs are the norm – but that’s also been compounded by a very healthy job market (read on for more).

2. Total Job Openings

Total job openings represent the total number of job openings activated across the entire Workable network.

So, let’s look at the raw job open numbers – which aren’t contingent on job open/close dates like TTF and Candidates per Hire, so we can include February 2022 in this chart:

Again, we’re seeing a healthy spike in job openings with a 14.1% upward trend in February on the heels of 17.1% in January. That’s normally good news as it indicates that businesses are hitting their stride and starting to hire again.

Data crunchers will naturally dig for the “but”. It’s probably that businesses are getting back into the hiring swing after a slow December hiring month and also are no longer feeling Omicron skittishness.

But we’re countering that by saying that a 14.1% growth in job openings in February compared with November, December and January is a good indicator that things are looking up. It’s not just a one-off thing.

We do have to point out another reason for increased job openings: the Big Quit. When someone leaves a job, that job generally becomes open for backfill. So, more job opens. Makes sense. But that’s just one part of the equation.

The US Department of Labor did announce 678,000 new jobs in February, a sharp rise from 467,000 new jobs in January. The challenge now is how the conflict in Ukraine may impact the worldwide job market. Time will tell. For now, we offer what the Washington Post reported in the first week of March:

“[E]conomists say it is unclear exactly how the war might affect American jobs, they note that skyrocketing energy prices, slowdowns in consumer spending or looming uncertainty could prompt businesses to pause hiring in the coming weeks.”

Uncertainty. That word again. Keep it in mind.

3. Candidates per Hire

Workable defines the number of candidates per hire (CPH) as, succinctly, the number of applicants for a job up to the point of that job being filled.

Let’s look at what’s going on here through January:

 

(NOTE: Again, as in the TTF chart, you’re probably wondering why we stopped the numbers in January. Again, as stated above, that’s because these data are based on the time the job was opened, not when it was filled.)

Important: As jobs get filled, they then are included here. In previous monthly reports, we haven’t normally seen such a huge recalibration in the CPH trend in recent months – but this time, the shift is drastic, with now only the last month in the chart (January) showing any clear drop-off. Last month’s Pulse showed double-digit drop-offs in the CPH trend for three months running:

  • -11.2% for October 2021
  • -13.6% for November 2021
  • -15.3% for December 2021.

That’s since changed to -7.6% for November, -1.5% for December, and -18.6% for January 2022.

Here’s our take on it: Fewer jobs mean less talent saturation. And those looking for jobs aren’t just going to take some time off in December – they still have bills to pay and food to put on the table, so they’ll keep up their jobhunt in December even as job openings dwindle for the month.

So: the candidates per hire trend recovers a little bit for the holiday season, before dropping steadily again in January as job openings again spike while the raw number of candidates remains steady. Does that make sense? Let’s check back in next month and see what happens as the data for January fills up more with more “complete” jobs data.

What’s going on here?

While nothing staggering in these numbers, they do point to how quickly data can change from month to month even with our “rolling trend” approach to the data. In other words, these are uncertain times and they have been since early 2020 – and one might even say that it’s been uncertain for much, much longer than that.

Consider some of the “earthquake moments” that have happened recently that have shifted the world economy – and your business and hiring: the 9/11 attacks, Brexit, the election of Trump, the Greek debt crisis, the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, and, of course the COVID-19 pandemic and now, the war in Ukraine. There’s more, but you get the idea.

The lessons of uncertainty

This new conflict in Ukraine is not a regional issue. It has potentially far-reaching consequences – energy costs (which we’re already seeing), migration, consumer spending, the whole bit. This brings us back to the core concern here: how do you navigate a business through uncertainty?

The good news for you is that, in a way, you’ve had some ‘practice’ from navigating the pandemic. While COVID-19 had a debilitating impact on businesses around the globe, the silver lining is that it taught businesses – and employees – how to be more agile in their work.

Employees are also leaving the workforce in droves, as we know, but the flip side of that is they’re looking for something more meaningful while continuing to collect income. They’re looking to be more autonomous and flexible in their work – hence the growth of the self-employed economy – and companies would do well to adapt to that new expectation of work.

That emerging talent pool, as a rule, meets short-term personal and business needs. That actually benefits you as a business.

Being agile means thinking month-over-month or quarter-over-quarter as opposed to year-over-year. To survive, your business strategies ultimately become shorter and more nimble – even if you’re a larger company. You want to be able to react quickly to developments – and even capitalize on them.

The importance of flexibility

That kind of agile mindset in business also means being more flexible – and even giving your employees greater autonomy to make decisions rather than needing to go through a long approval process before getting something done. Greater flexibility and autonomy in your jobs will speak volumes for your employee experience and even attract more candidates to your jobs, and that mindset and approach is also ideal for your business when navigating these uncertain times.

As Workable’s CMO Doug Ellinger wrote in an article:

“Use this as an opportunity to refocus the team on what it can organically produce through activities like content creation, enhanced distribution, email marketing, and improved alignment with the rest of the business. This is a time to get nimble and take a bare-bones approach.”

And as one-time Workable COO Grigoris Kouteris told us once in the early days of the pandemic: ​​

“First of all, make sure that you’ve got a number of contingency plans in place. Work out a lot of different scenarios which you are ready to deploy as the situation evolves. Secondly, don’t lose track of the more short-term or tactical objectives. Essentially, make sure that you also have a weekly plan on how you want to manage this.”

Business planning is important especially now. Focus on yours, and ideally see the results in the form of talent attraction, retention and engagement – and overall success as a business.

Thoughts, comments, disagreements? Send them to [email protected], with “Hiring Pulse” in the subject heading. We’ll share the best feedback in an upcoming report. Watch for our next Hiring Pulse in April!

The Hiring Pulse: Methodology

To bring the best insights to small and medium businesses worldwide, here’s what we’re doing with our data: when looking at a specific month’s trend, we’re taking the numbers from that month and comparing it to the average of the three previous months – and showing as a percentage how that month looks in comparison.

For example, if July shows an average Time to Fill of 30 days for all jobs, and the monthly average for the three preceding months (April, May, June) is 25 days, we present the result for July as a 20% increase.

The majority of the data is sourced from small and medium businesses across the Workable network, making it a powerful resource for SMBs when planning their own hiring strategy.

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