Speed and nimbleness may be the most critical keys to successful recruiting in today's tight labor market, despite news headlines that may claim the road to hiring the best candidates is lined with huge salaries, stock options and signing bonuses.

"While employers ponder hiring decisions, they lose opportunities," says Cathy DeMartino, vice president of Lucas Group, a recruitment firm specializing in the telecom and high-tech industries. "Our best candidates may interview with up to five companies simultaneously. Employers that move fast have a significant advantage."

The 30-year-old recruiting firm surveyed its own consultants on how low unemployment, recruitment technology, and other factors are influencing companies' hiring practices and their ability to sway the most promising candidates.

Market Dynamics, Consequences

Recruiters have also seen employers turn to more unusual enticements as a way to put their offers over the top compared to their competitors' offers. These include a paid vacation to an exotic location before the candidate starts the job, relocation and job placement for a fiancee, afternoon telecommuting so that parents can greet kids when they get home from school, six weeks of vacation, and stay-on bonuses to retain key employees through critical projects.

Nearly half the respondents indicate that companies are more likely to retain poor performers due to a lean pool of potential replacements, resulting in decreasing quality of services provided/products produced, followed by lower productivity and lower morale.

The tight labor market is also forcing more employers to hire candidates from outside their industry, a move that 88% of the respondents believe will only increase the diversity and talent base of the hiring organization. If potential employees possess the right blend of skills and leadership potential, says one survey respondent, industry-specific training should get that person up to speed quickly. "It's a small price to pay for leadership."

It found that 72% of the time, a candidate is hired within six weeks of a position's availability. Five years ago, the process took up to three months, with about 50% of candidates hired within the first six weeks. Survey respondents attribute advances in technology -- from the Internet and fax machine to cell phones and pagers -- as major contributing factors, enabling the entire recruitment process to move faster.

Technology Matters

An overwhelming 96% of survey participants indicate that today's candidates are more prepared for job interviews, thanks to online information about employers. The Internet has also made it easier for job seekers to transmit their ré sumé s and has broadened the field of candidates for nearly every job.

The Lucas Group recruiters found that while e-mailed resumes work for most candidates, those who want to stand out from the crowd, especially those who consider themselves candidates for upper management positions, consider mailing an original document the best way to achieve their goal.

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