Recruit The Best Talent in 2019: Top Hiring Trends for Pacific Northwest Employers

2019 is right around the corner and as your business prepares for the new year, hiring the right people is no doubt high on your list of important future goals. Making these high stakes decisions requires a keen awareness of the hiring market, and a fair dose of reality and humility about your own hiring practices. It may be time to make a change, but there’s no time like the present! Use this list of Pacific Northwest hiring trends impacting the recruiting process in the region so you can find the best talent in 2019 and beyond.

Candidates are in the driver’s seat.

Unemployment in Portland and the Pacific Northwest region has been at a record low for months, meaning talented candidates are in high demand and competition is fierce. Oregon workers are spending less time unemployed and more time working, even among young adults with less work experience. In 2017, the median number of weeks young adults in Oregon remained unemployed was roughly 8 weeks, down from over 15 weeks in 2010. As more jobs open up, Pacific Northwest employers are having difficulties filling the job openings with quality candidates. In the past year, Oregon employers had nearly 60,700 vacancies at any given time. Of those job openings, 64 percent were identified as difficult to fill.

This shift in the power dynamic between companies and candidates means applicants have more options for where to work and the opportunity to make choices with greater selectivity. Essentially, you don’t pick talent any more, talent picks you. As you think about hiring in 2019, what will make them pick you?

Here’s what employers can do:

  • Create a great candidate experience.

From start to finish, your hiring process must be applicant focused. You cannot afford a bad candidate experience. A complicated or time-consuming application process, disorganized interviews, or—the most frustrating—poor communication, are not just bad etiquette, they will hurt your organization when the negative reviews roll in. Treat every candidate with the respect they deserve, regardless of whether you hire them. A positive experience means they’ll be more likely to take the job, reapply in the future or refer other quality talent to your company.

  • Post clear and compelling job descriptions.

A candidate’s experience begins when they read your job posting. Is it clear, concise and most importantly, compelling? Candidates read hundreds of job descriptions during their search—make yours stand out. Outline the responsibilities and desired skills with clarity and brevity and consider if you’re requiring a university degree arbitrarily or if it’s really necessary to do the job. Communicate the salary up front. Gone are the days of holding your cards close to your chest; hiring trends show candidates want transparency. Finally, highlight your company’s culture and opportunities for advancement with authenticity.

  • Reconsider compensation.

Wage growth has been flat in Oregon for a few years now and the cost of living has steadily increased. Employers who haven’t acknowledged this and increased their pay are not attracting many candidates. Perhaps you’re a small business and are truly strapped for cash—there are other ways to offer benefits through your compensation package, including flexible work hours, floating holidays, wellness programs, volunteer hours, and more. Be creative—your employees are worth it.

The gig economy is here to stay.

In just two years, estimates show approximately half of the U.S workforce will be temp, contract, or freelance workers which has major implications for hiring in 2019. The days of a rigid 9-5 office job are far behind us and instead, employees hop from one temporary position to the next rather than being locked down into a long-term commitment. Or in some cases, employees are juggling multiple jobs and commitments. In 2017, over 100,000 Oregon professionals held more than one job in addition to their primary job. Transitioning from a more traditional schedule can be difficult but it’s time to embrace it for the long term success of your business.

Here’s what employers can do:

  • Reward loyalty.

If you want people to stay with you, think about how you can encourage and reward longevity. Your pay structure is a great place to start. Incorporate wage increases as folks gain seniority, and increase benefits with each year of employment. As nice as it is to have the flexibility of freelance work, a major drawback is not having benefits such as tuition reimbursement programs, a 401k, or health insurance. These can be huge incentives for a candidate to buy into your company long-term.

  • Treat short-term workers well.

If your company uses temporary workers or freelancers, it can be easy to treat them as afterthoughts. Building a structure and policy around short-term workers is crucial to getting their buy-in, and for freelancers to feel motivated to produce high quality work. Receiving unclear assignments, last minute deadlines, or never being sure of when you’ll get paid doesn’t encourage anyone to commit. Keep your freelancers happy, and your company will thrive as a result.

Employer branding is more important than ever.

A LinkedIn survey showed that 74 percent of job seekers research a company’s reputation and employer brand before applying. Again, a candidate’s experience with your company can make or break their decision to work for you. Capturing the attention of quality candidates for all the right reasons is critical. How do you stand out from the crowd? Build a brand that showcases your company’s culture, philosophy on work, your mission and values, and explains clearly why any candidate would be happy to work for you.

Here’s what employers can do:

  • Tell a compelling story.

An important way to assess your company’s current narrative is to look at it from the job seeker’s perspective. Do your website, social media platforms, and all your communication tell a compelling story about your company? They should answer two critical questions: why would someone want to work for you and how does your company add value to the community, the industry, or to your employees’ lives?

Throughout the hiring process, be clear and authentic about your organization’s mission, values, and personality. If you claim to value community involvement,  incorporate policies that provide your employees with opportunities—yes, during work hours—to volunteer. Authenticity speaks volumes to someone who is wondering if you value what they do.

  • Invest in your employees’ wellbeing.

Recruiting trends are clear—few things speak louder to a prospective candidate than a raving employee referral. Investing in the people who already work for you is not only the right thing to do, it’s good business. Happy people like to share their happiness. More than ever, nurturing a human-centered, transparent environment where employees feel like their voice matters and where their health and growth are prioritized is vital. Plus, if you invest in your employees today, in the future you can hire from within and have an established team that grows with your business.

  • Lead with your company culture.

Contrary to what you might think, salary isn’t the number one priority for many candidates. When Oregon employers were asked in a talent assessment by the Oregon Workforce and Talent Development Board how they overcome hiring difficulties, only 35 percent identified wage increases as a remedy. In fact, studies have shown that applicants are willing to take less money if they’re convinced a company’s culture is the right fit for them. 

How do you communicate your company culture before you’ve even had a conversation? It’s in the little things—begin your job postings by highlighting what your organization values and stands for. Show how the specific position you’re hiring for contributes to its mission. When talking about benefits, be transparent about your values on work-life balance, social responsibility, and other culture and value-driven initiatives. Candidates want to know what kind of company and people they’ll be working with and what they care about. And finally, don’t fake it. Today’s professionals have options and they’re not afraid to leave jobs. If you bring staff in under false pretenses, you’ll just waste money and time on turnover.