By Jerry Damron, EMSNOW Columnist

Despite global uncertainty, walls being built, and global alliances being strained, manufacturing in the US is strong and with it come job opportunities.  While it’s debatable why hiring in the technology and manufacturing industry is strong, there’s no debate on how strong the market actually is.  The U.S. Census Bureau agrees with me. They report that as of Q3 2017, 17.4% of respondents in the manufacturing sector survey reported labor shortages, up 7 percentage points from Q32016.  The situation I’m seeing, from an executive recruiting perspective, is that many companies haven’t quite come up to speed with the new highly competitive environment.

It wasn’t long ago that career opportunities were sparse and employers could afford to take more time in their searches. They were more in the driver’s seat.  Time was on their side because there were more professionals looking for work than there were opportunities available.  With the uptick in our manufacturing technology sector, that’s now reversed.  There are plenty of jobs to contemplate but there are also more professionals entering the job search market.  As a result, it’s become more important than ever to have a predefined strategy for both employers and job seekers to present themselves in the best light.

In the not so distant past, we would have one executive partnering with our search firm and interviewing with one, maybe two available opportunities.  In many cases, they were only interviewing with opportunities we brought to their attention.  That’s now changed and in most cases, qualified and talented professionals have multiple opportunities to evaluate.  We’re back to the days of candidates being in a position of receiving multiple offers and having the privilege of choosing between them.  Promoting the very best image of yourself and your company, is what I call impression management.  In a competitive market like we’re experiencing, that’s more important than ever for employers, as it’s always been for employees.

Impression management should be a given.  It’s all things relating to your company’s self-promotion to potential employees: from how your job postings look and read, to how efficiently you respond to candidates’ applications.  It’s in every single contact —  from the time you’re aware of a candidate to either an offer extension or communicating the decision to pass on that candidate.  As a hiring authority, you’re going to maximize your odds of closing with your top choice candidate if your process is clean, condensed and professional.  When a candidate is choosing between multiple similar opportunities with different companies, the interview process may be a subtle, but highly effective way to gain a competitive advantage.

As an executive recruiter who truly partners with my clients and candidates, I’m always asking them to judge our search firm and our services.  Similarly I encourage them to judge every aspect of the interview process with prospective employees, and point out that how they manage their recruiting process will speak volumes about what it may be like to be employed with their company.  What a candidate experiences on the front end of the candidacy experience is likely to be an indication of what it will be like once employed.

When a candidate is considering coming to work for your company, seeing an updated and fluid website is impactful.  How you communicate with them and the speed in which you do so makes a huge difference.  Continually rescheduling interviews, failing to provide timely feedback on next steps or communication in general, this will present a negative picture of your organization by the very people you’re trying to court.

We currently have a search going on with a candidate that we’ve introduced to three opportunities. This candidate is also in front of another company through their own efforts. In other words, they are being considered by and considering, four separate opportunities, all with very similar companies and almost the identical position. Through the process, the options have been narrowed down to two opportunities. One I have presented and one they’ve found. My client’s process has been stellar. They’re follow-up from the initial candidate presentation to my client, their initial contact to the candidate, first and second phone interview – all took place within a couple of days. They flew this person in for a face-to- face round and tour of the facility less than a week after the initial contact.

During the face-to-face interview and upon completion of the day, my client told the candidate they’d like to move to an offer. This all occurred in less than two weeks’ time frame. It’s also important to note that my client is also interviewing multiple candidates for a handful of positions, all with this exact precise process. Our client’s Human Resources executive clearly recognized the importance of moving quickly in a highly competitive hiring environment and was aware that the candidate had multiple options. They streamlined their process, and made sure that communication was exceptional to the candidate through every step. This candidate told me repeatedly how impactful this was in the process. By moving efficiently, they’ve thoroughly impressed the candidate and have beaten their competition by weeks.

Not all companies have the ability to condense the process so efficiently, and the truth is that a slow process, one that causes interviews to be postponed one or more times, or has long delays between interviews, sometimes weeks, can leave a terribly poor impression upon top professionals they are trying to attract and hire. I’ve also recently had a client delay in getting feedback to me on a candidate for as long as three weeks and despite the feedback being very positive, the candidate decided to remove themselves for consideration, stating the length of time between interviews and the multiple weeks it took to get feedback made them question if things would be this slow and disorganized if they accepted a job there.

The recruiting landscape has changed, the electronics industry continues to evolve and those who better manage their processes and promote the very best impression management skills possible, will be more successful in wining the confidence and loyalty of the best professional talent in this industry.