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The Procurement Job Market is Looking Up

By March 31, 2024April 11th, 2024No Comments

“The procurement job market is back. That’s great! But, as it regains momentum, both job seekers and companies are going to have to adapt, and I think the road ahead promises growth and transformation and opportunity for anyone who is willing to embrace this change.”Mark Holyoake, Managing Director, Procurement Recruitment at Holyoake Search 

According to recruitment expert Mark Holyoake, Managing Director of Procurement Recruitment at Holyoake Search, the years-long rollercoaster ride for procurement recruitment and hiring looks like it’s finally coming to an end. Although we might still be dizzy from the ride, labor trends seem to indicate we’re in the midst of a solid rebound where salaries are stabilizing, top talent is abundant, and employers are investing in growth, especially at the leadership level. 

It seems to be good times ahead for everyone, for the foreseeable future at least. 

That said, calmer waters can sometimes fool us into complacency. Although Mark’s take on the procurement job market is more optimistic than it has been in years, he also sees one troubling trend on the rise as many employers are slipping back into old, pre-pandemic bad habits.

Procurement, The Not-So-Friendly Ghost

Ghosting, according to Merriam Webster, is the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone, usually without explanation. In the recruitment context, either the candidate or the recruiter can ghost, which is essentially stopping communication suddenly, with no explanation, at any stage of the recruitment, interview, hiring, or onboarding processes.

In a tight labor market, it’s usually the job seeker doing the ghosting, but that’s not what we’re seeing now in procurement, says Mark, who warns that employer ghosting is the top pain point of procurement candidates right now. 

“It’s driving frustration among job seekers because they’re just not hearing anything … it’s a complete lack of response from most companies to any and all applications,” said Mark. “So these candidates aren’t even getting a chance at bat. They’re incredibly well qualified, and they’re hearing nothing.” 

Clearly, ghosting leads to a horrible candidate experience where, as Mark puts it, the applicants are left feeling, at best, in limbo, and, at worst, “disheartened and frankly put off by the lack of feedback.” 

“It leaves candidates feeling like their applications are disappearing into a black hole.”

Fighting Talent Complacency 

Why have so many procurement recruiters and hiring managers lost their job market manners? In part, it’s not their fault, says Mark, but it’s a by-product of a market more favorable to employers than in recent years, with a large and growing talent pool actively job seeking and applying. While employers enjoyed a looser labor market in 2023, Mark warns that employers shouldn’t get complacent when it comes to the way they approach the candidate experience. 

“A lot of companies simply haven’t adjusted their recruitment practices again to meet the needs of the market now that it’s turned again,” he said. “They’ve become really comfortable with the idea that they’re back in control of the interview process, that they have all this unlimited choice over who they hire … but things have changed.” 

When procurement starts to take the talent pool for granted – that they’ll always have a large number of highly qualified applicants applying for every role – “a lot of poor processes and poor behaviors start to creep back in.” 

This is compounded by the fact that “the vast majority of companies,” says Mark, are not working hard to streamline their recruitment process and enhance their overall applicant experience to meet the needs and expectations of today’s labor market. They may have been putting in the effort in 2021 and 2022 when the market was more competitive for top talent, but now that the tide has shifted, “a lot of these companies have just gone back to their old ways, just because they can.”

It’s Not All Procurement’s Fault

The sheer volume of applications that recruiters have to sift through, even with the help of applicant tracking systems, makes it nearly impossible to establish meaningful communications with every candidate. Job boards like LinkedIn that have quick and easy application processes have made it so convenient for candidates to apply that it has opened the floodgates, and some HR teams are – through no fault of their own – drowning in applications. 

“If I’m a job seeker and I can put in an application in 30 seconds or less, or I can go pay a bot to put hundreds of applications in a day for me, this creates a competitive process and the sheer volume of response makes it tough for HR departments to process,” said Mark. 

AI Can Help, But It’s Not Perfect

While emerging technologies like AI can help overwhelmed HR teams manage all of the intake and identify the best candidates more easily and quickly, it’s still not a perfect solution. Just like most non-AI applicant tracking systems, it’s so keyword-driven. If a candidate’s resume doesn’t exactly match the keywords, it’s often thrown into the discard pile, into that “black hole” with all the others. 

Screening out potentially valuable candidates due to keyword mismatches can deprive the procurement team, and the business, of valuable and unique skill sets that might not otherwise make it onto the team. 

“It eliminates a lot of diversity of thought within the department, and the department becomes an echo chamber,” said Mark. “People hire in their own image and according to their own sort of biases, even if they’re not aware of them. And it really negatively affects performance and company culture.”

Aside from the screening process, for all candidates at any stage of the application process, it is clear that procurement needs to spend some more time thinking of solutions, which AI could clearly be a part of, to stop ghosting applicants, to communicate the recruitment process at every step, and to create the kind of candidate experience that will attract and retain the kind of talent they’re looking for.

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