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Respectful recruitment moves us away from power dynamics

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Recruitment can be a daunting process for all involved. Employers may struggle to find the perfect fit, while candidates face rounds of tests and interviews, often with uncertain outcomes. 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing recruitment merely as a power struggle. If we take the most cynical view possible, employers want to fill positions with the best candidates without paying too much, and employees want the best salary and perks possible. Who holds the best cards at the table depends on a number of factors: skill shortages, a company’s need for growth, unemployment rates, the cost of living and so on.


Read more: Successful recruitment in the modern world


The Great Resignation has been cited by some as a major change in recruitment power dynamics, with far more people quitting their jobs in the later stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. In reality, this was a blip that masked a more subtle but undeniable change.

Employees are moving more jobs more often, are more willing to move jobs, and lots of moves are more likely to be read as ambition than flightiness. In some industries, an acute skills shortage is making it easier for candidates to be choosier and more demanding.

On the other hand, certain sectors have seen lots of layoffs. Big companies like IBM, Google and Microsoft all made cuts in 2023, with some pointing to AI as well as economic factors for the change. This again shifts the power dynamic: with more people looking for jobs, recruiters can potentially be choosier and select from a bigger pool of candidates.


Read more: Bad hiring practices are hindering recruitment


Businesses should have long ago ditched the idea that their employees are lucky to have a job, but seeing recruitment as a power struggle is a hangover from this old-fashioned mindset. Too much cynicism in the recruitment process – from both sides – is damaging. Recruitment is, after all, the first contact between a business and employee, and more respect is needed to make sure the relationship starts off in the right way. 

Bring respect into recruitment 

The first step in changing this dynamic is to consider what candidates are really looking for. A survey from Glassdoor found that 80% of candidates consider culture, mission and purpose before even applying for a job. While salary and benefits are always going to be important, they are a way for candidates to shortlist the jobs they want to investigate further, rather than make a final decision. 

How people are allowed to work is also important. Many businesses have adopted a hybrid or work-from-home approach. Expanding this into ‘work from anywhere’ or ‘work in any way’ can change and widen the pool of potential applicants to a job considerably. Flexible work arrangements foster trust. Embracing remote and hybrid models signals confidence in employees’ ability to work autonomously.


Read more: Businesses judged by recruitment processes


Respect should also be embedded in the recruitment process. Some candidates feel that they are too often ‘ghosted’ by a potential employer if they don’t make the final cut. Companies are not doing themselves any favours by ghosting, especially if the candidate might be a better fit in a slightly different role or with a few more years of experience. Moving quickly and keeping candidates informed is a simple fix.  

Ultimately, although power dynamics in recruitment change constantly, they should not be a key factor in how recruitment is carried out. Instead, understanding what candidates are really looking for and embedding a culture of trust and respect from the start will do far more to make recruitment more effective. 

By Katherine Loranger, chief people officer at Safeguard Global 

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