Experts: Recruiting was a challenge before COVID, and is likely to remain one for the foreseeable future

Talk to CEOs, human resource managers and other business leaders now – 18 months into a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic – and many of them will tell you that recruitment has become a huge challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But many of them, including Steve Lowisz, will tell you it was a challenge long before then. Lowisz, the founder and CEO of Qualigence International, a Livonia, Mich.-based talent recruitment consultant, said he saw the problem back when he was running an office equipment dealership.

“Recruitment was already a challenge before the pandemic and got harder during,” said Lowisz, who owns an degree in architecture from Lawrence Tech. “I experienced the challenges associated with recruiting when I was hiring sales and service people.”

It’s why Lowisz, who earlier in life thought he wanted to be an architect, founded Qualigence in the first place.

“After realizing that people are more than a transaction, I wanted to forever change our industry for the better,” he said. “My purpose became ‘People living their purpose.’

That realization got him doing what he does now.

“I saw an opportunity to improve the recruiting space with a different approach and different financial model and saw people as people, and not a means to end – generally being a commission,” Lowisz said. “I was burned while recruiting for myself by various agencies and candidates.

“Being an entrepreneur was always in my blood,” he said. “My purpose of changing the industry and building my own team, along with a push from my wife, caused me to start my first business in this industry in 1992.”

Lowisz took the time to offer his viewpoints to Corp! Magazine:

Corp! Magazine: Is this what you always wanted to do? Never wanted to be an astronaut? Or a fireman? Or a superhero?

Steve Lowisz: When I was younger, I had the desire to be an Air Force pilot.  Serving my country and flying really fast has always been a deep-rooted focus for me.  Although my eye sight didn’t allow me to fly at the time, I support veterans and drive fast cars! (laughs).

Corp!: We’re hearing CEOs and business leaders say that recruitment is one of the toughest issues to deal with in the pandemic. Do you agree?

Lowisz: Recruitment was already a challenge before the pandemic and got harder during.  The pandemic was the great exaggerator – those with great leadership become more attractive while those with already poor leadership experienced significant turnover.

Now more than 50% of the population has said they will consider a new role, yet the pent up demand of open positions far outnumbers the number of qualified candidates.  

Most qualified and productive candidates have multiple options and often multiple offers when seeking a change.   Even when companies identify the right candidate, they need to realize candidate have multiple options.  In addition, many leader make the mistake that candidates are only looking for more money.  Although compensation is important, most professionals are looking for a way to improve themselves and the connection they have with the leaders and peers. 

Recruiting will continue to be one of the biggest challenges organizations face for the next 18-24 months or longer.  

Corp!: Why?

Lowisz: In addition to the challenges above, candidates are being contacted by 5-10 recruiters at the same time.  Too many do not spend the time to really understand what drives the candidate and the candidate can sense that.  The candidate experience, or lack thereof, contributes to the challenges in recruiting companies are experiencing.

Finally, organizations really don’t know how to recruit.  To many believe that posting a job on LinkedIn or Indeed will magically produce a bunch of qualified and interested candidates.  Recruiting is a verb – it’s taking action.  Posting and praying has never worked, yet so many organizations still rely on those methods.

Corp!: Has it always been tough? Was it any different before the pandemic?

Lowisz: Putting a butt in a seat isn’t actually that hard.  Getting the right person in the right seat, on the right bus, and traveling in the right direction has always been hard.

The pandemic has added by creating two new dynamics. 

  • Competition for candidates is higher due to the remote work environment the pandemic accelerated.   If you were in Des Moines in the past, you were limited to local companies.  Now companies from New York to California are going after the same developer, for example, that is sitting in Des Moines and doesn’t have to move.  You aren’t competing with 25 local companies, you ate competing with thousands of companies across the country for the same candidate.
  • For some candidates, the pandemic has created an environment where they are pickier about who they work for.  They look at the remote policy of companies, how they treated employees during the pandemic, etc. For some organizations, this has made it very difficult to recruit.

Corp!: What do you look for in a recruit?

Lowisz: This depends on both the expectations of the position and the natural drives of the candidate.  For example, a candidate who needs little to no direction from the leader may be successful for one leader, but may fail if they need more daily direction and don’t receive it because of the profile of the leader.

Determining what to look for resides in knowing:

  • What needs to be accomplished?
  • What challenges does the candidate need to deal with?
  • How do you want the job accomplished?
  • What’s the current focus – people, innovation, results, etc.?  

I go way beyond the responsibilities on a job description and look at the bigger picture.   Based on that we can determine how close of a fit the candidate is.   Saying that you only want one profile in your organization is foolish. 

We only fire 13% of the time for skill – we do fire 87% of the time for how the person works.  That should tell us we need to go deeper.

We often overestimate the importance certain characteristics when recruiting and underestimate others.   Correlation and causation are very different.   We use advanced psychometrics to ensure we leverage data to correlate the attributes that cause success or contribute to the failure in a specific organization.

Corp!: How do you know when you’ve found the right one?

Lowisz:  There are four specific fits or alignments that need to occur to improve the chances of success of any candidate.

  • Employee to the Job
  • Employee and the Leader
  • Employee and the Team
  • Employee and the Company

When we have close alignment in all four of these areas, the success rate of candidates is much higher. 

If you hire a rockstar and they don’t fit the team, they will fail. If you hire a rockstar but their workstyles do not fit the leader, they will fail. 

Corp!: What do you tell your clients about the process?

Lowisz: We use a proprietary process called the Performance BluePrint that takes us much deeper into understanding the business, team, leaders, business objectives, etc.   We are very clear with every client that this process is critical to aligning the right candidate with the right role that can affect real progress.

In addition, we are clear with every client there role in the recruiting process.  The candidate experience can make or break any candidate relationship. 

Corp!: Does recruitment differ when you’re looking for C-Suite leaders as opposed to line-level employees?

Lowisz: Although the steps to the Performance Blueprint remain constant, the depth of questions and expected responses increases. Our executive search team are business experts first and search consultants second.   They understand the broader impact a C-suite leader makes.

Although the identification of C-Suite candidates is easier, engaging them takes more time and preparation.  Interviewing them takes greater discernment.  Selection takes more data points. 

But in the end, people are still people at any level of professional position. 

Corp!: What are other issues are confronting leaders in terms of finding talent?

Lowisz: There are many other issues in finding talent. 

  • Political – many individuals have specific stances on political issues that potential employers have come out for an against.   This is more polarizing to candidates than ever before
  • Compensation – the demand for candidates is creating artificial compensation increased – similar to inflation.   It may put some candidates out of reach today and cause existing candidates to expect the same increases.  But what happends 18-24 months form now
  • Leadership – Candidates are being very picky about WHO they go work for.  What does glassdoor sale about their potential leader?  What about social media?  Do the existing employees seem to have a relationship with their direct leader or are they really jut another number?

Corp!: What other issues need to be addressed in confronting the recruitment challenge?

Lowisz: In order to recruit the right person, we need to STOP making assumptions.  For example, when someone states that “Career Advancement” is a top priority, what does that mean to them?   We assume it means they want to be CEO – but maybe they just want to ben seen as an expert in their field.   We tend to try and sell candidates on how we define certain aspects of the answers we receive from them in the interview.  Remember what ASSUME means!

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Brad Kadrich
Brad Kadrich is an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years’ experience, most recently as an editor/content coach for the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers and Hometown Life, managing 10 newspapers in Wayne and Oakland counties. He was born in Detroit, grew up in Warren and spent 15 years in the U.S. Air Force, primarily producing base newspapers and running media and community relations operations.