When the odds are working in our favour, it can feel as though the tide will never turn the other way. For a candidate in a prolonged candidate’s market, it can seem like there will always be another, better job when they want it. The same holds true for employers; when jobs are fewer, it can seem as though a selection of great candidates will always be available just when you need them.

The problem is that this can start to affect behaviours as well. And that, in turn, can hurt when the tides inevitably turn. The effects of bad behaviour last long-term.

The labour market is in flux, again

I suppose that in a perfect world, the labour market – the balance between the employers looking for talent, and talented people looking for jobs – would be in constant equilibrium. Rising tides would lift all boats. There would be jobs for everyone looking, and enough talented candidates for every job. But the world isn’t perfect, and – like the tide – the labour market is cyclical. I’ve been in the recruiting business long enough to have seen several shifts in both directions.

It’s been a long time – over a decade, in fact – since we’ve experienced a true recession. For most of the years since then, ‘talent shortage’ has been the mantra. Record low unemployment has resulted in what most people see as a candidate’s market. Unemployment rates spiked sharply during the early stages of the pandemic, of course. Since then, though, unemployment has steadily decreased and is now sitting at pre-pandemic levels.

In recent months, economists have made increasingly dire predictions about the possibility of a recession. Rising interest rates, significant increases in food and energy costs, and global conflict all suggest that the tide is, indeed, turning. The unemployment rate has held relatively steady through the fall, sitting at only 5.2% in October with a roughly half-point rise in full-time employment.

So far, these warning signs are largely limited to the technology sector. Employment is up in manufacturing, construction, accommodation and food service. But – unless someone out there has a reliable crystal ball I’m not aware of – nobody really knows what the economy will do in the coming months.

So what?

We may be coming to an end of the red-hot candidate’s market, entering into a period of higher unemployment and fewer available jobs. Or, we may not be. Maybe this is a ‘blip’, and the candidate’s market will continue unabated. Whether fortune favours the employees or employers, though, I can assure you that one thing will happen. In the group that finds themselves with the upper hand, there will be some people who allow that to affect their behaviours. From my vantage point, I see it every time.

In an employer’s market…

When jobs are fewer, and candidates are plentiful, employers have the upper hand in negotiations. That’s just a statement of fact. It’s what they choose to do with that upper hand that can be a problem.

Some companies go to the market with completely unrealistic expectations about the mix of skills and level of qualification that candidates should bring to the table.

  • They make the candidates endure long, slow, and cumbersome hiring processes, jumping through hoops at every step.
  • They don’t offer prompt feedback, if they give any at all, and sometimes they simply ‘ghost’ candidates, leaving them with no closure whatsoever.
  • They drag their heels when it comes time to make a decision, wanting to see more candidates … and more … and more, despite having excellent candidates who would happily accept an offer tomorrow.

When they finally make a decision, they make lowball offers to great candidates who they know are worth more. And then – with greater frequency in the United States than Canada, so far – some companies are even rescinding offers after candidates have accepted them and resigned their previous jobs.

None of this is acceptable behaviour.

A hiring process should be respectful, recognizing the candidate as an equally important party in the hiring process.

In a candidate’s market…

Candidates aren’t immune, either. When it seems like it’ll be a candidate’s market forever, job seekers can also be guilty of treating recruiters and employers poorly. Here are some common characteristics:

  • They approach the market with wildly unrealistic compensation demands, or overinflated expectations about the level of responsibility they feel they deserve.
  • They demonstrate a lack of commitment to the hiring process, responding slowly – if ever at all – to requests for information.
  • They don’t take interviews seriously, they cancel at the last minute, or – worse yet – don’t show up at all.

When a company puts a serious and legitimate offer on the table, they sit on them for days and days. Sometimes, just because they can. Other times, because they’re just playing one company’s offer against another.

Once again, none of this is respectful behaviour towards a prospective employer.

The damage to your brand remains

Herein lies the problem. Neither a candidate’s market nor an employer’s market are forever. The tides will eventually turn. Your behaviours and actions when things are going your way can come back to haunt you when they’re not.

Recruiters and hiring managers have pretty good memories when it comes to candidates. Applicant tracking systems and other advanced database tools help them keep track. If you haven’t treated prospective employers with respect and professional courtesy when they were looking for you, don’t be surprised if your calls and emails aren’t returned as quickly when you’re looking for them.

Employers’ behaviours aren’t forgotten, either. There are plenty of ways that word gets around. There’s word-of-mouth, the transparency created by employer rating sites like Glassdoor and others, and social media. An employer brand – like any brand – is a fragile thing. It can be damaged surprisingly easily, and those damages can be difficult and costly to repair.

It’s not rocket science

The fix for all of this is very simple: mutual respect. That’s it. Whether the market favours you or the other party, be kind. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

  • Be reasonable with your expectations and your requests.
  • Be committed to a process once you’ve engaged in it.
  • Be responsive.
  • And be responsible for making decisions, and communicating those decisions, with professional courtesy.

Are you thinking about your personal brand as a candidate, or about your employer brand?

If you’d like to reassess your hiring process, and how it affects your ability to hire great candidates, let’s chat.

If you want to build your own brand as a job seeker, or get a second opinion on your resume or LinkedIn profile, I can help. Get in touch with me and let’s talk.