By Larry Myler, For Forbes.com
When unemployment was hovering between 9% and 10%, job candidates were everywhere and employers could pick and choose the best people. Hiring was like picking low hanging fruit. Ask any hiring manager today and they’ll tell you, the days of receiving hundreds of qualified resumes for every job posting are over. It is fast becoming an employees’ market in many areas, and that means fewer applicants who demand better employment offers. How do you hire great people when you have a dearth of qualified applicants?
Ema Ostarcevic, CEO of Search Group Partners, a recruiting and placement firm in Salt Lake City, Utah, reveals five secrets to making great hires when the applicant pool is dry.
- Understand why you need to hire new people. Is it to keep pace with business growth, or is it because of employee turnover? Growth is a good problem to have, while turnover means you should be doing better at retention. “Make it a point to keep good employees,” says Ostarcevic. Retention of your best employees is a key to avoiding bad hires. Worse than losing good people is replacing them with unqualified, incapable new employees who may be the ‘best’ you can find. This is happening all over the country. In 2014, the average US employee got a 3% raise while the average increase in pay from changing jobs was between 10% and 20%. “It is unfortunate,” continues Ostarcevic. “Companies are losing great people because they aren’t willing to step up to keep them from seeking better opportunities. Then they have to replace them and end up paying more anyway. Instead of forcing employees to change jobs to get a raise or promotion, entice your best people to stay the same way you would a great, new hire to come onboard.”
- Sell the strong features of your culture. The next piece of advice Ostarcevic has is to be a workplace where people want to work. “People, especially the best applicants, want to be immersed in a great culture. They want to be impressed, enticed, and appreciated.” While you certainly don’t want to over-sell your company, you do want your organization to be seen as a place where existing employees are content to stay and enjoy their work. And like sales, you want to differentiate yourself from the competition. Can you offer more open communication, better-functioning teams, flexible hours, paid time off, work-from-home options, relocation packages, or other inducements to get and keep the best people? Also, how you go about hiring says a lot about your company’s culture. “It’s important that you have the right people conducting interviews, and that they know how to interview. Every touch point between the applicant and the organization is either a selling point or a detractor.”
- Cast a broader net. “Employers have to be creative in expanding their search for talent. Posting on job boards will only get you so far because the best people already have jobs and may or may not be actively looking for new opportunities.” You have to go find the right people, even if they aren’t looking for you. Networks, social media, trade groups, professional associations, even existing employees can provide leads to great people you can hire away from one of those companies that only offered a 3% raise last year.
- Would you respond to a boring, poorly written job description? Spend some quality time on your job descriptions and public postings. “Many job postings are weak, not well thought out, and tell applicants nothing about the company,” observes Ostarcevic. “One of the services we provide our clients is helping them craft job descriptions, company introductions, and other written material for public postings. And it’s also vital to keep them short. Ninety percent of the job descriptions we work on are less than one page.” It does you no good to work hard on a great culture then post a boring, amateurish job description online that hides your organization’s best qualities. “The job and the organization should both be promoted as desirable.”
- Act quickly. Great people are not going to wait around for you. Nothing is more perishable than a hot hire. “We always tell our clients, ‘Don’t put candidates into a black hole.’” The traditional hiring process is often an abyss where applications disappear and are never heard from again. That’s not going to work well for employers in an employees’ market. Candidates aren’t being courted if they can‘t find out what’s going on with the hiring process, or if it takes forever to go through that process—they’re being ignored.