Five Ways To Hire Fantastic Candidates In A Shrinking Applicant Pool

By Larry Myler, For

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.

  1. forbes-logoUnderstand 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.”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.
Larry Myler: Adjunct professor in the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at BYU, author of Indispensable By Monday, CEO of By Monday, Inc., an innovation consulting firm. This article is available online at: 2015 LLC™   All Rights Reserved

The Utah Landscape of Women in Leadership


With Utah being known as the new “Silicon Slopes”, the booming economy in Utah is receiving constant nationwide recognition. The question is, does the economic success for the state translate well for women? Being a female-run recruiting firm, this topic is always at the forefront of our business. We sought out to address the current landscape of women in business in Utah. In doing so, we have put together an infographic that showcases current statistics on women in business, education, leadership and government roles in this great state of Utah. We interviewed five women that have led successful careers and have taken upon themselves to become leaders and advocates for the success of Utah women. The landscape is looking promising for women in Utah, but we still have some work to do in our efforts to obtain equality.


Salt Lake Chamber Q&A with Ema Ostarcevic

The United States has celebrated National Women’s History Month, highlighting the contributions of
women to events in history and contemporary society, since 1911. The Salt Lake Chamber loves to
celebrate National Women’s History Month by sharing a series interviews with many of Utah’s inspiring
businesswomen for the entire month of March. See the whole series here.

Today we’re speaking to Ema Ostarcevic…

Ema Ostarcevic | Chief Executive Officer & Sr. Partner at SEARCH Group PartnersWhat is your title and what role do you play within your organization?

Chief Executive Officer of SEARCH Group Partners, a premier, boutique recruiting firm with offices in Utah, Tennessee and New York. I oversee recruiting, sales, operations, on-site consulting, acquisitions and executive search for the company.

What boards do you serve on?

I sit on the Governing Board for Ballet West, as well as their Development and Nominating Boards. I also sit on the Section Policy Council Board for the American Staffing Association.

In what other ways are you involved in the community?

Additionally, I dedicate significant time to various philanthropic organizations, focused on fighting social causes and critical issues facing the environment. I am also active in promoting Equality and Women’s progression on a local and nationwide basis.

Tell us about your most rewarding professional experience.

Starting my own business.

SEARCH Group Partners is a fairly new company. We launched at the beginning of 2012 and were
profitable within our first year in business. We have the pleasure of being able to call some of the best, most innovative, largest and growing companies in the state our clients. We also represent some of the most exclusive and top talent in our marketplaces and are truly grateful for the excellent reputation we get to enjoy.

Much of our success rests in our company culture and belief in relationships. Long-lasting relationships
in the work place isn’t something just applied to SPG’s client services. It’s a foundation to our philosophy on life and work. We’ve worked to create a progressive company culture emphasizing empowerment and work life balance for staff, the majority being women. SPG also prides itself on its cadre of four-legged friends, many of whom can be seen in the office.

With its formidable team, SGP has signed some of Utah’s largest and most reputable companies as clients. SGP has been recognized in Utah and throughout the U.S. for our success. Inavero awarded SPG The Best of Staffing® Client Award in 2015, for the second consecutive year, ranking client satisfaction. Recently, I was named as Utah’s “Forty Under 40” by Utah Business Magazine and was also awarded a Bronze Stevie® Award in the Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year category for Women in Business in 2014. I was also recognized by Utah Business Magazine as one of 2013’s “30 Women to Watch.”

What do you see as the biggest challenge women face in business today? What is your recommendation to resolve that issue?

One of the biggest challenges that women face in business today is that lack of a female presence in leadership roles. In fact, there are only 24 women sitting at CEO desks of Fortune 500 companies, which is a meager 4.8 percent.

Though we’ve made strides in this area, I believe there is still tremendous room for improvement. We have not developed a culture that allows women to feel that they can be promoted to the same levels as men and achieve the same professional successes. This is particularly true in Utah. Utah is well below the national average in terms of females in executive and leadership roles. It’s not for a lack of capable female leaders in the state, but rather an issue with women leaders not getting as much visibility as their male counterparts.

We need more women on the CEO track. This will create role models for a future generation of women in leadership. Currently, we have a scarcity of role models. It’s not that there aren’t successful women in business, it’s that successful male leaders get more media coverage, visibility and outweigh women in numbers. In order to get more women in executive and leadership positions, we (women) must help each other.

For me personally, I strive each and every day to empower women and demonstrate that women can “have it all” with both a successful career and home life. At SEARCH Group Partners, 100 percent of our management and executive team in Utah is comprised of women at the top of their field. Furthermore, each female we employee nationwide is paid equal to their male counterparts.

What pearl of wisdom would you share with young female professionals? Have confidence in who you are and be yourself. Don’t try to act like a man or conform to someone else’s idea of what a leader or professional should be.

My father taught me that trying to be a man is a waste of a woman and that I can achieve anything and everything that I am willing to work hard for. This was the most valuable lesson I’ve ever learned professionally.

I encourage young female professionals to be comfortable with who they are, but also get comfortable with being out of their element. Don’t change who you are to fit into “a man’s world.” It’s OK to be the only woman in the room. Together, we can change this. Recognize other female professionals. We achieve far more from supporting each other, than we do from competing with each other. Women are the greatest resource for other women.

Simply put: Be genderless, unbiased and true to yourself.