Help Wanted

In the current tight labor market, how can PSPs attract qualified hires who stay?

Hiring quality employees has always been one of the most strenuous challenges a business regularly faces. But with the current US unemployment rate at just 3.9 percent, the hiring process is creating difficulties for employers at an entirely different level.

If you reflect back to the brutal recession years of 2007-2009 – yes, we would all love to just forget those painful memories – the job market for employees was dismal at best. Both white-collar and blue-collar jobs were scarce, to say the least. All across the country, we witnessed college graduates taking jobs that didn’t require a degree just to make ends meet. Employers were routinely criticized for below-market job offers and lack of response on employment applications; whether fair or unfair, they took a large share of the blame for the general unhappiness that prevailed in the job market. 

Fast forward to today’s labor pool and, well, as the saying goes, “My, how the tables have turned!” While it makes no sense to characterize this as an organized act of payback from 10 years ago, now the employers are the ones suffering while those seeking jobs apparently have a lot of the leverage. Do any of these frustrations sound familiar?

  • Available candidates With such low unemployment rates, the overall pool of job candidates is currently rather small and seemingly shrinking. Another factor to consider is the number of people who are in the process of changing jobs and are perhaps weighing choices between multiple job offers. Many experts consider the actual unemployment rate to be essentially zero, particularly within specific industries.
  • Diminishing skill levels With the lack of depth in the labor market, it stands to reason that we are experiencing a challenge with skill levels in both blue-collar and white-collar positions alike. This is simple Economics 101: A high demand for skilled labor creates a low supply of the same. Highly trained or professionally skilled workers certainly have the leverage in the current marketplace. Many employers are necessarily developing creative ways to retain their employees, which, in turn, makes it all the more difficult to find the personnel you may be seeking.
  • Job interview ghosting Statistics indicate (and our own HR department agrees) that 20-30 percent of scheduled interviews for positions end up with no-shows. If you’re like me, it would be unthinkable to schedule an interview and just decide not to show up, without a phone call or email. But it happens all the time. Granted, with some of the more high-level positions, it occurs less. But it happens nonetheless, and is both maddening and discouraging to the people leading the hiring process. 
  • Short-term stays Perhaps the most astonishing trend that we see is the occasional new hire who goes through the interview process, accepts the job, shows up to work, and quits after a week or two – or in some cases, after a day or two. Even though it doesn’t happen very often, we’re always stunned when it does. In most cases, these are people with multiple job offers who have accepted a position without notifying other potential employers, only to have a better offer come along a few weeks later. In my mind, this is one of the most unprofessional moves someone can make. And yet, it happens.

It’s probably safe to assume that you’re dealing with some – if not all – of the above scenarios in some fashion. (If not, you may stop reading now and read our brand-new columnist’s insight on the power of the word “no.”) So, how do we manage to find and keep qualified personnel in this environment? I believe those who are both aggressive and creative in the employment process are the ones who will successfully find quality hires in the current job market.

Leverage Online Tools

Whether your company has a multiperson human resources department or you manage the recruitment responsibilities all on your own, you should become familiar with and routinely use the multitude of tools available to assist you in the hiring process. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are extremely useful in the recruitment process – not to mention, absolutely necessary. The use of social media will assist you in developing relationships in a more nontraditional and comfortable environment where potential employees are more likely to maintain contact, even if a position doesn’t work out at the time. Social media also allows those in charge of hiring to keep track of potential hires and even former employees, helping build a valuable network of recruitment leads and referrals. You should also familiarize yourself with additional hiring tools such as CareerBuilder, Monster, USAJobs, Indeed, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and others. If you aren’t using at least one or more of these applications, you are operating at a distinct disadvantage in the hiring process.

Social media can also be a valuable asset when qualifying potential candidates. On countless occasions, our HR department has used social media outlets to research people we’re considering hiring. While some people keep their accounts private, we’re always amazed at the number of people who don’t or those who will accept your invitation to become part of their network. Social media can often tell you much more about the type of person you are hiring than the interview process.

While most often a person’s online presence will confirm if the type of individual you’re considering hiring is a good fit, it can occasionally help you steer away from potential issues. For example, one applicant we had interviewed multiple times for a professional position seemed, for all intents and purposes, to be an excellent candidate. But once we did some additional research on their social media accounts, it became clear that this individual was someone who could very possibly create some significant issues as a member of our team. In this case, we elected not to issue the offer. However, a word of warning: Be careful not to rely too heavily on what you may see on an individual’s social media. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s social media, which probably means the picture being painted is neither as bad as it looks, nor as good as it may appear. In most cases, it’s safer to use information gathered from online sources as one more piece of the puzzle to help your hiring decision, but not as the definitive data. There are potential legal risks to consider when perusing a candidate’s social media, as well. Reviewing a personal social media account – even if it is publicly available – could uncover some characteristics protected under law that cannot be considered when reviewing an applicant. 

Open the Floodgates 

This may sound strange, but in the current job market, many employers are lowering their standards for hiring personnel. Requirements for college degrees in some positions are now more frequently waived to allow for a broader range of applicants. The obvious advantage is that you now have a larger pool from which you can select and interview job candidates. The downside of this practice is that same pool may now be less qualified. This means that you will have to do a better job of vetting your applicants. You may have a similar situation with the prerequisite of either a high school diploma or GED equivalent for some of your other positions. Waiving those requirements will also expand your selection of candidates, but will necessitate a more rigorous review process when recruiting and hiring.

In this labor market, it’s safe to say we’re operating in new territory. If you want to be successful in finding, recruiting, and retaining employees, you’ll need to use all of the resources available to you. Acquiring a great workforce in a job market with essentially zero unemployment is an extremely difficult challenge. However, there are always excellent workers looking for opportunities to upgrade their jobs and improve their lives by joining great companies. By utilizing some of the methods and tools identified here, you can be much more successful in finding those high-quality employees and hiring them into your organization. Just remember: The most valuable assets you have are not those found on your balance sheet – they’re your employees. Happy hiring! 

Read more of Marty McGhie's  Business + Management insight or learn more about the current wide-format labor market.

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