Hiring In a Tight Labor Market

In a strong economy, current and prospective employees have a broader range of employment opportunities. This means that the always challenging job of finding good people becomes even more challenging. It’s important, however, that you not compromise your requirements for top notch people. Once you begin to allow your organization to fill positions with marginal people, you have started the performance erosion process. Try to stay focused on the fact that the success of your business is highly dependent upon the number of high performers you bring in and keep in your organization.

The basis for hiring high performers is found in an organization’s ability to keep them. If a business can create an environment that is stimulating, rewarding, positive and even fun, good employees are less tempted to leave. Most bright people are astute enough to understand that the grass really isn’t always greener elsewhere.

Here are a few thoughts on hiring in a tight labor market:

  • As mentioned, the fewer high performers you lose translates into a less urgent need to hire more except in the case of accelerated business growth. Refer to Business Problem: High Employee Turnover to learn more about reducing employee turnover in your organization. A significant issue as it relates to hiring people in any type of labor market is the reputation your organization has as an employer. Word about the kind of company they work for travels quickly from current employees to outsiders. It doesn’t take long for a company’s reputation to become tarnished by current and former employees who are disgruntled about the way they are/were treated. When a company has a very solid reputation as an employer and it is known as an organization that cares about its employees, prospective employees will be more proactive in seeking employment there. When an organization has a bad reputation as an employer, the chances of hiring and/or retaining high performers are slim. This issue is very often overlooked as a reason why a company can’t seem to attract good employees.
  • Look at who’s in charge of your hiring efforts. If you have a Human Resources department, do those involved in hiring understand the process? Are they aggressive in identifying strong candidates? If managers or supervisors are responsible for finding people, are they skilled in promoting the organization to prospective employees? Are they taking enough time to do justice to the hiring process? Is there laziness in the hiring process?
  • Placing ads in newspapers can be a futile effort in a tight labor market. The likelihood of attracting more than a few potential high performers is not good. And the likelihood of hiring one of them can be even more remote. If you are going to place ads, place them in newspapers or magazines that provide some chance of attracting quailified candidates. The most important thing in placing ads is to be as specific as possible about the requirements for the job. If you are unclear about the specific requirements, you run the risk of attracting fewer qualified candidates and a host of unqualified candidates. Spend a little extra money to buy a larger ad in order to have enough space to promote your organization and to furnish the specific position requirements.
  • Be aggressive and creative. Most organizations lament their inability to attract good candidates, but they are strictly using traditional methods such as newspaper ads to find them. Using your contacts, put out the word to as many people as possible that you are looking for a particular type of individual. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they know anyone matching what you are looking for. Ask aquaintances and friends if they had former employees who were excellent employees matching your requirements. If they have someone in mind, find out where they are now and don’t be afraid to contact them either by phone, mail or email. Attend as many business functions as possible. Remember that you are always on the lookout for prospective employees even when you don’t have an immediate need. When you meet someone who seems to possess the qualities and background you deem important in your employees keep their business card and make a note on the back of it about your impressions of the individual. Keep these cards in a separate location specifically for prospective candidates. When you are shopping, make note of employees such as receptionists or sales clerks who seem to have the skills you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to plant a seed about future employment. The point here is that you need to keep your eyes open constantly for prospective employees. We all run into them every day, but fail to make the connection that they could well be working for us.
  • Use head hunting and search firms carefully. Many are nothing more than resume handlers and don’t carefully screen candidates for “fit” to your jobs. There are some, however, that do a good job of matching candidates to employers and positions. Ask your friends and aquaintances if they have used search firms. If so who do they recommend you use and who should you stay away from. Keep in mind that you will pay a healthy fee when using a search firm. If you are using a firm for the first time, negotiate a lower first time trial use fee and let the firm know if they do a good job you will use them again.

Identifying and hiring qualified high performing employees is one of the most difficult tasks of the business world. Employers simply have to be aggressive in their efforts to locate good people. Look at your current hiring practices and modify them to become more efficient and more aggressive in locating good candidates. But, be selective in who you hire. Even in a tight labor market you are better off leaving a position open than filling it with a marginal employee.