What To Do When You Can’t Find Good Candidates

Unemployment has been falling steadily over the last couple years. As unemployment decreases, job seekers have more options and employers may find that it is harder to fill openings. Maybe you are getting a lot of resumes, but very few are from qualified candidates. Or maybe you are not getting any resumes at all. What do you do when you cannot find good candidates to fill your current openings? Simply waiting for the right candidate to walk into your office is not enough. Here are some tips for what to do when you cannot seem to find good candidates.

Review the Job Description & Postings

The first step to improving your applicant response is a review of the job description. Does the job description match what you are looking for? Take a moment to list all the qualifications you are looking for in your ideal candidate. Then figure out which skills would be great but are not required. These are the kinds of skills someone could learn on the job. For example, if you are hiring a cashier for a grocery store, good customer service skills would be a requirement. Having someone with grocery store cash register skills would be nice, but it is not a requirement. This is something a person could learn in their first week or two on the job.

Sometimes we get so hung up on what our dream candidate looks like that we create a job description that is so complex that there are very few job seekers who have all the qualifications. Figure out what skills your top performers brought to the job when they were hired, and base your job description on those qualities. Your job posting should also reflect these skills and qualifications. Do not write a long and detailed posting that could scare candidates away. Keep your posting simple and include information about why working for your company is awesome. You can include a link to the full job description for candidates who want more information.

Study the Job Market

Sometimes when we cannot find enough qualified candidates, the problem is competition. Several years ago I was trying to hire cooks for the food service department at a grocery store. Days would go by with no response to my postings. I started noticing signs in restaurants advertising their need for cooks. I went online and searched job posting sites and found that a lot of companies were looking for cooks. There were too many openings and not enough people with the right skills.

When you have an opening for a high-in-demand position, study the competition. What pay and benefits are they offering? Figure out how you can make your job stand out among the crowd. If your pay rate is below what others are offering, it may be time to increase pay or improve benefits in order to attract qualified candidates.

Develop Internal Candidates

Another route for finding qualified candidates for high-in-demand jobs is to develop them from your current staff by providing training programs. Of course it is nice when you can hire someone who comes to you with all the necessary skills, but those candidates are not always out there. Developing internal candidates not only provides a way to fill difficult openings, but it also gives your current employees opportunities for advancement.

For example, suppose you are having a difficult time finding someone to fill an accounts payable assistant opening. People are applying, but they do not have the basic accounting skills required for the job. Stop looking externally, and start focusing on your current staff. Is there an administrative assistant that is particularly good with spreadsheets and numbers? If so, consider sending this person to a class to improve their basic accounting skills. Internal candidates are already invested in your company. Given the opportunity to improve their skills and to be promoted, these employees could end up being better than an external candidate with years of experience.

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Career Existentialism And Its Affect On Organizations

On my blog I’m constantly encouraging leaders to build and develop their people. It’s an absolute essential to create a positive culture that is engaging and profitable. It positions organizations to become an employer of choice which attracts the top talent during recruiting initiatives. Developing others also minimizes turnover which improves your bottom line and keeps productivity at a maximum. There is, however, a dark side to career development.

Career development is best served when it is symbiotic in nature. When both parties approach the affair with the understanding “This will help me as well as the other party.” Organizations develop people and the person being developed wins because they are gaining valuable skills for their profession. The organization gains a more qualified and capable employee that contributes to its overall objectives. The moment this symbiosis is taken out of balance, it ceases to be effective.

The most common imbalance we think of is when an organization just focuses on achieving its overall objectives. It’s a selfish position that usually fosters a command-and-control leadership style that is riddled with micro-management. Turnover increases, productivity decreases and no one comes out a winner. The other side of this coin gets less air time, but it is equally damaging to an organization. When the employee is solely focused on gaining experience for themselves with little to no regard for the organizational objectives, it negatively impacts the organization as well. It’s what I call career existentialism.

The employee becomes such a professional navel gazer that they can only focus on that which defines and justifies their very existence. We’ve all worked with at least one person like this. It’s like they should be wearing a t-shirt that reads “Welcome to the future. Population = 1.” as if they do life in some bubble. The affects this type of mentality can have on an organization can be dreadful. Morale suffers. Productivity decreases. Turnover increases. Sound familiar? It has the same affect as when the organization is the selfish jerk.

Here are 4 ways to avoid the rise of career existentialism in your organization.

  1. Purposeful language – Make sure you include language in your values that pull away from the development of career existentialism. This can shift the conversation from hair splitting over “preferred” actions to values alignment. Values dictate culture and purposeful language is the best way to reinforce values and culture.
  2. Reward intelligently – Many organizations have some form of rewards and recognition program. Use this as leverage to discourage career existentialist behavior. Tie bonuses to more than just individual performance. Include group dynamics such as teamwork and collaboration. Each organization will be different, but it should be obvious what is negatively affected by the career navel gazer.
  3. Don’t exemplify existentialism – It’s easy to look deep into an organization, but what about leadership? How do things work at the top? If there is constant political jockeying over trivial things as a means to play the alpha role, you’re setting the example to have others do that in your organization. If it creates havoc in the smaller numbers of senior leadership, what impact do you think it will have with larger numbers in the employee ranks?
  4. Address issues quickly – Your accountability structure is your best ally. If you need to re-write some role descriptions to minimize the temptation for people to be career existentialists in your organization, then do so. When people begin to adopt this position, it MUST be addressed right away. If you have properly crafted your values, it becomes much easier to address this problem. Otherwise, it turns into this gray area where there is a tug-of-war around interpretation.