Finding good workers is challenging enough, but identifying candidates for those hard to fill positions can be downright impossible. Many companies make the mistake of settling on a candidate that has some of the skills instead of holding out for someone that meets all the requirements. The band aid approach can work in the short term, but ultimately it ends up costing the company money in high turnover.
“Employers need to have a long-term approach to how they find talent. Don’t just try to plug holes to relieve frustration from the hiring manager,” says Steve Browne, executive director of HR for LaRosa’s Inc. “Making sure you have the best candidate is critical to both the success of the new hire and the department/company.”
According to human resources experts when it comes to filling those tough to hire positions companies have to rethink their entire recruitment strategy. It may be enough to place an ad on a job board or even in the newspaper to fill an entry level or low level position but if the company is after an experienced person with specific skills running an ad isn’t going to cut it. For one thing most of those highly skilled workers already have jobs. Not to mention that it’s unlikely they are looking at job ads to begin with. Instead, experts say companies have to recruit in a slew of different venues rather than sticking to one. “To find the best candidate for tough to fill jobs you need to cast a wide net,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director with Robert Half International, the staffing company. “You need to get your network involved. Have your staff talk to all their contacts, work with a recruiter and talk to professional associations and trade groups.”
Industry associations and trade groups are fertile ground to find experienced candidates with specific skills, largely because recruiters will have access to a bunch of talented people under one roof. Let’s say your company is looking to hire a mobile app developer. The recruiter should be attending industry events and networking engagements focused on mobile apps. If it’s an engineer the company is after, then the company should be involved with the local engineering groups in its area, and reading case studies about how to hire engineers. Attending association meetings and getting to know the members is a great way to ask for referrals and target candidates, says Alexandra Levit, business and workplace author, consultant and Career Advisory Board member. “You can put an ad up but you’ll just get the lowest common denominator,” says Levit. “Most of the time the best candidates are not actively looking.”
In addition to attending industry events, Browne says an effective way to find the right candidate is to work with a recruiter in a specific industry. Browne recently went this route and had a “great experience” because the company only saw candidates that could realistically fill the role. “There was a cost to this, but it was worth it,” he says.
If the company is relying on a job ad to find candidates for tough to fill jobs, McDonald says they may want to think long and hard about the message they want to convey before running the ad. Companies have to really evaluate their job description in the ad to ensure they aren’t asking too much for one candidate to possess. “In today’s market a common mistake is to dress up the job description for someone who may not walk this earth,” says McDonald. You need to ask yourself: is this realistic and do I know these people exist, he says.
Many companies recruiting new employees whether it’s for easy or hard to fill positions are reluctant to try new things. Whether it’s a fear of failure or a money issue many HR departments will keep doing the same old even if the results are less than stellar. But according to Jay Kuhns, vice president of human resources at All Children’s Hospital, it’s important to try new things, particularly if you need to fill roles with highly skilled individuals.
For Kuhns, which has a lot of hard to fill roles, embracing social media has been a saving grace in terms of recruitment. “Recruiting has changed so dramatically in the last four or five years,” says Kuhns. “Newspaper ads and email blasts. Some of those tried and true methods don’t play in the modern world.” What does work is knowing where your target audience is hanging out and focusing your efforts there. For instance Kuhns has hired candidates through Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. The hospital also has a human resources specific page on Facebook, actively tweets job specific content and runs a blog where the HR department shares stories about the organization. “We really try to embrace those tools that are incredibly easy to use and reach so many people so rapidly,” says Kuhns. “It doesn’t make sense to not be actively engaged.”