As hard as it is to believe, the first quarter of 2016 will soon draw to close. What progress have you made toward the hiring goals you set at the start of the year?
If you’re like many business leaders, you may have been so wrapped up with year-end tasks the past two months that you’ve had no time to focus on the hiring process. Now, it’s nearly spring, and not only do you still have key positions that need to be staffed, but many of your current staff may be feeling overworked as well.
Unless you make some changes fast, you could be faced with even more open positions at your firm. Here’s why:
- Job growth remains solid. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just released the February jobs report, and it was another solid month for hiring in the United States. According to the BLS, employers added 242,000 jobs last month. Industries that gained the most jobs included education and health services, retail trade, and leisure and hospitality. Overall job growth during the past three months has been robust, with employers boosting payrolls by 228,000 jobs per month, on average. Revised numbers for December and January show that employment gains for those two months combined were 30,000 more than previously reported.
- Unemployment is at its lowest rate since 2008. The BLS also reported that the unemployment rate for January was unchanged at 4.9 percent. The last time unemployment was this low was eight years ago. The unemployment rate for workers who are 25 or older and have a college degree is even lower — just 2.5 percent. Unemployment rates this low make it very clear that professional-level candidates at all skill and experience levels are in high demand.
- More workers are voluntarily leaving their jobs. In its most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary report, the BLS noted that the number of employees who voluntarily left their jobs is at the highest level since the end of 2006. The so-called quits rate is an important metric because it indicates worker confidence in being able to find a better job than the one they currently have. That’s bad news for employers whose staff are feeling burned out or underappreciated.
Learn more about why hiring is challenging today by reading our blog post on “5 Employment Trends Every Firm Needs to Be Ready For.”
Are you creating hiring process hurdles?
Current market dynamics aren’t favorable to employers. The fact remains that skilled candidates are in high demand and short supply. But there’s also a chance you may be partly contributing to the recruiting challenges your firm is facing. Answering these three questions can help you determine if that’s the case.
1. Am I looking for a candidate who doesn’t exist?
I’ve brought this up before, but it’s worth repeating: Don’t set the bar to unreasonable heights when laying out your candidate requirements. This is a key reason I see the hiring process drag on. Many employers ask for everything but the kitchen sink in the job posting — years of relevant experience, multiple professional certifications, knowledge of the industry, familiarity with several specialized software platforms, and maybe a degree from an Ivy League school to boot. Few, if any, candidates are likely to meet these prerequisites.
Ask yourself this: “Have I ever encountered a professional who has all the skills, experience and credentials I’m looking for?” If not, you’ll want to be more flexible with your hiring criteria.
Decide on four or five must-have skills or attributes that a professional needs in order to perform the job well. Use these qualities as the basis for your candidate evaluations. If you come across an applicant who fits that bill, and also has the right personality and interpersonal abilities to thrive at your firm, you’ll want to consider extending a job offer.
2. Am I making hiring a top priority?
Just thinking about the fact that you need to hire more people isn’t enough to actually staff your open positions. Of course you’re busy. Reviewing resumes and interviewing potential hires may seem impossible to squeeze into your already overpacked schedule. But you must make the time. There are no two ways around it. Hiring will simply not happen otherwise.
Delegating the task to HR isn’t the answer. As a business leader, you need to be actively involved in the hiring process because no one knows the position and requirements better than you do. An HR representative doesn’t understand the day-to-day workings of the role. Only you can read between the lines of the resume and accurately size up a candidate during the interview.
I suggest you reserve time on your calendar specifically for hiring activities — asking your network (and staff) for leads, creating a solid job description, meeting with specialized recruiters, reviewing resumes, interviewing, checking references, and more. I assure you, it will be time well spent. You will see your hiring process speed up as a result.
3. Am I leaning too hard on my staff?
You have great people on your team. Have you thought about what you would do without them — especially now, when you’re understaffed, and workloads aren’t easing up?
With that in mind, think about this: Is there a chance your team is doing such a good job at juggling right now that you don’t feel the pressure to accelerate your hiring process?
If you don’t provide them with some relief soon — by stepping up hiring and, perhaps, engaging temporary and project professionals to ease the burden while you search — you may not need to imagine what the office will be like without them. They’ll be gone.
The time to turbocharge your hiring process is now
Unemployment is low and has been for a while. Even when the overall rate was higher, the unemployment rates for specialized positions — especially in perpetually hot areas like accounting, finance and IT — were significantly lower. I’m not an economist, but if the past is any indication, you can be sure of one thing: Skilled talent will always be in demand.
So it’s time to take hiring off the back burner and turn up the gas. If you invest the time and effort in the hiring process and hire right, you’ll reap benefits for your firm immediately and over the long run.
Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half. He writes and speaks frequently on hiring, workplace and career management topics. Over the course of more than 30 years in the recruiting field, McDonald has advised thousands of company leaders and job seekers on how to hire and get hired.
McDonald joined Robert Half in 1984 as a recruiter for financial and accounting professionals in Boston, following a public accounting career with Price Waterhouse. In the 1990s, he became president of the Western United States overseeing all of the company’s operations in the region. McDonald become senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources in 2000, and assumed his current role in 2012. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from St. Bonaventure University in New York.