Struggling to Staff Open Jobs? Answer These 3 Questions

By Robert Half January 6, 2017 at 4:17pm

It’s a tight hiring market, to be sure. However, if your company has persistent difficulty securing talent for open roles, a shortage of skilled candidates may not be the only reason.

Ongoing hiring challenges are not only frustrating but also detrimental to your business. If you can’t secure the talent you need to meet your strategic objectives, you may not be able to achieve growth targets. You are also at risk of overloading your core staff — a situation that could, in time, drive those workers to seek new opportunities elsewhere.

The inability to find skilled candidates has become an all-too-familiar situation for many employers. However, it might not just be a supply-and-demand issue. To identify other factors that could be hindering your ability to secure the talent your business needs, consider the following three questions:

1. How is your company perceived by potential hires?

What is your business doing to raise its visibility with in-demand candidates, other than placing job ads online? Unless your company is a household name like Google or Apple that attracts candidates based on name recognition alone, you need to take steps to build buzz around your firm. For instance:

  • Do you use social media — including outlets widely used by millennials, like Snapchat and Instagram — to give potential hires insight into what it’s like to work at your firm?
  • Are you sponsoring events, like hackathons or Meetups, geared toward the types of professionals you are trying to hire?
  • Are you enlisting help from your current staff to generate interest in your business through their professional networks and the industry events they attend?
  • Are you, or other members of your management team, helping to elevate the public profile of the company by blogging or speaking publicly about important topics and trends in your industry?

These are just a few strategies for grabbing the attention of potential hires. They can also help you build a pipeline of talent, which can make it easier to staff open jobs in the future. Of course, it takes time and effort to build a reputation as an employer of choice. But in a highly competitive hiring market, you can’t afford not to be engaged in your industry and actively promoting what is awesome about your company.

2. Is your company’s location a factor?

Exactly where a person is expected to work matters, even in a digital world that makes it easier to collaborate across countries and time zones. For instance, if your headquarters is near one of the top cities in the country to work, it could naturally lead more candidates to apply for a job with your firm. Conversely, if your business is located in the suburbs, long commutes could prevent professionals who are worried about maintaining work-life balance from considering your company.

If you sense location may be an issue, consider offering flexible schedules or setting up remote work opportunities to help expand the candidate pool beyond your firm’s immediate vicinity. Providing other compelling perks, like wellness programs or on-site childcare services, can also help employees worry less about a long commute and allow them to achieve the level of work-life balance they seek.

3. Is your hiring process too long?

In a Robert Half survey, 39 percent of professionals said a lengthy hiring process would lead them to lose interest in a job and pursue other opportunities. About half of respondents (46 percent) said they were willing to wait just a week or two following an interview to find out about a hiring decision — after that, all bets are off and you may find that your top candidate has already been hired by another firm.

One way to consolidate your hiring timeline is to be prepared to make a verbal offer to a promising candidate promptly after completing the interview process. Make clear to the candidate that the verbal offer is contingent on a satisfactory reference check and/or background check. Also, be prepared to negotiate salary and perks — and set a start date — right away.

Don’t hold out for a unicorn

Finally, I recommend that companies facing significant hiring challenges consider whether they have unrealistic expectations. I frequently caution employers about holding out for a candidate who simply may not exist. As these hiring managers wait for a unicorn — that perfect candidate with a one-in-a-million skill set — to materialize, they allow other talented people to slip away.

Think about what qualifications a candidate absolutely must have to perform the job well. When evaluating applicants, focus on true job requirements versus nice-to-haves. And always be willing to consider promising professionals who may not meet all your criteria but could still meet your firm’s needs with just a small investment in training and some extra ramp-up time.

Paul McDonald photograph
Paul McDonald

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.

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