By Leah Omar, PHR
Co-owner and Ambassador of Buzz at HR Branches
www.hrbranches.com

If you’re singing “where have all the good candidates gone,” you’re not alone.

Between economic pain and the ongoing pandemic, we’re seeing the same trend across every city and every industry: Hiring is TOUGH!

Applications are feast or famine. While I don’t have the answers to this problem - nor do I have a magic wand - I CAN tell you that there are excellent hires  out there. But they are also more likely to get snatched up on the job market, so you’ll need to put some hustle in your bustle during the hiring process if you want them on your team.

For years, I was a recruiter for a large mechanical contractor and experienced the ebb and flow of the construction industry for both workers and contracts. There was always a lack of skilled manpower so we had to get creative to attract the right talent.

Knowing our employees and being married to a tradesman myself, we knew they tend to work up an appetite and hit the closest lunch spots to the job. So my colleague and I drafted up flyers for “Plumber Appreciation Day,” and posted them all over the lunch spot area the week before.

That day we bought a huge tray of sub sandwiches, put our branded stickers on them and handed them out to hungry and appreciative workers. We made some friends and got our name out in the community for a relatively low cost. We always tried out-of-the-box ideas that spoke to our culture and attracted employees that valued more than a dollar.

As a startup or small business, budget is everything. So how can you get creative and still find the right candidates?

If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be this: Recruiting is marketing!

You’re trying to find the right people, gain their attention, and build a relationship.

Sure, that sounds great but how do you do that?

Step One: Prepare

I know preparation is not sexy, but it IS necessary to make the right hire. Who would be the ideal candidate? Think skills, behavior, and experience to ensure the success of the job- not someone specific.

Do they need to be personable? (e.g. are they customer-facing? Will they collaborate with other employees, vendors, etc?)

Do they need to have a high level of precision or accuracy? (Are they working with details like numbers, currency, projects?)

Is there an opportunity to train the skills if you find the right candidate? You can train skill but you typically can’t train behavior. Could you grow talent from within your business?

Now reverse-engineer. If this person must possess Attribute 1, Attribute 2, Experience in (industry) etc... what kind of language or visuals get their attention? Where do they typically search for jobs? Use this information and infuse it into your job posting/job description and to build interview questions.

Step Two: Ditch the Boring Job Description

Traditional job postings with only job duties will fade into the background. What is the unique selling proposition of this job? What do your employees love about your business? Open up with a one-liner that will capture their attention!

“Mornings suck. Enjoy the night life by applying for our bartender opening!”

Don’t be afraid to use humor, memes, or industry-related jokes as long as you keep it appropriate. Bring your culture into the description and paint a picture for your ideal candidate:

Do you have a laid-back atmosphere with weekend team BBQ’s or an annual skiing trip?

Do you offer flexible working hours or student loan support?

What is the employee experience like? Will they have the opportunity to meet travelers from all over the world? Help the local community? Advance their skillset?

Highlight it!

A dual purpose to using the right language in the right places is to reduce your workload by deterring the wrong candidates. The volume of applications to read through means nothing other than wasting your valuable time when they aren’t quality candidates.

Step Three: Strategically Advertise to Save Money

Posting a job ad can be expensive. Oftentimes, you can save a small fortune by getting creative in where you advertise and doing it with forethought and intention. Here are a few ideas to save you some cash during your recruiting adventure.  

Post on Social Media

If you have a business page or are a part of different local groups that allow such posts, these avenues can be a free alternative. LinkedIn, Facebook jobs, or even Instagram can be valuable tools if your audience is there. (Hot tip for businesses hiring right now: Mountain Careers and Startup Colorado are offering a free listing on their new job board for rural startups.)

You can use photos of the working environment, your employees and customers, or mascot (a.k.a. Fred the Labradoodle) to help your candidates picture themselves working for you. Don’t have these? Get descriptive with words to paint a picture instead.

Local Colleges
Most colleges have student and alumni boards you can electronically post to (usually for free) and are great resources for interns if they have a program related to that field.

Industry Associations
Think about industry associations that you belong to or apply to your industry. This is great (low cost) way to capture the interest of experienced professionals.

Hold A Job Fair
If it makes sense for your business and the open positions, notify the local community and potential candidates through the mechanisms of your choosing and let them know you will be holding a job fair and interviewing candidates on the spot.

Leverage Your Local Workforce
Your local workforce center has a vast amount of resources and dedicated professionals that want to connect you with job seekers, at no cost. Some of them also provide virtual job fairs, a database of local talent to search, and recruitment services. They can also educate you on tax incentive programs for employing untapped talent pools like veterans, disabled workers, and candidates with criminal histories looking for a second chance.

Step Four: The Power of Word of Mouth

Spread the Word with Your Network
Let your partners, vendors, and community members know you have an opening and the candidates you are looking for. You never know what value will come out of those established relationships.

Employee Referral Program
Employee Referrals are often the best way to hire great employees. Most current employees will not refer a candidate without being confident that they will not lose credibility or end up working with someone that doesn’t pull their weight, so your chances for a bad referral is typically quite low. Just be sure to vet them thoroughly in the hiring process.

Referral bonuses can be very helpful in encouraging employees to send you great candidates. This could be $50 at the time of hire and/or a larger amount after the employee has been with you for 6 months – 1 year to encourage quality referrals and longevity.

Step Five: Retain Your Investment
You don’t want to end up in the hiring hamster wheel and burning cash on replacing employees. Build out a simple onboarding program and check in with your new hire after 30 and 90 days to ensure they are transitioning well.

These tweaks in your hiring process can help you capture the right talent more effectively and for a fraction of the cost. Afterall, in a small business you have to get creative!

About Leah Omar:
There is no corporate stink here. Self-proclaimed “HR geek” Leah Omar is a Talent Specialist and small business owner with 8 years in human resources administration, employment law compliance, and innovative recruiting strategies. She has helped other small businesses streamline administrative processes, create more efficient hiring practices, and effectively reduce risk in their daily operations.

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