The talent shortage – and 4 tips for what you can do today

I saw an economist yesterday describe a perfect storm around talent with numbers.  These are for my immediate area:

  • Unemployment under 5.5%
  • Job listings outpacing job seekers
  • Flat wages for 3 straight years

The good news:

  • People are coming back into the workforce that were not in it a year ago
  • People are leaving organizations for new roles (see wages info above – seems to be the only way to get a raise)

So what does that all mean to you as an employer?

My observation – if you are not skilled at looking for talent, you will likely live into the headlines and feel the shortage.  Let me explain:

I do a couple of hiring projects a year for some of my partner organizations that are struggling finding people.  Here are the two things that I always see when I start a project.  (Always is a risky word – but these have been true for all of the roles I have helped with):

  • A posting that lacks a compelling reason to work for you.  Example:  I helped a charter school hire an HR leader.  They were struggling finding the right person and I noticed in their listing no mention of kids, the market they served (urban / high poverty), and their mission (every child deserves a quality education).  We made some of those critical changes, re-posted, and found a young and energetic candidate that was from the area and reflected the racial makeup of the district.  Recruiting is always a challenge – but step 1 is this simple.
  • A process that focuses on an external listing and does not leverage the greatest organizational sales team in the world – which is the people that come to work everyday.  LinkedIn is just another tool, but if it is used correctly it can be a way to leverage the networks some of your people have to get word out to their groups/networks to generate leads that helps you find people that might not be looking.  LinkedIn also gives candidates a way to rigorously check you out.  The question I got one time was “What if they ask a few ex-employees and they get scared away?”  My only thought is “What if they accept the job and get an earful at the next soccer game after it is too late?”

Here are four tips that build trust from Day 1:

  1. Spend time in the process.  Phone screen, initial in-person, 3-4 hours on-site, and a final conversation where they get to ask all the questions as you hand them an offer.  I use topgrading for all full interviews – no cat and mouse interviewing to test their skills at interviewing.  Candidate – You tell me your story that includes ups, downs, frustrations, and what your old bosses will tell me when I call them (and I will call all of them).  I don’t care if you were fired from a role, and it would be helpful to know why and what you learned from it.  My promise – Open access to anyone you want to talk to, plenty of time to ask questions, and  encouragement to contact anyone they know that is connected with the organization to vet what they are getting.  When candidates start commenting on how thorough your process is and how it stands out for them versus some of the other experiences they have had you know you are doing it well.
  2. As soon as there is personal contact – all communications happen with a phone call.  This  includes the “Sorry, we are not going to ask you back for a next round of interviews.  Do you have any questions for me about the process or feedback?”  There is always the time argument, especially the hiring managers.  I don’t argue, because the more people that think that the better chance I have of taking your best people.
  3. All of my time commitments are hit – no excuses.  Note to hiring managers – if you get busy and two weeks pass without you being active in your selection process you send a very strong message to candidates – my time is more important than yours and I will likely lead that way.  Most people will choose NOT to work for leaders like that, except the desperate ones.  If I commit to a call by Thursday, even if the process is going slow, I call Thursday.  I am amazed at the positive feedback from people for just using the manners I was taught as a child.
  4. The admin/receptionist is part of the interview – through observing and interacting.  I want to know how they treat people that they think are not part of the decision making process.  That is why they always come through the front door several times and I ask the admin to watch and give me their opinion.  This is the same reason senior leaders go to dinner with the CEO and spouses are included.  If the vibe from the spouse is not positive, then the candidate is not hired.

Here is a link to the role summary and focus sheet I use to either build or boil down a job description to something that can be used.  I also offer other templates around talent and performance if you are interested.

Talent is tight, and yet there are still things you can do to stand out because too many companies still don’t get it.