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Still having hiring challenges? It might be time to take a hard look in the mirror

February 27, 2017

By Dan Van Slambrook, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

You may have noticed a marked increase in radio advertisements by the job posting service ZipRecruiter over the past several months.  According to the website, Inside Radio, the firm launched a major advertising campaign late last year which eventually elevated it to the number two ranking among national advertisers in spots purchased, second only to GEICO.  While reviews appear mixed about the tool’s true efficacy, the dramatic increase in marketing points to significant demand for such services.  It underscores the frustration many hiring stakeholders are experiencing with the quality of responses being received from job postings.  

Looking beyond disappointing job posting results, however, for some organizations the entire recruitment process has become an exercise in continued exasperation.  Viable candidates are hired by competitors before interviews are completed.  Candidates are offered jobs but don’t accept them, or accept but back out before beginning work.  Vital positions may stay unfilled for months, hurting production, organizational effectiveness, and morale.  

The finger sometimes gets pointed at the talent acquisition team, purchased recruitment tools, or even the candidates themselves.  But when an organization is plagued by consistent hiring fails across time, issues likely exist beyond the “front end” of the hiring process, outside the control of company recruiters.  What may be truly needed is a detailed examination of bigger factors that could be hindering the hiring process.  What’s called for is a self-critical look in the organizational mirror by senior leadership.  It may be recruiting’s job to lead the proverbial “horse” to water, but it falls to senior levels of management to create conditions whereby potential employees will desire a drink.     

Our current competitive labor market requires a value proposition to prospective employees that must be enticing in order to land the most qualified candidates.  While motivating factors will certainly vary by candidate, leaders should assess major factors that will be significant to most applicants, and the most impactful in successful hiring:  

1. The Employer Brand.  Put simply, this is how the employer is viewed by job candidates and current employees.  Whether they intend to or not, and whether it’s good or bad, every employer has one.  Employers with negative reputations will have a more difficult time recruiting and retaining top talent.  Establishing an awareness of the firms’ employer brand (which can be accomplished through well-designed employee surveys or viewing reviews on sites like, arms senior leaders with vital information about what’s going well—and what needs to change in the organization.  

2. The Applicant Experience.   Do candidates feel invited to apply, or is the application process arduous?  Studies show that the more steps involved in the initial online application process, the more likely candidates will be to not complete it.  Often, application processes are initially dictated at senior levels, who may lose touch after it’s been launched.  Leaders can gain valuable perspective on the application process by surveying new hires, having discussions with front-line recruiters, and even applying for a position on the company website, themselves—a most revealing exercise.  

3.  Compensation and Benefits.  To compete for and retain talent, it’s critical to know where the firm’s compensation and benefits offering stands relative to the market.  Adjustments may be necessary.  Leaders should review survey data on a regular basis to determine if it’s leading, lagging, or keeping up with other employers.

4. Timeliness.  Hiring managers often perceive the labor pool as existing in a vacuum, yet it is   dynamic; constantly changing.  A great candidate interviewed last week may no longer be on the job market next week.  Senior leaders can help improve hiring rates by reviewing the timeliness and throughput of the hiring process, and identifying opportunities to make it more efficient and timely. It’s also important to not leave candidates hanging.  Keep them updated throughout the process.

5. Buy-in.  Senior leaders set the tone. Most successful HR initiatives have support that flows from the top echelon of the organization, and effective hiring is no exception.  At the same time, leaders at all levels need to be brought on-board to impact each of the items listed above.  Visible support from top leaders, education of managers about hiring and the current labor market, and consistent communication will go a long way in ensuring that management is unified in making hiring—and retention—a priority.      

There is no doubt that most of these areas can be challenging to assess and even tougher to improve upon.  Positive change can be costly.  Yet the cost of ignoring issues that sabotage hiring—and ultimately organizational effectiveness—may likely prove to be much more expensive in the long run.

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