We’ve all heard about it. Most have experienced it. Few are exempt from it. We are talking about the challenge of trying to hire the right people when quality talent is difficult to find. That could mean you have few applicants for your open positions, or perhaps a lack of qualified candidates.
The reasons for a lack of qualified talent are complex, numerous, and can vary from company to company. A few factors influencing current large-scale talent recruitment trends include:
- The rise of Gen Z into the workforce and the advancement of Millennials into leadership and ownership roles
- The workforce changing and higher expectations of what companies provide to employees
- Shifting the perception of work to a pursuit and value on “happiness” rather than success, advancement, or provision
- World events like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and rising geopolitical tensions that influence economic opportunities
- Rise of A.I. and robotics that shift labor needs and required skill sets
In the midst of all of those trends, these simple truths remain constant:
As a hiring manager, you are caught in between the uncontrollable global talent trends and the consistent need of your team to get and retain the right people. What do you do?
As a disclaimer, there is no right answer. No perfect formula. What I can share is based on WinShape Teams’ 30 years of experience observing and researching high-performing teams and how our organization has responded to these challenges (we are not immune from them).
Ultimately, the tools below are intended to point you back to what you do control and can influence as a hiring manager. I believe doing them well and consistently will increase your effectiveness and success in attracting and retaining the right talent.
4 Tips to Help You Hire Qualified Talent with Only a Few Applicants
1. Understand the significance of your role as a hiring manager.
One of your primary responsibilities and most important duties as a hiring manager is to get the right people in the right role. You are the gatekeeper, and your decision affects the culture, chemistry, competency, and future direction of your team and organization’s performance and cohesion.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Coach Joe Gibbs, a three-time Super Bowl-winning coach, Champion NASCAR team owner, and the only person to be inducted into both the NFL Hall of Fame and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
His one-sentence summary of what enabled his team’s success was, “Get the right people. It all comes down to the people you put around you and how you help them be successful.”
Hire like your organization’s success depends on it!
2. Determine what the “right talent” is.
The most intense work of a hiring manager comes before the position is even posted. Too often hiring managers are equipped with three things in their search for the right talent.
- An open position and an urgent need to fill it.
- A job description with a simplistic list of core duties and list of minimum skill, knowledge, or qualification requirements (and who knows the last time the job description was updated to actually reflect the real job skills needed).
- A short list of interview questions and a 30-minute time slot to ask them.
Do these three things make you feel well equipped to bring someone on the team that will directly affect your team’s job performance, satisfaction, and engagement?
At WinShape we assess each candidate’s Character, Chemistry, Calling, and Competencies.
- Character: A candidate’s alignment of their personal work values with the team’s core values and work philosophy. High alignment promotes higher trust and belonging.
- Chemistry: Cultural fit of a candidate with the team or organization. High alignment promotes higher levels of communication and collaboration.
- Calling: Alignment of purpose or perceived meaningfulness of the work between the candidate and organization. Higher alignment promotes increased employee motivation and satisfaction.
- Competency: The ability of the candidate to perform the core functions and responsibilities of the role. Higher alignment promotes quicker productivity and reduced skill training.
Create a profile of what you are looking for and know the ramifications if you hire someone with a gap in any of these 4 areas. Recruit your team to help create the profile with you. Identify qualities, characteristics, values, and skills that describe the ideal candidate. Understand how this role/job description fits into the larger team and your expectations of how they will interact together.
3. Create a hiring process that gets you the information needed to make the best decision.
When there is an open position, the urgency to hire is real and felt. If a position is open there is productivity lost, higher workloads for existing employees, and deficiencies in both output and cultural wellbeing that cannot be understated.
In creating a hiring process, several tensions must be managed:
- Filling and the urgent need vs. getting the right fit
- Taking too long and losing talent vs. being too quick and not getting enough information to make the right decision
When creating a hiring process, WinShape Teams:
- Has multiple rounds of interviews, each focusing on 1 or 2 different areas of our profile (Character, Chemistry, Competency, Calling)
- Has different people from different parts of our organization interview candidates
- Has a combination of question-and-answer interviews, job-specific practical interviews, and casual chemistry interviews in a non-traditional format (i.e. over a meal or while on a walk/hike)
- Has common questions and rubrics for each interview. After each interview, the hiring manager receives a qualitative and quantitative report from the interviewer.
- Treats the interview process as a two-way interview. We are interviewing the candidate, and they are interviewing us. Both parties are determining the best fit and have “skin in the game.”
It is the hiring manager’s role, responsibility, and privilege to take these multiple data points and discern the best fit candidate for the team and organization. To be lackadaisical in determining the profile and hiring process means you, as a manager, have to be good at two things: managing underperformance and firing/rehiring. You either learn to hire well, fire well, or manage underperformance from your team.
4. Actively recruit where you are most likely to find your profile.
You have a profile that describes who and what you are looking for. A process that describes how you will know you found the right candidate and why they are “the one.” Now, you need to find them.
Recruitment is an active and contact sport. Passively waiting for the “right” candidate to apply is a hit-or-miss endeavor.
- Educate your team on the profile and recruit them to be actively seeking good fits. If possible, offer a referral bonus to staff who recruit the right talent.
- Look for talent in places where your ideal profile is likely to be. Post the job opening on online community boards related to your profile, and send the job description to your industry network.
- If possible, prioritize character, chemistry, and calling when looking for the ideal candidate. Invest in training and developing their competencies.
The Benefits of an Intentional Hiring Process
None of these tips guarantee more applicants or more qualified talent. Many times, it feels as if you have narrowed your list of qualified applicants. This is especially true if you identify qualified applicants solely from a competency perspective. However, if you are willing to invest in developing competencies and focus on character, chemistry, and calling, your definition of a “qualified candidate” may well expand.
If after you’ve done your part in following the tips shared in this article and there are still only a few applicants, here are two considerations:
- Wait and not hire right now. Then, repost the position again in a few months.
- Hire provisionally with an agreement and development plan to train, coach, or mentor them to the job standards. Harvard Business Review shares more on when you should take a chance on an imperfect candidate.
Incorporating these practices has helped WinShape Teams overcome and outperform some common talent-related challenges. We exist in a very small market, with a niche combination of skills and experience desired for the roles. Yet we continually outperform similar organizations in talent retention, customer satisfaction, and program effectiveness, we have an outstanding reputation and attract high-caliber talent that is deeply engaged in our work. It isn’t perfect and often takes a lot of time and effort for all our hiring managers, but it is worth it!