Weathering Candidate Shortages While Maintaining Standards: Targeted Strategies for Success

With the national unemployment rate dipping below five percent and multiple industries competing for the same candidates, many organizations are struggling to fill open positions. Survey research reports that hiring and retaining employees is the number one challenge facing company leaders. Confronted with the challenge of staffing to par, many leaders and operators have resorted to desperate measures and have gone as far as eliminating hiring standards. We don’t know if we are back to the “fog the mirror” days of desperation hiring, but it’s getting close. Fortunately, with some smart adjustments, you can survive, and even prosper during this war for talent by following eight steps.

#1. Consider the Tools You Are Using During the Hiring Process

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When you are struggling to get candidates to apply, it is tempting to settle for less to simply staff to par.  While “settling” keeps you staffed in the short term, it is the beginning of a downward spiral. We have all observed the spiral before in other businesses or our own – higher costs, lower customer satisfaction, declining productivity, poor team behavior, and higher turnover. Rather than doing a wholesale reduction of your standards, focus your efforts on evaluating essential abilities, aptitudes, and characteristics needed to perform.

If you are using an application, streamline it to gather the most important information you need to know; if you have a hiring assessment, focus it on the most important competencies that relate to performance; interviews can be tightened up as well. Managers may be comfortable with your company’s current way of hiring, but when you understand the impact on performance and turnover, you’ll see that comfortable isn’t always better.

#2. Screen Only for What's Necessary for Performance

Are your perceptions of what makes a candidate qualified correct? For example, you may think someone without experience cannot meet expectations on the job; however, while experience can be helpful, hiring assessments can provide insight about a candidate’s potential when they lack experience.

If you’ve already hired employees who are below your hiring standards, rate how this group has performed to evaluate the effectiveness of your hiring practices. Make sure you are considering a group that is 10 or more employees so you are not basing your decisions on just a few people.  Ask yourself the question, “What percent of these employees would we replace in order to elevate performance, if we could?” How are they different – if at all – from our “standard” employees?

Using this information, you may find opportunities to fine-tune your applications, interviews, and assessments to gather the information that best predicts on-the-job performance. For example, applications should be shortened to ask only the information you need to make a decision, reducing candidate abandonment.

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