If you have been hiring – or, more likely, trying to hire – people, you may wonder why hiring is so hard. One in three small business owners have open jobs. One in four say they have no or very few qualified applicants.

Many hiring managers in all size companies expect that it should be easy now to hire, given the pandemic’s impact. There are a few reasons that is not true. First, the pandemic devastated certain industries – hospitality, restaurants, retail – far more than others. Hiring managers do not often understand which skills in those areas might translate well to meet their needs. Job seekers often do not know how to show such transferable skills either. Second the labor market has been shrinking for decades. The Boomers are still retiring at high rates, on average at age 60. Men’s labor participation rate has been declining for 60 years and now hovers around 70%. Women’s rate has dropped for 20 years and now is about 58%. Immigration has been dropping for 30 years. The US has a very low birthrate. Worse yet, the pandemic’s impact on women has been far worse than on men; hence many women are dropping out of the workforce to keep their kids on track in virtual school and manage all the family demands.

In areas like Metro DC, where unemployment was already very low, the unemployment rate is still low by historic standards.

How To Find the Quality Candidates You Need

If you are under about 50 employees and do not hire a large number each year, the costs in time and money of using most online job boards or a recruiter are very high. Yet, many lower cost methods often result in too many candidates who do not meet the job requirements or waste your time.

One simple solution is to use your network effectively to help you hire. Members of your network are far more likely to refer quality applicants, since that reflects on their own abilities. Using your network well requires a little work on your part first. You want to write a one-page note (the AD) which covers four main areas: your business and values, the position basics, the challenges of the position, and the process.

Create the Ad

Step 1: Your Story

Remind your readers of what you do. Tell the story of the organization and add two-three key values. This paragraph helps remind everyone reading it of your work or the role you play in the community and its necessity, and the values your work is based on. These help remind each person of your organization and focus on who they know who might be a good match. It also is a great explanation for the people who might be interested in being referred.

You may think this is obvious. It is often not. Despite years helping organizations thrive through developing strategies and more effective people-related practices, many people still think what I do is ‘recruiting.’

Step 2: Define the position clearly.

Why does the position exist? What business goals does it support? What are the minimum few requirements to succeed in the position? This is vital and yet often the hardest part. Frequently we think I need an X – without defining how that X is going to work in our organization. A “Program Coordinator” means a very different role in a trade association than in a construction company, for example. So list your title but explain what the scope of the role is.

Define the most important requirements now. Too often we use old job descriptions without review. Or we expect every candidate to match all 27 ‘requirements’ we think might be needed. Focusing on the minimum requirements and confining yourself to only three or four is the best way to get the best people.

A grocery list approach also sends the message that your organization is not focused and/or is lazy, which does not attract the quality applicant.

Pro Tip: put in the pay rate or range. You get better candidates with pay info and it also helps reduce the number of applicants whose expectations do not match your dollars.

Step 3: The Position Challenges

Every position has challenges. Defining those in your email helps sort out the candidates who want YOUR JOB from those who want any job. These help you repel people who are applying for anything or who do not really want to do the work you need. This also cuts down on the number of unqualified people applying and reduces the time you have to spend separating them out.

Step 4: The Process

Here is where you tell them how to apply. Best are direct emails to name@yourURL

Do you want a cover letter? Just a resume? Or an application form already on your website (if so, say that and provide the link.)

Should the person you are sending this email to send you each resume directly or tell people to use their name as the referrer?  Most positions are best filled if you allow them to let people contact you directly. Senior hires are the exception as you will want to talk to the person before you ask them to talk to the potential candidate.

Do you want the person to pass this email on to potential candidates so that applicants know the details and can easily apply? If so, say so (and yes, this is smart to do.)

Once you have completed this, give it some careful review – does it reflect your culture, values, needs accurately? Is it clear and concise? Would you want to work there if it were not your organization? Yes, all that is possible within one page – and more gets you fewer candidates.

Next: Who Is “Your Network” for this purpose?

Your employees are the best and it should go to all of them first, since most want to work with well-qualified people they like.

Next, think of your close business contacts as they are valuable. But research shows that many of your other connections are also useful resources. Expand your reach, include:

  • people in professional/trade groups you know,
  • vendors/suppliers you use for your business, like CPA and IT services,
  • those in community/religious organizations you are active in,
  • community colleges, local universities as applicable,
  • neighborhood groups you are active in, especially for retail and restaurants,
  • relevant people in your LinkedIn network,
  • seniors groups or organizations, particularly for part-time or seasonal work.

Who else might you add to this list?

Then plan the launch. Individual emails are a must, other than the one to all employees. If you have a decent number on your list (90-200 is common), you do not want to send all those out at once. Too much time on your end, too high a chance you will get all the responses in a few days. Break up your list over no more than a week though. Hiring requires speed.

Watch for Part 2 on the process of successfully making the hire. Learn how to reduce ghosting then as well.