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Finding Job Candidates in Unexpected Places, Part I

Finding Job Candidates in Unexpected Places, Part I

Tight labor market got you down? Here’s why you need to cast a wider net when recruiting workers for a wide range of positions—from entry-level to senior leadership.


The national unemployment rate is hovering at historic lows (3.8% in March versus an average of 5.76% from 1948-2019), the baby boomers are exiting the workforce in droves, and younger workers just aren’t that interested in industrial jobs. With so many organizations fighting over the same shrinking piece of the labor pie, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for your next new hire.

Whether that means hiring military veterans, giving that person with a criminal record a second chance, or recruiting in inner cities, distributors and manufacturers can break the mold and fill positions with qualified candidates that they may not have otherwise considered.

“Where the unemployment rate is under 4% in many areas of the country, it’s really closer to 2%-3% for the skilled and semi-skilled workers that electrical distributors are seeking,” says Ira S. Wolfe, president at Success Performance Solutions and author of Recruiting in the Age of Googlization. “Good talent is scarce,” Wolfe says, “and finding it isn’t getting any easier.”

The Numbers Tell the Story

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), recruiting new employees is difficult right now for a number of reasons, including:

  • The low number of applicants (51% of companies surveyed by SHRM said this was their top issue)
  • Lack of necessary work experience among applicants (50%)
  • Competition from other employers (49%)
  • Lack of technical skills among applicants (38%)
  • A local market that isn’t producing enough qualified candidates (38%).
  • The company’s inability to offer salaries competitive with the going market rates (34%)

The organization says that vacancies for jobs requiring high and in-demand skills are among the most difficult to fill, including high-skilled medical professionals; scientists and mathematicians; skilled trades; engineering and architecture; IT/computer specialists; executives; and high-skilled technicians. Excluding the first two positions on this “hard to find” list, nearly all of these positions are relevant for industrial manufacturers and distributors.

SHRM also found that organizations with 1 to 99 employees (a category that many electrical distributors fall into) were more likely than organizations with 500 or more employees to say it was “very difficult” to fill full-time regular manager positions right now. And organizations with 1 to 99 employees were more likely than organizations with 100 to 9,999 employees to say it was very difficult to fill full-time regular skilled trade positions.

Taking the contrarian approach, Wolfe says smaller distributors and manufacturers are actually in the best position to “flip the switch” and make the changes needed to attract a more diverse, qualified workforce. “When you don’t have legacy systems and processes in place, you can be more agile,” says Wolfe, “and implement new strategies faster due to a lack of bureaucracy.”

Time to Cast a Wider Net

When traditional recruiting methods stop working, it’s time to cast a wider net and reach out to potential new hires that you may not have considered just five or 10 years ago. “Search more broadly,” Jed Kolko advises in How to Hire in a Tight Labor Market. “In a tight labor market, you might relax some requirements, such as a certain educational level or non-essential skills.”

Another strategy is to look beyond the people you traditionally hire — such as hiring more women in typically male-dominated roles. “Searching more broadly may also mean looking at different local markets,” Kolko writes, “allowing people to work remotely, or being willing to relocate people.”

Don’t be afraid to take a deeper dive and venture into territory that at one time may have been considered off limits for your company. Considering that one-third of the U.S. adult population has a criminal record, opening the doors to individuals who have made mistakes in the past is a good way to broaden your recruiting reach. SHRM also says that the nearly 700,000 people released from prison each year—and who often find themselves locked out of the job market—are another good option.

“Those who have served their time should not be ‘re-sentenced’ by employers,” the organization states, “especially when businesses are experiencing a human capital crisis. 7.8 million jobs need to be filled by 2020, companies need to diversify their talent pools.”


Hiring Heroes

Military experience isn’t generally associated with a poor or incomplete job history, but in many cases, that’s the stigma that many veterans grapple with when they attempt to re-enter the workforce after service. Organizations like Hire Heroes USA and VetJobs have dedicated themselves to helping the cause, but there are also steps that distributors and manufacturers can take to help close this gap.

“Many veterans feel their military experience is an obstacle to getting a job,” SHRM reports, noting that 41% believe hiring managers do not understand their military experience, and 37% believe hiring managers devalue their military experience. Vets also said that job postings require more specialized experience than they have; that they have trouble translating military skills to civilian roles; and that online applications are confusing or overwhelming.

“It is evident that there is a disconnect and a lack of understanding between veterans and employers,” iCIMS’ Susan Vitale said. “Employers can bridge the disconnect by understanding what veterans really need to feel satisfied and fulfilled in a civilian career path.”

Don’t Just Turn Over More Rocks

Regardless of where you decide to look for new recruits, Wolfe says having a career page (no matter how basic it may be), a user-friendly online job application, and using tools like YouTube (to create short “employee videos” of current workers talking about their jobs), will all go a long way in attracting job candidates.

“We’re seeing online application rates in the 75%-90% range for a lot of companies, which means that in some cases nine out of 10 potential candidates quit before they even get to the interview,” Wolfe cautions. “So, for many companies, it’s going to be less about turning over more rocks, and more about paying closer attention to how they’re handling the hiring process.”


In Part II of this article series, we’ll show you where you can go to cast a wider net and find your next employee outside of your company’s usual pool of human resources. 


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Bridget McCrea  is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

Discussion (1 comments)

    William Astary May 1, 2019 / 2:35 pm

    Good advice on alternative sources of talent for the industry, particularly like the untapped potential of seperated and transitioning military veterans. In the State of Georgia alone there are 10 -12,000 transitioning veterans/year, many with the technical and leadership skills that are needed. Couple this with programs that enhance skills for civilian jobs, project management, LEAN Six certifications, and supply chain & logistics you have a win for all. Industry partnership with programs like Georgia Tech’s Veterans Education Training & Transition program (VET2) can assist bringing future talent to the industry.

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