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How Sharp are Your Distributorship’s Recruiting Skills?

By Bridget McCrea

If it feels like good job candidates are getting harder and harder to come by, you're not hallucinating. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (published in June) paints an interesting picture for companies looking to fill empty seats. The rate of unemployed persons per job opening is currently 1.2 (versus 6.6 during the recession in mid-2009), which means that there are 1.2 jobs open for each individual unemployed worker right now.

“Job openings have trended upward since a low in July 2009, with occasional flat periods (such as early- to mid-2013 and late-2016),” the BLS reports. “They surpassed the April 2007 pre-recession peak in August 2014; as of April 2017, there were 6 million job openings.” And as of April, there were a total of 993,000 fewer hires than there were job openings.

“With the unemployment rate at near-historic lows in many states, and most small to midsized distributors working with low recruiting budgets, finding new recruits is becoming more and more difficult,” says Peter Ho, a former recruiting firm executive and current owner of MultiplyIQ in New York. “At the same time, the old method of 'posting a job' and hoping that candidates line up for it is gone. When combined, these factors are making the recruitment game particularly challenging for companies that need to fill seats.”

9 Ways to Stay Sharp
If low unemployment rates and a dearth of skilled labor are making company growth (or even just sustainability) difficult in 2017, it's time to take a hard look at your distributorship's recruiting approach and find ways to sharpen it. Here are nine strategies that you'll want to use when courting your next candidate:

  1. Deep-six your company's “passive recruiting” methods. From her vantage point as corporate director of HR for Harrisburg, Pa.-based commercial and mechanical contractor HB McClure Co., Brandy Shope sees exactly where industrial-type companies tend to go wrong on the recruiting front. “For a long time, the focus has been on passive recruiting, where companies find new workers only via referral or word of mouth,” says Shope. “We're now at a point where we need to focus more on active recruiting, and on getting out and actually attracting new talent.” As part of that effort, Shope says distributors can position themselves as companies that offer attractive salaries, benefits, and advancement opportunities—key points that potential recruits don't always recognize. “We need to do a better job of explaining that there are multiple career paths, that someone can be cross-trained for many different positions and opportunities,” says Shope, “and that this isn't a $7.50-an-hour job; there are people making very attractive salaries in this field.”
  2. Hire for culture. Stop whining about the labor shortage and start looking for available workers (or, those that are already employed in the field) who truly fit with your company's culture. This may add some time to the recruiting process, but it also ensures that workers stick around longer than those who don't fit well with your firm's mission and goals. When interviewing, ask yourself questions like:  Does this person know how to work hard? Is he going to fit in well here? Does she have mid-level career experience, but no hands-on distribution experience (in which case, additional training will be required)? “Hire for culture and teach for skill,” says Shope. “If you find someone who is a good cultural fit—and who has a great work ethic but only cursory knowledge—put the time and effort into training. It will pay off.”
  3. Revisit your minimum job requirements. “When job applicants are abundant, it's easy to look for more education, more experience, and a more pleasant personality,” writes Bill Conerly in Forbes' Hiring In A Tight Labor Market: 6 Tips For A Busy Manager. “Now it is time to reconsider the job requirements.” In other words, does he really need the degree or diploma or certification that you have required? Or, does she need five years of electrical distribution experience in order to qualify for the position? “For every job opening, look at every requirement and think about whether it is absolutely necessary,” Conerly writes, noting that easing requirements is best done in stages. “Instead of loosening all requirements at once, take a guess at the requirement that, if eased, could get you the most quality applicants.”
  4. Make sure everyone is working from the same playbook. Why should you plan out your entire hiring process beforehand? Because when you're in the heat of answering emails and interviewing, you won't have time to think about it and will make mistakes. For example, one typical mistake is not defining your must-haves upfront. “Many businesses go through many hiring steps, including several interviews with candidates, just to find out at the very last stage that their salary expectation is much higher, or that they are not willing to relocate,” says Perry Oostdam, co-founder and CEO at Recruitee. “Be honest with yourself and plan out these knock-out criteria when writing the job description (i.e., what must a candidate absolutely have in order to qualify?). Then, put it in the job description and communicate it frequently during the hiring process.”
  5. Tap into your employees' closed circles. On the surface, the pool of talent in electrical distribution is limited by the number of individuals who #1) have experience and interest in the industry and #2) want to work for a new company. Dig a little deeper, says Oostdam, and you'll find that more than 70% of employees say that they are open to new work opportunities. “Maybe they're not happy with their current work and want to change, but haven't acted on that yet,” he points out. To tap into this “hidden” pool of workers, Oostdam suggests jotting down the names of several individuals whom you'd like to work with. Have other team members do the same. “You might find some hidden talent that is only known in those employees' closed circles,” says Oostdam, who suggests doing this exercise even if your company isn't currently in hiring mode. “That way,” he says, “you'll save time having to find and establish contacts when you actually do have an opening to fill.”
  6. Show them why they should work for you. The interview process isn't a one-way street. In fact, whether you know it or not, your distributorship will be under an equal amount of scrutiny during the recruiting process. “While you are interviewing candidates, they are also interviewing you,” writes Laura Fries in 5 tips for bringing in top talent in a tight labor market.To make sure they're putting their best foot forward, Fries tells companies to develop a list of job and company advantages, and to make sure those points are conveyed throughout the interviewing process by having different interviewers speak to different points. “This is your 'sizzle' that will help you stand out in a tight labor market,” Fries adds. When it comes to compensation, for instance, companies should develop a range from low to high, and then determine what skills you are paying for at various points within that range. “Candidates are generally motivated by an offer that is two times or more than the amount they would receive as a raise after their annual review,” Fries writes. “As with everything, there are always exceptions, but plan on paying fairly or even at a slight premium for the candidate with the skill set and cultural fit you need.”
  7. Shoot a recruitment video. One easy way to literally “show” candidates why they should work for your distributorship is by shooting a short recruitment video. Shope says HB McClure's video highlights the company's core values, focus, and current workforce. “We have both a short version (2-3 minutes) and long version (6 minutes) that we put up on our website for everyone to view,” says Shope. The latter, for example, walks viewers through a complete company tour with interviews and other features. To make sure the videos attract the highest number of viewers, HB McClure also posts it on its social media sites and uses it at college career fairs (via an iPad that replays it constantly during the event).
  8. Partner with area schools and colleges. And speaking of colleges…Shope says HB McClure has had very good luck finding new recruits through area educational institutions. High schools, technical schools, colleges, and universities all churn out a steady stream of graduates who are ripe for the picking. But if they don't know about your company, how can they apply for, be interviewed for, and accept positions there? “We are partnering with a lot of schools and going to the technical institutions to introduce students to our company,” says Shope. “It's about getting face-to-face with students and getting to know them.” (Read how Hydrotech upped its recruiting game via strong college connections in tED's Recruiting 101: Making the Supplier-College Connection).
  9. Use mobile recruiting. If your distributorship is targeting the under-40 crowd and not already using mobile recruiting applications and tools, then it's missing the boat. “Most of us spend our time on mobile devices versus desktops, and that can create both challenges and opportunities for distributors that are trying to get in front of job candidates,” Ho says. “Put simply, a lot of the millennials that you're targeting aren't going to be sitting at a desk in front of a computer, searching for jobs. They're using their mobile phones to find opportunities.” To make sure your distributorship gets onto those prospective employees' radars sooner during the job search, check out mobile apps like TextRecruit, LinkedIn Recruiter, and Interview Assistant.  

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.



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