Have you watched a supervisor struggle for months to fill a position, despite the fact that unemployment has been astoundingly high? Have you seen the same job get advertised over and over again, month after month, and asked yourself, “What is wrong in that company?”
Why are some positions so hard to fill?
I posed this question to a group of highly experienced recruiters, and they readily provided me with answers.
“We want one just like the last one”:
It’s not uncommon for a job to evolve over time around a current employee’s skill set. A bookkeeper with a creative side might end up being the person who creates marketing flyers and brochures for your business.
But these two skills sets are not generally found together, and requiring that in the next bookkeeper you hire can make that job a lot harder to fill.
“I’m leaving, but I can’t let go”:
Ownership can be a double-edged sword. We all want our employees to take ownership of their jobs.
But this can become a problem if an outgoing employee is involved in the process of hiring their own replacement. Some people may feel so possessive of their job that they can’t imagine anyone else taking their place.
Misjudging job histories:
In this changing world of work, traditional career paths are becoming less common. Fewer people are working for the same company for five years or more.
In fact, it’s more likely that in the future, employees will work in temporary, part-time, and project-based jobs as independent contractors. Dismissing these candidates as job hoppers means a company will miss out on very talented prospects.
Placing too much importance on degrees:
Before you require a degree for a position, ask yourself whether it’s really necessary. Could a certain amount of related experience be substituted for a degree?
Businesses miss out on some incredible talent by passing up experienced people without degrees (think Bill Gates). As college tuitions continue to skyrocket in price while the economy stagnates, more and more intelligent, talented workers are going to forego obtaining degrees.
Sometimes, we see degrees demanded for positions that are frankly too low level to require one.
For instance, does your admin assistant really need a Bachelor’s degree in Business? And if they have one, how happy do you think they’ll be working in that job?
Inflexible job requirements:
Don’t treat a job description like a checklist! You need to understand the essential job requirements that the candidate must have, and which ones you can train them to do.
I can’t count the number of times we’ve seen a company pass on a fabulous bookkeeper simply because he or she didn’t know how to use QuickBooks, which is a software skill they could quickly pick up with training.
One of the best hires I’ve ever made was a recent college grad who had a degree in Greek and Latin. She was having a tough time finding a job and was eager and willing. She lacked the exact skills we were looking for, but her fierce intelligence was as plain as day. She was like a sponge, soaking up all the training we gave her, and taking on whatever we threw her way.
Poorly defined jobs with a mishmash of duties:
Once, I had an employer that made a list of every task in the company that didn’t fit under any other employees’ job descriptions. We called it an Ombudsman position, because there were no traditional job titles we could give to such a random mishmash of responsibilities.
It did not end well for us.
Jobs that are poorly defined, or that have no real job descriptions, can be very hard to fill. And employees in those roles can be set up for failure.
Unless you can find a true jack of all trades (and don’t forget the rest of that saying, which is “master of none”), you’ll probably have a revolving door.
Hiring a “Director of Happiness”:
Speaking of bad job titles, this is another mistake that can make a job hard to fill.
Are you calling your receptionist the Director of Happiness? That may be clever, but when you advertise that job opening, experienced receptionists won’t know to apply. Instead, you might get resumes from director-level people with completely unrelated backgrounds.
Thinking too much experience is a bad thing:
Many people shy away from a resume with too much experience, assuming that an overqualified employee will be unhappy and leave their job quickly.
Before you make that assumption, talk to the candidate!
There are many reasons a highly qualified person seeks a lower position. They may have decided to make a change in direction, or they may want a position with lower responsibility or stress.
I have a bookkeeper with an accounting degree and a sales person that was a psychiatric nurse. Both are amazing employees!
“I want it all and I want it NOW!”:
When you find a great candidate who is currently employed, it’s important to realize they need to give their current employer sufficient notice. You’d appreciate that if they were leaving your business.
Don’t pass them up simply because you have to wait a couple of weeks. After all, you’ll hopefully have them in your business for a good long while.
And on the flip side, remember that in this economy, some very good people have been unemployed for a long time. Don’t assume that this means they won’t be great contributors to your business!
Being too fixated on tests:
Over the years, we’ve run into some people with very creative interview and testing processes, and there’s nothing wrong with that — unless, of course, it doesn’t help you hire good people!
We’ve known interviewers who love quirky questions (“Why is a manhole cover round?” “How would you fit an elephant in a refrigerator?”), interviewers who fake heart attacks in front of job candidates to gauge their ability to respond to stress, and companies that administer complex personality tests.
If you find yourself repeatedly saying, “So-and-so seemed great for the job, until they failed this one part of our hiring process!” you need to reassess what you’re doing.
Fear of commitment:
Some hiring managers have a hard time committing to a candidate, always worrying that there’s someone better just around the corner. Never finding the perfect candidate, they pass on great ones.
Excessive fear of buyer’s remorse can make a hiring process drag on forever, ultimately hurting your business much more than hiring a less-than-perfect person ever could.
If you see yourself, or your business, in any of these scenarios, it’s probably time to reassess what you’re doing.
Be aware that while your job sits vacant, and is advertised week after week, great talent is getting quickly snapped up by your competitors. On top of that, active job seekers who see a job advertised endlessly begin wondering just what is wrong with the position, or with your business, and stay away.
Ultimately, reevaluating our hiring practices from time to time can only make us more successful at acquiring the people we need!