A growing economy and full-employment workforce are great things for America and its citizens… unless you’re a small business employer looking to fill a job and face an ever-shrinking pool of applicants. In July 2018, the national unemployment rate stood at 3.9 percent. That is one-tenth a percent higher than the 3.8 percent rate of May 2018, which was the lowest rate since April 2000, when it was also 3.8 percent.
Besides a nice headline, what does that mean for a small business owner? Well, if you’ve tried to hire someone lately, you may have noticed fewer applications for the position. And you may have had fewer candidates accept your invitation for an interview. Some employers are even reporting having job seekers agree to an interview then never showing up, a term called “ghosting.”
The world has certainly changed from the days when employers had their pick of prospects and could afford to blow off those that didn’t measure up, confident they had dozens, if not hundreds, of other candidates waiting in line. Now it’s job seekers who have the upper hand in a tight market for employers.
That market may grow tighter as employers continue to see Baby Boomers retire. This creates more openings and worries for employers who see years of experience and knowledge leave. They now face the daunting task of replacing that with someone who may get a better offer two days after starting.
What can you do as a small business owner to ensure that the booming economy doesn’t leave you on the outside looking in when it comes to staffing your company? Here are a few suggestions:
Why are You Hiring? – Are you hiring due to an expanding business? If so, congratulations on your success. Or are you hiring due to turnover? If so, you’ve got some work to do regarding retention. The best hiring decision you can ever make is to ensure you keep your best employees. After all, they are the ones who understand your business best and contribute the most to your success. One thing you’ll have to face is that in this economy, you’ll have to pay more to keep your best. That’s because it pays to jump to a new company for a higher wage than to stay for a measly 3 percent annual raise. If you value your best employees, realize that comes with a price. Make it worth their while to stay with you.
Sell Yourself – When jobs are scarce, applicants are advised to sell themselves. Now the reverse is true. As a business owner, you may have to sell your company and why it’s a rewarding place to work to someone who could have multiple offers. Show what makes your company’s culture a winner and how you appreciate your employees. If that’s a foreign concept to you, you’d better be a fast learner in this job market. In sales, a winning move is to differentiate yourself from the competition. The idea is not really that different when it comes to recruiting or retaining employees in a tight market. What makes you better than someone else? Why should someone want to work for you? When you come up with the answer for that, you’re ready to start competitively searching for workers.
Come Up with a Winning Job Ad – When jobs were scarce, employers could create fanciful job ads and descriptions few candidates could actually qualify for (leading to the term “unicorn applicant”). These included ads that wanted two years of experience for an entry-level job. Nowadays, candidates avoid such placements, not wanting to waste time on an interview with such an unrealistic employer. The same goes for poorly-worded ads. If you’re not sure what you want in a candidate or can’t describe it, what makes you think the applicant is going to know? Spend some time crafting an ad that will not only attract qualified candidates that can help you succeed but that sells them on your company as well.
Expand Your Search – Having trouble finding applicants? You’re not alone. You may be looking hard, but are you looking smart – or far enough afield? Job boards are one of the worst places for job seekers to look for a job… and they’re among the worst for employers to find applicants as well. Networking is one of the best ways to find new talent. You can use your own employees as one recruiting network, for example. Or your customers, and LinkedIn or other social media contacts. Other places to seek candidates are trade groups and professional associations. Many of these allow you to contact members about job opportunities.
Don’t Dawdle – The average job hiring process has grown increasingly longer over the years. If you follow that example, you’re likely to lose. Applicants have their choice now. We’re not suggesting you not do background checks or employment verifications or any other activity that might put you or your business at risk. But if you find the right candidate, act quickly to secure their services. They’re most assuredly not going to be waiting on you. Not in this market. Once you’ve identified a great fit, express your interest, work your process and most of all, keep them informed of where they stand in that process. If you keep the right candidate in the dark, they will likely assume they are not in the running and move on to the next interview.
Using these tips could help you to not only survive but thrive in a full-employment job market. The next time you’re hiring, they could mean the difference between people seeing your “Help Wanted” sign and stopping by and expressing interest in you and your company, or moving on.