5 Proven Ways to Attract Highly Skilled Talent

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Finding the best people – the most highly skilled and top performing talent – is usually a challenge for employers, but over the years, in researching how employers land great talent in our NorthCoast 99 program and various survey reports, we've learned some "tried and true" ways that they attract the best people.

1. Make a decision to hire only the best.

Many organizations accept poor fits and mediocre talent when they don't have to settle for anything less than the best. Whether it's a policy, philosophy, or just a general standard, you too, can make the decision to hire only highly skilled top performers.

Not only does a commitment to hiring only top talent focus your recruiting and hiring practices, more importantly, the best performers don’t want to work among average talent or poor performers, so hiring only the best people will generally help your organization retain more top performers and attract new ones. Chances are, your best people will also refer you more highly skilled top performers.
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Facebook Announces Social Jobs App

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In 2012 Facebook, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor and several other organizations announced the Social Jobs Partnership, a new social media-based job search tool. The Social Jobs Partnership app is a centralized database of job opportunities pulled from a number of outside job boards. At the time of launch, there were about 1.7 million jobs hosted through the app.

The Social Jobs Partnership is an effort to leverage the power and reach of social media to connect job-seekers with relevant jobs. If successful, Facebook would become a major competitor to LinkedIn in the social-recruiting arena.
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4 Hiring Practices Successful Employers Use

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4 Hiring Practices Successful Employers Use

Ever wonder how employers select a perfect match for a job? In our research, their secret lies in using certain hiring methods to select the right employees, specifically these four practices.

1. Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing is one of the most accurate hiring techniques and ideal for evaluating skills and competencies necessary for effective job performance. Behavioral interviewing, as opposed to traditional interviewing, evaluates candidates' past performance by having job candidates describe specific stories, examples, experiences, and results that indicate their ability to perform certain job tasks and responsibilities.

Examples of behavioral interview questions include:"Provide an example of...", "Tell me about an experience when...", or "Describe how you did...". Typically, a candidate is asked to provide a description of the situation, task, action, and result in response.
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11 Tools for Recruiting Hard-to-Fill Jobs

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11 Tools for Recruiting Hard-to-Fill Jobs

Recruiting for new, specialized, or highly technical positions requires a different approach than past years. Some of these jobs didn't exist 10 years ago, while others require such specialized experience or specific technical skills that older recruiting methods don't suffice. In any case, the need to find talent for these hard-to-fill jobs is forcing many employers to consider using other recruiting strategies beyond job boards and advertising.

Employers that excel at recruiting hard-to-fill positions have moved beyond traditional recruiting techniques like job boards and advertising by tapping into their existing employees' networks, building online strategies, and uniquely targeting their marketing to prospective candidates. Their recruiting methods are more strategic, sales and marketing-based, and make greater use of existing employees as talent scouts as opposed to just recruiters and HR staff.

Based on research we've conducted on how employers successfully land talent for hard-to-fill jobs, here are 11 effective tools to recruit hard-to-fill jobs.
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Employers Retention Challenges

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As the U.S. economy continues to improve and employers begin to add employees to their payrolls, another employment metric is also increasing, i.e. voluntary turnover. For employees, a stronger economy often means they feel more confident leaving a job of their own accord. However, from an employer’s perspective an increased separation rate means they are going to need to work harder to retain existing employees as the job market improves.

As a national trend, increased voluntary turnover is moving steadily upward with a 2012 report from PriceWaterhouse Coopers documenting a 1.2% increase from 2010 to 2011, up to 8.2% (2011/2012 US Human Capital Effectiveness Report). In Northeast Ohio, the voluntary turnover rate hit double digits in 2011, with the 2012 ERC Turnover and HR Department Practices reporting an average of 12% across all industries and organizational sizes.

However, notable discrepancies in these rates are apparent when comparing manufacturers to non-manufacturers. At 9.6% manufacturers seem to have more success at retaining existing employees than their non-manufacturing counterparts who are seeing a much higher 16.7% voluntary turnover rate for 2011.

In terms of the role of HR, bringing this rate back down, may mean considering a redirection of HR funds away from Recruiting/Hiring and into areas like Training & Development or Benefits. By allocating an average of 23.1% of their total HR budget to Recruiting/Hiring, by far the highest percent allocation reported in the survey, non-manufacturers may actually be contributing to the trend towards higher turnover.

With such a strong focus on recruiting, these organizations may be missing out on opportunities to develop and incent their own existing employees.

How Employers Can Fill the Skill Gap

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Organizations across the region continue to face challenges in finding the right employees and talent. What's the solution to this dilemma? We weigh in on the skill-gap problem facing many employers and several practical things you can do to obtain the skills you need.

Is your offer competitive?

You've likely changed and tweaked your sourcing strategies several times to find the right talent, but have you changed your offer - the pay, benefits, and perks of working at your organization? People with the most in-demand skills know what they are worth and are drawn to the most lucrative opportunities, with higher salaries, better benefits, more advancement opportunities, and unique perks.

You must have the right package to draw the talent you need. If you haven't taken a look at what starting salaries and benefits packages are in the market currently, and how employers are communicating this information to applicants to draw them into their organizations, it may be best to start there. Your pay rates may not be competitive anymore.

Do you need to redefine what talent means?

The perception of a skill gap sometimes is created by our unrealistic expectations of everything talent should be. Talent is more or less a set of characteristics and abilities which predict success on the job. Talent is not necessarily an exact match of all the skills and experiences you need, however hiring processes often seek this precise match.

Consider how employers define top talent - usually in terms of attitude, integrity, work ethic, passion for the work, and motivation to succeed. These are talents worth seeking, but more often than not, interviews, assessments, and other hiring methods focus heavily on concrete skills and experiences - the easiest of which to teach prospective employees. That being said, keep these things in mind when hiring talent:

  • Be careful what you are screening out in the hiring process. Don't needlessly turn down candidates because they don't meet an unnecessary skill requirement.
  • Focus interview questions on relevant behaviors and experiences needed to be successful on the job, not necessarily exact experiences that the job will entail. Target abilities and transferable skills.
  • Consider hiring inexperienced employees to build and grow talent from the ground, up. They are a blank slate with fresh perspectives. This strategy has been highly successful for many organizations, particularly entrepreneurial firms.

Who's already on your bench?

Companies often don't realize their bench strength in that many of the technical skills and capabilities they need either already exist in their organizations or have the potential to be learned. Frequently, they don't take the time to understand what each of their employees has to offer, and consequently overlook talent that already exists in their organizations as well as opportunities to engage and develop their current staff who desire growth.

Don't assume that employees don't want to learn a new skill, take on a challenge, go to a training, or that you know an employee's full potential. Regularly inventory employees' skills, document their education and training, and ask employees what skills they would like to attain. Skills can be learned, and our guess is that you have plenty of employees eager for a new challenge.

Can they be grown?

More employers are realizing that in order to gain the skills and talent they need to grow and advance their businesses, they will have to start growing those skills internally with training, coaching, and development. Hiring talent externally may seem easier as well as less costly and time-consuming, but the cost of operating with vacancies, wasting time unsuccessfully sourcing talent, and paying a premium for external hires can outweigh the cost of investing in your current employees.

An added bonus of growing talent internally is that doing so engages and retains current employees, who often will leave for greener pastures and new opportunities that aren't afforded to them. In our experience, too much external hiring can cause a great deal of disengagement, eliminating possible opportunities for your current employees. Here are some tips to grow your own:

  • Conduct a training needs assessment to understand what skill gaps exist.
  • Determine what skill gaps can be filled internally and which employees have the ability to learn.
  • Identify opportunities for cross-training - can employees be trained by current employees?
  • Where skills can't be cross-trained and outside expertise is needed, seek external training.
  • Prioritize training and development opportunities based on the most critical skill gaps to manage costs and time away from work.

ERC's Director of Technical Training weighs in on the importance of development to retaining employees and closing the skill gap. He says, "To help maintain their competitive edge, organizations will need to continually invest in workforce development. Contrary to a popular myth, companies who invest in developing the technical skills of their people are more likely to retain those people--- not lose them to a competitor for an extra 25 cents an hour. Studies have shown that when employees develop new technical skills, they are more loyal, productive and motivated to do an even better job…for the company who invested in them."

The skill gap is here to stay and employers will be tasked with coming up with creative solutions to fill the gap in the months and years to come. Employers that are able to fill their skill gaps more creatively and thoughtfully, while retaining their best people in the process, will end up gaining a competitive advantage.

Additional Resources

Training at ERC
Hundreds of companies turn to ERC every year to develop and enhance the skills of their managers, supervisors, leaders and professionals at all levels. We offer a variety of technical skills, workplace/soft skills, supervisory/management/leadership skills, computer skills, and legal/compliance training on-site as well as at our Workplace Center.

2012 ERC Local Salary Data Published
For more information or to purchase our most recent ERC Salary Survey and ERC Wage Survey which provide local salary and hourly wage data from Northeast Ohio employers on over 300 jobs, please click here. Not an ERC member? Join today and receive free access to our newly published survey results!

An Employer's Guide to College Recruiting

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You have everything to offer: jobs to fill, a great workplace, exciting career paths, meaningful work, and a terrific staff. How do you leverage all of this to gain an edge in recruiting a fresh, talented, and enthusiastic May grad? We've compiled a brief employer's guide for successful college recruitment.

Identify talent needs. Determine the talent you need now, the talent you will need in the future, and which departments would benefit from a new college graduate or entry-level role.

Get rid of your traditional practices. Young people are drawn to innovative and non-traditional organizations. Dress down, color your walls, open up your office environment, and change your policies. Attracting this generation requires thinking differently about work.

Create an online presence. Young people spend the majority of their time online and on social media outlets. Use social media, your website, and mobile apps to engage with young people and highlight your culture and workplace.

Build an attractive employment brand for young people. What does your organization offer that is unique and that young people want? Young people generally desire to follow their passions, work on something meaningful, develop their career, and have work/life balance. Create a compelling message that attracts the younger generation.

Promote clear career opportunities and paths. Young people are concerned about the career opportunities they can take advantage of at your organization and how you will develop their careers over time. If they can't see a future at your company, they won't apply.

Make the recruitment experience fun. Whether it's creating an attractive booth at a college career fair or inviting students to fun social events to learn about your workplace, make their experience exciting and memorable and they won't forget your organization.

Use your young professionals to connect and engage with students. Send your other young professionals on-campus and encourage them to connect and engage with students. Have them tell positive and compelling stories about their careers and experiences at your organization.

Engage them over time. Maintain communication with students, especially if you begin recruiting early. Send them emails, call them, and let them know you are interested in them, particularly the exceptional talent that is vetting offers with your competitors.

Develop relationships with key faculty and college career centers. They will recommend top students to you and suggest jobs at your organization to students. Select and target efforts at a few key colleges with quality programs applicable to your staffing needs.

Create a job shadowing experience. Allow students to job shadow and witness your day-to-day operations to help them understand the job and experience the work environment. Pull out the bells and whistles and "wow" them with your hospitality while they are with you.

Use internship programs. There's no easier way to hire a May grad than by converting one of your interns into a full-time hire. You get the benefit of testing their skills and experiences before making an investment.

Provide the right pay and benefits package. For many college grads, their final decision comes down to basics: the highest offer and best benefits. Make sure you know what other companies are paying new college graduates in your geographic area, otherwise you may end up making an offer that is unattractive to your candidates and all of your fantastic recruiting efforts could go to waste.

College recruitment provides the opportunity to acquire fresh talent with tons of potential. Every organization can and should take advantage of these strategies to land a great young hire. 

Additional Resources

Intern & Recent Graduate Pay Rates & Practices Survey This survey collects information from Northeast Ohio employers about their internship and recent graduate employment and pay practices - including intern pay rates and college graduate starting salaries. This survey provides important information for employers planning to hire interns or new graduates.

Project Assistance
ERC offers a broad range of HR consulting services and has expertise in developing selection systems, recruiting, and developing job descriptions. For more information about these services, please contact consulting@ercnet.org.

Save on Background Screening, Job Posting, Recruitment Services and More! ERC members save money with our Preferred Partner Network.

4 Reasons to Not Use Facebook for Hiring

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The 2012 controversy about employers screening job candidates by asking for their Facebook passwords has many employers wondering: should social media and online information be used in the hiring process and to what extent?

Most recruiting experts agree that social media can be used to effectively source and identify great talent. In fact, there is a good bit of evidence which shows that social media is a successful sourcing strategy for finding talent, especially passive candidates. Social media is quickly replacing other traditional recruitment methods such as postings and advertisements.

The main issue with social media is not in using it to find and source talent when recruiting, but rather when social media platforms like Facebook and other online information are used to assess and evaluate job candidates. While the goal should always be to eliminate the risk of a bad hire and hire a top performer, here are a few important reasons why using social media and other online information to evaluate job candidates poses problems.

1. There is limited research support for social media as a selection practice.

There is not enough conclusive and research-based evidence that supports social media as a predictor of future job performance and fit or as an effective hiring method. Though a 2012 study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found a strong correlation between ratings of Facebook profiles and actual performance ratings of employees, this research must be replicated in order to make a stronger case for social media usage in the hiring and selection process.

2. Social media is not yet considered a valid or reliable hiring practice.

All hiring assessments and evaluation techniques should be valid and reliable and social media has yet to be tested against the reliability and validity standards that other hiring methods have endured, such as validated ability and personality assessments, structured or behavioral interviews, and work samples. As a result, it's unclear as to whether social media is a sound hiring practice.

3. Hiring based on information attained via social media poses legal concerns.

Use of social media for selection also poses legal concerns because social networking sites contain so much information that employers are prohibited from using to make employment decisions. For example, social media can expose an individual's race, gender, age, and national origin through pictures, postings, and biographical information. These characteristics are protected from discrimination under law.

Additionally, the courts have yet to clarify their stance on the usage of social media for selection. Until more case law offers guidance on the issue, it will be unclear as to whether social media is an appropriate and legal selection practice.

4. Using social media can lead to decisions based on irrelevant hiring criteria.

A final issue with using social media in the hiring and selection process is that it may not provide the necessary information to evaluate candidates objectively and consistently. Social media often contains a great deal of personal and irrelevant information that causes employers to make judgments about individuals, but not necessarily based on actual hiring criteria (skills, qualifications, experiences, culture fit, etc.).

For example, a posting on Facebook by a job candidate has little relevance to whether an employee can actually do the requirements of the job. Employers can use this information to screen out hires even when it is not job-related. When employers make decisions about candidates based on criteria that is not job-related or based on job requirements, they are making biased selection decisions.

Also note that the three most common reasons new-hires fail are poor culture or personality fit, poor job fit or an inability to do the work, and lack of interest or motivation to do the job. Social media tells employers very little about candidates in these areas.

In conclusion, your organization should think twice before "googling" your next job candidate or asking them for their Facebook password to browse their profile. Not only do these practices expose your organization to legal risks, but they may ultimately not be effective in helping you select great talent. Our advice: stick to tried and true selection practices to maximize your probability of acquiring a great hire. 

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

Additional Resources

Trends in Recruiting
This workshop covers topics vital to recruiting such as leveraging social media, sourcing diverse talent, evaluating candidates, and developing metrics to help your organization gain success in the recruiting process.

Selection Assessments
ERC’s assessment services, which use online and credible instruments, help minimize the uncertainty in employee selection by evaluating the skills, abilities, style, and career goals of job candidates in relation to your job requirements. Our services also include professional interpretation and feedback from our Management Psychologist, Don Kitson.

Project Assistance
ERC offers a broad range of HR consulting services and has expertise in developing selection systems, recruiting, and developing job descriptions. For more information about these services, please contact consulting@ercnet.org.

Save on Background Screening, Job Posting, Recruitment Services and More!
ERC members save money with our Preferred Partner Network. Click here for details.

7 Strategies to Find Extraordinary Local Talent

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Is your organization looking for extraordinary talent and thinks it needs to search outside of your local community? Not so fast. Many employers think they can't find talent locally and pursue their search elsewhere, but local talent is at your fingertips if you use the right strategies.

Using local job boards, postings, and advertisements (either print or online) is a good start.  These days, however, employers need to go a few steps further to find the very best talent, including building strong local roots.

Here are some proven strategies used by other local employers to consider in your quest to find and hire exceptional local talent.

  1. Pay attention to and learn about local talent in the region. Read local publications and news. Learn about the successes of other companies and the individuals employed at those organizations.  Take notice of individuals gaining attention in the local media, those receiving industry recognition and awards, and those that contribute the community in their field of expertise.
  2. Develop a presence on social media. Join local groups on LinkedIn, follow local talent on Twitter, read their blogs, and/or create a Facebook page. There are so many ways to leverage these platforms to find talent. For instance, monitor key influencers and those people contributing quality questions and content.
  3. Participate in the community. Get involved in local chambers of commerce. Go to conference and community events held around your community. Join local chapters of professional associations.  Seek and attend speaking engagements. Do community service, participate on boards, and help our non-profits. Use local resources for leadership and employee development. Meet a diverse group of people, network, and learn who the key players are in your community.
  4. Connect with local colleges, universities, and vocational schools. Develop strong relationships with professors and career centers at those institutions. Pursue speaking engagements at colleges so that students are exposed to your company and its leaders.  Use alumni relations to stay in touch. Create internships and entry-level opportunities to keep young talent here for the future of the region.
  5. Encourage your employees to be active in their communities and engage in local professional groups for their personal development. They'll engage and network with others and potentially refer them to your organization for employment. Plus, they'll likely gain valuable professional skills in the process.
  6. Partner with local talent search providers and staffing organizations. There are plenty of them with unique expertise. Plus, they often have the best knowledge of the local labor market and how your organization can find great local people. Who better to trust in finding a local hire than a local staffing provider?
  7. Boost your local workplace intelligence. Know what other local employers are paying for certain talent and jobs. Understand the kinds of benefits and perks they offer to employees. Explore ways that other local organizations are creating attractive and engaging workplaces that keep great talent.

Finding local talent isn't easy, but if your organization is committed to hiring good people, it's worth the effort. Next time your organization is considering looking outside of Northeast Ohio for a great hire and thinks that certain talent doesn't exist in our region, try these strategies before taking your search elsewhere.

Additional Resources

NorthCoast 99
Get recognized as a great place to work in 2012 to help your organization better attract and retain top talent in Northeast Ohio by participating in our NorthCoast 99 program. Click here for more information.

Staffing Services
ERC partners with several local organizations dedicated to staffing, recruiting, and hiring talent. Our Preferred Partners provide various staffing services to ERC members at discount rates. Learn more

Survey Information
Use ERC's compensation, benefits, and policy/practice information to determine the pay, benefits, and practices other local employers use to attract and retain great talent. Click here for more information about our surveys.

Why You Can't Find the Right Hire

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Many employers are facing what is perceived to be a “talent shortage” – many applicants, but few qualified candidates. Even though this perceived talent shortage may be real, here are some other reasons why your organization may not be able to find the right hire.

You have too many job requirements.

Making your qualification requirements too detailed and specific can narrow your applicant pool and doesn’t necessarily ensure that you’ll hire a top performer. Many employers make the mistake of assuming that more experience, education, and specific skills mean a better performer, but fit and personality factors should also play a role. Requesting too many requirements could eliminate candidates that can do the job well and have growth potential. A classic example of individuals affected by narrow job requirements are recent college graduates, who may not necessarily have the skills or experience you are requiring, but may be top performers.

You have misconceptions about unemployed, disabled, and older workers.

Consider whether your organization is inadvertently discriminating against the unemployed, disabled, older workers by acting on misconceptions that these types of individuals are worse performers or less-than-ideal employees. Being unemployed, disabled, or older should not automatically eliminate applicants from being considered for employment. Not only will these misconceptions limit your applicant pool and cause you to miss a potential great hire, but they could eventually lead you to court. Plus, there are a number of successful companies that have tapped into these applicant pools and found top-quality hires.

Your sourcing is too limited.

If your organization is relying solely on job board postings to acquire talent, its sourcing strategy is probably too narrow and thereby ineffective. While job boards are still a common source used by employers to source talent, organizations need to tap both active and passive job candidates – those that are actively seeking new employment and those that are open to new job opportunities but aren’t actively searching. Many employers have turned to social media, networking, and “niche” recruiting to attract specialized talent and tap into these passive candidates.

You aren’t using your network.

A network is, by far, the best way to attract quality hires. Tap into your entire organizational network – including employees, customers, professional connections and relationships – for their recommendations on potential candidates.  They are usually thrilled to help and provide meaningful suggestions. Plus, referrals are one of the most effective ways to attract quality hires and are one of the least expensive sourcing strategies.

You aren’t willing to train and develop the skills you need.

It’s much easier to find an individual that has the ability and desire to learn then it is to find an employee with every skill you need, especially for hard-to-fill technical positions. Consider whether your organization is open to training and developing some of the skills you need but can't find. This option may save you significant time and recruiting costs and allows you to focus on less trainable attributes like culture fit during the hiring process.

Your candidate experience could improve.

Once you’ve found a qualified candidate, how does your organization treat and follow-up with them throughout the hiring process? Chances are, your responsiveness, flexibility, and communication with potential job candidates could improve. Remember that job candidates are just like customers and employees. They’re evaluating your organization and will tell others about their experiences. Make sure those experiences are positive.

You may not be setting your organization apart from the rest.

Finally, has your organization revealed to its applicants how it is it different from other companies? Perhaps it offers stability or advancement opportunities that other employers can’t provide. Maybe it is growing rapidly, has a unique family-friendly culture, or was recognized as a great place to work nationally or regionally. If you don’t talk about your strengths or promote why your organization is a great place to work, applicants won’t know what they are missing by not accepting a job at your organization. Gaining recognition as a great place to work, such as through the NorthCoast 99 program (www.northcoast99.org), and leveraging this to attract applicants, can boost your organization’s reputation and is often the best place to start when it comes to improving your ability to attract talent. It also shows that you care about being an employer of choice and strive to be a good workplace.

Talented employees are undoubtedly a sought-after commodity, but many employers have found that these strategies help them attract the very best talent. If your organization is facing its own “talent shortage,” keep these suggestions in mind.


For more information on how to earn recognition as a NorthCoast 99 winner and one of the best places to work in Northeast Ohio please visit www.northcoast99.org