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One of the running themes this year has been shortages. From toilet paper hoarding to supply chain breakdowns causing shortages of meat and other groceries, we've become used to the idea that if you know you're going to need something in the future, it's better to buy it now.
But these days, empty store shelves are just as likely due to a different kind of shortage: no one can seem to get or keep workers.
The causes of the worker shortage—and there are many—are beyond the scope of this article. What matters is actually filling your open positions so that you can serve your customers, keep your business running, and avoid cascade failure.
We've been paying more attention to our clients' career pages lately, and we've noticed that businesses that are successfully making hires have three things in common:
- They offer competitive starting pay—plus a signing bonus
- They emphasize that they're a great place to work for
- They make the application process extremely easy
In this article, we'll go over five different tactics you can use on your company's careers page to help you find qualified applicants more quickly.
1. Actively Sell Your Open Positions With Well-Written Listings
If you're advertising an open position and not having any luck getting applicants, the first thing to check is the way your listing is worded.
Too many businesses write their job postings in an extremely formal way, phrasing everything in the third person ("The applicant...") and listing every quality they want in an employee in excruciating detail.
It's important to remember that a job posting is an advertisement, plain and simple.
The purpose of an ad is to help someone come to a decision before their attention span runs out. Job boards give you a generous amount of writing space in your listings, but that doesn't mean you should use it. As a good writing exercise, try to fit your job posting in less than 300 words or 40 lines.
Do you really need to use up valuable space emphasizing that you want a "friendly" employee with great "attention to detail" who is a "team player" but also a "self-starter?"
Is there any employer anywhere who isn't looking for those exact same traits?
Is there any applicant anywhere who wouldn't be aware of that, or who wouldn't say what they needed to in order to get the job?
"Duties" and "job functions" sections can almost always be worded more effectively. Most of the time, employers list twenty bullet points with generic job duties like "communicating with clients" and "participating in meetings."
Again, what job doesn't require those? The bigger problem, though, is that those kinds of lists don't tell someone what they can really expect from the job.
If you want to find someone to fill your open position, you need to actively sell it. Talk about what your business does and what their role in it will encompass. Use more personal, second-person language and a conversational tone.
Instead of saying the employee needs to do "file management and organization," say "You'll help our busy insurance agency stay organized and serve our customers better by keeping our filing system up-to-date."
Instead of saying they need to "assist customers with purchases," say "You'll learn all about the product lines that we carry and help customers who come to you with questions about them."
Instead of saying "the potential for earning is limitless" with your sales positions, say "Our most dedicated sales people average $50,000 to $60,000 their first year, but you might do even better."
"Hold up!" the HR people are screaming. "Those sections are all there for legal reasons. You have to clearly specify every job duty so they can't come back and say that something wasn't a part of their job description!"
Fair enough. We're marketers, not lawyers. But we're pretty sure that even if it's necessary, there's nothing that says it needs to take up prime real estate on the job posting.
If that language absolutely has to be on your listing, put it at the very bottom in a section called "Details" or "More Information" and send it to applicants to look over prior to an interview.
Finally, take a hard look at your "Qualifications" section. In some cases, you have to demand a certain degree or certification, especially in professional fields. But in the vast majority of situations—especially during a worker shortage—demanding 5 years of experience and a university degree is totally unnecessary.
2. Simplify the Application Process
These days, people want things simple and fast.
You can simplify and speed up your application by stripping out everything that's nonessential.
Reducing your application process to a bare minimum of steps reduces friction and increases the likelihood that someone will apply.
Do you really need candidates to upload their resume in a specific file format so your applicant tracking system can process it?
In an environment when many businesses are struggling just to get a single applicant, wouldn't it be easier to just collect the resumes and read them?
Does your current system require applicants to register for a job seeker account on your site, set up a secure password, verify their email address, and input all of their personal information?
If so, you might consider replacing it with a Typeform that collects all the necessary information from the candidate, forwards it to your email, and loads it into a third-party applicant tracking system.
(And if for some strange reason you're using a behavioral assessment or a personality test as part of the application process like a lot of large corporations do—stop. It's unscientific, and questionably legal.)
The explosive growth of online video conferencing over the past year and a half means that more people than ever have access to a webcam or a mobile device that records video. Some companies have been taking advantage of this opportunity and allowing job applicants to attach a short video message with their application.
This can be a great way to get a feel for what clients are like in-person even before you schedule an interview. Since most people now have access to a webcam or a mobile phone that can record video, video message applications will no doubt grow in popularity in the coming years.
3. Feature Testimonials from Present Employees
For most people, how they're treated on the job matters just as much as how much they're compensated. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to figure out what an employer is like to work for from a simple web search.
Sites like Glassdoor offer a lot of information on larger companies but few (if any) reviews of smaller ones. Employee review sites also suffer from the same problem as other review sites: dissatisfied people are far more likely to leave feedback than people who enjoy their jobs.
One way to stand out in today's competitive hiring environment is to solicit and post testimonials from your current employees. The best picks are employees who will be detailed and honest in their feedback. You could opt to have employees write reviews in their entirety, or you could ask a series of open-ended questions to solicit more in-depth answers.
Here are some questions you could ask your current employees for their testimonials:
- What made you want to start working for us in the first place?
- What is an average day like on the job?
- What do you like the best about your job? What things could we improve?
- What kinds of qualities should someone have if they want to work here?
The question-and-answer approach allows employees to go more in-depth about their experiences. It creates the possibility that you will gather feedback that's not entirely positive, but that's okay. Any information you can gather about your company and how your working environment is perceived by your employees can help you improve your approach and attract and retain better candidates.
Once you have a series of testimonials, you can post them on the careers page of your site.
4. Consider Going Remote or Hybrid
Remote work is revolutionizing the business world. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, most businesses were still operating entirely out of physical offices and retail spaces. Then the world went remote. Everyone learned how to use Zoom. Major retailers ran out of webcams. And all of us struggled to keep our kids and pets out of whatever corner of the house had become our "office."
Telecommuting has its downsides. Positions that require a person to be on-call or manage things in-person obviously can't go entirely remote. Some of us perform better in an environment outside the home where there are other people around.
But working from home also has tremendous benefits. Eliminating the daily commute lends itself to healthier sleeping and eating schedules, which can make people more productive. Remote work also opens up the possibility for people to work on tasks on a schedule that suits them, rather than trying to cram everything into a 9 to 5 schedule.
If the position you're hiring for could be done remotely, or even with 2-3 days per week out of the office, consider advertising it as a remote or hybrid position. You'll appeal to candidates who are more focused on getting the job done than sitting around an office and you will be able to choose from a much wider applicant pool.
5. Offer a Referral Bonus
Large corporations looking to fill high-level positions often employ the services of professional headhunters. The reason is simple: there are very few people with the right qualifications and connections for those roles, and at any given time, there tend to be more open positions than candidates.
By offering a referral bonus to people who recommend an applicant who you decide to hire, you turn your entire community into your recruiters.
Referrals are easy to track. Smaller companies might be able to get away with asking applicants directly if someone referred them, or by including a "referred by" field on applications. If you expect that a source might be able to give you many referrals, you might consider giving your referrers a code that applicants can enter.
The logical place to start advertising your referral bonus is on your careers page, but you can advertise your referral bonus in a variety of other locations, including:
- Social media
- Your email newsletter
- In-store or in-office flyers
- University or community college bulletin boards
- Local newspapers
- Chamber of Commerce mailings
Where you ultimately choose to post your referral bonus—and how much you offer to pay—depends on what kind of position you're hiring for. A pizza restaurant might want to offer a few hundred dollars plus a party tray for cook or delivery driver referrals, while a manufacturer looking for an engineer or a skilled machinist might offer a thousand dollars or more.
The beauty of a referral bonus is that you only pay if you end up hiring someone. Referral programs often compare favorably to the fees that professional recruiters, staffing agencies, and job boards charge.
While it can be tough right now to find new hires, there are things you can do on your own website to increase your chances of attracting qualified candidates.
A digital marketing studio can help you identify the best channels for attracting new applicants and plan a cost-effective, efficient strategy for reaching out to people looking for work.