Best Strategies in an Increasingly Competitive Employment Arena
According to the most recent Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, one of the most trusted surveys of global employment activity, 19 percent of the 18,000 hiring managers surveyed had plans to hire in the fourth quarter of this year, the best job outlook since the first quarter of 2008. Maryland’s numbers closely mirror the national average, with 18 percent of employers planning to hire more employees for fourth quarter. Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas has forecasted that national seasonal employment gains in retail alone could jump from 786,200 workers during the final three months of last year to more than 800,000 this season for the first time since 1999.
What all of this means to local employers is a more competitive hiring climate and a need for more creative hiring strategies. So how should you approach hiring as the economy continues to rebound? I95 BUSINESS asked local businesses and recruiters for their best advice.
Sheryl Davis Kohl of Aberdeen-based Beacon Staffing Alternatives, Inc. says she is seeing a significant increase in the number of companies using temporary staffing. In October, she attended an American Staffing Association conference where she learned that across the country, temporary staffing is up 4 percent from 2013. Davis Kohl points out that temporary employment can often serve as a bridge to full-time employment, either with the company where the person is temping or at another company thanks to the experience he or she has gained. “As a staffing associate, you are technically on a working interview,” she points out, and says this is a strategy more companies are using to hire.
Donald Askey, regional manager of Baltimore-based Abacus Staffing, agrees, saying “Most turnover happens in the first 30 days of employment, so temp-to-perm can be an effective way to try before you buy.” He also points out that more companies are turning to staffing agencies to save time and money as well as to better respond to job-seekers’ schedules. “When a company does a direct hire it requires time and effort to screen prospective employees. Also, if you’re hiring professional positions, it can be hard to reach people during the day, yet most in-house HR staff check out at five o’clock. An employment placement firm can spend the extra time at night to screen candidates and streamline the job search.”
All the local staffing firms we spoke with agree technology has changed the way they do business. Both Beacon Staffing Associates and Abacus Staffing rely heavily on online job boards including Monster, CareerBuilder, Snagajob, the Maryland Workforce Exchange, LinkedIn and Indeed. One of the newest ones, ZipRecruiter, is getting a lot of buzz. Askey says, “ZipRecruiter is pretty hot; we’re getting good response from them. They do a lot of advertising and free trials so it’s easy to buy in.” For high-level executives, TheLadders posts job opportunities for professionals making $100,000 and up.
Davis Kohl also relies on software that automatically pushes website updates to LinkedIn and Facebook and takes advantage of “scrapes,” where job boards scrape your website job postings and pull them into their job boards. “You get really good candidates because people don’t have to get in their car and drive around. They can go on the Internet, pick and choose, pick up the phone and call or even fill out an online application, which makes job-hunting easier for people with full-time jobs. You don’t even really need a computer; more and more people are finding us through their smartphone, iPad, etc.”
And while seasoned HR professional and executive Eric Rebbert, owner of one of the area’s newest staffing companies, Express Employment Professionals, does use job boards and the software that allows sites like Indeed to scrape his website job postings, he cautions, “Sometimes I think they can be confusing to applicants because information can be redundant, and sometimes it takes them to opportunities where they have to subscribe to find out more.” On social media, Rebbert especially likes LinkedIn for bringing in what he calls “passive” job seekers who look at LinkedIn once a week or so just to see if there are any great opportunities.
Face to Face Still Matters
Even with all this technology, Davis Kohl says her firm still attends job fairs. “There is absolutely still a place for in-person recruiting. At a job fair it’s an opportunity to put a face with those resumes and find out about people. Plus, at a job fair a job-seeker can make an impact on 50 employers. You never know, even if they don’t have an opening today, they may remember your qualifications three months from today and connect with you then.”
Rebbert agrees there’s nothing that replaces face-to-face, in-person networking. “I’ve been prospecting the past month, doing survey calls, asking companies how they find employees and asking the people I’m talking with how they found their jobs. It’s not scientific, but more than 50 percent knew somebody at the company, got a referral or had someone suggest they talk to someone.”
Chris Poling, engineering director with SCB International Materials, a company headquartered in Connecticut with support staff in Maryland, says his company primarily relies on recruiters but often locates the person they want through a network or through LinkedIn and then approaches them directly. “They may not ever even see a job description or indicate that they are looking. We rarely post a position publicly and typically know the individual in advance.”
Hiring for Small Businesses
Of all the businesses hiring, small businesses may be the ones who have to get the most creative thanks to limited budgets. BumbleJunk, a local junk hauling company, turns to the free service Craigslist, which offers tremendous volume but demands significant time as a result. Company founder Ryan Sentz says, “We get tons of responses, but you do have to wade through them thoroughly. Most people with whom we network use it as well.”
HR consultant and business coach Renee McNally of Leadership Matters cautions that Craigslist is not always free and may not be as effective for professional positions, although she agrees hourly jobs fare better there. McNally explains, “It depends on the job. I like LinkedIn and social media, especially for millennials. CareerBuilder is still a player though, and sites like ZipRecruiter will pull from a number of different sites. Some people use Indeed, but it usually has outdated postings.”
Judy Fritz, owner of VIP Services, says although she is not a recruiter, she does have clients who turn to her to help with hiring. “I do the posting, weeding and pre-interviews to save them time,” says Fritz. “It depends on the position what avenues I use. It could be LinkedIn, Facebook, Patch or just word of mouth.”
Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hiring. As Rebbert explains, the best recruiting tactics depend on whom you are trying to reach. “Are you targeting millennials? That’s social media all the way, specifically Facebook and Craigslist. On the other hand, I’m recruiting right now for a senior executive, and that’s a LinkedIn post.”
Depending on whether you’re looking for temporary or permanent staff, for executives or skilled laborers, all the experts agree on one thing: for the best results, you need to customize your strategy to reach the specific job seekers in your unique niche. I95