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hard to fill positions

What Recruiters Need To Know About Hard To Fill Positions

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Hard to fill positions are what keep recruiters up at night. Whether it’s finding someone with the right skills or in the right geography, hiring for certain roles can seem like an impossible feat. Which reqs are difficult to fill can be influenced by greater economic trends, and right now it may feel like all roles are hard to fill. It’s not in your head, the New York Times reports a rise in job openings (by 35%)  and a fall in applications (by 20%).

With workers having their pick of jobs (many having used the past year to upskill into new roles), we thought it’s important to discuss this tight labor market and give some advice to employers who want to keep hitting their recruiting and growth goals.

What are ‘hard to fill’ positions?

CNN reports that the pandemic has added an additional squeeze to the labor force as working parents may find it hard to procure childcare with schools and daycare centers not yet back to full capacity. Many employers are receiving fewer applications per job than in 2019. That being said, ‘hard to fill positions’ means different things to different teams. Sometimes a position is hard to fill because the role requires very specific expertise or experience, other times the risk or demands of the role narrow the candidate pool

Why are they considered ‘hard to fill?’

There are several indicators of a position being hard to fill. Perhaps the number of applicants declined or the applicants aren’t qualified. Another indicator is if your hiring velocity has decreased i.e. your ability to hire on time and on budget. If you are struggling to hire right now, you’re not alone. CNBC recently reported that small businesses are particularly struggling to find the right talent with 42% of owners having job reqs that couldn’t be filled and 99% of those businesses said that qualified talent was scarce or none existent. 

Recruitment strategies for hard to fill positions

In June of this year (2021) the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a nationwide initiative to address the workforce shortage which included legislation to increase the availability of childcare and expand visa programs. In tandem with these more universal measures, you may want to take some targeted action yourself within your company.

The Harvard Business Review cautions against relying on market norms of the past, i.e. don’t expect candidates to return to you when unemployment benefits run out. Consider that some workers have relocated or upskilled, while others are still struggling to find childcare or are concerned about their health and safety. HBR suggests these tactics…

  • Look local and global: Practical concerns like transportation and being able to get to the job are of paramount importance when it comes to in-person roles. Consider on-the-ground recruiting tactics for locals (like flyers or referral bonuses) or geographically targeted ad campaigns. For remote roles, do not restrict the talent pool based on time zones; by opening up the talent pool to various geographic regions, you can find talent in underserved or untapped areas.
  • Make commutes easy: Many people have relocated during the pandemic away from big cities so you may find your talent pool depleted. Make the commute into town worth it with transportation passes or gas compensation. If the job is virtual only, or based on a hybrid model, be accommodating to the at-home necessities of your prospective applicants; for instance, if they need to look after elderly family members or children at-home, create work schedules that permit them the best hours to be productive while at work and attentive to their roles at home.
  • Pay a living wage: It’s no secret that wages have stagnated in the past few decades, adjusting salaries for current day living costs will attract loyal workers. This is especially important for essential workers whose jobs have become riskier in the wake of the pandemic.
  • Invest in health precautions: Be proactive about communicating your health precautions whether it’s mandated vaccinations, free PPE, onsite safety precautions, or time off for vaccination recovery. You can include this information on the job advertisement or your career site to let candidates know you care about their safety.

Consider your demographics: You may also want to consider recruiting efforts to older worker demographics (50+) or parents, as these groups have been hit hard by layoffs and childcare concerns throughout the pandemic. Targeting your outreach and even making sections on your career site addressing these groups will let them know they are welcome. For parents specifically, flexible work options and explicitly stating you don’t judge resume gaps could be a game changer.

Hard Jobs to Fill in 2021

The LA Times reports that small businesses are having a harder time filling positions than larger corporations. Often larger businesses can afford quick salary or benefit hikes that SMBs can’t. Economists surmise that as the job market expands once again, the lowest paid jobs will be the last to be filled and caution against seeing these changes as anything permanent.

In the past few years, employers have struggled to find tech talent. Now, anecdotally, it seems that in-person roles are some of the hardest to fill right now. This comes as no surprise with childcare and personal safety still being a concern of many workers.

  • Foodservice
  • Education 
  • Childcare
  • Elderly care
  • Cleaning
  • Construction

How Employers Can Help The Underemployed and Unemployed + Fill Open Roles

Sylvia Allegretto, a UC Berkeley labor economist, told the LA Times that the shortage isn’t with labor but with benefits. When we consider this idea, it brings some of the trends we are experiencing on the ground into perspective: decreased applications for entry level / in-person jobs. These roles, especially, have seen a stagnation with wages and benefits.

Perhaps it’s time to offer vacation days and health care options for part time workers and hybrid work options for parents. With so many people having been laid off in the last year, these benefits and accommodations could be a good way to build trust with prospective employees and show you care about their livelihoods, in addition to their workplace productivity.

Studies reported by Forbes have shown that unemployment benefits and stimulus payments are not a deterrent to return to work, but poor treatment is. Workers now feel they can find better work than they could before. This is a good business case to invest in culture — no matter the size of your business.

Jackson Hille

SEO Manager at SmartRecruiters