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March 29, 2000
Tough Labor Market!
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ecruiter Explains 4 Tips for Great Hires

By Cathleen Faerber

It seems that everyone has advice for job seekers. Seminars on resume writing abound. Newspaper columns proliferate. Visit your local bookstore, and you'll find tons of shelf space dedicated to the topic. Everyone, it seems, has something to say on the subject.

But, as one wise old sex education teacher used to say, it takes two to tango.

There are two parties involved in the hiring process. How often do you find advice directed to the other partner in the hiring dance, namely, the employer?

Right now, employers are having a particularly difficult time. When the economy is good and employment is high, there are fewer candidates to draw from. And because, unlike in the 1980s, many people are unwilling to relocate, the labor market is that much tighter.

What's an employer to do? The first thing is to reevaluate its hiring criteria.

Some employers are very rigid about qualifications. They want so many years of highly specialized experience, plus very specific degrees, sometimes, even from particular universities. It becomes quite a challenge to find a candidate that meets all these specifications.

The solution?

Focus less on specific technical experience and more on skill sets. If you find a person with the right skills, you can train them on the particulars. In addition, to draw top-performers, employers need to offer compelling incentives.

The sign-on bonus, for example, continues to be a highly persuasive hiring incentive. Another is offering new employees a full year-end bonus, even when they only qualify for a pro-rated bonus their first year.

But besides the obvious, money, what lights up a candidate's hot button? "It's not about job security any more. Because the job market is booming. And it's not about benefits, because most benefit packages are pretty standard these days.

What people really want is extra vacation time. Everyone asks about it. An employer who is willing to be flexible is going to have a real advantage.

Most corporations link paid vacation days to length of service, which discourages an established employee from switching companies. A worker with four weeks of vacation, for example, will think twice about a moving to a company that gives him or her half that.

One employer solved this dilemma by "grandfathering" vacation time for new hires. If you have ten years of work experience when you join the firm, you receive the same amount of vacation as the employee who's been with the company that long.

Other successful hiring strategies include a generous, well-publicized employee referral program. Employees usually know other professionals in their field. A savvy employer can tap into that. The most effective referral programs reward rely on cash awards or airline tickets, although one of my clients has had great success offering free airline miles.

In addition, corporations should consider offering a wide range of perks designed to please employees. They should definitely be thinking in terms of day care vouchers and tuition refunds. However, even smaller perks, like dry-cleaning pick-up, can build good will.

Act Fast

Employers must realize that they can't delay their decisions when it comes to hiring because good people get hired quickly.

In other words, the smart employer is always looking for ways to attract, hire, and retain top-performers. There's no question about it; a company is only as good as its people. The wise employer knows this, and treats its people accordingly. That way, when the labor market gets tight like it is right now, they still come out ahead.

TIPS FOR HIRING THE BEST PEOPLE

  1. DON'T GET HUNG UP ON DEGREES Don't be so rigid about qualifications. If you find a person with the right skills, you can train them on the particulars.
  2. OFFER COMPELLING INCENTIVES The sign-on bonus continues to be a highly persuasive hiring incentive. Extra vacation time is also a favorite perk.
  3. OFFER AN EMPLOYEE REFERRAL PROGRAM Reward employees for recommending other professionals they may know in the field.
  4. STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT Cathleen Faerber is the president of The Wellesley Group, an executive recruiting firm based in Lake Zurich, Illinois. Her clients consist of companies seeking top-notch candidates. She can be reached at 847-726-8100.

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