7 Steps for Recruiting Success in Tight Labor Markets

Two obstacles stood before the business and the release of a new game-changing product. The first was achieving the technology milestones required to develop and manufacture the product. The second was hiring the 650 employees needed over 18 months to accomplish the technical, marketing and sales milestones to commercialize the product. This task fell to me and my recruiting team working with the hiring managers, 12 years ago.

Recruiting was so important, the company president and top executives reviewed recruiting metrics every Monday morning just like the technology milestones. Front and center. Initially, the company believed it needed to hire only 150 employees in the fiscal year. Within one quarter, that number jumped to approximately 300 for the year (and would jump higher the next quarter).

If achieved, it would be record-breaking hiring for the business. With less than 5% unemployment in the San Francisco Bay Area, many felt it was mission impossible. Today’s recruiters face the same low unemployment challenge, but they have newer technology to speed up finding and wooing passive candidates

In an emergency meeting with my recruiting team, I wrote “150 additional hires in 90 days!” And then I asked them, “What do you need to achieve this?” I had great recruiters. They had already hired more than 100 hard-to-find STEM employees in the first quarter of the fiscal year. After the shock of my words, their ideas began to flow.  In the next hour, they suggested the following:

  1. Let people know who you are. Although the brand of our corporate offices in the Midwest was well known, the target labor force in the San Francisco Bay Area was not aware of our business unit and products. Working with marketing and legal, we launched a Bay Area branding campaign to raise the awareness of the company’s mission, the exciting new products we were developing, and the value these products had in alleviating the effects of cardiovascular disease. We ran ads that also featured individual employees and the “cool stuff” they were working on and why they loved the innovation of our work culture. Our primary medium then was our website, newspapers, and radio. Today it would be social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook.


  1. Use more recruiting technology. The team wanted more licenses for the dominant search engines of the day, LinkedIn Boolean search, and competently trained “sourcers” to use it to identify and reach out and begin a dialogue with passive candidates. Today that solution would be Artificial Intelligence recruiting platforms to more quickly (within seconds) determine the active and passive candidates we needed—rather than the one to two-week search on LinkedIn and through job boards. Today, let AI do the sourcing and spend more of the recruiters’ time wooing and screening qualified candidates.


  1. Get out there. Branding and computer searches for candidates were great but we needed to get in front of passive candidates, face to face to create a buzz about our company and career opportunities. We began to attend career fairs that targeted our skill sets. The recruiters also participated in the company’s marketing conferences and technical conferences reaching out to pre-identified passive candidates. We held our career fair that attracted more than 400 attendees. We came away with 60 invites to tour our campus and go through in-depth interviews. This effort led to 29 job offers. Career fairs still work today!


  1. Offer competitive pay. One of my recruiters relayed the story of how two Stanford engineers laughed at our job offers because our pay was so low. The recruiter already upgraded the job title to be able to offer what he thought was more competitive pay. (This is a bad habit to get into!) His story triggered other stories from my recruiters.


Our problem was the company was on a national US pay scale that set market wages, on average 9% below the pay of the Bay Area. Worse than that, when we looked at our job families, some of them had average salaries 21% higher in the Bay Area than the national pay scale. At less than 5% unemployment, we were not going to be successful with such noncompetitive pay scales. After intense lobbying, corporate worked with us to set up a Bay Area pay structure by job families.


  1. Energize deadbeat hiring managers. Recruiters complained about some hiring managers who had several open job requisitions, but would take up to two weeks to review resumes. By the time the recruiters had received the hiring manager’s feedback, many of the candidates had moved on to other companies. To remedy this, I changed our metrics to top management to include the days it took for the hiring manager to provide feedback on recruiter referred candidates. I also implemented a rule that managers who took more than two weeks to review candidates would have their top requisitions put on hold and the candidates were given to other managers.


As you may guess, the departments with the worst numbers went ballistic, but I held my ground standing on the truth: their failure to review resumes. After a few requisitions were put on hold, and with the support of the business’ president, deadbeat managers examined their resumes quickly, and the process flowed more quickly.


  1. Make the process positive. Despite the recruiting priority, in some departments, hiring managers would not show up to their interview meetings with candidates or be more than 15 minutes late. Sometimes candidates had to wait up two hours between interviews and never received a tour of our lovely campus, technologies, and R&D facilities.


To remedy this, we hired project coordinators whose role was to be the concierge for the candidate to help with travel and hotel accommodations and to organize a convenient half or full day interview schedule for the candidate with no gaps in interviews and a tour. (We stopped a practice of repeated visits to our offices to interview with additional interviewers). They also bird dogged managers to show up for their interviews. As well, the project coordinator personally welcomed the candidates with the hiring manager and helped make the day go more smoothly. We prearranged an exciting tour and recruited tour guides from among our managers. And we made it a premium to provide fast feedback to the candidates and to turn around offers quickly. The departments recognized the value of this role, and gladly paid for it.


  1. Facilitate visas. Then like now, there were not enough U.S. born STEM workers for our technical and management roles. We worked diligently to attract recent foreign born experienced workers and University graduates who could legally work in the US, to extend their visas. .


It was rough and tumble. With the support of the executive leaders, the recruiters and hiring managers made their goal. Before the end of the 18 months recruiting campaign, we hired 650 employees and surpassed everyone’s expectations.


Are you using these steps in today’s tight labor market? The latest technology? Join the dialogue.


Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and is a Managing Partner of InnovationOne. He consults and provides “hands-on” support for innovation, global talent strategies, developing agile leaders and teams, and other strategic initiatives. Need a recruiting assessment or help with recruiting? Help with AI recruiting platforms? Please email Victor at victorassad6@gmail.com. Visit http://www.victorhrconsultant.com for valuable free reports. For innovation visit http://www.InnovationOne.io.



  1. The agency (fjwilson.com) I work with in London, UK, has experience of working in very tight markets. In our experience, point 5 is important. Employers who spend a long time reading resumes, setting interview dates, etc. miss out.

    1. Hiring managers are an important part pf the process and for creating a positive experience for the job candidates–who usually may choose from a number of offers.

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