Hire creatively for hard to fill jobs

Reading Inc. Magazine’s list of the The 5 Hardest Jobs to Fill 2013 it’s easy to see a distinct tech start-up flavor. Their list is littered with jobs essential to tech start-ups such as data scientists, mobile developers, enterprise software specialists and one we’ve had our own trouble sourcing, Ruby on Rails developers. So what is it that makes these jobs particularly hard to fill and what can companies do about it?

The contributing factors

It’s easy to look at this in the simple terms of supply and demand. Technical positions create a scarcity of candidates with the skills and experience to fill the jobs. Ruby on Rails is a good example of this due to its new-found status as the go-to platform for web apps and the demand for developers sky-rockets. Keen developers see the shortage and have the choice of holding out for the best offers or by establishing themselves as contractors and starting their own development firms. Neither scenario is ideal for growing companies.

Another contributing factor is geography. Generally speaking, being located in an industry cluster or hub increases the amount of the talent in the local area. It also increases competition for the talent, but overall the outcome is favorable to companies. Proximity to large educational institutions can often be beneficial and this often goes hand-in-hand with the creation industry or technology hubs mentioned above.

The pull, or lack thereof, of your company’s brand and associated candidate-facing activities is often an issue, especially for: small and medium businesses, companies without a strong consumer focus or those in a little-known industry. Imagine for example (you may not have to imagine), your company competing with Facebook, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, etc. for those hard-to-find people.

Rethink how you recruit

What can you do if you are having trouble filling your open roles? Obviously, switching to a new technology or moving to a new location are likely not realistic options (but not necessarily out of the question as this story demonstrates).

Here are three ideas to get you started:

  1. Optimize Your Sourcing
    You’re likely going to have to work harder to attract the same quantity and quality of candidates. Be prepared to leverage your employee networks, search for passive candidates and use a range of job boards.
  2. Differentiate Your Brand
    Spend some extra time on the job description and tell candidates what’s great about your workplace. You may not be Google or Bank of America, but share the details about why they should want to work with you. You may be surprised what motivates applicants to apply (hint: It is not a list of requirements, that’s for sure).
  3. Hire for Potential and Attitude
    Sometimes you need a candidate to have that specific skill or experience (think about our Ruby on Rails developer above). Other times, however, you may identify a great candidate that has potential and a great attitude. Weigh the short-term cost of the additional training against the long value and you may find a better long-term fit.

Make no mistake, finding the right candidates for your hard to fill jobs is going to be difficult and take some work, but by expanding and optimizing your techniques you’ll soon attract better and more qualified applicants. We’ll be exploring all of these techniques in more detail in later blog posts.

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