With the updated strategic plan in hand, a replenished budget and a festive holiday season in the rear view mirror, your executive team can now plot a course for a productive 2017, right? Well that’s what you’re hoping. The reality is that once your team has zeroed in on the high-priority open positions, it can still take quite a while to fill the seats.

According to a DHI Hiring Indicators report for December 2016, which interprets Department of Labor statistics, the length of time vacancies remain open is especially pronounced and exceeds post-recession levels. So what’s behind the sluggish pace of hiring? Here are a few culprits and some tactics to sidestep the slowdown:

1. Tightening labor markets:  Many of us in the hiring world need to revisit our practices to fit today’s more competitive labor landscape. When the market was weaker we could be pickier about the list of requirements demanded of applicants. However, in today’s environment we need to ensure we’re spending most of our time at the beginning of the process zeroing in on the critical “make or break” skills and qualities needed for the role. We can then consider the “nice to haves” without mucking up the vision for what is truly needed in our candidate pool. Having a crystal clear picture of the requirements of the role will help to speed up the selection process.

2. Hiring by committee  Involving key stakeholders in selection of the incumbent provides better insight into the culture of the credit union for the candidate.  It also allows for multiple perspectives on the candidates’ strengths/weaknesses and builds buy-in from the interview team.  However, it can be difficult to find available time in multiple executives’ calendars for interview scheduling which can drag out the process. And even more serious than the additional time needed for the committee approach, results can be skewed if the process isn’t consistent for all candidates (i.e. different questions posed to candidates, changing  interviewers, etc.) This can result in having to revisit or re-perform some recruiting steps before moving forward. HR plays an important role in training the interview team to mitigate employer risk and setting the timing and structure of the hiring process:  providing interview questions, assessment criteria, establishing the interview calendar and how feedback will be collected. Communication and alignment of objectives can avert some delay.

3. Unicorn hunting:  Some decision makers can get too hung up on landing the “ideal” or “perfect” candidate. We need to recognize that the current market is very active and the clock is already ticking on those strategic initiatives. Focus on defining more than the job description and dive into the intended culture, projects or outcomes for which the incumbent will be responsible. Recruiters will have a more practical outlook about the potential candidate pool and can assist in setting realistic expectations so you’re not spending hours exploring the forest for mythical creatures.

4. Bells and whistles:  Technology infused hiring has the potential to make the process more efficient, but some credit unions have swung the pendulum too far by adding extraneous pre-hire steps.  This could cause credit unions to disqualify candidates based on a robotic process which falsely decreases the qualified applicant pool. Review your application process to make sure each assessment or selection activity is producing the results desired. Also, employers need to ensure that any pre-employment assessments are reliable and proven indicators of actual job performance. If they are not, ditch that part of the selection process.  Job seekers have the luxury of not needing to be patient in today’s environment and are not willing to jump through unnecessary hoops making it harder and more time consuming for you to find your perfect hire.

5. Ongoing communication Landing the best candidates for your credit union requires constant communication. Candidates are most excited and motivated at the beginning of the process.  If your hiring process spans over several months these high performers are going to lose interest or believe that you are not interested in pursuing them unless they hear from you regularly.  Recruiting processes need to run efficiently and be focused on communication and timely feedback to guard against losing top candidates. If you lose your best candidates, you will be forced to either accept less qualified candidates or start the process over.

After you have established the most efficient hiring strategy, put the vacant position in context by evaluating your local market, the size and complexity of your credit union, the level of the position and the competitiveness of the role’s compensation.  A search firm can give you a good read on many of those factors to help assess the time you’ll need to invest in a thorough process to fill those critical roles.

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