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How to Attract Qualified Candidates to Your Job Opening

As the economy recovers, businesses are more eager to hire employees. But unemployment is coming down from what were record levels, and America’s workforce is eager to apply for any job, regardless of qualifications. What can an employer do to attract qualified candidates with the right skill set and experience to their openings.

EmploymentCrossing spoke with a few experts about this issue, and their responses are below.

The situation described above is very common, and technology has made this a more frequent occurrence because of how simply one can apply to a multitude of jobs online. The good news is that technology also provides ways to combat the problem for employers.

Social media is everywhere you look, and 92% of companies surveyed last year said they use social media in recruiting. Of those, 73% have actually hired someone from their social recruiting efforts.

Social media gives you access to a more unfiltered look at the kind of interests and background that the candidate is coming from. You can also view their connections to others in the industry. This is huge for an employer trying to make sure they find someone that will fit the culture of their business.

The second tip for finding the right people is to leverage the people you already have. Make employee referrals a focus item for your current employees. These are people that you already trust, so applicants they personally recommend have a better probability of working out than someone with no connection to the company.

Jake Cain

In the current job market, unfortunately almost any effort to limit applicants to those qualified for a job is likely to fail. Those who do not fit the qualifications often answer ads, postings and even company internal recruiting efforts in the hopes they will be considered for another position. Of course applicant tracking systems can to some degree separate these candidates.

The only way I know of to limit responses to those that are qualified is to post to niche sites, advertise the niche trade publications and go to associations that have members in the areas you are trying to recruit from.

This assumes you are interested in advertising as opposed to going to some kind of search.

The site I founded after retiring from recruiting,, has a job
board function that targets older workers. Most older workers not only have the appropriator experience but are less likely to apply or send their credentials in answer to a posting when there is little if any match. This is not true for younger workers.

Art Koff

After working for many companies through the years, here's what I think are vital points for hiring. First you need a clear sense of what you need. What pain points or gaps need to be filled. I have been on interviews for positions that were definitely unclear in terms of what the company was looking for. I was interviewed for a part time position that may or may not be full time. The company didn't know if they wanted to focus more on PR or more on Marketing, and had no idea what the position was worth to them. That was a waste of my time.

When I interview people, I look for traits that fit the organization, I make sure I am transparent about the actual job-glamour and drudgery-and I make sure people understand the organization. There is nothing worse than a company painting a pretty (and often false) picture, then having that person end up in a place completely contrary to the expectations set. That is a recipe for an unhappy employee.

In terms of the under-, over-, and misunderstood, I don't think you will be able to solve that problem. Under-qualified folks think or know they can step up their game. Over-qualified folks may just need a job and have reached a point in their life where companies are not open to looking at them any longer, so they apply for anything they can do. As for the misunderstood, sometimes people are just not intelligent enough to understand, or they just feel they are improving their odds with a greater number of resumes out there, or they feel they have transferable skills. Transferable skills are incredibly hard to sell, though they shouldn't be.

Maria Coppola
Marketing Manager

I'm an HR consulting in Minneapolis. I've been in business for 20+ years and in HR for 30+. There are a wide variety of reasons that an ad attracts the wrong people. Here's a quick rundown of ideas, issues and solutions.


• The job title doesn't match what people are looking for when they search for jobs. You may have an industry-specific title or it's just what someone made up one day. Step back to see whether you'd respond to that job title or whether there's a more attractive one for the ad. You can always call the job anything you want internally, but will it attract qualified people?

• The employment ad isn't specific enough or it doesn't really describe what the tasks and responsibilities are. Candidates are first attracted to the title, then they read through the ad to see whether the job sounds interesting and whether they have the skills or capability to perform the job. Make sure the description is a true reflection of what the person will be doing.

• No one's heard of your company. Make sure your ads include a description of your organization. What do you do and what in your work culture makes you special. If you're a small friendly informal group, include that information. If you're a larger organization with opportunity for growth, include that information.

• You have to just recognize that you'll be spending a lot of time scanning resumes of unqualified people who are just trying to get into a company hoping someone will give them a chance. Learn how to skim those resumes quickly. Or for more entry level positions, determine whether you can hire a base skill set and teach the person the job when people aren't appearing with the experience you're seeking.

• You're advertising the position in the wrong places. If you're hiring for a generic job, then Craigslist and other generic web job posting sites will work fine. If the position is industry-specific, then be sure to advertise where your audience is reading. Also, attend local industry meetings and start networking to see who knows someone who might fit the specifications.

• Print ads are more effective than online ads. This is also position specific. But if your target employee doesn't need to be computer literate for the job, then that person may be conducting their job search from print ads rather than online ads. Print ads are typically more expensive than online ads, but if it pulls the candidates, use that method.

• You're reputation in the community is that of a high turnover employer. There are some organizations that are always advertising for positions. Some people may think that you're not a good place to work with all those openings. If you are growing and that's your reason for all the hiring, then write in the ad, "Due to growth we have an opening for..." If you're reputation isn't great, then sell your assets in the ad as well as in other public venues.

Arlene Vernon
HRx, Inc.

Define the Need… why do we need to hire?

When looking to hire top talent, the first step must be to understand why?

• Is the opening to replace an under performer or to backfill from internal promotion?

• Is the new hire requisition in anticipation of growth, a new product, or service launch?

• How much direct industry experience is critical for success in this role?

• Is the best candidate fit related to a comparable platform size, customer base, or client size?

Another great step is to identify the first year charter. A first year charter sets realistic goals and expectations for the new hire. Consider what business accomplishments will result in a favorable review one year out. The first year charter will accomplish two tasks: it identifies the expected impact from the new hire from the starting gate and provides a lens for long term success benchmarking.

Another equally important task is understanding your work culture and the type of individuals that flourish in the company.

To assess the potential culture fit of the new candidate and the existing team, I complete the following checklist with my clients:

• What type of player succeeds and what type fails at your firm?

• Describe the current culture of the work force/workplace.

• How do ex-employees describe your culture?

• Does your firm need to pivot to the next phase of culture due to growth?

• Identify and describe the attributes of your most successful key players.

• What most effectively motivates the team - a need for glory or gold?

Consider Employee Referral Programs

Businesses often create Employee Referral Programs, which compensates existing personnel for bringing in qualified recruits. These incentives reward loyal and trusted and employees and also strengthen corporate culture and expand the talent pool. This is a great way to uncover candidates that aren't actively considering new employment.

Being more specific for requirements is the best way to find top talent.

Charley Polachi
Managing Partner at Polachi Access Executive Search