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22 Staffing Experts on How to Recruit for Hard-to-Fill Jobs

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According to the American Staffing Association, during the course of a year, America’s staffing companies hire nearly 16 million temporary and contract employees. Additionally, Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) forecasts U.S. temporary and contract staffing sales will grow 4% in 2017; search and placement sales are expected to increase 5% in 2017. We reached out to the best of the best in the industry to ask about the most difficult part of their jobs: Recruiting for hard-to-fill positions.

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We asked, As an expert in staffing, what is your most creative tip, trick or hack to fill hard-to-fill jobs?Read the responses from the top experts:

“One strategy that I've found to be particularly powerful is to recruit in a contrarian manner by intentionally leveraging a bimodal strategy: New College Grads and Over 50. These two populations have exceptional talent, experience, innovation and those difficult to find skills. However, they are often (inadvertently) ignored by traditional recruiting approaches. While it can sometimes be more difficult to locate the talented folks, it is absolutely worth the effort for those difficult to fill positions!” Dianna D. Wilusz, CEO/Founder, The Pendolino Group

“By understanding who the major and emerging enterprise Web and Cloud Technology companies are, and knowing how to tap into key web space talent communities.” Brendon M. Carroll, Founder and CEO, Talent House Recruiters

“At the end of the day, hard to fill jobs simply require excellent effort and networking skills. You must talk to a lot of people, ask for referrals, make friends, learn what motivates those in these roles who are not working for your client. We do a lot of hard to fill positions, we charge retainers for them, we set the right expectations for the client, and we pull out every trick in the book plus a tremendous amount of effort.” Fletcher Wimbush, Chief Hiring Guru, The Hire Talent

“There are no tricks. You can't cheat the grind.” Mark Tyrrell, Managing Partner, Right Resources

“One that seems to get great results in uncovering some great talent is to ask every person you interview for the position to give you the names of three people that they work with or have worked with in the past that you can talk to about them. Also ask for contact information. Then call these people to confirm what you have been told but also to see if they have the skills and attitudes you are looking for in your new hire.” Mel Kleiman, Speaker, Author, Consultant, Humetrics, Inc.

“I would say the majority of my 'difficult to find recruits' come from employee referrals and offering referral bonuses...money talks!” Leslie Norris Merendino, Director of Recruiting, Quality Staffing Specialists

“Targeted marketing. Once you understand the types of talent you need for a specific job (skill sets, abilities, locations, etc.) you know exactly where to spend your time and effort in recruiting for that position. Referrals are also a huge part of it. People are more likely to hire someone recommended by a friend, colleague, etc. than someone they don’t know.” Sheldon Arora, CEO, LiquidAgents Healthcare

“An unusual way to find good data science candidates is through membership in professional organizations. As a Board Member of these societies, I’m first in line to distribute information about webinars, podcasts, speaking engagements and juried journal contribution chances. All professional development opportunities that aren’t that common for data scientists and opens a non-recruiting door for me with them.” Jacqueline Paige, Smith Hanley Associates

“My best tip for this comes from the old TV show, ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.’ It studied animals in their natural habitat. Humans live and work in social habitats. To recruit for a hard-to-fill job, you need to find the work and social habitat where these people are. There is simply no substitute for finding someone who does that job currently and asking them the following questions: ‘How do I find someone like you?’ ‘What associations or work related clubs have you joined?’ ‘What was the last trade association conference you attended?’ ‘What search string would you use if you were looking for someone just like you?’ For the cost of a drink or lunch you will crack the code for finding the talent for that hard to fill requisition.” Cash Nickerson, President, PDS Tech, Inc.

“I can’t stress the importance of building rapport with physician candidates before you need them.That way, when you do have that hard-to-fill job, you already have a pool of physicians you can call upon. Especially if it’s a permanent position, you want to be able to sell the best attributes to the physician based on his or her unique needs.” Sandy Garrett, President, Jackson & Coker

“Harness technology, build your brand and become a subject matter expert in your area of expertise to drive candidates to your openings. Combine that with superior sourcing and direct recruiting and you will have a targeted strategy for recruiting success.” Robin Mee, President, Mee Derby

“Anyone in recruitment would say every job requisition we get comes with its own challenges. With that, you have to change your strategy in how you fill each of them, it’s not a one size fits all approach. For positions that are harder to fill I use all resources available to me. Sometimes this involves my marketing department running a special ‘campaign’ online to calling people within my network to see if they know someone who would be a good fit for the position. I also don’t give up, if that means working on the weekend or staying late, my client is depending on me, and I’m going to make sure I get the job done.” Melissa Wike, Nursing Client Manager, Fusion Medical Staffing

“Our approach with hard to fill positions is to keep an open-mind and lots of communication between the employer and candidate. Although in some scenarios it won’t work, many clients can be open minded. If a client/employer is looking for someone with 3-5 years and we identify someone with 2 years, but, has a proven track record on being a quick learner, this may work for all!” Peggy Koch, Vice President, Key Resource Group, LLC

“Never stop recruiting. A search is not over until the candidate accepts. Never stop cultivating a pipeline of talent until the very end. We even cultivate pools of talent before an opening even arises by forging authentic relationships with top talent in our sector all the time. Making those connections, via phone or in person, and building those relationships with people really seems to make a difference.  This takes time, much like cultivating a potential donor but I think it really pays off.” Allison Wyatt, Partner, Edgility Consulting

“I’m constantly networking to ensure that I have really strong talent in the pipeline for all types of positions, so that I’m always prepared. I find my best candidates from a variety of sources. I am a big believer in asking for referrals from other impressive candidates, using my alumni network as a resource, reaching out to passive candidates, etc. It’s also very important to me that I’m extremely well versed in the company that I’m recruiting for. I like to have a very strong grasp on exactly what they need and precisely who to target in order to do the best job for the client.” Emily Levine, Vice President of Career Group

“I happen to live and recruit in one of the most beautiful places in the world (30 minutes from Glacier National Park) so when reaching out to passive candidates, I sell the location more often than the actual job.” Amy Slomba, Professional Search Recruiter, LC Staffing

“Contrary to the usual approach of casting a broad net hoping to catch any possible matches, it is much more productive to have very specific requirements when a situation calls for a rare candidate or highly unusual set of skills. While there may be very few good qualifying matches, it is far more effective and much more efficient to only collect and screen the best possible matches than to work through volumes of unsuitable opportunities which does not identify the best match. You want the best match, which means you need to first have the closest matches to chose among, not just many many non-matches. On the other hand, if the requirements are ‘impossible’ to match, better to revise these specifications before you start the process so that all your efforts yield potential results than if you start with requirements that will never work and you then have to refine these at a later time to generate potential results. Why go through the first unsuccessful process when you know you won’t succeed? It may take some effort to convince the client that their needs are impossible to satisfy, but better to do that at the beginning. If the client will not accept your recommendation and insists you try it their way first, I don’t accept the assignment.” Debra Feldman, Executive Talent Agent, JobWhiz

“Most people feel there is a ‘specialized skill’ needed when working on hard-to-fill jobs; but the silver bullet for me is found in the initial planning stage. When you’re able to get the recruiters, interviewers, and hiring managers in the same room to align on the profile (what good looks like), then the process of finding the right candidate becomes easier because a clear roadmap has been created.” Chad Beals, Director of Talent Acquisition, CHG Healthcare

“Love your network and connections. The more they know and respect you the more they will recommend you to the right people!” Donna Gillingham, Director, Ardour Recruitment

“Call candidates at lunch or on their way home from work. When I reach someone in their car, they’re less inclined to get rid of me quickly. I recently filled a hard-to-fill position this way. When I asked the candidate (who was on his Bluetooth speaker in his car) if he was open to hearing about the opportunity, he responded by saying ‘as a matter of fact I am’.” Dawn Swit, Founder, Next IT Staffing

"It’s all about developing and maintaining positive relationships with our employees and clients. Because we’re always proactively reaching out to our contacts, when a hard-to-fill job comes up we often already have someone in mind or know exactly who to call to help us find the right candidate. This approach is much more effective for us than being reactive, which typically means getting a job order and immediately spending money on advertising to promote the positions. The best advice we can give for filling challenging positions is to never clean out your phone contacts and to constantly network with good people.” Brandon Downing, Regional Leader, BelFlex Staffing Network

“When looking to close the loop on hard-to-fill jobs, we rely on our team to tap into our candidate networks to uncover talent that isn't actively on the market. While the technologies that we use are helpful, we find that candidates are willing to make a phone call to help someone in their network find a role that they may not have been aware of otherwise.” Lindsay Watson, Vice President, Client Relations, FIA NYC Employment Services

Topics: Recruiting Strategies

Updated 2017-06-26 22:15:34June 26, 2017
Kelly Love Johnson
Written by Kelly Love Johnson

Kelly Love Johnson is Content Strategist for Jobs2Careers. She's also a shower singer, TV watcher, pop culture junkie, and habitual smirker. She's passionate about helping people find their dream jobs and closing the wage gap. Her book, Skirt! Rules for the Workplace: An Irreverent Guide to Advancing Your Career, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2008.

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