Thinking Outside the Resume: How to Hire More People

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IT HASN’T BEEN called The Great Resignation for nothing. Forty-eight million people quit their jobs in 2021, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And the trend continued into 2022. This past April was the 11th straight month that more than 4 million people quit their jobs. There is no reason to think this will end any time soon. What started off as The Great Resignation is now being referred to as The Great Reshuffle. Employees are quitting their current positions because of the strong job market. There are lots of opportunities with the promise of higher pay.

Realtors talk about a seller’s market, where a low housing inventory drives up sale prices. We are now in an employees’ market, where the presence of 11.3 million job openings is pushing up wages and benefits. Given this surplus of openings, it may be time for employers to start doing things differently. We are not going to be able to do what we have always done. COVID-19 upended our lives, and not just medically. It changed people’s attitudes toward life, especially when it comes to work.

According to the BLS, the trade, transportation, and utilities industries are experiencing the most resignations in 2022. What can employers do about this? They need to begin by accepting that they can’t do what they have always done— which is just post a job, hire an employee, and move forward. Employers need to focus on the characteristics of the current workforce.

Who’s Out There?

Employers are already familiar with the current pool of applicants, ranging from millennials to baby boomers. They have much to learn about the newest generation in the workforce: Generation Z. Born after 1997, the generation’s oldest members are just 25. This is the most diverse generation the country ever has seen, in terms of both race and ethnicity, and its members are likely to have the most formal education of any generation in U.S. history.

Technology plays a major, if not a central, role in their lives. Unlike their predecessors, who respectively came of age during the dawn of television, computers, and the internet, Generation Z was never part of a world without such advances. Most of today’s 10-year-olds not only know what Wi-Fi means, but also how to procure it. Employers need to realize that technology—and particularly social media—likely will be the best and fastest way to reach this next generation of workers.

Moreover, the younger generations of workers tend to see work as merely one part of their lives. They are much more likely to value the importance of time outside of work than some of their predecessors and insist on a work/life balance. They also are much more likely to change jobs; the BLS found that, pre-pandemic, the median job tenure for workers aged 25 to 34 was only 2.8 years. Given these realities, employers may want to rethink some of their benefit packages. The younger generations may be willing to forego some higher pay for more time off, or value the opportunities for travel, education, and other experiences outside of the traditional office setting.

Rethink Job Requirements

So many job descriptions have the same threshold requirements: a certain level of education and so many years of experience. Yet are such pre-requisites really essential? In many cases, employers may simply be relying on generally accepted standards instead of analyzing what specific skills the position actually requires? Employers inadvertently may be constructing roadblocks that keep talented people new to the industry or the workforce from applying for jobs for which they would be good fits.

Along those lines, it may be worth reconsidering prohibitions on prior criminal records. Nobody expects you to hire Hannibal Lecter, but all criminal records are not equal. Many people are ready and able to work, in part to put prior transgressions behind them and prove to themselves and others that they can be contributing members of society. Considering some of these long-excluded people could help alleviate worker shortages.

New Marketing Approaches

The workforce consists of people with a wide range of backgrounds, from ex-offenders with general equivalency degrees to Ph.D.’s with years of experience in a particular industry. Some will implicitly understand the nature of a particular job and the skills and tasks it will require, while others will not. Reaching those less familiar about the field and the position will require a different marketing approach. Consider creating toolkits that include one-pagers about the company and its industry as well as infographics with job descriptions. It is the recruiting equivalent of show and tell.

Create short videos or interview current employees and let prospective hires see and hear directly from current workers. Don’t sugarcoat conditions. Encourage employees to tell the good, the bad, and the ugly about the work and the company—without fear of reprisal. (In the age of social media, it is likely that the negatives are already out there—or will be soon enough.) Put these videos on social media or create social tiles promoting your industry and announcing that you are hiring.

When posting on social media, you don’t need to be extravagant—just say you are hiring and include the salary. Putting some money behind these ads can help ensure that the appropriate message reaches the targeted audiences.

Looking Ahead

Although one “can’t be all things to all people,” it is important to develop different recruiting strategies for different populations. Baby boomers may not be comfortable applying online; have paper job applications available. Members of Generation Z are likely to obtain much of their information from social media; creating ads or social tiles with information about your industry or job openings is likely to be a more effective approach in reaching this audience than many other approaches. Similarly, it may be helpful to develop and disseminate job descriptions in different languages and to reevaluate the particular requirements for various positions.

It is time to think outside of the box and the resume. Now is the time to look into all of your hiring practices and make the necessary changes you need to be able to obtain the good quality workers you need.

Meghan Henning is Founding Partner at OnWrd & UpWrd.