Need Top Talent in a Tight Job Market? Advice from an HR Pro
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Need Top Talent in a Tight Job Market? Advice from an HR Pro

Need Top Talent in a Tight Job Market? Advice from an HR Pro

When searching for talent, we need to hone our people skills, draw on our staffing skills, and use all the tools at our disposal to be effective. When recruiting, selecting, and onboarding employees, our goal is to hire and retain the best talent.

The right fit

At our company, our goal is to provide every guest, on every visit, a superb experience that creates a lasting memory. This is done largely with the help of friendly, attentive team members in each of our restaurants. Current industry trends make it tempting to hire team members quickly to fill vacant spots, but it is crucial to focus on recruiting the right talent.

First, ask yourself, “What characteristics am I looking for in an employee?” You can determine the right characteristics by examining successful team members and comparing the characteristics they have in common with your best employees. Look and listen for the following:

  • Warm and friendly facial expressions
  • Eye contact
  • Neat or clean appearance
  • Positive demeanor
  • Outgoing personality
  • Thoughtful communication
  • Personal stories of helping others
  • Courteous and polite conversation
  • Attention to detail
  • A purpose-driven reason for wanting to work

Reactive vs. strategic sourcing

Once you have identified the qualities you are looking for, then you can ask the second question: “Where do I find them?”

There are two types of sourcing practices: reactive and strategic. Reactive sourcing is when you try to find suitable candidates for a role or roles that are already open. This is more of a short-term approach and is typically used when unexpected and unplanned vacancies arise. Strategic sourcing fills the pipeline with people who may be suitable for positions when they become available. It’s a long-term approach that helps to reduce your time to hire and any loss of productivity from a lengthy transition period.

It’s easy to become reactive in sourcing candidates, but it’s better to challenge yourself and your managers to be proactive. Since you are actively looking for candidates in everything you do, you have the time and opportunity to decide who fits the characteristics of your ideal candidate. This will help to avoid “panic hiring.” Hiring just to fill a position will likely result in having to hire again soon. Beyond that, other team members’ productivity may decrease if new recruits are not suited for the role.

A candidate not actively looking for a job may be interested in accepting a new position if it is better than their current one. Passive candidates may also be interested in part-time positions that allow for scheduling around their current positions.

Always having a pool of candidates ready to move into new positions is a huge benefit and creates “bench strength.” The best sports teams have people waiting to move into positions as needed. Remember that proactive sourcing is not only for outside hires. Continually train your existing team so they are ready to take on new responsibilities when needed.

Always be ready

When it comes to sourcing team members, always keep an eye out for potential candidates. Keep your business cards handy because you never know when the right candidate will appear. If the person you’re recruiting is not available or interested, ask if they know someone who is looking and would be a good fit.

It also helps to inform your current team about open positions. Add a poster on your bulletin board and talk about it during shift meetings. Put an employee referral program together to encourage employees to recommend other superstars. There are many other avenues you can use to proactively source.

Your guests. Every guest can be viewed as a potential candidate. If not the guests themselves, they can recommend friends or family.

Where you shop and dine. When that special person gives you “wow” service, give them a business card. Invite them to lunch to open a dialogue.

Schools. A fantastic way to increase your applicant pool is to become friendly with local school guidance counselors and coaches. Build relationships with high schools and colleges.

Friends and family. Consistently ask friends and family members if they know anyone looking for work.

Job fairs. Local colleges and government employment services often host job fairs.

Military establishments. This may be a good tactic when seeking candidates for part-time work. Additionally, many military programs assist veterans in transitioning back to the private sector. (Search for “Hire a Veteran” on the Dept. of Labor’s website.)

Job board posts. Examples include Indeed, Workstream, and Facebook. Track your ROI by comparing how much you spend with how many hires you make.

Community groups. Introduce yourself and the brand to local caretaker groups, Nextdoor, city websites, etc. Post open positions on discussion boards.

Senior activity centers. This is a great option for locating part-time day positions.

Hispanic resource centers. Here you will often find programs that help integrate new citizens into the workforce.

People with disabilities. There are several programs that help people with disabilities gain work experience. (Search “Hiring People with Disabilities” on the Dept. of Labor’s website.)

Rehires. Consider contacting previous employees who left on good terms.

Mary Lou Atkins is vice president of human resources at Chicken Salad Chick. A seasoned HR executive with 40+ years of experience in the restaurant industry, she is skilled in talent and performance management as well as in employee relations. She joined Chicken Salad Chick in 2019 as HR director after 35 years at Popeyes in various positions in operations, training, and HR.

Published: October 5th, 2023

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