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How to Hire in a Low Unemployment Environment

How to Hire in a Low Employment Environment

Optimize your hiring strategy in any employment climate by using behavioral language, managing individual needs, and looking at non-traditional candidates.

How to Hire in a Low Unemployment Environment

Guest Blog Post by Dolly Penland, President at Business Results and APS Partner

The hiring process can be challenging. You need to effectively find the best candidates to meet your organization’s strategic goals. But how do you fast track the right applicants when the talent pool is shallow? The key is to hone your recruiting process so it results in successful hires no matter the unemployment climate.

The State of Unemployment

The monthly unemployment has been trending low for the past several months, now at 3.6% as of April 2019. There are also more job openings in the U.S. than unemployed people actively seeking jobs. While this is great for the American economy, it can present challenges for employers looking to hire new employees. But these challenges don’t have to hold you back when you have a good mix of tactics in your hiring playbook. Consider implementing these approaches into your recruiting process.

Use Behavioral Language to Better Attract Candidates

When hiring in a historically low-unemployment environment, it’s important to employ different strategies. The first thing to understand is what types of employees you need to perform different jobs, looking beyond their skills, knowledge, and experience. For example, an aggressive, go-getter salesperson is different from a long-term relationship salesperson. They are both “sales” employees, but the behavioral and cognitive attributes required for each are different. Employers must clearly define what those ideal qualities and weave language into their job descriptions to attract better candidates.

Example A

Example A

This fast-growing firm is looking for an independent self-starter who is driven to proactively help resolve customers’ problems. Each day is different, with new opportunities to troubleshoot issues to the best resolution for the client.

Example A Behavioral and Cognitive Target
Example B

Example B

The successful candidate will be an assertive, practical problem-solver driven to get things done, quickly and correctly. The duties of this job require a high degree of expertise and skill in maintaining established standards of quality and accuracy. Drive, determination and a self-disciplined approach are required to achieve expected results.

Example B Behavioral and Cognitive Target
Example C

Example C

Are you a reliable team player? We need organized, supportive employees who will carefully adhere to very clearly-defined tasks that result in the same outcomes every day. The successful candidate must have very strong attention to detail while working at a steady, consistent pace.

Example C Behavioral and Cognitive Target

Manage Each Individual to Help the Team

Each of the successful candidates for the three job description examples above is managed, motivated, and communicated in different ways. One-size-fits-all management styles do not work. And because the Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed the Quits rate remained consistent in the last quarter, companies need to be aware that their rock star employees might leave them if not properly managed. The amount of people voluntarily leaving companies is higher than the national average in the Southern states, where it was 2.6% in December 2018 and January 2019.

Managers and leaders at all levels must know how to best give direction, offer feedback, and even give kudos to each person in a way that will positively motivate them. Most managers lead people the way they themselves want to be led. Instead, utilizing an assessment tool will help managers learn how to best motivate each individual reporting to them.

Consider non-traditional candidates




With increased competition for good candidates, many companies are looking beyond the mainstream for new hires, like considering those with criminal records. Research from the Kellogg School of Management shows when ex-offenders are hired, employers not only gain good employees but those workers tend to stay in the job much longer and recidivism rates decrease dramatically.

As this pool of under-explored talent has come to be more widely recognized, new initiatives to help give those with criminal histories a fair chance at employment are springing up. A good example is Getting Talent Back to Work, led by SHRM in partnership with Koch Industries. There’s also a campaign to “Ban the Box”, meaning the checkbox that asks when someone applies for a job if they have a criminal background.

While hiring someone with a criminal history can be a win-win, due diligence is in order:

  • Consult with an attorney about these potential hires.
  • Ask about felony convictions before you actually hire an employee.
  • Consider how long it has been since the conviction or if there have been recent offenses.
  • Make sure the job role is a good fit for the applicant based on their past offense.

Even with these caveats, considering these candidates gives you the chance to have a positive impact on both your business and the community by gaining a loyal employee as well as giving someone a second chance.

Individuals With Disabilites

Individuals With Disabilities

Searching for good job candidates in a tight labor market can also mean exploring other under-served talent pools. For example, individuals with disabilities tend to have higher rates of unemployment or underemployment. Hiring people with disabilities greatly benefits not only that person but the company and the larger community. This could include physical disabilities (e.g. veterans with disabilities) as well as intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Again, research shows these are often loyal employees who are less likely to leave the company. It’s important to consider the requirements of the job as well as the candidate. The U.S. Department of Labor has a wealth of information regarding hiring individuals with disabilities and there are some potential tax credits available to employers as well.

Former Military and Their Spouses

Former Military and Their Spouses

Those separating from the military are also good job candidates. However, some employers may have difficulty understanding how a military resume translates to the private sector. Military.com is a great resource that has a “skills translator” that explains many of these military skills.

Military spouses are another good source of potential employees, often overlooked simply because their resumes include short work stints as they move from military base to military base. Their spouse may get stationed somewhere else in a few years but while they are working for you, they will serve you well while their spouse serves the nation.



Finally, consider hiring retirees. Some employers may worry that retirees will expect too high a wage, but many retirees want to work simply because they miss the action and comradery of work. Or they often must go back to work because they don’t have the retirement savings to maintain their lifestyles. According to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly benefit in 2019 is $1,461. In any case, the experience and work ethic they bring to the table can make them great candidates.

Optimize Your Hiring Strategy

Just like any other business strategy, the hiring process is not “set it and forget it”. Employers have to keep a finger on the pulse of their recruiting practices and adjust as needed. In a low unemployment environment, these tweaks may include tactics like behavioral language to attract quality candidates, managing at the individual level to help boost employee retention, or even looking at non-traditional candidates for an untapped talent pool. By utilizing an array of methods, organizations can optimize their hiring strategy and bolster their recruiting efforts no matter the employment climate.


About The Author

Dolly Penland is President and CEO of Business Results, a consultancy firm that helps companies improve their bottom line by addressing their most valuable resource: their people. As Human Capital Strategists, they teach clients how to optimize their talent by aligning their business strategy with their people strategy for optimal Business Results.

For more information, visit businessresultsllc.com.