In a tight labor market, get more selective
Updated: Aug 26
There is a lot of talk from HR and hiring managers that the hiring market is tight. Recruiters are continually coming up short. In a recent conversation I had, one hiring manager stated that “finding good people has become harder than ever.”
She’s not alone in her opinion here. In fact, we surveyed 750 people involved in the hiring process and asked this question of their impressions of the job market in the past 3 years. 85% say it’s gotten more difficult to hire good employees.
Unemployment rates are the lowest they’ve been in 15 years. And according to Census Bureau, “the working age population grew very slowly from 2010 through 2015, and will grow even slower in the coming decade.”
So, yes, the labor market is indeed tight with signs it will become tighter.
We know that this reality requires organizations to rethink their hiring strategies. For too many, this simply means casting the net wider, hoping for the best. In a tight labor market, there is a tendency to hire whoever presents well and possesses a little experience. But this often leads to another lament: high attrition rates. Then we go out and repeat the mistake of lowering our standards again, leading to more attrition. Despite the well-known disasters that accompany this approach, many repeat it over and over.
There is a smarter way: what if rather than lowering standards, we opted to be more selective. Given the labor market, it sounds counter-intuitive, yet; it might be the best move we could make.
Adjust your way of thinking about the situation just a bit. If the labor market is already tight, do we really want to bring on labor that has a higher risk of failure? Do we really want to risk additional headache? The answer, of course, is no. Is the alternative to wait, hoping the prize candidate will walk through the door? The answer is no again. More than ever, we have to really home in on the question: “What are we hiring for?”
And while hiring managers often think they know what they’re hiring for, many haven’t fully thought it through. They haven’t consciously fleshed out the behavioral drives required for the job or for the candidate. While some are unaware that behavioral drives determine success in a role, we know others (56%) give it only some consideration, or none at all. In fact, in the survey noted above, we asked this question: “When developing job descriptions and postings, how much thought and discussion does the hiring team give to the required behavioral traits for the role?” Here are the results:
Behavioral traits matter. They matter a lot. Just filling seats won’t do. We need to determine what behavioral traits are required for the position. Why the emphasis on behavioral traits?
Measurable behavioral traits such as dominance, extroversion, patience, and formality can provide organizations true insights to determine the requirements for a job, as well as the degree to which a candidate possesses them. Why do behavioral traits matter in a tight market? Because they allow an organization to not only define, but to hit a job target.
Think of it like this. Lots of candidates can (and will) make a case that they can do certain tasks associated with a job. However, their arguments diminish when it is clear that their behavioral traits do not match the behavioral requirements of a job. Through hundreds of validity studies we’ve conducted, we know that there can be huge correlations between behavioral drives and performance. In fact, DocuSign found that certain behavioral drives in their salespeople correlated to an extra $100,000 in revenue attainment!
To see a visual representation of what we’re discussing, look at the job target pattern and the candidate profiles below from The Predictive Index. Which candidate matches the behavioral requirements of the job? Even without knowing the behavioral science behind these patterns, it’s quite clear that Candidate A is the match.
To put this in context, just because someone has accounting experience does not mean that they have the behavioral traits of patience and formality that are needed in accounting positions. Or just because someone has sales experience and is good with people does not mean that they can sell and close a deal. Other factors such as a sense of urgency and/or assertiveness are required in such sales positions. Thus, determining behavioral requirements allows organizations to find their way to the best candidates more quickly and efficiently—especially in a tight labor market.
The point is not to lower standards but rather to define the standards. By defining the behavioral benchmarks of a position, organizations can save time and find the proverbial needle in the haystack even when the labor market is less than ideal.