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All indicators point toward a strengthening U.S. job market, and a growing number of employers are looking to hire hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of new employees. For example, Home Depot announced on Feb. 10, 2015, that it would be hiring 80,000 workers in the upcoming spring months.
While the Home Depot announcement is probably an extreme case of what some recruiting experts call “mass hirings,” many businesses seem to be looking to ramp up their hiring efforts in 2015. And as more employers commit to large-scale hiring, competition for skilled talent will only intensify, which means corporate recruiters and HR professionals must be aware of both the best practices and pitfalls when recruiting and hiring in large numbers.
“When it comes to mass hiring, it is vital that business leaders take into account the cultural aspects of what makes their organizations effective,” said John McLean, managing partner and leader of the global life sciences practice at the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer. “One must consider how his or her organization defines success, and think back to the best examples of individuals who joined the organization and flourished, and those who joined and were not a good match.”
According to McLean, employers planning large-scale hirings should consider taking a series of steps to ensure that they are attracting, identifying and offering jobs to the best candidates. The first step, he said, is to develop a solid plan for identifying and drawing talent from dependable and proven sources.
“You should have a list of the organizations where your best hires have come from,” McLean said. “This provides a great way to identify and target the best candidates, because that’s what you want in a large-scale hiring situation.”
Through this process, recruiters and HR practitioners can pick out businesses that have similar cultures and can provide the best pools of candidates. The same notion can apply to recent graduates and alumni of certain colleges and universities. McLean asserted that the goal is to identify your organization’s best source for new hires, and then develop a plan that focuses on the most effective ways to tap into those sources.
The second step, according to McLean, is to develop key selection criteria (KSCs) for each position to be filled. These KSCs will ensure that the right candidates are identified and targeted for the job. Often in mass-hiring situations, recruiters can make the mistake of sending a large pool of potential candidates who don’t necessarily fit the KSCs to hiring managers. The result can be that hiring managers are then inundated with unqualified candidates.
“The objective is to target the right candidates,” McLean said. “It’s much better to have a smaller pool of candidates that fit the KSCs than have a larger pool that hiring managers will then have to wade through and spend more time and effort identifying whom they really want.”
When planning for a large-scale hiring, it is vital to improve the efficiency of identifying viable applicants, McLean claimed. Even though a list of eight to nine KSCs is advisable for each open position, it can also be a good idea to weight the criteria.
“Identify the top three or four criteria which an ideal job candidate should possess and make those a priority,” McLean said. “Candidates which have all of the top criteria typically will be the best qualified for the job.”
The third and final step in the process must be communication, according to McLean.
“You cannot communicate enough, and over-communication is always the best policy,” he said. “Keep everyone in the loop, from applicants to current staff, to hiring managers and to senior-level management.”
An Employer’s Best Advocates
It is especially important to keep your organization’s current employees up to speed with the efforts to bring on additional staff, McLean added.
“Current employees can be your organization’s best advocates,” he said. “Make them feel they are part of the process. It really helps to enhance the image of a business if its current employees are enthusiastic about where they work and the opportunities available within the organization.”
In addition, it’s crucial to communicate clearly and on time to job candidates. If you promise a candidate that a decision will be made within a certain time frame, then meet that commitment, McLean said.
“If you’re going after the best and most qualified candidates possible, they might be entertaining other job offers or even a counteroffer from their current employer,” McLean said. “Typically the best candidates won’t wait too long for a response, and if you promise a decision within a month, then get back to them in two to three weeks, and always let them know where they stand in the process.”
A Stronger Job Market
McLean said that the improved job market is especially strong in the health care and technology industries. He predicted that many of the mass hirings during 2015 will be concentrated in those fields. John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of the Chicago-based outplacement consulting firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, agreed with McLean about the strengthening job market but added that the improving U.S. economy was brightening the hiring prospects in most economic sectors.
“The only place we are seeing the job market softening a bit is in the oil-and-gas industry,” said Challenger. “Right now, the market looks very strong in manufacturing, retail, finance and hospitality and definitely a bit stronger in [the] health care and high tech sectors.”
A Strong Market for HR Professionals
The strengthening job market is raising all boats, said Challenger, and a growing number of businesses will likely be looking to add staff as 2015 progresses.
“It has definitely become a job seekers’ market, and since many employers are now entering a hiring phase, this means competition for the best talent will only grow fiercer,” he said. “This will definitely increase pressure on employers to retain the talent that they now have, so you will see much more effort and emphasis focused on worker retention this year.”
The revitalized labor market is also putting a premium on corporate recruiters and HR professionals who specialize in developing hiring and retention plans.
“Employers who are looking to ramp up their hiring efforts need HR professionals who can develop and implement effective staffing and talent management strategies,” Challenger said.
Bill Leonard is a senior writer at SHRM.
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