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Amy Alvarez | 6/14/2021

If you are recruiting staff for your practice, you are probably experiencing hiring woes. Some are new - it is a tight job market. Not everyone is able to go back to work depending on their individual circumstances and some employers need more employees than before to meet their current business needs. Unemployment is nearly double what is was before the pandemic but available candidates appear to be even less. But it’s not all new. If you had to hire in the last 5 years, it was not a simple exercise then either. The candidate pool has been shrinking over the past few years and competing opportunities makes it difficult to hold a candidate’s attention.

Although there isn’t a magic wand to fill your job opportunities with qualified candidates instantly, there are ways that you can set yourself up for success.

Before you get started, it is important to adjust your expectations. There is a lot of talk out there about a labor shortage, growing wages and outrageous benefits being offered to attract candidates. In some industries and in some areas of the country, skilled labor is scarce, and this issue is creating a pressure for employers. I am not an expert in all labor markets or industries but can say that this is not affecting optometry practices in the same way it is distribution companies. We also don’t know if this is temporary or if it is signs of thing to come. People far smarter than me say that either this will peak and fall in the upcoming months as COVID-19 restrictions continue to open up, vaccinations rise, and cases decline or the federal government will adjust interest rates and we will head towards recession (or nosedive into it). Although the latter is not ideal, either way, something is going to happen.

Stay aware but do not let it scare you into a panic.

It is going to take patience and some creativity to break through. In 2020, it took an average of 42 days to fill open positions, up from 36 in 2019. Based on the trend lines, we can expect that to be at least maintained in 2021.

Be patient – you will find a good candidate.

Even when we return to “normal”, we will still be faced with low unemployment and shifting employee priorities. So here are so ways you can feel in control of your hiring process, now and in the future.

1 – Create a Hiring Plan.

A hiring plan is an exercise that is recommended every time you find yourself needing to hire additional staff. It is a time to reflect on the exact responsibilities you will need this new employee to fulfill and how you are going to interview, including who is involved in the process.

Reflecting on responsibilities allows you to build an accurate job posting and job description and set your new hire up for success. They will understand their new job, their peers will understand their responsibilities and you will know what hey need to be trained on.

Reflecting on who will be involved and the interview methods you would like to use will allow you to enroll key stakeholders (like another technician who will speak to peer candidates about the role) and establish how long your interview process is so you can communicate with candidates in this fast-paced job market.

2 – Consider your Practice Values and Online Employer Branding.

It is important that you establish what behaviors are a priority to you as a practice owner and what principles you want your staff to follow. These values should be reflected in your policies and procedures and modeled in your own behaviors. If you do not already have values, it is a great team building exercise.

Using your values, take advantage of your online employer presences through Glassdoor, Facebook, LinkedIn and Indeed. Encourage, but do not require, your employees to review working for the practice to show the benefits. Your Indeed ratings and profile will be tied to all future job postings. Candidates are more likely to apply when they feel it is a positive, growing and supportive workplace.

3 – Make Job Ads Consumable and Work for You.

Write job postings that put candidates in the driver’s seat by using “You” and verbs in the present. Use bullet points to optimize the time you have the candidate’s attention and use your hiring plan to ensure you are giving them the best information about the role. Use your website or Facebook to invite the candidate to learn more about your business instead of using space in your ad. Keep your ad current during your search by updating it every 14 days so candidates know you are still actively looking.

Slow ad performance is common when candidate availability is low. Use proactive search options to help. Post to social media accounts about growth in the practice, boost your ad by adjusting your daily budget, use Indeed Resume and other job board services to invite candidates to apply for the position instead of waiting for them to find it.

4 – Screening Candidates

Using your hiring plan, determine 5-7 priorities for the role. These can be skills, experience, distance from the office and several other items you would consider important to the practice for a new employee. Speak with any candidate with a majority of them. Any missing priorities should become screening questions for the candidate.

Ask situation based questions – ask for specific details about an incident and ensure you have a mix of questions about successes and mistakes or opportunities. Look for answers that highlight that the candidate felt they could influence the situation. A perception of control or influence could show the candidate has a willingness to be a positive contributor to the business.

5 – Candidate Communication

Respond to every application you receive within one business day, even if they aren’t a good fit for the opportunity. Some of the job boards report back to prospective candidates if the employer is responsive and this can set you apart from other positions. Using your hiring plan, share with the candidate how long the interview process takes and try to keep the lines of communication open. Ask “What else are you considering right now?” every time you talk to the candidate. You can also say “Please give the opportunity to make a counteroffer if you are offered a position.” if you are considering making a job offer.

Recruiting is about 80% preparation and 20% gut. By doing what you can to control the process and openly communicate with the candidate, you give yourself the opportunity to find a great employee because the preparation allows that last 20% to fall into place. Although it can be frustrating to contend with a less than favorable job market, there is hope in the process. Plus, there is so much to gain with the right employee. You gain diversity of thought, experience and skill that can offer great benefit to your business.

Amy Alvarez
Human Resources Consultant
Amy Alvarez, SHRM-CP is IDOC’s Human Resources Consultant. Amy has experience in HR in healthcare and retail, management in big box and specialty retail stores and physician recruitment. Through these roles and training, Amy is well-versed in recruitment and hiring strategies for “hard to fill” roles, dealing with low productivity, helping encourage employee engagement, on-boarding, training, day-to-day management in a retail setting, employee relations, and so much more.
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