Skilled workers becoming even harder to come by

Millennial workers at a table
Skilled workers are harder to recruit. (Getty/shironosov)

The job market for skilled professionals has gotten so tight it is crimping companies’ ability to grow and spurring new strategies to bring these workers in.

Top-level executives are finding it more difficult to find talented employees for jobs that are only becoming more challenging. Talent shortages are forcing employers to change hiring tactics as roughly 2 in 3 executives are experiencing recruiting difficulties, a survey says.

Some 65% of senior executives said it is at least somewhat challenging to identify skilled workers for current job vacancies, the survey by staffing firm Robert Half said.

When asked "In general, how challenging is it for your company to find skilled candidates for professional-level positions today?" 20% of executives said it was very challenging, 45% said somewhat challenging, 24% said not challenging, and 12% responded "Not applicable/Not looking."

“It’s become hard to hire for growth,” Ky Kingsley, VP of finance and accounting for North America at Robert Half, told FierceCEO. “We’re at a critical phase.”

The unemployment rate for these kinds of workers is around 2%—virtually full employment. Workers are dealing not only with multiple outside offers but also counteroffers when they give notice.

Hiring managers who have been at Robert Half for 30 years are saying, “It’s unbelievable how competitive a market it is,’” Kingsley said. “And I don’t see where the economy is going to slow down in the first quarter or the entire year.”

A small business jobs index kept by Paychex | IHS Markit Small Business Employment Watch recently showed that small business hiring slowed in 2017, also perhaps a sign of the tight job market.

Fifty-one percent of executives in the Robert Half survey said they're casting a wider net by considering entry-level applicants for roles that wouldn't have been open to them previously, and an equal percentage are expanding their search geographically. Other strategies include bringing on interim professionals, shortening the recruiting process and loosening job criteria.

Other suggestions from Robert Half include:

  • Re-examine hiring criteria. Identify must-have attributes and skills that can be taught on the job. Develop a strong onboarding program to help new employees get up to speed quickly and learn the company's systems and processes.
  • Amp up active recruitment. Keep eyes and ears open. Be ready to describe the company's job opportunities at any event you attend.
  • Consider remote options. Give potential employees the option to work remotely, if the nature of the job allows for it. This flexibility enables the company to tap a wider base of professionals.
  • Partner with a recruiter. Staffing professionals can help find and secure candidates the company may not be able to identify on its own. They'll also handle other details of the hiring process, such as posting job openings, interviewing applicants, checking references, extending offers and negotiating compensation.
  • Leverage employee referrals. Ask employees if they know people who would be good additions to the team, as staff is more likely to refer candidates they think will be a good fit. Implementing an employee referral program can also be a recruiting tool.