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Why am I having trouble finding qualified candidates to hire when the unemployment rate is so high?

Answered by Debra Thompson, President, TG & Associates

Business is starting to pick up and we need to hire additional staff. Since the unemployment rate is still high, I expected I would be able to find plenty of applicants to choose from but so far, our newspaper ads have not brought in any experienced people. I am concerned that I won’t be able to find the right people. Do you have any suggestions?

Despite the seemingly high unemployment rate, hiring the right people is not easy. And we can expect that over the next few years it is going to get even tougher. I have written in the past about the critical shortages that are going to occur in certain technical disciplines. Additionally, because of the impending retirement of the baby boomers combined with a smaller number of people in newer generations entering the workforce, there is going to be a severe shortage of suitable candidates. The overall shortfall in the workforce is compounded by a falloff in technical education that is going to hurt several critical skills spanning many job titles.

The experienced workforce is starting to retire; the incoming workforce is smaller and may be technically challenged, so hiring must take on a new dimension. The recruiting and candidate selection processes must adopt different methods. The end result of your hiring effort may not be the experienced person that you hoped for, but rather someone who has the aptitude and behavioral qualifications to learn the trade and become the competent individual you need. Your best sources for recruiting will no longer be local newspapers but will have to move to internet based media that appeal to the point and click generations. But even more, you are going to have to be proactive in finding other sources for employees and hire people for their ability to learn combined with possessing the right behavioral characteristics. Keep in mind that you may need to provide the training that the vocational schools no longer provide.

Here are some ideas:

  • Get involved with schools. Offer to speak at school career day events to explain your business and show the young people what makes your company an interesting and exciting place to work.

  • Contact local Junior Achievement and Scout programs. They are always looking to find out more about businesses in their areas. Offer tours of your facility to these young people so they can see your team and your equipment in operation. I have a client who brings Cub Scouts and Brownies in to tour their facility every year. Start them young.

  • Consider working with the welfare-to-work programs. They have brought in people who are really trying to make a new beginning. The cases that I have seen have produced hard working people who appreciate the opportunity they have been given. They are also eager to learn a profession.

  • Involve everyone you know in your hunt. Establish employee and customer referral programs. Provide incentives to both employees and customers to make a recommendation that turns into a successful hire. These sources are usually very successful because your employees and customers know they will have to deal with the new hire, so they are more inclined to recommend people they think will fit in.

All of these approaches are going to take time. Therefore, plan ahead with your needs and work the hiring process diligently. Do not succumb to the desire to hire the first person that shows up. You must plan on conducting a lot of training. In the case of the welfare-to-work programs, you may need to teach your hires social skills as well as technical skills. Even many of the young people coming out of school today do not know fundamental life skills. Training will be a major challenge. In addition to providing training, set up coaches from your existing staff to help the new hires with their orientation into the business and learning to "get around."

The bottom line is that the old methods for recruiting may not work in our current and future times. The shortfall in the workforce, combined with a growing need for higher skills to deal with the latest technology, requires planning a new approach for finding new hires as well as a major commitment to greater focus on training. The good people will still be available; you just may have to look a little harder and in different places for them.

Debra Thompson is a national speaker and consultant on people management issues for the graphics industry. She is president of TG & Associates which specializes in Staffing Solutions for the Graphics Industries. She is the 2003 Recipient of the PrintImage International Industry Award of Distinction.

Visit for more information on her company, products and services and free information on the hiring process. She can also provide support to make your hire successful or do it for you. Debra can be reached at 877-842-7762 (toll free) or

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