From the Desk of Brad Smart: How to Recruit When “Help Wanted” Signs Are Everywhere

Hiring talent remains the number one concern of CEOs in the most recent (2021, just before the pandemic) Conference Board Annual Survey; it’s also the top concern of the entire executive suite. PwC’s 2017 CEO survey reports that chief executives view the unavailability of talent and skills as the biggest threat to their business. 

Harvard Business Review 

Worker shortages are not new but when there are twice as many job openings (as of September 2022, there are 10.7 million openings in the US) the current “shortage” is a crisis. “The Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting” (workers not working hard) are cute sayings that drive home the seriousness of the situation. Wage inflation won’t stop until job holders are sure the pasture is not greener elsewhere.

Topgrading rollouts have always involved companies jacking up their recruitment methods for one simple reason:

You need 20+ applicants (preferably more) to have a good chance at hiring an A Player.

There is no hiring approach, including Topgrading, that can produce high performers at the bottom of the hiring “funnel,” if that funnel is narrow. If you only have half a dozen applicants, there is very little chance that tiny pool contains an A Player. Hiring the least bad candidate from a tiny pool of candidates will pretty much assure disappointment. “But we HAD to hire somebody to head that region or competitors would steal all of our business.” The point is valid, but it’s time to bite the bullet, change your approach and get more candidates.

We have always tracked what clients have done to “jack up recruitment.”  The 2022 ideas are not new, but they do produce results.

Recruitment Ideas to Consider:

  1. Write SEO friendly job posts. If you’re a bit out of date, get some marketing help to properly structure and apply keywords to your posting(s). This is necessary for job hunters to find you.
  2. Post positive job ads on your website. Too often the Careers section of websites are … Make yours exciting. Be sure to post the job on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. Craft job ads that stand out, selling applicants on your company, your vision, and your career opportunities.
  3. Encourage everyone to tap into their network. The people you, your managers, and your employees know usually include great candidates or people they know as sources. Birds of a feather stick together and A Players on your team know other A Players that are worth considering. Ann Drake, who built the third largest company in Chicago (CJ Logistics) run by a woman, had the right perspective: every week in management meetings she said, “Remember team, we recruit all day, every day, with everyone we meet. That’s how we avoid paying recruiters and we hire better people.”
  4. Pay referral fees to employees who recruit A Players from their personal networks. Most companies pay the bonuses as soon as the person is hired, not six months later “if” the person turns out to be an A Player. $100 would be appreciated though $300 is more common.
  5. In job ads say whether the job is on premises or virtual. As you know, this is an option thoroughly tested during the pandemic and the majority of workers are pretty firm about which work locale they prefer. Topgrading, Inc. is a completely virtual organization, with employees spanning across the US, India and South America. In late 2022 there are still many unknowns about what the best mix of virtual vs. on site might be for companies in various industries. At our (virtual) company we favor hiring people who have already shown they can perform virtually – specifically, they must have worked virtually and successfully for at least two years, and their boss has to have given them Very Good or Excellent performance ratings and confirm they are solid virtual employees.
  6. Use job boards. If your company is in the SMB category, you’ll groan at this suggestion because you think it costs too much to use job boards. Big companies do, and yes, they can be expensive. Many offer a free trial. When you are desperate to hire, instead of cutting corners, please try using a job board – you’ll hire more A Players. ZipRecruiter and Indeed are popular. You’ve heard the ads – the best job boards have contact information for just about everyone in professional and managerial jobs, so in addition to sending you resumes of active job seekers, they go after “passive candidates,” meaning people who are not actively looking for another job. So, you get dozens or even hundreds of resumes, depending on how much you’re willing to pay. But, you may say, “the job boards get me mostly weak candidates. If I have a marketing opening for a seasoned pro and someone’s resume shows their having taken one marketing class years ago, the job board sends me that person’s resume.” True, but that was true when you just posted job ads, right? The job boards simply get you so many more resumes, so you have a better chance of hiring a High Performer.

Be careful – “enabled recruiting applications” frequently don’t work. These applications promise more and better candidates, but so far most have proven to be more hype than substance. Job hunters can Google how to game the system and fool you!

  1. Increase compensation. When our clients say critical jobs have been open three months, they typically admit that the key factor is not raising pay fast enough. Go to to see pay levels by function, level, and location to be sure your compensation levels are competitive, and check out what the competition is paying.

Most of these recruitment methods can be initiated quickly. More time-consuming recruitment options are:

  1. Hire interns. Then you can “salt the mines” with talent.
  2. Hire teachers and professors for summer or project work. Hire those who can recommend students you can hire for internships, part-time, or full-time jobs.

Please add to our research base by sharing your recruitment experience, specifically, what has worked for you in regards to getting more applicants, and what has not. 

Contact us to learn more.

Improve your hiring success with Topgrading. Our proven hiring process will transform your selection methodology so that you get better hiring results across all industries, including hiring HR professionals.  Our leadership and candidate assessment tools will help you assess, hire, retain, and grow outstanding team members. Contact us to learn more!

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