From the Desk of Brad Smart:
Not Enough Applicants! Here Are The Best Ways to Recruit

One of the largest US retailers hung out “Help Wanted” signs … they got so few applicants that they hired “the next warm body,” but they hired so many low performers that their brand began to collapse.  We organized meetings for store managers and district manager, meetings that generated dozens of ideas for “jacking up” recruitment, and within 3 months they were generating thousands more applicants. It can be done. You can do it!

The pandemic has thrust Human Resources into the limelight like never before, with recruitment taking a beating. What percentage of our workers will return to the office? What percentage do we actually want to return? Workers are resigning like never before; maybe telling employees to do two jobs for the same pay wasn’t exactly smart. OMG, with workers everywhere demanding the “flexibility” to come to the office or work at home when they choose — how the heck can we run our business? “Talent Acquisition” has become a free-for-all and is not the profession it used to be. Hiring high performers has always been our goal, but these days hiring managers will accept just about anyone. With the best candidates able to get better jobs immediately, our hiring process is way too slow … so we cut our interviews short and skip reference checks to speed up the process. Since building “teamwork” and “engaging” remote employees didn’t work very well, our organization’s culture has declined … hastening the exit of employees and putting recruitment in a death spiral. Phew!

Talent Acquisition has always been a crucial component of Topgrading, for the simple reason that when the goal is to hire high performers, the funnel of applicants has to be big enough to contain those high performers; hiring the “best” of only ten applicants makes it very unlikely a high performer will be hired.  During the past 40 years Topgrading companies have faced eight recessions and regionally terrible hurricanes, floods, and fires. Throughout, Topgraders have been very resourceful in finding ways to recruit enough candidates to hire A Players.

job applicants, recruitment

A “grocery list” of recruitment methods

The following recruitment solutions, actions you might consider, are not original. You’ve probably considered most of them. But clients are telling us daily that they are reconsidering some methods – because they have to. Starting with the easiest methods to implement, to the more difficult …

  • 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.
  • Post your job on your website. Make sure it’s a positive portrayal of the opportunity.
  • Post jobs on LinkedIn and Facebook. Craft job ads that stand out, selling applicants on your company and the job.
  • Tap networks – contact the people you, your managers, and your employees know who might be great candidates or people they know as sources of candidates.
  • Pay “bounties” to employees who recruit A Players from their personal networks. Pay the bonuses as soon as the person is hired … not six months later “if” the person turns out to be an A Player.
  • Hire virtual employees – even if you haven’t in the past. As you know, this is an option thoroughly tested these days. Companies are realizing they have to allow more flexibility, permitting people to work at home or the office when they choose.
  • Use job boards. Many offer a free trial. Yes, there is an expense, but hiring better people is worth it. 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. You get dozens or even hundreds of resumes, depending on how much you’re willing to pay. Yes, the vast majority of applicants are not remotely qualified, but if you’re desperate ….
  • 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. There are articles about how to write resumes that “beat the bots.” Don’t buy one without talking with five happy users.
  • Use better screening methods. Personality tests are so easy to fake they eliminate as many A Players as they do C Players. The Topgrading PreScreen Snapshot identifies the best 1/3 of candidates immediately, speeding up hiring.

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

  • Increase compensation. If your pay scale is too low, you will have a hard time attracting A Player candidates at the right level.
  • Hire interns to “salt the mines” with talent.
  • Hire teachers and professors for summer or project work. Hire those who can recommend students you can hire for part-time, intern, or full-time jobs.
  • Consider relocating. This is the biggest step, for sure, and one that would likely be analyzed for at least a year. If candidates are few because your location is undesirable, consider relocating. Silicon Valley companies have been going to Texas and Arizona – not just for tax reasons but because workers cannot afford to live where they worked, or they had to commute over an hour each way. Over the years many of our clients have relocated to be able to attract more A Players.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say the pandemic has resulted in a recruitment crisis … but more and more companies are doing what the retailer (above) did – jacking up recruitment in new ways because the alternative (hiring low performers) is too costly.


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 including candidate arranged reference call will help you assess, hire, retain, and grow outstanding team members. Contact us to learn more!

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