“Why Can’t We Find People?” – The Top Three Issues in Hiring, and How to Fix Them

We hear it from clients.  You hear it from colleagues and your staff.  The media proclaims labor shortages in various geographies and disciplines.   Pundits give their take on the issues.

“Why can’t we find people?”

We hear a variety of reasons:

  • “Our business just isn’t sexy, and people would rather work in the XYZ industry”
  • “There’s a shortage of talent in our geography”
  • “Other companies pay more”
  • “We need a really unique mix of skills for this position”
  • (at least one comment about Millennials)

And the list goes on. We find that these “reasons” are 95% perception and stem from a cultural mindset developed over time. Sure, not every business is Google or Apple or Amazon, but every business can attract top tier talent even if the factors above are present.

Think about it. You have engaged associates throughout your firm.  Your A-Players aren’t there by accident, and they don’t stay because they are desperate. They got there through a hiring process that, perhaps unwittingly, offered a better alternative. They stay because of an environment that offers challenge and aligns with their lives and goals.

Why is this not repeatable?

Our firm has had great success in helping clients hire top talent into businesses that aren’t sexy and don’t pay top salaries. I’d like to say that it is a result of our superior sourcing and the ability to “pitch” a job, but I’d be lying.

What we’ve discovered are three primary factors limiting hiring effectiveness in most firms:

  • Poorly defined / understood positions.
  • Underestimating the importance of aptitude and cultural fit.
  • Discouraging high caliber candidates via the experience.

Let’s take a quick look at these.

Poorly Defined / Understood Positions

When an opening is approved, there is a conversation between the internal Recruiter and the Hiring Manager. The Recruiter asks a few questions, pulls the standard job description out, posts an ad, and starts looking at candidates.

What’s missing here?  All the things the job description doesn’t say.

How about what a day in the life is looks like on this team?  Why is this job “cool” or attractive, and what type of person will appeal to?  Or, what projects or initiatives are coming up that offer challenge and growth?  Maybe a few comments on the type of folks that are successful in the environment.  What does the interview and selection process look like and who will be involved?  What is the balance between skills and experience vs. a candidate that fits the culture and the right aptitude to learn?

A strong and comprehensive understanding of a job provides the foundation for a successful hire.

Underestimating the Importance of Aptitude and Cultural Fit

When asked “What type of a person are you looking for?”, we hear things like self-motivated and directed, quick to learn, works well with others, etc.   Without understanding what these catch phrases really mean within the context of a work group, they are not much more than words in a management book.

Challenge the Hiring Manager.  Ask –

  • For this position on this team, what does “self-directed” look like? Maybe an example?
  • How might these traits manifest themselves from a day to day perspective? Why are these important?
  • What if a candidate is light or missing a skill but has shown an aptitude to learn? Why or why not?
  • Do you have a person with these characteristics now? Tell me about them.
  • What kind of person doesn’t work out well on your team?

Drilling down on the characteristics and aptitudes that make for a solid cultural fit – both at the team and organizational level – and then developing screening to assess these traits will allow you to attract and screen candidates that aren’t just fits for the job as it is today, but for the challenges of the future.

For most positions, strong cultural fit with basic skills overcomes deep skills and experience with lesser cultural fit.

Discouraging the Candidate via the Experience

The best candidates are not on the market for long. It’s critical that the hiring process be thorough AND expeditious.

How long does it take to hire in your organization?  How soon after application – when candidate interest is at its peak –  do you reach out to the candidate?  How long does it take to get feedback to the candidate after each step?

A high caliber candidate will assume that there is no interest when they don’t receive feedback. The longer the communications gap, the higher the chances the candidate will opt out.

Evaluate each step in your hiring process for its duration and effectiveness. Define the time allowed for feedback and decision-making – if it is more than 24 hours, you have opportunity for improvement.  Define clearly what is to be accomplished at each step.  For example:

  • Resume screen: High level fit, or decline
  • First Phone Screen: Basic skill, compensation, professionalism fit, or decline.
  • In person interview(s): Number varies depending on position, but each should have a clear purpose and decision. Generally, all should happen in one, maybe two visits.
  • Decision to offer at end of in person interviews.

The “go / no-go” decision at each step should be straightforward and happen almost immediately – within 24 hours and no longer.  Avoid “think it overs”. We find that If a candidate is a “maybe”, then they are likely a “no-go”.  While there may be considerations that take longer to resolve (relocation, availability, visa transfer, etc.), the decision to proceed should be straightforward.

The firm that has a well-defined and expeditious hiring process, with clear decision gates and responsibilities, has the advantage.


We live in a world where demand for highly capable and talented associates is at an all-time high.  Candidates in disciplines ranging from welding to web design have opportunities and choices.  At the same time, we all want the A-Players, the people that are not just going to fill a job, but make us better.

While creative and aggressive sourcing helps, we’ve found the biggest gains come from

  • Clearly defining and understanding what the requirements of the job and organization.
  • Understanding and screening for aptitude and cultural fit.
  • Delighting the candidate via the experience.

What are some of your hiring challenges?   We’ve helped numerous clients overcome these and other hiring challenges.  To see how Advisory and Consulting Services can help your organization hire more effectively, contact us at rich@acsconsults.com or 614-561-3412 for an initial consultation.