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Design An Ideal Selection Process for the Current Tight Labor Market

June 12, 2018

In a tight labor market, it’s tempting to make rash decisions about your selection process. We often hear variations of different arguments that essentially boil down to:

  • We don’t have many people applying, we can’t afford to turn anyone away.

  • We need more candidates – and quickly; remove some steps in the hiring process.

  • Candidates can go anywhere and be hired; we’re putting them through a test that is too long. 

Here are a few considerations that we talk through with our clients during this tough market:

The Value of Assessments to your Selection Process 

As the labor market becomes more competitive, people start asking if assessments should even be used. It’s a candidate’s market, shouldn’t we be happy to get anyone at all? Maybe we should cut testing out completely or choose a shorter test so that there are little to no barriers between application and hire. This is often a knee jerk reaction to a few common pain points (e.g. low applicant volume, high fail rates, real or perceived long time-to-fill metrics, and concerns over completion rates).

If you’re in this situation, please consider the following points before making your decision.

  • You likely still want to hire good employees – removing an assessment reduces the amount of objective information you have to make informed decisions.

  • Candidates do not react negatively to assessments regardless of test length.

  • Once they start, candidates are highly likely to complete assessments regardless of length. Read more on applicant reactions and Six Reasons to Reconsider Short Assessments.

Temp to Perm Strategies

Particularly in times of high demand, our clients tend to turn towards temporary workforce solutions. Their next question is usually, should we use employee assessments for temporary employees?

My answer is yes, for the following reasons:

  • If the job duties, expectations, and work environment are the same, you shouldn’t lower the benchmark. Selecting employees that meet your expectations is still important in the short (and long) term.

  • Some organizations want to test temps, but want to use something less rigorous (for example, only using half of the process). Be careful here, however, as you may be creating a situation where your temporary employees have to pass another step before you can hire them down the road. What will you do if they fail?

  • Is it worth it to test short term help? Absolutely! These temps are often on the front line of your organization, building your products, interacting with your clients and being the face of your organization. It makes economic sense to screen out risky candidates.

Communication Between HR and Operations

Often low candidate volume can cause operation managers to think, "What’s the hold up?" This also causes them to question the utility and legitimacy of the assessment and put pressure on HR to provide more and more candidates for consideration. In this environment it is critical to have ongoing communication with operations so that they can understand the current tight labor market.

Here are a few things they (and you) need to talk about:

  • How is the process going? This is an important question to ask all the time, but even more so in a competitive labor market. Which new employees are performing well and which are struggling? Which candidates did well in the interview and which ones struggled? Also be sure to touch base on what criteria are being using in resume reviews, interviews, and in assessing training success.

  • How are you working to bring in candidates and move them through the entire hiring process efficiently? It may seem obvious, but make sure to advertise to operations what you’re doing from an attraction, selection, and retention standpoint. Highlight the processes that are working, what you know needs to be improved, and how hiring managers can help make the process better. If they don’t know what you’re doing, they’ll assume the current hiring struggles are specific to their department, your organization, or their industry. While this may be true in some cases, there truly is a labor shortage that you’re struggling against too.

  • What are the upcoming hiring needs? Often operations managers have vital information about hiring needs. They’ve scheduled work months in advance and they know when there’s going to be an uptick (or down-tick) in staffing needs.

Finally, it’s vitally important in the current market to remain flexible. Perhaps a temporary change to your selection process is the right answer, either in terms of a shorter assessment or removing a step in the process. Be mindful of what you’re losing, however, and also remain vigilant to other parts of your selection process that could be streamlined (e.g., the application).

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This is the fifth post of a blog series on Manufacturing Hiring in a Tight Labor Market. The other posts in the series can be found here:

Part 1: Manufacturing Hiring: Good Employees Have Never Been Harder to Find

Part 2: Are There Too Many Steps in your Manufacturing Hiring Process?

Part 3: Low Applicant Volume? Selection System Strategies to Consider

Part 4: Evaluate Your Selection Process to Combat Tight Labor Market Challenges

Part 6: Hiring in Today's Job Market: 5 Tips for Being Proactive

Amber Thomas Amber Thomas is a Consultant at PSI. In her role, Amber provides custom solutions to a variety of industries. Her contributions include project oversight, day-to-day client support, and on-going consultation.