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Solutions to Hire the Right Employees for Hard-To-Fill Positions

January 7, 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-482464049.jpgRecruiting for hard-to-fill, skilled positions is not a new pain point in the hiring process for employers. In 2012, Harvard Business Review reported that organizations continually struggle when it comes to finding qualified candidates for highly skilled positions within industries such as manufacturing, nursing, and computer technology.

Although methods and techniques exist that recruiters or other HR members responsible for talent acquisition can use to help with this bottleneck, job vacancies are still largely present and candidates containing the right skills are hard to find. To make matters worse, trends over the past 3 years indicate that the gap between hiring budget and hiring volume continues to widen for organizations.

The bridge between the skills candidates contain and the skills required on the job is what has become known as the “skills gap”. Research indicates that this gap exists because of insufficient educational preparation of graduates. This gap in knowledge is not projected to disappear anytime soon. In fact, it was forecasted that through the year 2020, there could be 40 million too few college-educated workers globally, and as many as 95 million workers could lack the skills required for employment in advanced economies (McKinsey Global Institute, 2012). The skills gap dilemma reinforces that finding skilled candidates for specialized positions is a real challenge for talent acquisition that needs to be addressed more effectively, and fast.

Finding Quality Employees

Talent_Sourcing.pngLinkedIn recently released their 4th annual Global Recruiting Trends report for 2015. The findings provided come from a total of 4,125 talent recruiting decision makers surveyed in 31 countries. It was reported that the majority of organizations found internet job boards and social professional networks to be the most important sources to finding key quality hires.

Another important source reported for finding key quality hires is through employee referral programs. However, specialization of positions forces recruiters and others responsible for talent acquisition to look outside of common, key recruiting methods such as job boards, advertisement, and referrals. Thus, it is important for organizations to not only find top talent, but to attract individuals with specialized skills via unique organizational benefits.

Organizations are becoming more progressive and creative in their human resource strategies to attempt to attract and retain top talent. For example, organizations requiring a large preponderance of computer programmers have to evaluate how to attract skilled individuals from other organizations and demonstrate the benefits of employment prior to any offers made. Efforts such as these become increasingly important as the report indicated competition and compensation continually remain the biggest obstacles to attracting top talent.

Targeted Recruitment

One approach to recruiting for hard-to-fill, specialized positions is to use targeted recruiting. For example, if you are looking to hire someone for a hospital nursing position, you may want to use a healthcare-specific job board or advertise near a local hospital that has recently announced layoffs. Targeted recruitment involves considering multiple factors outside of just the necessary skills and behaviors needed to perform the job. An example factor is looking at whether the candidate’s values and beliefs fit those of the organization.

Additionally, targeted recruiting can help organizations find passive job seekers or those who are not actively looking for a new job. Targeted recruiting can be used via many methods including a company’s website, social networks, college recruiting, and other not-so-common methods such as targeting candidates who have a personal interest in the company’s product.

Increasing the Talent Pool

In addition to recruiting individuals into these hard-to-fill positions, recently organizations have had to determine whether there is a sufficient pipeline of talent in order to maintain hiring needs. For example, organizations in the manufacturing industry have identified a lack of viable talent entering the tradecraft careers. Thus, regardless of the ability of an organization to recruit talent, they must identify ways of attracting individuals to the specialized skills. For this reason, organizations have begun partnering with state and local institutions to provide the necessary education to increase the talent pool in these specialized fields.

Other strategies have begun looking at job design and determining if an organization can design positions to lessen the need for these hard-to-fill positions. Evaluating these types of programs and initiatives will be critical to determining the feature of these skilled positions and how to effectively manage these positions over the long term.


Beyond the solutions provided, companies are using their own unique strategies that work best for them and their particular candidate population. Some of these solutions are likely out-of-the-box and foreign to many companies. Thus, it is encouraged that companies hold a sharing of best practices with willing companies in like or similar organizations in order to expand potential solutions. Hard-to-fill positions will not be disappearing anytime sooner, and more research on viable solutions in needed.

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Lindsey Burke Lindsey Burke is a Consultant based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI. She is largely responsible for client support and managing clients in industries including manufacturing, sales, and healthcare. Lindsey completed her M.A. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Xavier University and earned a B.A. and B.S. in Psychology from Kent State University.