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Low Applicant Volume? Selection System Strategies to Consider

June 5, 2018

Every organization, no matter how long they’ve been in business, knows the importance of maintaining a long-term vision and strategy. That’s why I’m always so surprised by clients who want to remove their screening process during times of low applicant volume. It’s akin to dating: even if there are not a lot of interested candidates, you should still value yourself enough to maintain some standards.

All too often, when it’s difficult to fill hiring quotas, the selection system is viewed as the enemy. You may have heard your hiring managers half-jokingly say that it’s better to have anybody than nobody. But that sentiment is actually dangerous because it implies that a poor fit is ultimately the less costly option. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as, for example, OSHA estimates that safety incidents on the job cost U.S. organizations almost $1 billion per week. And those “warm bodies” who seemed like a good idea at the time aren’t likely to have other opportunities lining up, so they’re going to drag down your bottom line for many years to come.

For my clients who understand that screening tools are a non-negotiable part of the application process, here are some strategies we’ve devised to deal with low applicant volume:

Understand the truth about low employment

We keep reaching new lows of unemployment, but many industries – manufacturing in particular – continue to add new jobs at equally accelerated rates. This imbalance is creating an employee’s market in which workers can quit their job in the morning and have a new one by the afternoon. Job hopping is becoming increasingly common, and a selection system is your best way to preemptively weed such people out. A recent article by Forbes reported that the average Millennial stays in their job for just two years before leaving, but they are more likely to stay if the company culture overlaps with their personal values. If you don’t assess motivational fit or value alignment, then don’t be surprised when your new workforce turns over in record time and you’re back at square one.

Read more: 5 Interview Questions that Assess Motivational Fit

Profiling strategies to meet required yield

Even though more jobs are being added across the country, wage growth has remained largely stagnant. This reflects a larger trend of how, despite the changing market, organizations are reluctant to change their traditional structure and approach to hiring. Your selection system will always be a key piece in hiring, but don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your tried and true tools during a tight labor market. Streamlining your steps, adjusting your knockout questions, or shortening your assessment are all viable options to get more applicants through the selection process. It may not be what has worked in the past, but it’s far better than no system at all. 

Appropriate assessment placement

The fastest route to hiring may be to gut your selection system, but it’s not the most effective. The second fastest route, and the far more effective option, is to ensure that your system is as efficient as possible (here's a checklist to make your hiring process is as efficient as it can be). Use a basic, quick screen at first and save the intensive steps for after buy-in has already been established. If people are opting out of your hiring process during the early stages, reassess your lineup and determine why you’re losing candidates, eliminate any irrelevant or redundant questions, and listen to the feedback of recently hired employees. That said, remember your standards. If you try to compete with the lowest common denominator, you’ll likely end up with no process at all, so keep your long-term vision and strategy in mind when you decide where to be flexible.

Selection systems aren’t a token obstacle. They make your organization better for the long-term even if they require more effort up front. As a consultant, I understand that investing in quality applicants may have been easier in the past. But even though the applicant landscape is changing, do not hire people without assessing their basic fit or aptitude for the job. Removing your screening tools is the fastest way to put your organization’s long-term vision and strategy at serious risk.

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This is the third 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 4: Evaluate Your Selection Process to Combat Tight Labor Market Challenges

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

Part 6: Design An Ideal Selection Process for the Current Tight Labor Market

Jaclyn Menendez, PhD Jaclyn Menendez, PhD is a Project Consultant at PSI based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Her areas of expertise include testing, assessments, and project management. Jaclyn has contributed to the development, validation, and implementation of assessments with various clients. She has managed, analyzed, and presented data analyses for content and criterion validation studies.