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Improving the hiring process to reach more applicants

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The Chamber recently hosted its second edition of the 2022 60 Minutes to Success series and the topic focused on finding the “hidden worker”. The panel discussion was moderated by the city's Director of Workforce Development, Sally Payne. The panel included: Dr. James Kaatz from Missouri State University, Jeff Schrag of Mother’s Brewing Co., and Nancy Riggs with Penmac Staffing Services. The panelists shared insights and advice on hiring and interviewing best practices, advertising open positions, and setting clear expectations for employees.

Moderator Sally Payne kicked off the discussion with an overview of current feedback from employers and job seekers including what they are experiencing in the hiring process. While many employers are frustrated with the lack of quality candidates, applicants have expressed frustration related to not hearing back after submitting applications and getting “ghosted” by employers. It was recommended that employers take the time to respond to every applicant even if that response is a simple notification that the application has been received. That creates a connection that can have value in the future, even if the applicant doesn't initially appear to have all the necessary qualifications.

Payne also noted it is always important to be intentional about retention efforts. It is vital to create a culture in which current staff members feel valued by the organization. "That's not something that has to have a large cost associated with it. You don't necessarily need a budget for it. It's something even small businesses can do and I believe that all starts at the top," Payne said.

Jeff Schrag provided the group with insights into his workplace culture best practices that have developed over time. Schrag noted that while there are strategies that work for Mother’s Brewing Co., they may not all be the right fit for every business. In terms of the hiring process, he suggested businesses take the time to identify several features that are unique to their company and focus in on those points of difference during interviews with potential candidates.

Nancy Riggs provided many examples of ways that small businesses can streamline their job descriptions so they are not unnecessarily filtering out potential candidates. For example, she mentioned that employers often want to list out every responsibility that a person would have in the position when seeking applicants. In fact, employers should focus only on those items that are absolutely essential to the job. Riggs also mentioned that studies show women are more likely to disqualify themselves from jobs with lengthy descriptions.

Dr. Kaatz echoed Riggs advice about rethinking job descriptions when listing open positions. "As an employer, ask yourself what is really important. Can you word some of the requirements as either/or statements? That will help you get more applicants in the door," he said.

Drawing on his experience hiring for a large employer, Dr. Kaatz discussed broadening the hiring approach to look for related skills that may translate to a company's industry. He noted that often employers already have some training resources in place internally to help transition those skills and fill gaps, but they don't always take that into consideration as they initially approach the hiring process.

Special thanks to Mediacom Business, our series presenting sponsor of 60 Minutes to Success.


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