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Bringing Talent to the Door: Recruiting From a Larger Pool

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Thomas E. Poulin
November 28, 2022

Recruitment is challenging for many agencies, with leadership voicing concerns of their inability to attract talent. While their agencies may have strong cultures and impressive brands, recruitment is weakened through dysfunctional approaches. To attract more talent, we must use better “magnets,” replacing older practices with new ones when needed.

“Cast a Wider Net”: Whatever your past practices, if not achieving your goals, “cast a wider net.” Many agencies post vacancies solely on their website. There is a presumption their agency is so attractive talented applicants from far and wide shall actively seek employment with them. This is particularly problematic in smaller employment markets—more so when seeking a narrow skill set. Posting on regional and national job boards generates greater numbers of applicants.

“Sell the Setting”: There is an old joke stating the three most important factors in real estate are “location, location, location.” You are recruiting not just for the job, but for the agency and community. Applicants are expected to do due diligence in job searches, but proactively sharing information on the strengths of your agency might do wonders in enticing people to apply. This also includes sharing information which makes the community desirable including recreational opportunities, high-quality schools, sporting venues or cultural events. Think of it this way—you would like to attract talent from afar. What would make your agency and your community their destination of choice?

Post the Salary: One of the most common concerns with job postings is the absence of salary. This is more uncommon in the public sector than in the private or non-profit sectors, but remains an issue. Recruitment information sometimes only states compensation is competitive. We might argue the value of recruiting people for their positive attitudes, professionalism and desire to excel, not their focus on pay. However, we cannot ignore the practical concerns of potential applicants; the salary should be included in recruitment materials. Without it, some might not apply. Others might apply, but later withdraw from the process if the compensation is perceived to be below market. This wastes their time and yours, contributing to a hiring process which goes nowhere.

Avoid Ghosting: Another frequent concern of job seekers is being “ghosted.” While there may be sound reasons for delays in communications, some applicants may feel marginalized or ignored if they hear nothing for extended periods. This might make them wary of continuing the process or in accepting any employment offered later. They may instead begin to seek other opportunities. It is not uncommon to hear agency leadership be surprised if not shocked that a top candidate has taken employment elsewhere. They may find it is because they have presumed the candidate would wait patiently in the absence of any substantive contact. If a candidate remains in the process, tell them. If they are no longer being considered, tell them this as well. If there are delays, expected or unexpected, communicate this in a timely fashion. Communications in recruitment is critical, and if one side “ghosts” the other the process collapses.

Watch the Clock: Job seekers might become frustrated if the hiring process seems unending. If the hiring process appears to have excessive steps and deadlines, with no clear vision of when the process might end, job seekers might become frustrated and seek other opportunities. By not providing them clarity of where the path is going and when it might end, we might be contributing to strong talent dropping from the process. This will be exacerbated if accompanied by ghosting, but can occur even with robust communications. With this said, agencies must have a recruitment and selection process which best meets their needs, taking as long as necessary. However, this must be balanced with an awareness of the potential effect of an extended process, especially if there is a perception the process could reasonably be accelerated. Create a rational process with clear steps and specific timelines. Communicate the process clearly to the applicant—then watch the clock to hold your agency to these timelines. 

We wish to provide the best services with the best staff. This means we need to bring high-quality talent through the front door. To achieve this, we must revisit our recruitment processes from time to time, making them more effective, efficient and welcoming. If our process inadvertently contributes to a limited pool of quality applicants, we might be doing the community a disservice.

Author: Thomas E. Poulin, PhD, is an HR training and development consultant and serves as Senior Doctoral Adjunct Faculty at Grand Canyon University. He is Past President of the Hampton Roads Chapter of ASPA. Prior to this, he served over 30 years in local government and 10 years as a university professor. He may be reached at [email protected]

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