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Expedite Hiring or Lose out on Candidates

Published Wednesday Jun 5, 2024

Author Scott Merril

Anyone hiring knows competition for job candidates, while improving, is still fierce. And while finding the right fit is still essential to a successful long-term hire, companies are rethinking their hiring practices to expedite them and secure candidates before another job offer comes along.

The days of multiple interviews and protracted hiring practices may be numbered as companies are finding candidates have less patience for them. An efficient hiring process is crucial in today’s post pandemic economy, says Patty McGrail, senior vice president for the Leddy Group, a staffing agency in Dover.

“I wish all companies could be aware of the necessity of enhancing the cycle time for hiring,” says McGrail. “This is especially true in the hospitality industry. Sometimes companies are losing great talent at entry level positions if they don’t act fast enough.”

Still a Tight Market
McGrail says while there has been a slowdown in hiring in some industries over the past year, it is still an employee’s market overall. New Hampshire’s unemployment rate as of January 2024 was at 2.6%.

According to the NH Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI), job openings per unemployed resident increased to more than three unfilled positions per unemployed worker, nearing the historically high levels reached in 2022. New Hampshire’s labor force, which is the number of state residents working or actively looking for work, did not grow between 2022 and 2023. During both years about 760,000 residents were in the labor force and employment plateaued at about 743,000. These numbers have not returned to their pre-pandemic peak of 778,467 and 758,463 respectively in 2019. 

Terri Pastori, co-founder of Pastori Krans, a law firm in Concord, says the hiring process is “in a weird spot” now, explaining that while many employers continue to seek candidates, her firm is also seeing a slight uptick in the percentage of separation agreements it handles. And employees don’t appear to be switching jobs as much as they were back in November 2021 when NH saw a “quit rate” of 4.5%, she adds.

Unlike a few months ago, people are keeping their fingers on the pulse of the economy, and those with stability in their careers are staying put, McGrail says.

Time is of the Essence
Businesses are debating how to balance the need to make the right hire with expediting the process to avoid losing prime candidates.

Ashlyn Murphy, human resources director for Mainstay Technologies in Manchester, an IT firm that achieved Hall of Fame status last year in the Best Companies to Work For competition, agrees with McGrail that post-COVID hiring requires being timely and communicative with potential talent.

Some of the Mainstay Technologies team (Photo Courtesy of Mainstay Technologies)

“Time is of the essence today,” she says, explaining that Mainstay doesn’t rush its recruiting process but is mindful of being timely with job candidates.

Ryan King, vice president of human resources at Northeast Delta Dental, a nonprofit dental insurance provider in Concord that regularly ranks among Business NH Magazine’s Best Companies to Work For in NH, says filling all positions in a timely fashion is crucial for the company’s success. “Sometimes we need to make an offer in a day or two,” he says, adding he meets with every candidate as well as the hiring managers at the company to hear job candidates’ stories. “We’ve had people who want to come work here because they’ve had such good experiences with our customer service team.”

King says Northeast Delta Dental has made its online application process easier and quicker overall by initially only asking job candidates for basic information and experience. The company requires applicants to provide their name, email, phone number and preferred method of communication as well as a resume.  Previously, applicants were required to complete an application, which now happens later in the process. “The easier you make that process, the more applications you’ll get,” he says. “We ask the people we hire ‘how was the interview process?’ And we learn from them. You must listen to people.”

King says Delta Dental doesn’t use an applicant tracking system to filter resumes and often hires people who might not have made it through such an initial process. He emphasizes the importance of getting to know candidates and the intangible qualities they may bring. “We’re looking for a strong foundation and we look for soft skill sets and other qualities a person might bring. If you see potential in a person, you can always train them,” he says.

In the hospitality industry, where a seasonal workforce is in high demand, businesses like the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods need a quick hiring process, says Craig Clemmer, director of sales and marketing. The resort employs between 850 and 1,000 people. “We’re like a small town. We have master electricians, plumbers, chefs, painters all the way through our agronomist, working on the golf course, as well as people who work at our ski resort, Bretton Woods,” Clemmer says, adding that because the resort is always in need of seasonal workers the company has an “extensive but brisk hiring process.”

The resort is currently 90% to 95% staffed for the coming summer season, but Clemmer says his executive team identifies open positions in various areas on a weekly basis. “The goal is to wrap things up quickly,” he says, explaining that because of the high volume of resumes the resort receives, the executive team gets assistance from the Omni company in the hiring process.

“They do a first pass on some [applications], especially at the upper level and management side,” Clemmer says. “After this, some resumes are handed over to the managerial level where we go through and begin scheduling interviews by [Microsoft] Teams or phone. Whether these people are seated in a current position or whether they’re looking for a position from outside, we don’t want that candidate to go dormant. And we understand people need to put food on the table and feed their families.”

Being expedient does not mean skipping essential steps though, such as background checks and drug screenings, McGrail says. And for some, taking a more methodical approach is worth the risk of losing a candidate. Pastori of Pastori Krans, another Best Companies to Work For winner, says her firm takes its time to find the right fit when hiring. “Our process is slow and thoughtful when we have an open position,” she says, adding that the goal is to ask whether this person is going to enhance the culture of the firm. “The ultimate goal most companies strive for is low attrition and long-term relationships.”

Investing in People 
To retain workers and hire the best candidates, many companies have found the need to invest more in pay, benefits and culture. Early in the pandemic, Mark Aquilino, CEO and president of Outdoor Pride Landscaping in Manchester, increased pay for both new and existing employees, and has continued to keep pay competitive, helping his company to thrive.

“It started early. We sat down as a leadership team and decided the right thing to do was to stabilize wages,” Aquilino says, adding that creating pay equity won out as the priority. “It was a tough thing to do but we did not want to affect our culture in a negative way and because of the decisions we made to adjust wages we never sustained a crazy time frame of not having employees. We’ve always remained staffed and been able to fulfill our commitments to our clients.”

It’s not just pay companies are reevaluating. Omni Mount Washington Resort has a leadership and development program for its employees and Clemmer says the time invested in employees pays off in customer satisfaction.

“There’s a big need and a big diversity of skill sets resulting in a symbiotic relationship,” Clemmer says. “We call it the trilogy. It’s the associate, our ownership, and the customer. All those things need to be in balance and work in harmony to be successful.”

At the Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, General Manager Michael Faber says the store has improved compensation and benefits in the last several years and always strives to hire from within.  “In recent years we’ve put more work into identifying people that are good at their jobs seeking opportunities within the company,” he says, adding this involves training opportunities that help people prepare for new positions when they arise. “We’ve become more proactive on that.”

Some employers struggle to strike a balance between the benefits of remote work and the benefits of being in the office, Pastori says. “We’re seeing a lot of office workers being called back to the office who worked remotely the majority of the time during COVID,” she says. “People are working from home or working hybrid but there is a switch happening that’s causing a shake up with employees and it’s a factor in the hiring process. People are looking at non-monetary things they want in their job and evaluating what’s best for them.”

The Future of Hiring
For companies that wish to ease the burden of reviewing resumes, AI is also changing the hiring game, Pastori says. “On the hiring front we’re seeing people use AI to draft job descriptions. That has been around, but people are also submitting resumes online and AI systems spit out candidates that could be a good match,” she says.

King of Delta Dental says he would rather take time to get to know the people who apply. There is no perfect hiring formula and automated filtering software can overlook valuable qualities in a candidate, he adds. “Some of the employees we hire may not have the exact skills we’re looking for at first, but they end up being very successful,” he says. “If I had a perfect hiring formula, I’d be retired on an island somewhere. Sometimes you just need to take a chance on a person.”

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