It’s not an easy time for Hiring Managers or their Recruiters, particularly in the Puget Sound.  A short 5 years ago, the talent pipelines were bursting at the seams, but recently they have slowed down to a trickle.

For many employers, the time it takes to find and hire the right employee has more than doubled in the last 2 years.  If there was ever a time when hiring the “perfect candidate” was a genuine possibility, it certainly isn’t now.

For PACE, we’re  certainly noticing more employers coming  to us at the height of a candidate search, frustrated by the choice they have to make between hiring fast or hiring right.  Our advice tends to the “hiring right” side of that choice, knowing that long term it always makes sense to hire right rather than hire quickly.  We also know there are some timeless “best practices” for hiring right that are particularly important when talent pipelines are lean.

  1. Make sure you start your hiring process with a good understanding of the work.   Effective recruiting in all  job markets starts with a detailed picture of  1)  the actual work content, 2) the results its intended to produce,  3) known obstacles to achieving those results, 4)  the  resources that are available to support performance,  5)  an accurate description of the work environment, and most importantly 6)  what successful performance looks like.

 Only after you’ve described the “real work” can you make good decisions about the skills, knowledge or experience a  candidate must bring to the table in order to be a successful hire.   If you create a candidate profile requiring more skills or experience than you need –  the time it takes to hire can increase dramatically, and your chances of retaining the “right candidate” decreases.    If you create a recruiting profile that describes skills and experiences less than you really need, you not only run the risk of getting overwhelmed by too many candidates, but you are also at risk of hiring someone who can’t do the job.  .

A targeted recruiting profile is always the first step in hiring right.

  1. Focus on the “right fit” not perfection. When pipelines are full, it’s easy to find candidates who are rich in both the “can do” and want to do” components of performance success.   When candidate pipelines are tight, the “perfect” candidate is much more elusive, requiring hiring managers to make the right decisions about which of all the screening requirements is most important –  skills or fit.

In a marketplace where certain skill-sets are in high demand, it is easy to be dazzled by a resume with the right skill sets, overlooking the “fit” factors that are equally important to placement success.  Long term hires made solely on the basis of a skills match have a low probability of being successful.  In fact some highly skilled but “low fit” candidates are better dispatched as temporary or contract workers than direct hires.  The good news about today’s marketplace is that job candidates are increasingly embracing new ways of working, that don’t always require being hired directly.

  1. Don’t overplay “years of experience.”  Let’s be honest – a star candidate by definition is someone who has the ability to arrive at high levels of work performance in a short period of time.  No matter how well intended, when hiring managers or their recruiters overplay the “years of experience” screening requirement, they will often eliminate the very high performance employees they claim to be seeking.  Particularly in a tight candidate market, it is very important for hiring managers and their recruiters to screen candidates based on specific accomplishments and performance outcomes, not years of experience.  It is a more complex, less easily executed, screening process – but essential, particularly when candidate pipelines are lean.
  1. Re-calibrate your “Recruiting Profile” – making sure it’s based on the realities of the candidate marketplace AND your ability to keep employees engaged. There is no question that in most scenarios, hiring managers prefer to hire employees with the skills and work experiences to become a high contributor quickly.  There are obvious reasons for these preferences.  Not only is most hiring being put off until there is an immediate need, but talent strategies based on finding and developing high potential employees take time and resources that not all hiring managers have at their finger tips.

In tight candidate markets, on the other hand, hiring managers don’t always have the ability or can offer the opportunities that will engage a star performer long term.  Assessing their “opportunity value” for a star performer accurately is important or run the risk of early term turnover.  In today’s marketplace, recruiting  lower skilled but “high  potential” employees is often a smart way to go.  

  1. Don’t Panic – and spread your recruiting net too broadly. Posting your job on too many job boards or listing your request with too many agencies can quickly overwhelm you with job candidates who are not the qualified candidates you need.  Technology has made applying for jobs a quick, easy process for job candidates – even those without the  requested qualifications.    Unless you have some method of prescreening, too many candidates can quickly turn your hiring process into a hiring nightmare.

Targeted recruiting and structured screening processes are still key steps in keeping your hiring process manageable.

Jeanne Knutzen


This article was written by Jeanne, Knutzen Founder and CEO of The PACE Staffing Network.  PACE has been helping Northwest employers find and hire the employees they need in a variety of market conditions.  Today’s market has its specific challenges, but we know where and how to find the hard to find.  For a personal and complimentary consult on how to hire right to today’s marketplace, contact our partnership development team at 425-637-3312 or

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