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Post-pandemic hiring: Remember the fundamentals

Rikka Brandon firing employees

It’s an interesting time to be hiring new employees. With a large number of laid-off workers, it might appear that the labor crunch is ending. But take a deep breath before jumping into the process. Just because your company has more options to choose from doesn’t mean it’s time to let your guard down. Hiring too quickly, as always, can lead to costly mistakes.

Why is hiring amid high unemployment a challenge? The first concern is the quality of the applicant pool. Consider what your company would do if you were conducting layoffs: Most likely, your under-performers would be the first to be let go while you hold as tightly as you can to your top performers for as long as possible.

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Still, that’s not to say that quality applicants aren’t still out there. Many companies in tough financial straits likely had to let go of some highly valued employees. Your job is to find them. And that brings up the second concern: volume. More unemployed workers means more resumes and applications to sift through. Here are a few of the most important tools to consider:

Write a strong job description: Strong hires start with a strong job description—upfront work on your part to truly define what you want the position to be and what type of person is best to fill it. Determine what your business needs; figure out what goals you have in mind for the new hire; decide the skills, experience, and education you require; and determine the type of person you want around. Use these answers to write a thorough job description that’s clear on goals and objectives, and let that description guide your decision-making process

Write a strong job ad: Your job ad is not the same as your job description. The ad needs to tell and sell your company as much as explain the job—it’s a marketing tool to entice qualified people to apply, especially those who may still be employed but looking for something better.

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Create a sorting system: To manage the steady flow of applicants, implement the RYG system to quickly sort which resumes need to be reviewed more closely: Red (stop), Yellow (caution), Green (heck yes!). As you’re reviewing responses to your ad, change the email subject line to include the color ranking next to the candidate’s name. After your initial review, you can then sort your responses and focus on the “green” candidates first.

Leverage your interview questions: As always, use a blend of interview question types: For first/phone interviews “functional questions” will focus on what the individual has done in the past to see if they possess the basic skills to do the job you’re hiring for. (e.g., “Have you used Quickbooks?” “Have you ever managed people?”) “Behavioral questions,” in which you ask about specific examples or situations, will provide a glimpse into the candidate’s work ethic, their approach to challenges, and their ability to work as a team. (e.g., “Tell me about a time that you went above and beyond for a customer.”) “Situational questions,” which require job seekers to respond to a specific hypothetical situation they may face on the job, will help you determine what the person will really be like on the job, how they’ll problem solve, and how they will get along with the team. (e.g., “A customer is walking in, the phone is ringing, and a co-worker needs help making a copy. Walk me through how you’d handle these competing needs for your attention.”)

Consider the position: You’re likely going to receive applications from people outside the building materials industry—and that’s not a bad thing. While positions like sales managers may require industry knowledge and experience, warehouse staff and entry-level customer service positions require skills that can be learned on the job or replicated from other industries; an eager personality and diligent work ethic are more important considerations than direct building product experience.

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No matter how large the pool of applicants, it’s important to keep hiring fundamentals in mind to ensure you find the right fit the first time.

Rikka Brandon is a leading recruiter for the LBM industry. She’s the CEO of and founder of where she helps business leaders solve their recruiting and retention challenges.

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