Hiring in Virginia’s Red-Hot Job Market (Part I)

It’s no secret, the local labor market is tight.  As in, really tight.  Nationally speaking, there are more job openings now than there are people looking for work. That hasn’t happened in (almost) forever.

Unemployment in Virginia is running at an extremely low 3.2% (BLS, May 2018).  Northern Virginia and Charlottesville markets are below 3%. Richmond clocked in at 3.1%,

Econ 101 teaches that “full employment” is when unemployment is around 5%.  If that’s true, then our Commonwealth is WAY beyond being fully employed.

That means landing top talent is as challenging as ever.  Hiring in these market conditions requires a different approach to recruiting and selection (finding and then qualifying candidates). Competing for the best prospects is just that: a competition. Making fresh adjustments to long-standing methods can help your company go toe-to-toe with others looking to do the same.

Headwinds to Acquiring Top Talent

While many factors can derail your plan for attracting and landing the best available prospects, here are some biggies:

Special & Different Factor – this occurs when hiring managers overestimate the strength of their employer’s brand.  It’s easy to mistakenly believe that all candidates are highly motivated to come work for the company they themselves work for.  The S&D Factor causes the opposite of what’s urgently needed: urgency!  Selection activities tend to move slowly and cripple the organization’s ability to compete aggressively in a hot market.

It’s HR’s Job – yes of course, business managers have their own work to do, but not being a committed and focused partner to HR while candidates are being evaluated will cause your team to lose out, every time.

Lack of Respect for Candidates – we’re not suggesting overt rudeness, but rather more subtle signals.  Most common is not following through on commitments made during interviews, like getting back in touch with candidates when promised.  Others include interviews being postponed at the last minute, a lack of basic courtesy such as sharing business cards, keeping candidates waiting or acting as if those being interviewed are in a one-down position.  All of these send the wrong signals.

Hiring Paralysis – indecision due to the fear of making a hiring mistake may not be something most managers will admit to.  However, at a subconscious level, many do fear making a decision that large. Deliberating about candidates is fine, but as minutes turn into days and days turn into a week or more, paralysis has set in.  Time will eventually kill all deals.

Underestimating Labor Market Conditions – simply stated, we’re in an employee’s market. Worker confidence is very high and the federal government’s “workers who quit” stat just hit a 17-year high of 2.4% for the month of May 2018.  The double whammy for organizations right now is that people are leaving jobs at the same time Virginia unemployment is rock bottom. These realities are creating a severe dynamic that negatively impacts all those who are tasked hands-on with talent acquisition.

These unseen forces will challenge even the best of organizations.  The Human Resources team needs the help of their business partners to engage in hiring activities with commitment and urgency.  HR professionals should invest time and energy to influence peer managers in order to overcome these hiring headwinds. All involved in selection activities after prospects are engaged share the same goal: participate with urgency and vigor to land the best possible candidates.


Next Up: A Plan to Compete for Top Talent