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Empty chairs and no candidates?

Trying to hire is a gamble at the best of times, but lately it’s been a little bit of a nightmare. It’s a combination of various things, including the obvious (the B word) and that so many people are just treading water while we continue to live in uncertain times.

If you’re struggling to find candidates, you’re not alone. I know that’s small comfort, so let’s go through some practical steps.

1 Why are you hiring?

Because you need to replace someone, or you need to expand. Right? But if you’ve been trying to hire for a while, then what about alternatives? Freelancers, contractors or even outsourcing that sort of work to another company or agency might be worth exploring and especially if the work’s piling up or getting delayed.

2 Good instead of excellent

Can you scale down the level of skills and experience you need? If you can’t hire someone who fits your idea of a perfect new recruit, then how about turning things on their head and, for purely practical reasons, trying to identify what sort of candidates you can attract? Is finding someone junior, who might need 3-6 months to be fully up and running, better than having an empty chair for another 6 months? (This idea connects to No 4 below.)

3 Plug, plug, plug

Nobody’s looking at job boards, compared to previous years. So if you’re still putting an advert somewhere and thinking that’s enough – it really isn’t. Employers are having to try things that seem like ancient history, including “we’re hiring” notices in windows (every café and bar now has them). Tweet, tweet and tweet again. Use all your social media accounts. Encourage everyone to post or share your posts saying you’re looking for a new recruit. Amplify the message and reach as many people as possible.

4 Rip it up and start again

If you’re replacing someone and you’re hoping to just quickly find someone who can do all the things she or he did – good luck, but don’t get your hopes up. Let’s be realistic. Every time you plan to hire, you have a golden opportunity to redesign a job. So why not start with the basics: if you can get more candidates with less experience than the person who’s leaving, make the best of it and make some changes: put together a job that you can fill, and perhaps by taking some work away from other people so that the more experienced people have time to do whatever the new hire can’t. That approach might be better, and more popular, than leaving them short-staffed for a long time.

5 Don’t panic

Easier said than done, but if it’s starting to feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall – don’t give up. Try something else, then try another new thing, then keep going. Recruitment always has a big element of luck: you get candidates who (for whatever reason) are looking for a new job at any moment in time.


Here’s an example: Company X ran job searches for months and the managers were starting to despair. We’ve used all the ideas set out above and that included outsourcing some tasks to freelancers (idea 1). One initiative was redesigning a role to hire a bright but inexperienced graduate (idea 2). She found out about the vacancy because friends of friends had shared the “we’re hiring” post on social media (idea 3). Her role is completely different to the person she replaced: it’s a good fit for her and she’s taken on parts of other people’s jobs, enabling them to take on the work that only more experienced people can do (idea 4). She’s happy, her colleagues are less overworked and her manager is finally able to focus on the future instead of feeling ground down by a frustrating job search.


By Brian

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